‘Errybody know a K CAMP song when you hear it'
K CAMP x Mitch Dumler x Evan Dale // Nov 19, 2020
Looking back a decade on the Atlanta hip-hop scene is like looking back a century on the changes that other cultural renaissances through history have seen. A paramount collective of artistry from the ever-evolving mecca of the South is nothing new, but the sounds currently reaching a global audience by way of the newcomers and veterans who alike call home to the ATL, is, boasting perhaps the widest scope not only in all of music today, but arguably one of the rangiest through music’s history. Rappers from Atlanta sing, vocalists from Atlanta rap, and producers from Atlanta can often also do both. But more often than not, the roots of the brash Southern hip-hop transcendentalism we see today can be traced back to a few names – a few moments.
RNGLDR: When it comes to the always evolving Atlanta scene, your canon is an insightful glimpse into the changes that hip-hop has undergone through the last decade. Has your personal evolution into a melodically driven space with 'KISS 5' from the early trap sound with tapes like 'Fan4Life' been a fluid process personal to you, or more of a reflection and response to the changing scene itself?
K CAMP: If you go back through my projects, I’ve been singing and putting melodies in my records. Before people even knew who K CAMP was, I was trying to hold a note - trying to create a melodic sound. So honestly, I feel like my path was a transition of really growing into my own sound, you know what I’m saying? From the early age of when I started - just me trying to find myself as an artist - I feel like I influenced a lot of this shit. If you listen to the game now - I give credit to Drake, Nelly, Ja Rule, and everybody who was doing it before me - but I feel like I brought a different niche to it.
That niche, so to speak, is has been on a sliding scale of evolution from the start of K CAMP’s career nearly a decade ago to its present zenith, reaching its most emboldened, most stylistically fluid mastery from start to finish of his newest release: KISS 5 (Deluxe). The hour-long project is an exhibition of the lane he’s been paving in Atlanta and beyond where no boundaries can box in the creative reach of an artist with a foundation built on taking risks.
When I came out with 'Money Baby' (2014), that was real life street melodic shit. It was shit that the game ain’t heard before and that’s why it went so crazy, so fast. I feel like I paved the way for a lot of artists to step into that world. Errybody know a K CAMP song when you hear it, errybody knows the sound, and errybody knows who sound like me. So, I can stand on that, and just be proud of that.
There’s plenty to be proud of, plenty to soak in, and with the likes of KISS 5, plenty of artistic flexing still to do from a name that had so much to do with the existing state of it all. The project is an unwavering mosaic thesis on what K CAMP has been building since day one: a transcendent creative space that merges hip-hop, R&B, and trap futurism into the indefinable grey area that now drives the direction of so much music coming from much further than just Atlanta, though still undoubtedly hubbed there.
On any given track, K CAMP himself and the slew of insane features he brings to the party, all take part in a stylistic exploration of liquid finesse. Via K CAMP’s own natural, yet earned ability to merge the rapped and the sung, names from Jacquees, Ari Lennox, 6LACK, Jeremih, and more follow suit, too, exploring the boundlessness of a K CAMP foundation on a K CAMP album rooted in his mixtape past, and looking towards his still evolving future.
I’m still growing, I’m still developing my sound. I feel like for a long time, I always wanted to make chill rap songs. When I’d be in the booth, I’d be sitting down, and I’d be chilling. Back then it wasn’t cool, but I feel like my shit is finally *there*. This shit riding, this shit vibing, and my sound really is *that* - what I’ve been trying to put into the forefront for a long time.
K CAMP’s acknowledgement to the state of his eternal evolution is paramount to understanding his genius. Because as most way-paving greats will tell, genius is nothing without the work – without the creative process.
RNGLDR: Transcending the rapped and the sung with nearly every song on ‘KISS 5,’ how does your creative process allow you to compose a track or project tight-roping multiple stylistic lanes?
K CAMP: I just lock myself in there. Ain’t no shortcuts around this shit. To get the best sound, you’ve got to be in the studio. I’ll be in there at 5 or 6 in the morning, and I’ll be the last one in the studio engineering, cutting vocals, and cutting parts of the beat. I really be in the studio doing this shit. So, it’s a process, you know what I’m saying? You’ve really gotta take your time and know what direction you want to go.
Even with the expansive collection that is KISS 5, K CAMP’s direction holds true. Through the 20 tracks that the Deluxe edition boasts, there is not one worthy of a skip. And that in and of itself is an accomplishment most artists will never touch. But, KISS 5 is much more than a collection of non-skips, it’s a whole album of must-listens that plays true to the old homage that the best albums should be listened to all the way through.
Every track is another argument in favor of an underlying thesis that hip-hop and R&B wouldn’t be where they are today – won’t be where they are tomorrow – without K CAMP. An Atlanta born – perhaps Southern-rooted – affinity for prolificity, K CAMP redefined the boundaries – or boundarylessness – of modern music by exploring his own auditory aesthetic unendingly through years of consistent releases, building in the process, a systematic knack at creating hits and homerun albums,
When you first get in there and get the template - before I even started on ‘KISS 5’ - you’ve got your mind straight, like ‘what the hell am I about to do?’ In any genre, you’re an artist, and you’ve got a blank canvas, like ‘what the hell am I about to paint?’ The longer you take your time and be in the studio, it all starts coming together. You start writing shit down - writing tracklists down - writing ideas down. Everything starts to come together, so by the time you’re 75 or 80% in, this shit is light work. Everything else just starts flowing. It’s easy at that point.
Easy is a term reserved for legends. For everyone else, creating something as vast, telling, and defining of an artist’s blank canvas turned Mona Lisa as KISS 5 would be a creative peak. But for K CAMP, KISS 5 is just another chapter in an artistic pursuit that has played one of the more definitive roles in modern hip-hop transcendentalism.