“We can’t effectively create from anything other than our experiences, observations and interactions with our environments,” says singer-songwriter KAMAUU. In 2016, after being reminded again and again of the injustices that Black and Brown Americans face following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and several others at the hands of police, the R&B crooner released the single “PohLease.” Addressing police brutality and racism, the song features lyrics such as, “It’s been awhile since the KluKlux/Looked like the KluKlux.” It also posed a question that in 2020, especially in the wake of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other unarmed Black civilians, is still seemingly unanswered: Who polices the police?
When he’s not fighting the power, the Atlantic Records’ artist is helping to soundtrack vibes, as well as top-rated TV shows with his music. Episodes of the Issa Rae-helmed Insecure have featured 2016’s No Wyld-assisted “Jusfayu” and his more recent release “Far Rockaway.” “The song was actually a breakup song where, though I felt sad that the romance was ending,” says the native of Washington, D.C. “I was very happy about how it went and the things I learned during it.”
Below, KAMAUU offers his thoughts on the power of protests, “PohLease” still being relevant today, the importance of strong Black Communities and his latest single “BOA.”
What was most memorable about protesting in Minneapolis?
The camaraderie and harmony of the people.
Has the response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery changed how you view the power of protests? If so, how so?
I’ve been aware of the power of unity. These protests are another example of unity achieving results. The quality and longevity of the results, however, depend on the quality of the unity, which depends on the quality of the purpose, awareness of it and communication. To be truly lastingly effective, we must thoroughly study where we are, what we need, and we must thoroughly communicate that within our communities and come to a place where we see eye to eye.
When writing “PohLease” did you think it would still be relevant years later?
Sadly, yes. The years never bow down to the seconds. It will take a while to heal/eradicate the sick perspectives that ravage our species. We must be consistent.
What are your thoughts on #BlackOutTuesday?
I’m not really sure. I think it started as a really good idea, but I believe there may have been many misunderstandings of its purpose and, in the end, felt a bit like a game of telephone. I believe it started with great intentions. Like anything else, we must always do our best, study the results, refine our approaches and try again.
Have you been inspired musically by what’s been going on?
Absolutely. We can’t effectively create from anything other than our experiences, observations, and interactions with our environments.
Your single “Far Rockaway” was featured in an episode of Insecure this last season. What’s another show you’re a fan of that you wouldn’t mind having a song featured in?
Altered Carbon, Supernatural, My Block, or She’s Gotta Have It, WOO!
Can you speak on the inspiration behind the “BOA” video?
The song was actually inspired by the trailer for “Queen & Slim,” but in the process of writing and finishing it and creating a visual it became a song about family and protecting the process of creating strong and intelligent children in the Black Community. Mastering that would help out in many, if not all, other areas where we find hardship.
What are your thoughts on the current state of R&B?
Like many things, it can grow, and should. We must improve ourselves, however, in order to improve what we create so that what we create improves us. So the state of R&B is tethered to the state of the people creating it.
What’s next for you?
Running up them numbers on “BOA.” Eating, working, resting, growing. Putting out more visuals and singles and finishing an album. And… ya know… the rest of mah lifeeee.
Photo via Jimmy Fontaine