“Aw, shit—it’s Kamaiyah!/Aw, shit—please retire!/Hot girl, set the city on fire!”
That’s the exclamation at the end of both verses on Kamaiyah’s “How Does It Feel,” a deliriously joyful single about getting money, popping champagne and flipping off haters, among other things. Released last October, “How Does It Feel” was a warning shot, a harbinger that something big and euphoric was approaching. That something was A Good Night In The Ghetto, Kamaiyah’s debut mixtape released in mid-March; it’s as clever, consistent and flat-out fun as its lead single, and it's rapidly turning the 21-year-old Oakland native into a star.
“I’m just positive, and I want to have fun,” Kamaiyah tells Fuse. “I’m fucking 21 years old, and you gotta have fun in your 20s! I made a project that isn’t telling you to do drugs or be sad. I feel like a lot of music nowadays is hella dark, and I didn’t want to make a project that was dark. I wanted something upbeat—the public hasn’t heard that in a long time.”
Kamaiyah says that she wanted A Good Night In The Ghetto to have a “historical” feel to it, as if it was channeling the feel-good rap radiating from the West Coast in the mid-‘90s instead of trying to update a classic sound. A whole list of producers—from CT Beats to DJ Official to Drew Banga—helped her mine that sound over the past few months, specifically in the two weeks leading up to the tape’s March 14 release, when Kamaiyah holed up with producers like 1-O.A.K and Trackademicks to bang out eight new tracks for the project.
The result is an exuberant listen, with shiny beats, “Hooch Hotline” interludes and a slick guest spot from Bay Area hero YG. Kamaiyah says that she’s been contacted by multiple labels and is aware how closely the hip-hop industry is now watching her career.
“I feel like everybody’s kind of watching, because they follow me but they won’t say anything,” she explains. “They want to see how far it’s gonna go before they stamp it. There’s so many one-hit wonders and people don’t have longevity, so people are just watching now, and when they see me get to a certain magnitude they’ll go, ‘Okay it’s official. I rock with you.’”
A few high-profile sources are already rocking with Kamaiyah: Pitchfork gave A Good Night in the Ghetto a highly coveted Best New Music tag, and the Fader invited the rapper to perform “How Does It Feel” at its Fader Fort at South By Southwest after calling her mixtape "insanely promising." Meanwhile, Kamaiyah says that she’s already seen a rise in young female fans over the past few weeks.
“Yeah, they send it to my email and DM me,” she says. “One of the girls was like, ‘You changed my life.’”
A Good Night In The Ghetto is the prelude to more mixtapes and an eventual debut album. “I already have the name for my first album, but it was like, ‘We want to do a couple tapes before we drop the project,’” she explains. Kamaiyah will spend the coming months promoting her debut, and is already starting to consider recording new music. She’s not quite sure what the follow-up to Ghetto will sound like, but she’s not expecting her music to take a darker turn anytime soon.
“I just want to make people feel good—that’s my whole intent with every project,” she explains. “I have the drive and determination, and I’m not going to stop making hit records.”