This week Philly’s own Chief Kamachi sat down with RapReviews.com to discuss his recent release, Concrete Gospel, his goal of being the hood mystic and what he sees in both Hip-Hop’s and his own future.
Adam Bernard: First off, for those who don’t know you, why don’t you hit everybody with your background, where you grew up and how you got into Hip-Hop.
Chief Kamachi: Basically for the cats who don’t know Chief Kamachi started in Hip-Hop when I was five. I came into the game breakdancing. I’ve been rhyming since I was ten. We were pretty much in the game the whole time, but I started dropping wax in ’98 then Army of the Pharaohs, DJ Revolution, a lot of joints like that. Now we’re in the album stream.
AB: And you’re from Philly.
CK: Yeah, yeah North Philly.
AB: So in North Philly what kind of Hip-Hop were you growing up on?
CK: Basically the legends; Rakim, EPMD, Slick Rick. Just all the classic stuff. I was brainwashed with it.
AB: So who would you say had the most influence on you?
CK: Oooooh, that depends on what day you ask me that question. I think back then everybody had a different element that they brought to the game so you know you had Rakim who came with the lyrics, you had EPMD who came with the group swing, I picked up from all of that, so I would say I pulled a little bit from all of them.
AB: And you recently released Concrete Gospel. Tell everybody about the album and how it’s different from some of your previous efforts.
CK: It’s still Chief Kamachi for the people that’s familiar with my work. I always try to focus on the lyrics so I definitely think it’s a lyrical album but at the same time I think what I did on this one was I relaxed a little bit on the flow tip so cats can understand what I’m talking about. I think that’s one of the main things, my delivery, but it’s still dark, it’s still that middle ground kinda thing that I do.
AB: So do you think switching up the flow a little bit is going to open you up to a larger audience?
CK: Yeah because I think some cats, with Cult Status, my first album, I don’t think cats was really getting it. Sometimes I use a lot of dense subject matter and stuff like that too so I tried to tone it down just a notch so cats can really grip it. That’s probably been an issue sometimes with some of my previous work where unless you’re really a cat that’s into lyrics and diggin and stuff like that it might just go over your head. I tried to put it in a way with this album where it’s right there in your face. It isn’t too much like a puzzle.
AB: You seem to have a lot to say on this album, too. What were some of the topics you were looking to touch on with the songs?
CK: Really, I didn’t have a particular objective, I just wanted it to be hot. A lot of time with the end of the day with me is make sure that it’s hot. I don’t really start with a particular thing in mind. Even with the concept with album I was just chillin, just writin, and was like oh Concrete Gospel, boom. So I didn’t really have a set objective, I just wanted to make another hot record.
AB: Concrete Gospel. For you what does that mean?
CK: The Concrete Gospel, those are my street lectures for the most part. Hip-Hop to me is the concrete gospel, it’s the gospel from the streets, form the corner, from the hoo doo shop down the street. It’s a mixture of a whole bunch of things that are going on in the hood and with me it’s more leaning towards the dark spiritual stuff and stuff like that.
AB: So would you consider the album almost your soapbox?
CK: Not really. I think the next one will be.
AB: So the next one is gonna be the one where you just get up there and tell everybody how it is?
CK: Yeah. I’ve been doing singles for use so I was always just in single mode, dropping 16’s and stuff like that so I was always sittin on a lot of material and I never got a chance to put it out so now it’s like I’m getting into the album stream and I’m just letting it build up. I got a catalogue of stuff that I’m just willing to let go. The next album’s gonna be a problem.
AB: So if the next one is your soapbox, what is this one for ya?
CK: This one is like we’re restarting the engine. It was like with Army of the Pharaohs it was like alright, boom, Kamachi’s back. We’re about to rev the engine up, the car is on the road. The next album the pedal is floored. This is me just getting it together, getting prepared, for the big boom.
AB: So would you say for the people who don’t have some of your earlier work this is a really good introduction to you?
CK: Yeah I think so. It’s definitely a good body to let them know the kind of work that I do so I definitely think it’s a good introduction.
AB: There’s a lot of death imagery in your work, in fact “Death Choir” is the first single off of Concrete Gospel. What inspires all of that imagery?
CK: Because that’s what it is. With “Death Choir” what I’m talking about is these are my homies and this is what they sing, they sign the death choir. These cats are out on the streets here and that’s the song that they sing, they’re singing a song of death, ain’t nobody really living. It’s like cats are hovering above fire, at least where I’m at, and when I come out that’s what I see. I’m in the middle of hell’s church and that’s what cats is singin. That’s where I come from with it. It ain’t really too pretty, but I’ma brighten it up a little bit in the future.
AB: I don’t see you working on a remix for Jay-Z’s “Sunshine” anytime soon.
CK: Nah, nah, nah. I got different dynamics, though, I can pretty much go anywhere, but I like what I do.
AB: So aside from your music what should people know about you?
CK: I got a lot of varied interests. I’m a closet computer freak. I deal with all kind of stuff. I read a lot, too.
AB: Tell me what some of your big reads have been recently.
CK: Let’s see, the last good read was… I’ve been reading a lot of Chinese philosophy lately, but I’m up studying the medical Chi-Gong system so I’m up into that right now. As far as the martial arts and stuff like that they run deep through my team, too. I’m heavy in Chinese philosophy and African mysticism, that’s my thing. I’m heavy into the occult studies, astrology, stuff like that. I’m an astro-bum.
AB: So how much of that stuff is going to end up in your music eventually?
CK: A lot. It’s pretty much my whole thing, I’m the hood mystic. You got cats people look at like he’s the hood priest, I’m the hood mystic. I’m tryna be the cat at the corner levitating. That’s where I’m at with it.
AB: So what do you think of this industry that you’re being a mystic in? What do you think about Hip-Hop in 2006?
CK: It’s the same as it was in 1996, it’s nothing but a big cycle. That’s one thing that I like about Hip-Hop, if you’ve been a part of it from the beginning you know it goes through these phases so I understand that when it goes up you got a time when the people in the industry will support whatever this is and there a time when they support this and a time when they support that. And then they all get their own point of return. We got a time when the underground was super super big, then that cycle had to go down. Then you had to bring the cycle back with the commercial stuff. It had to come back, it had to be there. Then it’s gonna take a dip and we’re gonna come back around to something else. I just look at it as a cycle and I fit in where I fit in at. I might be in the low part of the cycle right now because what I do isn’t really supported on a broad scale but eventually what is gonna happen, as long as I stay consistent, when that stream come back up I’m gonna be right with that stream. That’s really my plan because I know it’s coming back. I don’t know how long it’s gonna last but I know it’s gonna come back, it has to come back. So I just look at it as a cycle, it just goes through cycles just like any other thing. It takes dips, falls, dives, hits its peaks, so I ain’t really complain. A lot of cats be sittin around “ah these guys,” I’m not worried about dudes, I compete against myself so at the end of the day I know I’ma have to create my own lane and the cats that really really dig my stuff are in their own lane anyways. It’s always been the same to me, just different artists.
AB: So who do you think is going to help bring that cycle around?
CK: That’s a good question and it’s hard to put your finger on that.
AB: That’s the million dollar question isn’t it!
CK: And you can’t really say! You woulda never thought Outkast woulda come outta the corner of the room like that. If you were familiar with Outkast from the start you couldn’t have seen them turning into the kind of group that they are. That wasn’t a transition thing a lot of people were seeing and if they did I don’t think they thought it was gonna be as big as they got with it. So it’s hard to tell, tomorrow Immortal Technique could be at the top! Just runnin the game, it’s like that. I think something like that is gonna happen. It’s gonna be somebody that nobody thinks it’s gonna be. It’s easy to say Nas, it’s a given that Jay-Z’s gonna make another hot album, but there’s somebody else out there, somebody floatin around that nobody knows about. Who thought Kanye was gonna do what he did? I saw Kanye rhyme in Philly and I started laughin at him, I’m serious. He came to Philly to the Beat Society and he came through, he was playing tracks and he was rhyming and I remember we was just laughin like “are you serious?” Five months later, there you go. So I don’t know, that’s a good question man.
AB: Other than yourself, who would you like to see on top?
CK: I’m more or less, it ain’t even really a hating thing, I just wish a lot of those old dudes would get out the way.
AB: So does there need to be a mandatory retirement age in Hip-Hop?
CK: Not necessarily. I’m gonna say that because LL disproves that. Whether cats like LL or not, to be hanging around that long rhyming to still be able to get the people’s ears is like c’mon man. Jay-Z don’t look like he’s slackin up at all. But some young cats gonna come outta somewhere because we’re use to them already. I would like to see a lot of underground cats just bubbling on that middle ground where they’re moving more units than anybody in the underground but then they’re not really breaking into the majors. It’s funny because I always looked at Jedi Mind Tricks like that. I looked at Jedi Mind Tricks like a rock group just hovering, they go under the radar, especially in Philly, which I find strange. They’ve got the biggest indy group in Philly ever but it goes under the radar for some reason. I see a lot of groups, you’ve got Immortal out there, there’s a lot of cats out there that’s big, that are real big and I think that they can do it but it all depends on if the industry is supporting that at that time.
AB: So who do you think is gonna be supporting your album?
CK: I don’t know. The suicidal cats sitting at home ready to kill their moms. I don’t know, I’ve seen a lot of different cats that dig my stuff that I wouldn’t have thought (would). A lot of Hip-Hop cats and then some cats who just might be curious just off of the name. I don’t really know, I haven’t been able to pinpoint my crowd yet because I just started putting albums out so I’m just starting to gauge who’s picking up the material and who’s not.
AB: Would that be one of your goals for this record?
CK: Yeah I definitely would like to start establishing my fan base more so I could really see, I could really get in line with them and maximize that. I definitely want to know after this ablum, I want to get a better hold of who’s copping these joints.
AB: Finally, what do you hope people get out of Concrete Gospel?
CK: That there’s still hope left. There’s still some MC’s around. Because at the end of the day that’s what I give em, an MC. That’s what I know. However it come out at the end of the day I’m an MC and the cats that know, they’ll listen and they’ll know that like “he’s a rhymer” old school, meet you in the bathroom in the cipher and let’s get it on. That’s the era that I come from and that’s what I’d like to get across in my music. There’s a cat that’s still around, he’s got concepts , he’s got lyrics, he’s spittin, he’s coming hard and he’s consistent. That’s one of my main things, consistency. That’s one thing I liked about the GZA. There are a couple of MC’s that I’ve never heard kick a wack verse, not matter what song they were on. There’s only a handful of those guys that I know so the consistency is a major thing with me so I’m tryna stay abreast, stay with the hottest stuff, whatever level, and just do my thing, stick to what I do.