As hip-hop has evolved from a grassroots culture to a billion-dollar, worldwide business, fans have become wary of things that look and smell too much like that last word—business. But when Kamaiyah came storming out of Oakland with her breakthrough single, “How Does It Feel,” listeners knew that she hadn’t been created in a boardroom. Her joyous, careening, irrepressibly fun song broke through regional and financial barriers to become a national hit, and made her debut mixtape, A Good Night in the Ghetto, one of 2016’s most highly-anticipated projects.
Kamaiyah’s music is rooted in her personality. Rarely does a new artist come along whose identity feels so fully-formed, an extension of who they truly are as a human being. With A Good Night in the Ghetto and blockbuster guest spots on songs like YG and Drake’s “Why You Always Hatin?,” Kamaiyah seems destined to be a household name before she hangs up the microphone.
But beyond her own story, Kamaiyah also has a key role in the Bay Area’s resurgence as a hip-hop powerhouse. Her music offers a fresh take on what made the California coast one of rap’s driving creative forces throughout the ‘90s. And on top of all that, Kamaiyah is refusing to be boxed in by the limiting roles that are so often thrust open women in music. With her creative gifts and defiant spirit, she’s on the way to becoming one of this generation’s most respected—and most listened to—artists.