One of your latest leaks off your new album Splitting Image is “Step By Step.” Isn’t that song title the epitome of your career?
It could definitely be considered the theme song for my career. One of the reasons why I wrote the song is let people know that this is long process and some of us will reach the end faster than others. Some people make it overnight and it might take a lifetime for others. Some people take the highway and some people take the scenic route. It’s not so much about the destination but more about the journey. The journey to the top is always more inspiring than once you finally reach the top if you know what I mean. That’s what “Step By Step” is about. It’s actually not even going to be on the album. We ended up dropping it because I had so much material and I wanted to come with more conceptual songs. But this rap thing isn't gonna happen overnight for everybody.
It’s definitely not. What’s kept you motivated where other people might not have had the fortitude to stick with it after all these years?
For me it was basically a childhood dream and I always said that no matter what it takes, I’m going to tough it out. It’s like being a self-employed business owner. If you’re going to close the doors whenever you have a hard time, you’re not going to succeed at any business. That’s the mindset I took with it. And I wanted to be more than just a rapper. I wanted to learn the business at an early age and I wanted to school myself on this. Another thing that kept me going was the touring. Once I was introduced to Europe and Australia and I got to see actual fans and supporters out there, that just took it to a whole other level. After Chain Letters, I didn’t plan on doing another Supastition album. I was gonna either stop recording altogether or just go in another direction. Being able to go to all those countries in a few years was so inspirational and I was able to reinvent myself as Kam Moye, the person I am in everyday life. I wasn’t going to keep on doing music as just Supastition because I felt like it had ran its course. When die hard hip hop fans are no longer buying hip hop then what do you do? It was almost like performing for a crowd that wasn't even listening in the first place.
So you feel you can touch on more topics as Kam Moye than you can as Supastition.
Oh yeah. Definitely, man. I truly believe that. A lot of times when I was writing as Supastition I was writing by hip-hop’s standards instead of my own standards. I was almost pigeonholing myself. Then I had fans who didn’t want to hear me outside of battle songs or hating the industry or they only wanted to hear me work with M-Phazes or Illmind. Those dudes have become successful in their own right and I'm not at the top of their priority list anymore. I'd be a fool to even think so because this is business at the end of the day. I wanted to define my own sound and show cats a different side. As Kam Moye, I can speak on things like being comfortable in your own skin, depression, becoming a father at 16, or whatever that has affected my life. There is an audience of people fiendingfor that raw hip hop but those same people deal with problems and issues that get overlooked.
What’s the place in hip-hop today for songs about battling, loving hip-hop and hating politics?
I couldn’t really tell you, man, because when I was making songs about the industry, it was at a time when nobody wanted to believe the industry was really that fucked up. People would tell me to rap about something else. They didn’t want to hear that I got jerked by a label but now that the music industry is falling, now you got a lot of commercial rappers talking about how bad the game is. I think there’s definitely a place for battling and whatnot but as far as it being my main focus, I’m pretty much past that point. I don't have much to be angry and bitter about these days. I have a family and I’ve been able to travel and tour the world. Now I just want to make some music that makes people feel inspired and helps them cope with life's highs and lows.
Are you sure “Step By Step” is not a tribute to one of the greatest T.G.I.F. shows put on the air?
(laughs) I used to love that show but nah it isn't about that. It was like an 80's version of the Brady Bunch. Plus they had Chrissy from Three's Company on the show too. How could you not love it? (laughs)
I was hoping you sampled their theme music.
If you make it sound dope then maybe we can do a remix (laughs). Let’s make it happen, man.
Who was your favorite character on Step By Step?
Wow, man. Who would be my favorite character? (pause) It would probably have to be Brenden. He was the young, smart, and well-behaved one. Who else was on that show? Patrick Duffy. Damn, Bobby Ewing played Frank! (laughs) That's the 80's kid in me talking.
That was an all-star cast.
Oh yeah. Definitely, man.
Where would you rank Step By Step along the T.G.I.F. spectrum?
Hmm, I dunno because I was a fan of Family Matters and Perfect Strangers too. Full House was almost like a guilty pleasure for me as a kid because I didn’t really think it was that great but always ended up watching it. They would always put good shows on before that. I would say Step By Step is probably third on the list for me.
You can’t feel guilty about Full House. Great TV is great TV.
(laughs) That was the Olsen twins before they started looking malnourished. As a kid, It took me years to realize there were two of them on the show.
It says that in the show opening!
It says Mary-Kate Ashley Olsen. So I thought it was somebody with four fucking names! (laughs) Like Joe Jean Josiah Simmons or some shit. Hey, I'm from the South so I've seen my share of Mary Jo Jean's and other crazy names.
Do you get a lot of that in North Carolina?
I don't know about this generation but my mother's generation had some names like Anna Mae and all that. My first name is impossible for people to pronounce so that’s why I use Kam. My real name is Kamaarphial. Imagine that being on the cover of a CD.
Substitute teachers must have loved doing attendance in your class.
Teachers would go in alphabetical order. I would wait for someone else whose last name started with “M” and just wait for the teacher to pause... “Moye.” I would say, “Yeah, that’s me.” (laughs). I get asked all the time if it has a meaning but there's no fly meaning behind. Maybe it's because I “come-off-ill”!
Splitting Image is supposed to be unlike your past albums because it deals with more concepts and serious issues, but all your albums do that to some degree.
I always try to add a little bit of substance to give it that balance but I always felt that there was a wall there. With hip-hop, it's hard for listeners to respect somebody who’s rapping angry and hard on the song and then on the next song they’re talking about being in tears from their kids. Ice Cube couldn't cry in a movie and then turn around and make a gangsta ass album. With Kam Moye, I’m taking all the armor off. I’m a grown man and we all have emotions. I'm not 21 anymore and I can't think like a 21 year old anymore. I do good things sometimes and other times I make mistakes. It’s not easy for certain artists to expose their soul to people without putting up a façade to protect their image. That’s the difference with me recording as Kam Moye though. A lot of rappers won’t speak on certain shit and that's sets them up for failure and gets them exposed later.
Me, I'll talk about everything from being laid off from your job to interracial relationships. Hell, my wife is Asian but I'm not ignorant to her culture either. I'm not saying she is better than any Black woman and I'm not some brainwashed brother like people love to generalize. I'm comfortable in my own skin. Nobody can change that. At the end of the day, I am still a black man struggling with just as many problems as anyone else. You got quote-unquote pro-black rappers marrying and dating white women but fans are turned away by it because they kept it hidden. Fuck that...just be yourself. If you lose people by telling the truth then at least you know the ones left accepted you for you. I tell it how it is so people can either accept it or move on. Everything you hear on the record is how I am as a person.
You have some usual suspects as far as production goes along with some new names. What did you want in the production for Splitting Image?
I didn’t want something that was the typical boom bap that Supastition was known for. This isn't a super underground album. It definitely has a wider appeal than any other project I've released. On my albums before, the process was me just picking out the hottest from a beat CD and then writing around it. I followed whatever blueprint the producer gave me. On this record, I had in my mind what I wanted to do and I picked beats based on that. This was about establishing my own sound. A lot of people who knew M-Phazes, Illmind, Nicolay, or whoever thought of it as Supastition's sound. It's hard to grow as an artist if the producers you work with are going in different directions. They’ve all changed so much sonically. If someone like Illmind doesn’t want to sample anymore, do I follow what he does or go in my own direction? This time around I reached out to people like Jake One, Vitamin D, Symbolyc One, Veterano and producers that are not necessarily new to the game but new to working with me. I think It keeps you on your toes. We reached out to Phonte, One Be Lo, Zion I, and different artists to appear on the album. My past albums were never guest-heavy but everyone fits the concept and song so it isn't just a random collabos.
In “Step By Step” you talk about having pride, confidence and consciousness. How important are those qualities today?
It’s very important, just in life in general, man. That’s one thing I was definitely missing when I was doing the Supastition projects. I was very pessimistic as a person during that time. Now I’m proud of what I’m doing and I’m optimistic about my future. People need a sense of confidence and consciousness to improve themselves. Everyday I'm trying to live better and stay on the right path. I'm at a different point in life right now. It’s no longer about trying to see how many girls you can smash or how many pair of kicks you have. It's about progression and handling your business.
You also touched on the subject of loyalty. Is there a group of fans or people who haven’t stuck by you in your absence?
I honestly don't expect many hip hop fans to ride with any artist until the end. This isn't like Rock music where you have Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones fans who will still be your fan when they're 60 years old. Hip Hop is a trendy culture and everything is based on being cutting edge. Mick Jagger could walk into any rock club in America and get treated like royalty. Let's see someone like Chuck D or Marley Marl try and do that. Bouncers would probably throw them out for trying to get in for free. Once you're seen as old or old school in hip hop then you're pretty much out of here. Hell, the game already treats Jay-Z like the nigga is 70 years old, telling him to retire and hang it up.
As far as loyalty with people I've worked with, I had to learn the hard way. There is not much loyalty in music, just a lot of people waiting for their opportunity to move forward. With music and success, people tend to rewrite their own histories as they go along. If you looked out for someone or gave them their first shot in the game, most of them will only give a damn about you until they move ahead of you. That's when they start looking back at you like they did you a favor and not the other way around. People are only as loyal as their options. Success changes people a lot and I’m not going to say any names but it woke me up. If you have an ego or a bad attitude then success only makes it worse. I never wanted to be that Hollywood dude who gave my friends the 'talk to my manager' treatment. You might have a few people who stick by you 'til the end but my closest friends I keep away from music. If I stop doing music today I want to be able to have those same people around me. Trust me, those people won't be most of the names in my album credits.
So they’re not just hanging around you because they really like 7 Years of Bad Luck?
(laughs) Yeah all 500 or so people who bought that album! I paid the price for how I used to choose friends. I used to choose friends based on if you rapped and if you liked the same kind of music I liked. Once you grow up you realize that’s not enough to maintain a friendship. You could have a homeboy who’s an incredible rapper but he doesn’t do anything with his life and he doesn’t take care of his wife and kids. That’s not the type of person you want to be around.
You can only break down Chino XL lines for so long there.
(laughs) I’m more about being around good people these days rather than who’s an great rapper and producer. That’s what it’s about to me. I try to stay humble. I come from a real outspoken family and they don’t care about how many albums I sell or who I've done songs with. At the end of the day I gotta be the same person.
You’re shooting five videos for Splitting Image. Is that the best way to market the project?
I feel like there’s a market for videos but you just have to be able to reach the right audience with them. I've shot a video already with a director named Charles Barcelona from the Bay for a song called “Forever Fresh” which is probably the closest thing to my old sound as you're gonna get. Me and a director named Matt Koza are working on a trilogy of videos that will tie all 3 of the singles in together to one common theme. We are about to begin shooting those very soon.
Since your wife and mom don’t care what your album sells, what are your own goals for Splitting Image?
Well I had a budget this time so I gotta sell some damn records (laugh). I want to reach a broader audience of people and bring along the Supastition fans who accept the growth. I finally found my lane with this album and found that balance between saying what I want to say and how to say it. I was searching to find a way to have a message in music without it sounding too preachy. It's no longer about how many rhyming words I can fit into a bar, it's about speaking on things that are important to me.