In Talks With Leicester’s Rising Emcee: Kamakaze

Elle Evans

By Elle Evans

Elle Evans

14 Dec 2020

Standing as one of Leicester’s most respected and talented emcees, Kamakaze, has solidified himself as one of British Rap’s most talented lyricists. Growing up on the charismatic sounds of Grime, he first grabbed the nations attention with his JDZ Media freestyle back in 2015 and has since built a reputable name within both Grime and Rap. Switching between the Football pitch and booth, he is primarily known for touching on an assortment of powerful topics from men’s mental health, Black Lives Matter and more; Kamakaze has always been an artist to put quality over quantity, and in turn stand as a strong and positive figure for the younger generation.

Following the release of his latest project titled, ‘Memories Over Money’, Kamakaze has also been hand-picked for the Virgin Money Emerging Stars programme. Set over the course of 12 months, this programme will help aid the next steps of Kamakaze’s promising career with a £10,000 development fund alongside various other enhancing assets.

We caught up with the emcee last week over the phone, and asked him the following questions!

How have you been? How have you been finding this pandemic period?

It’s actually been a blessing in disguise for me on a personal level! Obviously there has been low points as everyone has experienced, being stuck in the house for x amount of hours but it’s been nice because it has been the full term of my girlfriend’s pregnancy, so we have been able to spend the time together, so that’s been the plus side of it! Obviously, it’s still ongoing now so I have got quite a lot of time to spend with my daughter too.

Yeah! Congratulations on the little one! Has it knocked you creatively at all?

Thankyou! Nah, definitely! If you know me, then you know I am a busy person anyway with football, music and at the time a pregnant girlfriend so I had a lot of engagements going on. The flow of creativity generally comes from everyday life, I don’t sit in a studio or in my house with a beat and think let’s write something, it’s normally a real life incident or an everyday occurrence that will spark what I’m writing about. It might just be an observation but if you’re not observing or engulfed in any other environments, people or experiences it’s hard to draw stuff out of thin air that is actually meaningful! The only other way you can look at it, is that isolation brings reflection but at the end of the day, a lot of the days did merge into each other after a while at the start, so it did sap away creativity I must admit. It’s worth noting that a lot of the studio’s were shut, so even if you did have stuff to say or things that you wanted to put down in that period, it was difficult unless you had a good home set up!

Yeah, I think a lot of people were struggling at the start, but people are slowly starting to find their feet with it again which is good.

Yeah! I don’t have access to a studio even still, but I was lucky enough to have music that I was sitting on, so I was never really too worried about what my next release was going to be at the time, so that was a safety net for me. Different artists work in different ways, you might be someone who has to be in the moment with releasing week on week. Or, you might not have your next product there so I can understand it must have been stressful for a lot of people!

You are primarily known for being one of the new gen Grime emcees, what was it, or still is about Grime that made you want to get involved?

Good question! Initially, it was just the energy of it! When Grime started emerging on a nation-wide basis, I was still very young around 11 or 12 and you just had access to whatever you could get on LimeWire, we didn’t have access to the radio stations that were buzzing around the genre at hat point. It reflected how you felt, it’s like how Drill is nowadays, it was anger and it was frustration, it was hard-ship and all the things you have lived through and experienced as a teenager. It was very natural, I just wrote 8 bars with my friends and it evolved from there, step by step! You did a little recording on your phone, went to the studio at school and you form a little crew – it evolved from there! One of the reasons that I still love it, is that it still feels authentic to me as a genre, being British, its ours and it’s a part of our identity as emcees – I just love the energy of it to be honest!

I know there has been a lot of talk over the past years about London being the main hub for emerging artists. How has it been for you breaking out of Leicester and gaining a wider audience?

It has been difficult, I won’t lie! I do genuinely think you do have the upper hand if you are from London purely because of the experience, people around and the resources. Emcees in Leicester, Nottingham – where you name it, they don’t have radio stations, studios and people around them! They don’t have the knowledge to feed off, so being outside of London and breaking that barrier is a massive achievement. As for myself, like you said, I am seen as a new gen emcee, but I have been doing it for near enough 10 years before I got any kind of recognition on a nation-wide basis. People in Leicester knew me and maybe a couple of people in the East Midlands, but aside from that I was relatively unknown.

So, you’ve been picked for the Virgin Money Emerging Stars programme which is exciting! Tell us a bit more about this? How important was it for you to get picked?

To be honest, being involved in the Virgin Money Emerging Stars programme is a big achievement to me in terms of being recognised by a company of that magnitude! Being recognised for my talent and being given the opportunity to push my work further, it’s definitely something that I am proud of. The support they are giving me behind the scenes is something I am going to try and utilise in the next year – it’s a big achievement for me yeah!

What’s your main aim to get out of this? To bring more awareness to your name or?

The big goal is to always evolve and expand, and the programme will allow me to do that. Immediately from it being announced, for instance with this interview, there are also other interviews as well as the support they offer me financially, it allows me to create without the worry of where the money is. It’s more than just financial support, they have also offered me money management and other areas that you don’t always think about covering yourself. As an artist, the income money wise, from the genre and the work, it’s never promised so it just makes it a lot easier to be able to create with a lot more freedom and be able to put your ideas into actual products. My main aim would be to grow, expand, get my name out there further but also, it’s just lovely to have the support from the team at the Virgin Money Emerging Stars programme.

I know you’ve been around for a hot sec, and under some of your videos, or with comments in general I’ve noticed a few people refer to you as underrated. Would you agree with this or do you find it frustrating?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it frustrating. The term itself ‘underrated’, I saw an interview that Youngs Teflon did recently and he put it perfectly, it’s not that I am underrated because everyone can listen to my music, see how good it is and how good I am as a rapper, it’s more about me being undiscovered. I haven’t got the exposure yet! If I am being totally honest about it, I would say that my ability and the quality of the music I make is not represented in the exposure and the recognition I have within the industry and within the scene.

People love to throw the term ‘underrated’ around, people like yourself, and even Big Zuu and Capo get it. What do you think defines getting past that label, do you think you need to be classed as chart-topping i.e., Headie One, or?

I mean this in the nicest way possible, a lot of people that break the mould being ‘underrated’, they have someone who opens the door for them – a backing that a lot of independent artists will never get. They have funding, or someone behind there management that can put them in various places, and they’re places you could never put yourself because you never have the links and the contacts in order to do it. I take a bit of solace and take a bit off the edge of it knowing that my music will last. I have never made anything that I would look back on and say I wish I never made that I’m not saying that you mentioned have, but it makes it a lot easier knowing that whatever I have made, I can put my name to and stand the test of time! I can listen to it in 5 years and it will still mean the same. If you think about artists like Novelist, they are not chart topping, but their legacy is something that you can never take away and it’s the balance between having that recognition and the success in terms of the industry and the scene that is hard to get.

Even you mentioning Novelist, along with yourself and the artists I previously named, the quality of the music does speak for itself and sometimes that goes a lot further than some of the more commercial drops. Even with the whole clout thing –

It’s over running the game. It’s gotten a point where your music doesn’t always matter, it’s more about your online presence and the reaction you get to something else you do outside of the music. But that’s a different story!

One thing you aren’t afraid to touch on is mental health especially surrounding young men. I know there is a huge feeling of discomfort in particularly with males when it comes to opening up about these things. Why is it so important for you to bring light with this?

It’s important because if you saw someone smoking 50 cigarettes a day, you would tell them that it’s bad for there health. If you see the signs that someone is struggling or going under, or a trait that you might recognise as someone’s mental health deteriorating, why would you not do the same?

The stigma around men being manly recently has been broken down due to people in the scene, or people who you would deem as big manly guys, not being afraid to speak on these things. I think it’s important because people do look at their role models and people in higher positions and think what I am doing that they’re not? When you start doing things that you think is against the norm, it leads by example and you don’t feel so afraid to put yourself out there in a vulnerable place. Especially for young men, I don’t know the exact statistics, but I am pretty sure suicide is the biggest killer of men under 30 in the UK. If that doesn’t say enough, then what will?

I wonder why there is such a big thing in the music industry about men having to be ‘manly’ or ‘strong’…

I think that is partly due to with, well especially in the music I make, the bigger and more successful artist shave always carried themselves. If you look at 50 Cent, The Game, or a rapper from the generation we grew up listening to, it was very much about being a man’s man, holding your own and never being afraid. I’m not saying that these people add to the problem because they don’t, they are just being themselves but that’s the way that a lot men have moulded themselves, via their idols, they see them being fearless, big and strong and they copy it – but that’s natural! Everyone does it, you take parts of them, emulate them and put them into yourself.

One thing that me and my friends have always tried to do; you’re always supposed to take the banter but if it gets too much then just say so. If something is wrong, then say so! At the end of the day, by this age, your friends are going to be your friends forever and a lot of the time, are just as close as your family, if you look after your family then look after your friends to.

Do you think enough is being done regarding enough awareness being brought to light within the scene?

I would like to say that they have made strides, it’s something that people are looking into a lot more. A lot of influencers, and people especially on Instagram, not necessarily musicians but people that you would associate with music; them talking about it, as well as still producing content and being themselves is what makes it easier. The main problem is the resources behind it, it’s all good and well talking about it but when you do have an actual problem, it’s knowing where to go. For example, if I were to have a breakdown of any kind or felt that I was deteriorating in a way that I couldn’t control, I genuinely don’t know in terms of musical support and being a musician; obviously I have another job so I can go for support there, but if you didn’t, I don’t know where the first point of call would be.

No, I don’t know either thinking about it!

Yeah exactly, there isn’t a lot being done in terms of awareness.

More recently you dropped your ‘Memories over Money’ project! What was the main aim or message you wanted to push with this body of work?

Ooo! That’s a good question! The main message I wanted to push, was one of happiness really! It’s supposed to be an ode of growing through your 20’s, and it’s all the things that I have experienced going through it and not putting too much emphasis on money. There are a lot of parts in it, it’s constantly referenced throughout; the memories that will stay with you, you could keep money forever and give it to people when you die, but I guarantee they will treasure the memories they have made with you for longer than they would treasure the money. That’s what it’s about, treasuring the time with the people you love. There are songs on it about my friends, the holidays we went on, a song about my parents and it was simply meant to be a message of who I am and how I got to be at this point.

How long did it take to put together?

The first song was written in 2015, ‘Kreuzberg Raver’ was written after a trip to Berlin with my friends and that’s when the term “Memories over Money” was coined. We didn’t have a lot of money and thought should we stay in or should we go out, and we said, “Memories over money, lets go!”, it was one of the best night outs of my life by a long way! They are all songs that I couldn’t quite fit into projects because they were all so personal and they moulded themselves into something that was cohesive and worked together! The last songs on it I recorded, which I think was ‘The Hero and the Rock’ was done this year and they were the pieces I needed to make it a full picture; they were ‘Memories’, ‘Moments’ and ‘The Hero on the Rock’. So technically a 5-year period!

That’s a long time! It obviously shows your growth over the years!

That was the point I touched on earlier about the music lasting, because I wrote that song 5 years ago, you would never know, and it still means exactly the same now as it did then.

Now that you have released the project, having recorded and written it over 5 years. Do any of the tracks resonate with you more now in comparison to when you wrote them?

‘Amazing Grace’ for me, is the best song I have ever written. I wanted to release it when I recorded it which I think was back in 2018 because there are topics in it that are relevant to that time. There is a reference to Stormzy at Glastonbury; “I saw a young king reigning on the stage, they just saw an opportunity to rain on his parade”, and that was about the ways the tabloids were treating him and young Black men in the media in general. The fact that I have released it this year, there’s a line in it; “the Rashan’s and Trayvon’s”, Rashan Charles and Trayvon Martin who were both killed, and no one was prosecuted for it, for those issues to still be relevant now is incredibly sad but also emphasises why a change needs to be made. That song still talks to me because it is still relevant all these years later and that’s not right.

Being a white rapper in a Black genre, how do you think you can use your platform? I’m white myself, so in what ways do you think we can help especially within the music industry as well because the people in power do tend to be white.

I think we should just use our voices responsibly and for the right reasons. The lack of equality is one of the best reasons to use your voice, as a white person in a predominantly Black industry in terms of the representation of artists, it’s probably more important because there are certain people who are narrow minded and they hear a Black person for example, make there point, and they think “No!” – that’s not how it is! It is something that I will do, and something I will continue to do forever, until its right! I will never feel any way about it, I’ve had fans of my music, people who listen to a Black genre comment “Leave out the politics” or “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, just making excuses for themselves to justify their racist agendas but I’ve told them “If that’s how you feel, then don’t listen to my music. It’s not for you. If you can’t hear what I’m saying, hear the truth in it and hear the injustice in the situation then what I am saying is not for you”, if I lose them as a listener, I don’t care!

You recently took to Instagram and announced the birth of your baby girl! It may be early days yet, but how do you think being a father is going to shape your music going forward?

People always tell you that having a child will change you, and as someone without a child you will never really understand what they mean. Immediately, after my daughter was born I kinda got it! She’s only 2 weeks old but the time I have spent with her since, I have learnt more about who I am and what I need to do with my life than I ever knew beforehand and that is purely based on the responsibility and wanting to give everything to her. Beforehand, I obviously wanted to do things for the people I care about, but now, it matters so much more than I am able to be in a position to provide, to care for her and look after her and my girlfriend! If it’s changed anything in the way that I approach music, it’s given me more determination to be in a position to be provide.

What can we expect to see from you this coming 2021?

I would like to say a lot! I have got a lot of what I want to do planned out, and with the backing of the programme I will be able to conduct myself properly in terms of having everything in place beforehand and put all of the ideas in my head onto paper and into products. I don’t want to give away too much but there will be EP’s, singles, videos – everything that you would expect and a lot more!  

Keep up to date with Kamakaze via his Instagram here.
Listen to ‘Memories over Money’ below.