Image via Brandon Almego

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Steven Louis was NOT born December 4th, weighing in at 10 pounds, 8 ounces, the last of Gloria Carter’s four children.

By her own estimates, Kamaiyah is behind on the numbers. The East Oakland hitmaker subscribes to a local rap tradition of one release every quarter. E-40 and Too $hort were the suede-suited proofs of concept, Mac Dre made it happen for the mixtape generation, and Larry June is doing it in real time. Seven years into her career, she explains, she should really have 28 projects out by now. Instead, Another Summer Night is only her ninth drop.

It’s neither for lack of audience nor motivation. Though Kamaiyah broke out with a unique look, fully-formed sound and enough forceful confidence to collapse the Bay Bridge, she found herself in an all-too-familiar cipher of record deal hell just two years later. Her first full album, Midnight in the Ghetto, made every year-end list and put her on an accelerated path to superstardom; next came a chart-topper with Drake and a TV spot with LeBron. Then came the multiple delayed release dates, comprehensive mismanagement at the label, and what she describes as an overall disinterest in her organic growth. Somehow, Kamaiyah had just one release (the buoyant and fantastic Before I Wake) between her successful 2016 debut and the start of the pandemic. Now free from the confines of Interscope and 4Hunnid, the founder of Keep It Lit Records is making up for stolen time.

To listen to Kamaiyah’s music is to get great news and run to celebrate with all the homies. Production is neon-lit, liquor-stained and subwoofer-destroying. Raps are bellowed anthemically with group vocals. The swagger matches a centrifugal force of a thousand suns, but the delivery itself is effortless and chilly. Another Summer Night comes on the heels of a collaborative album with Jay Worthy and Harry Fraud, though as evidenced by the title, it was supposed to drop earlier to support a summer tour with YG, Tyga and Saweetie. Still, Kamaiyah’s latest is a heavily-poured cocktail of all that makes her captivating – bottles rattle from the bass of “Take a Sip,” chest-out self-reliance occupies every second of “XXL Letterman,” and the freaks and gangstas commingle on the club floors of “Every Friday” and “Extra Love.” Another Summer Night also boasts two heart-racing joints laced by 03 Greedo, and as Kamaiyah tells us, a dual project may be in the works for 2024.

Though she admitted to libra-scaling a gang of personal issues, ranging from the sudden passing of her uncle to an imminent move from Long Beach back to The Bay, Kamaiyah is hilarious and spirited in conversation. She’s balanced mourning and progression her entire adult life – the critical distinction now is that she’s the one calling her own shots. We talked to her about hard-won independence, being “the most mainstream underground artist,” where she fits into the lineage of Oakland and her goal of performing at the Warriors’ arena for 2025 NBA All-Star Weekend.

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

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