Kama AKA Kamikaze [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Humored as I quote his slogan, the man, the myth, the legend, he says, “that should be the name of the interview”, so it was only right that I call it that. Kevin Clarke or who you likely know better as, Kama AKA Kamikaze is the one who sits before me. We are in a small four by four room, with dark red walls, decorated with music equipment, a TV, a sound proof booth and a computer, a sort of sanctuary, self titled the Canadian Don, is illuminated by hot, bright lights that shine in his face from the camera that the videographer has set up in Kama’s studio to document the interview.
Unlike a typical businessman older generations might imagine, the new face of business is anything but ordinary. Calm and collected, dressed in a black fitted, a black hooded sweater, dark denim jeans, with a fresh pair of kicks. A few chains hang from his neck like icicles, and I can’t help but notice as he comfortably leans back in his black leather chair and rests his hands on the armrests, a large square diamond ring decorating his pinky finger. It’s no wonder some people refer to him as the ‘Lord of the Bling’. 2008 was a big year for Kama, releasing another hot single “Swagga Like This” from his album Coming to America mixed by DJ Whoo Kid, introducing the American rap publication Don Diva Magazine to the Canadian audience, developing a few film projects, and preparing his book and documentary. Kama sat down with HipHopCanada to discuss his widely unknown past as a ball player, his time spent in jail, future projects, the much talked about beef with Belly and the police raid of his current studio.
Originally from Vaughan and Oakwood, Kama spent time in the West Indies. “I moved to Trinidad when I was about 2 months old, my parents sent me there, I grew up with my family there, with my grandmother, tantie Agnes is what they called her, R.I.P. Then I came back out here and I did everything out here, went to school and did all that.”
HipHopCanada: This is your first interview with HipHopCanada. Let’s talk about how it all began. Would you say you are a rapper who is a hustler or a hustler who can rap?
KAMA: Before I can answer that . . . lots of people assume me to be a drug dealer, or a gangster that just turned rapper. They got it confused, it’s the other way around, I was a rapper first. I was a rapper before I did anything else, then I was a basketball player. I was a Toronto all-star point guard, made it on top of that game, locally after that I did a little bit of barbering, which ran in the family, from my uncle Mike R.I.P, down to my pops, to me. I was a barber in the neighborhood, I made a whole lot of money off of that, and then after that I was a hustler, a street hustler, I was always a hustler over all but a street hustler was the last thing I did.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel that hip-hop is a life you live, or is it a lifestyle for you. What kind of influence do you feel like hip-hop had on you?
KAMA: Hip-hop is a culture to me and that’s my culture and a lot of people find that funny, when you say that to people they’re not really in tune with it or what hip-hop is all about, they laugh and say; what do you mean? But that’s my culture, my culture is West Indian as well, but I am a Canadian. Hip-hop has the most influence on me and on my mentality, my lifestyle, my way of dress and everything I do. It all came out of it and revolves out of the hip-hop culture and lifestyle and my West Indian culture and with the streets, and that’s what it is.
HipHopCanada: How did the whole Doug E. Fresh collaboration come about, how did it start?
KAMA: “Kama’s World”; that was not really the starting.
HipHopCanada: What was the starting?
KAMA: “Today”, a song called “Today, I want my money today”. That was the starting that was the 1st track I put out . . . made it in 1999 and I put that out in 2000 . . . and 2001, that was bubbling and that became an anthem in the streets and cross the country. That was my come-up song, every artist has their come up song . . . Snoop Doggy Dogg, Slim Shady . . . those were theirs, and that was mine; “Today”. That’s what everybody knew me as and people up to this date still see me through “Today”. You know what I’m sayin’? [Laughing] That was the first (song) and I had a couple after that, that were bigger than that, I had “Kamillion”, that was big and it went across Canada, when Canada had more stations dealing with urban radio back in 2002. Then “Kamillion” had the most radio play to date, which was also big in the West Coast and B.C.
HipHopCanada: What was your connection to Canadian hip-hop as a youth? How were the early days for you?
KAMA: I looked up to certain pioneers like Michee Mee and Maestro Fresh, when I was a little kid around here, playing tag, running around with my friends, because I started rapping at age 9 . . . and when I was 9 or 10 running around, I used to see Michee Mee driving through in her Tracker, or Sidekick, that was the whip that was hot and I used to watch Maestro on TV. They had their videos on TV, and that kid form Flemingdon Park named, [Thinking] S Blank, from Flemo! He did the track for the videogame back then. There is a whole lot. Rumble and Strong, MC Bobby D, who was from my neighbourhood, who was the first rapper that I seen rap live in basement parties in my hood, and Sweet Ebony from Jungle. There are a whole lot of people and a whole lot of artists that were coming up when I was coming up but I was just a kid, and they were the pioneers and I came some years after them, maybe 11 years . . . I came up when I came home from jail.
HipHopCanada: That’s a perfect segue for my next question. What were you in jail for?
KAMA: I went to jail for selling drugs; selling cocaine, and robbing an undercover officer in conspiracy to commit robbery and heading a criminal organization. At the time I was like 19 years old and I went to jail at like 21. That was when I started rapping and my career really started jumping off a couple years after that.
HipHopCanada: So how long were you incarcerated for?
KAMA: All together, like two and a half years.
HipHopCanada: Do you think that time in jail propelled you to lead a different life, or it made no difference to what you were going to ultimately do?
KAMA: Yeah, it was a combination of things.
As the videographer pauses to move the lights and some camera cases, Kama realizes he was smoking throughout the beginning of interview. I warn him not to forget what we were talking about. “I am not trying to portray that kind of image, like certain people”. I agree, we should be thinking of the kids. “Maybe a little too late for that” exclaims the camera guy. As we laugh, the realization becomes that smoking on camera is a big issue and that that is an image that Kama doesn’t want to glamorize. “I’m not trying to advocate smoking or anything, I’m really a person that’s not …. you know, I smoke and drink but everything I do, I do it in moderation, I am a control freak so I’m that type of person. I don’t want to push that image of smoking for kids, so if your making a choice, the best one is; don’t smoke. I don’t smoke cigarettes, I only smoke weed, and I’m not saying that that’s better, or that you should just smoke weed, but that’s just me and it’s like . . . so we are going to cut the smoking out and continue the interview.” Firm in his beliefs and content with his image, we continue without the smoking. The small room eventually cools down and clears up. I remind him of his last thoughts.
KAMA: It was a combination of things that made me change and realize certain things in my life and one of them was going to prison. The other big one was my son Keyano, you know it’s like those two things were the big things, that made me realize, and they had the biggest impact on me and both of them were happening at the same time. When my son was just born . . . I was going away to jail when he was just 10 months old. I was with him all the time when he was born. I watched the birth, and he was with me for that whole 10 months . . . and mind you, the charge I had, I got charged with that charge way before I knew I was going to have a baby. It took a lot of time before it went through the system; it was 3 years in the system. Then my son was finally born, and then I went to jail and, you know, doing that time and everything that happened out of that situation made me make up my mind of what I was going to do and it gave me time to think about it and re-evaluate my life and make plans: to make a plan and to analyze everything within. How I always look at is, you are out here and doing things and you are free or what not, your in the middle of things . . . but when I went to jail, I was on the inside looking out, but it felt like as I was outside looking in, you know . . . when your free, you are in it, you’re just doing it and not paying attention and not seeing a lot of things. But when I was in jail on the inside looking out, I just made my plan and stuck to it and I came out and said I’m never going to sell drugs again. I said I’m REALLY not going to touch cocaine again.
HipHopCanada: So did that REALLY happen?
KAMA: Yeah, that really happened. Okay, I am going to say I backslid a bit but . . . eventually, it happened.
HipHopCanada: Did you feel like it was a sacrifice at the time? Did you feel that financially you were giving up one thing for another because they say a new artist is 10 years in the making?
KAMA: Yeah well, cause you know after that I said I wasn’t going to be selling drugs so I was doing other things, working and making money but I wasn’t making money how I was making money with that. So I basically gave that up and I never used any money from selling dope, for my music business. I was always proud of that, cause I did this [music] after I came out of jail, saying I would not touch drugs again, so my business is not dope money or anything illegal, and I am proud of that and I stuck to that so that’s a fact. I have a lot of problems with the police because they think I am a major criminal; a major crime figure. So if it wasn’t real I would be in jail by now, because they did everything they could to try to capture me with something or doing something, and they never did so.
HipHopCanada: Since we are on the topic of police, let’s talk about the incident that happened last June?
KAMA: On June 1, 2008, my studio was raided. It’s a studio and a residence, and they like to say my studio is my home but it’s not my home AND studio it’s like a home-studio but it’s not my actual home. I was living in here at the time it was being built which was all part of the plan. I’m a man who has a few residences and I was living here at the time when they raided, actually right here [points to the room we’re in] and they found nothing, they came, had a warrant, came with a whole lot of police, busted the door, searched the whole place and came up with nothing. Me and my partner Kanine were here, and that’s what happened. That made the news . . . it was on CBC, in newspapers, all over the Internet, and that’s what happened. But before that, I was going through a lot of harassment over the years, and I was under a 2 and a half year investigation . . . and a whole lot of things were going on. Two of my friends died, R.I.P. Christopher, my nigga Bejnu and my nigga Drax. Two of them died in that time and it was a crazy time.
Getting back to the music and entertainment, Kama had a major role in a film debuting at the 2000 Reel World Film Festival. Appearing in David Croppers, ‘What It Takes’, who also directed Kama’s World featuring Doug E. Fresh, the film appearance was something that came naturally, having done numerous music videos but he still denies that he has the acting bug. He does admit that he wants to be in more movies. “Not really for the sake of being a superstar or a famous actor or anything like that but I like engaging in that [movies] from an artistic point of view and I think it will enhance everything that I’m doing.”
HipHopCanada: What would you say the best medium for expressing, or highlighting certain issues, would be? The radio, television, documentaries, music, etc?
KAMA: Right now, I would say the Internet is becoming the strongest, but radio and television predominantly have been the best when it came down to promoting and anything dealing with entertainment. They were always some of the best avenues but now the Internet is growing. But the best of all is word of mouth. Nothing can influence a person better then hearing it coming directly from another person’s mouth. That’s the most credible form of promotion from the beginning of time and it still is today.
HipHopCanada: How do you feel that Canada treated you as an artist? Secondly, what type of disadvantages are there to trying to blow up as an artist in Canada?
KAMA: [Laughing] Canada treated me pretty fair. Actually the whole of Canada showed me nothing but love. I don’t really get hate, or feel any negative vibes but when it comes down to the industry, the industry really sucks; the Canadian music industry; it’s embarrassing. It’s straight forward foolishness. You have a bunch of money you can make here and at the same time you can help a whole lot of people, you can give a whole bunch of people jobs and work but it’s like they just don’t do it . . . they choose to work with everybody else and those are the big media outlets, the MuchMusic’s and different outlets like that, they do certain things with certain people but there is core talent within hip-hop and they can help to build that further, but they never do- Why? I don’t understand it, to me, I think it’s straight discrimination . . . I’m not watching them because they can’t stop me or what I’m doing. At the end of the day I feel it for a lot of other people who don’t have the advantages that I might have so it’s just messed up to see for a long time hip-hop running the whole world and [raises voice] we still is now, but one time it was more prominent and way more powerful . . . hip-hop was the thing, it is the thing now but it was THE THING, then.
HipHopCanada: Really? You don’t think it [hip-hop] is more powerful now then it was before? Because now hip-hop has crossed over quite a bit.
KAMA: What I mean is everything gets bigger within the exposure to different markets and it’s more global and it’s still the number one thing, generating around the world, it’s the biggest influence. But, I’m saying at the time it just jumped off like that was the shit . . . in the golden era of hip-hop from the whole 90’s up to the millennium. Canada should have already been on top of that and capitalized and developed some major artist so right now we would be competing with the U.S. . . . so many artists and so many big corporations and labels and people that are doing it real big right now because they jumped on it back then and the same thing could have happened here but they ignored it back then and it never got the proper dues.
HipHopCanada: With your mixtape, Coming To America, have you considered that people might say your are leaving Toronto behind? Like if people see it in a negative way, because you are not getting the recognition you feel you deserve so you’re leaving . . .
KAMA: What makes me different is that I’m just that nigga! (Obama) I’m just that nigga you got to love or hate but I am that nigga . . . and I’m a boss and you know, everybody knows . . . those who are in the know and peoples who are in the street. If you do your research you will know, this Obama [Kama points to himself] he is independent, comes from this neighborhood, and if you research the neighborhood and hear about the neighborhood you’ll know that I obviously finance and back my whole thing and I’m not involved with nobody.
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk about people you’ve done work with . . .
KAMA: Basically, it’s like people know. Like if I’m talking from one aspect, but if I’m talking form a different aspect, from a business side of things, it’s like people heard my music on the radio, they seen me in videos that I have done, they seen the people I work with . . . I work with Doug E. Fresh, for example, you know I worked with DJ Whoo Kid from G –Unit . . . I work with Don Diva magazine . . . I work with Kevin Chiles, I worked with and done things with BET and done things with the hosts of BET, Madd Linx, you know, he hosted my first mix CD, Lock, Stock and Keys To The Range, and that people know my name is synonymous with doing a lot of big things. They see the tour buses, they see us coming through Caribana with our tour bus wrapped, all of that stuff, they see me come through, as the Rover Boy . . . they see me rolling in the Rover’s, the BMW’s and all these things I did in the early days. They know me as the nigga with jewels and I always got a lot of jewels, and flossing and they know me as a business person and they know me as a business mind. I am the business mind behind the operation and behind the corporations so all these different ventures and moves that I dealt with on whatever level it has been, I have been behind it with my team. So all these things together, they either love it or hate it but we are doing it, doing the damn thing. You know, its real and [raises voice] I’m one of the only people that I feel can say that I rap and everything I rap about is real, and if you check it out it’s documented, and I don’t say anything that’s bullshit. Even the questions you ask me are questions that are based on things that you know of, or heard that I have done and the information that you have has all been documented and I’m no fabrication. I’m not claiming to be something I am not. It is what it is. And we did a lot of things first. I did a lot of things first out here. When it comes down to an artist, a hip-hop artist, and a label, Ez-Mak did a lot of things first.
HipHopCanada: Since we are talking about everything you did being documented and not fabricated, somebody who you claimed is fabricated and not real . . . Belly. Let’s talk about the beef with Belly. Was that actually ‘beef’ or was it a publicity stunt?
KAMA: Nah, it’s not really a publicity thing. I’m going to tell you something. I am different from other artists. I am going to get back to the question that you asked me. I don’t really like media and things, especially Canadian media. I don’t need to win any award here you know, [Kama sits up] Straight up, I don’t really care about that. That’s not really my caliber, those are not my peers, those are not people that I need to gain anything from.
HipHopCanada: When you say “they” who do you mean?
KAMA: I respect the industry but I am not a person who engages in a lot of interviews like this. I don’t need to do that, I keep it authentic, so at the end of the day what I have been doing and what I am doing, I’m always going to be doing it. So I don’t do anything for publicity. Anything that happened is what it is and it’s a mistake by this person and their camp and I don’t even want to say the people’s names. You already said their name and the name we are talking about so I don’t need to but these people, or whoever they are rolling with, know the mistakes they made. It’s going back to saying people are not authentic, and they are fabricated, they can be doing it good, bad or indifferent. But whatever they’re doing, at the end of the day, they’re not real so they are making mistakes and they made mistakes, you know what I mean? They violated people and they violated me and they violated the whole thing, so at the end of the day what happened, in a nutshell, it’s like I don’t really deal with that anymore and I’m over it but I’m going to put it to rest right here right now, I’m going to say one thing once and for all. We went to a record release party, it was dude’s party but when we went there we didn’t know the party was for anyone specific. We went there based on a regular ongoing party, but it turned out to be his record release party within a club which was a party within a party. Seeing it was his party, and already having heard about this guy and him saying he is the Godfather of Canada . . . and nobody even knowing who he is. Now being in the streets and where I come from and to many other people it’s like, they don’t know him like that, so it doesn’t matter if you come from Montréal, Ottawa, B.C., Nova Scotia . . . people will know about you through the street family. People will know about you saying that so and so, or whomever, but nobody knows this guy. So I took it upon myself, as it was already being talked about around the place and people want to know this, so I asked him. I went up to him . . . he had his security there with him, like he always has . . . went up to him and was like, “Yo, what makes you think you can call yourself the Godfather of Canada?” and he said “you know, I beat a big case, I beat a $60 million case or something of this nature” and so I said, “What does that mean? And how does that make you the Godfather of Canada?” At this point he was getting flustered. I was like, you know, “Enjoy, congratulations on your album release and enjoy your party.” But after that., you know, this whole thing flopped, and you know sometimes when you oppose people and they are not real, if a niggas real a nigga will deal with you real . . . or if a man is real, a man will deal with you real if you go up to him and approach him. He’s going to explain it on standard ground and say A, B or whatever . . . they are not going to go around the corner and sulk. So at that point he went to the corner and sulked like a big baby.
HipHopCanada: This is the same party with the chain incident?
KAMA: Yeah, the same party. So now after that, we are partying, we forget about him, we are partying and the girls come over by me and start asking, “who’s this fat guy saying he’s the Godfather of Canada?” We already knew these girls from Toronto so he’s trying to get at them, when they were coming over here with us, and he’s the boy standing in the corner . . . so now after the people that he was with started acting stupid . . . and he must have told them that I came and approached him. They wanted to talk to me so I went and talked to them. We squashed that so I came back and I’m partying with my boys and we’re there partying until one of his boys came and tried to walk where we are ,we stopped him; physically moved him. Then this big thing started. So then the security at the club and his security rushed me and my brethrens them, there were just a few of us at the time cause half of us were outside and a half of us were in the patio smoking. So they try to rush us, we start fighting and in the midst of this somebody pulls one of my chains off . . . same chain that I am wearing here right now [Kama lifts one of the chains up]. I didn’t know that until after I realized someone popped my chain off then everything went wild. Fighting, fighting, so to put a long story short-
HipHopCanada: Wait-you and security or you and Belly?
KAMA: Me and security only. He was there but he was standing behind, hiding behind security standing there like this [Kama hunches over and crosses his arms], looking, not doing anything and I was there fighting with them. Long story short, within a few minutes of that, I get back my chain, because things started to get out of hand. Then the police came, with their shotguns out and told us we had to leave. I said I am not leaving until I get my chain back. I told them if I don’t get my chain back someone is going to die. Because at that point I didn’t know if it popped off in the fight, if security had it or somebody else had it. Then the next thing I know I see a man running, coming back with the chain, giving me the chain, saying he’s sorry. So then after that, we leave. Then I made a record, and that’s what set off the whole thing, cause I took it as a big disrespect. But at the end of the day I have my goods and no one got hurt or no one got damaged or anything or locked up or nothing, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it, because I could have made a big deal out of it already, but we have bigger things going on now.
HipHopCanada: Do you trust it was put to rest?
KAMA: There is too much to look forward to and much bigger business going on to hurt one of these guys and end up with the whole thing going down the drain . . . so we went to the studio. When we were at the studio drinking, and talking about it, hyped up, amplified so, I jumped on the mic and said let’s make a track. So I jumped in the booth, pumped and spit the track off the top of my head.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about the track.
KAMA: Smelly. A track named “Smelly”. After we finished the track everyone started saying the track was fire and the track is banging and ray ray ray . . . Then the radio station heard what was going on and was talking about it already so then they asked us to come and talk about it on air.
HipHopCanada: Which station?
KAMA: Project Bounce. That was Project Bounce and Hip-hop Nation and them, and they wanted us to come on the radio and so we went on it. To tell you the honest truth, at the time the way I was looking at it was like this fool does not know how to conduct himself and if he wants to act like that, put big money to do his promotion cause I know they put up big money to do his promotions or what not . . . so I said, “You know what, I’m not going to war with him and go to jail or kill people or whatever the case may be.” I said, “I’m going to use it as a business strategy and he already violated so I’m going to use his promotion money too. I am not putting ANY money in it, that’s where a lot of people get it twisted . . . they say this and that, but at the end of the day, guess what, in this whole thing I renamed him! I RENAMED him. Until now, nobody had renamed a rapper, that’s another thing I did first, I renamed him. You had a name and I changed your name, and now people call you by the name that I call you, Smelly. Now mad people made diss songs like that and people call him that, everybody started calling him Smelly, until you had to call yourself Smelly. So at the end of the day, I RENAIMED YOU.. They tried to rename me, say Kama this, Kama that, and twist up my name all kind of ways, but nobody ever joined that. You can’t do that to a G.
HipHopCanada: Does he have a retaliation diss song?
KAMA: Smelly? I think, I don’t really listen to his music. All I know is the one song that he has it’s called “Smelly” and he named his song the same name I named him so at end of day I call him Smelly and he has a song called “Smelly”. Something about how he’s smelly and everything is smelly, but he [Belly] may think that’s smart but at end of the day you’re just an idiot. And you keep looking more like an idiot. I said I m going to make a movement and that’s what happened, a movement. If you go on YouTube and you put that in, [Laughing] you’re going to see the amount of people that have songs dissing [Belly]. All kinds of people and they are all part of the Smelly movement and they all call you Smelly, so I am good with that. My whole things is that I just jumped on his whole thing and what they were spending with their promotion money . . . I mean, this guy spent money to make a video about me, and used a picture they took of my chain and made a video. [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: They made a video of it?
KAMA: Yeah, they made, the same video there, “Smelly”, they used the picture and put it in the video . I never spent a dollar to do anything to diss him, not a dollar, everything I did I would never spend a dollar to diss him. I have my own studio, I just made a track, and the video was just made by someone and he put it up. I didn’t even have to do anything, the video went up there and I never had to spend a dime. Anyway, if you want to know about him, go to my MySpace and there go to the ‘Smelly Movement’ log and you will see everything about him. They crossed the line and I’m going to go further but the rest you are going to see in the documentary [Laughing]. You’re going to see the whole story in that documentary. At end of the day they even crossed the line again because we had another confrontation at the MMVA awards.
KAMA: Yeah. In 2008. This guy does not know how to move. My whole purpose for going there was to show to him, you are not built like me, I will go anywhere by myself.
HipHopCanada: Without security?
KAMA: Yeah, without security, anywhere. I have hundreds of soldiers, way more soldiers then Smelly, any day, and you better believe it. But when I go places with my niggas, something always pops off, we from Vaughan Road and Oakwood so everyone already knows what it is. So I am not trying to take them like that. I’m a person that, if I have anything to deal with I am able to deal with it on my own but if I need my homeboys I don’t have to ask. I go anywhere by myself and that day I went there to show him I am not like him, anywhere you can go I can go. MMVA’s; I just walk in. Anywhere in Toronto I can go. And I just walk in. I went into the awards with one homie to party and drink. I have done that way before him, won awards for videos with my partner David Cropper. So going back to the party, we are at the awards, there was free alcohol and mad artist and rappers in there, and I hooked up with some rappers, and talked to them and they were all saying, the same thing . . . they wanted to see that fat bwoy and they wanted to talk to him. So I was saying yeah, and the man is in the place so let’s go look for him but nobody wanted to go. So I finally got fed up and said to my one friend I came with, “Let’s go for a walk”. So we go and end up running into Smelly and his whole entourage.
Editor’s note: This is a two part piece. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview with Kama AKA Kamikaze.
Written by Andrea C. for HipHopCanada