I always have to show love for an artist who is malleable, sends good vibes and has a strong, unique flow. Lately I’ve been bumping Kwam Iz Ill Vol. 1 (2014) by Kwamizzle. The sound is so refreshing yet quite nostalgic. Picture yourself: riding down the highway. It’s like 6pm, sun is still shining, and the traffic is winding down as the warm, summer breeze blows on your face. All you hear is Kwamizzle’s impeccable flow and true hip hop and reggae infused beats. You can’t help but nod your head.
Originally from Albany, NY, Kwamizzle has many talents: DJing, beat producing, and rhyming. Thankfully, right now the world is being blessed with Kwamizzle’s greatness in the concentrated form of audio waves. After putting out By Any Means (2011) and Are You Afraid of the Art? (2011) alongside Kane and Intell Hazefield as a part of Hand Gunz High (HGH), Kwamizzle is now sharing his third solo release with the world.
I was lucky enough to communicate with Kwamizzle about what makes him tick, background info on his current album, as well as the details on music that’s in the works. Check the transcript below!
W: Please share a little bit about your background: Who/What/When/Where/Why is Kwamizzle?
K: Kwamizzle is Kwame Armstrong from Albany, NY. A rapper, hip hop artist, beat maker, producer, jack-of-all-trades kinda guy. I started using Kwamizzle in 2001 after a classmate referred to me as such in High School. Around about 2006, I penned a rhyme in a song “Kwamizzle, definition Kwam Iz Ill”, and that’s when Kwamizzle had gained definitive meaning.
W: What prompted you to start beat production and writing your own rhymes?
K: My younger Brother (Jamaal) and Cousin (Rasi) were really into making their own music at a young age. Growing up in Decatur, GA, they had certain influences that made the idea accessible. I recorded my first rhyme in my Dad’s garage, engineered and produced by my 15yr old Cousin and 13yr old Brother. I was always influenced by the super producers of the late 90s-early 00s. Swizz Beats, Timbaland, Mannie Fresh, DJ Paul & Juicy J, Just Blaze, Kanye West, etc. The combination of both of these instances, encouraged me to try my hand at it.
W: With all your many talents, what makes writing Hip Hop music your true calling?
K: I can’t say Hip Hop is my true calling. I will say that I have a real passion for creating. Also, I am a fan of the art first. That will never change.
W: Kwam Iz Ill Vol. 1 has solid beats. Please tell us about your production team for the mixtape.
Kwam Iz Ill, Vol. 1, has some really amazing talent in the production area. I hooked up with Big Ben Beats
by just being a fan of his music. Unbeknownst to me, he is from France. He sent me a batch of beats and the jazzy production really resonated with me. D.O.C.
is an extremely talented musician from Albany, NY, I’ve known D.O.C. since 2011 and I was fortunate to have a beat from him on the album. Dood Computer
, one half of Giant Gorilla Dog Thing, is also from Albany. Dood and I joined forced on the CBNI remix, I sent him the vocals and he sent back a masterpiece. To top it off, he had the cuts and scratches imported from Germany! Shout out to DJ Ele-Ment. Scott Chambers
, another Albany resident, reached out to me with some production while he was creating his own album. I think Chambers had so many track for his album he just gave that one to me. Last but not least, Myself. It’s really difficult for me to write to my own production these days, but every so often it comes out nice.
You also had some great collabos on your tracks. What was it like working with Jaja Gibore
, Golden Shower
, and Masai
K: I kept the collaborations relatively low. I usually want to do music with everyone in the world, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Working with Jaja Gibore was a breeze. He is a true wordsmith, poet, and lyricist. He is an Albany Hip Hop veteran. The vibe he has is contagious. He’s a very cheerful guy and a very hard worker. Working with Masai was also an easy task. Masai is an Alpha Dog. He doesn’t slouch on any thing when it concerns his music. If it isn’t damn near perfect, Masai isn’t releasing it. As far as Golden Shower, He was brought along thanks to Big Ben. I didn’t get to converse with him much, but his contributions are appreciated.
W: On your track “Keep Movin (On & On)”, you share your journey of falling in love with Hip Hop and all the artists that inspired you, like KRS-ONE, Nas, and Mobb Deep. You also mentioned wishing that “Hip Hop wasn’t so far gone” and you expressed feeling like the “industry dumbed down”. Can you elaborate on what was meant by your lyrics? What do think of the current state of Hip Hop?
K: On Keep Movin’, I broke the song down into 3 verses. My earliest remembrance of Hip Hop, my influences, and where I wanted to take it in the future. The music was a little different back when I was a child. A lot of pro-black Hip Hop, positive messages, uplifting music. With more money rappers got more gaudy and started to flaunt a lot more. That was the late 90s early 00s. Rap became commercial, taking over the charts and being marketed (exploited). I think music can be used to heal a lot of issues between groups of people. It can transcend languages, ages, and religions. That’s what I want to do. As far as the artists I mention, KRS-One would fall into one of my earliest remembrances. He was influential because he was an intelligent rapper. He destroyed all the stereotypes. Also, my step-mom met him in Red Lobster in Albany and was so excited. I never forgot that. It was on the radio and on TV a lot more. Queen Latifah had a song U.N.I.T.Y., where she disgraced men for calling women “bitch”. My older brother and older cousins listened to a lot of East Coast Hip Hop: Nas, Wu Tang, AZ, Mobb Deep, Kool G. Rap, etc. The Early 90s (golden era) legends. Snoop and Dre fell in there because they took over in 93, it was amazing. When I said I wish Hip Hop wasn’t so far gone, that was a slight jab to Drake fans that put Drake over artists like Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Common, Black Milk, Lupe, and the like. Hip Hop is getting a constant dilution, making the flagship Hip Hop artist more and more easy on the ears and eyes. Hip Hop is and will always be revolutionary music. Currently the state of Hip Hop is in good hands, to name a few, we have Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Badass, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. I’m cool with that.
W: “Black Roses” is actually my favorite song on the mixtape, with the mean bass and reggae sample. Who or what inspired this song?
Black Roses was actually a beat I crafted for another artist. I happened to miss out on that opportunity so I ended up using it. Having West Indian parents, I continuously find inspiration in reggae,
soca, dancehall, and calypso.
W: Overall, what do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
K: I just want more appreciative listeners. That’s speaking from a music fans perspective. I find listeners these days have a short attention span. One or two light listens and they either hate or love it. I put a lot of references and lyricism in my rhymes, it’s really dense. I don’t expect everyone to get all the hidden gems. Music can gain value over time if people weren’t rushing to find the next trending artist.
W: In general, who or what inspires and motivates you to continue creating new music?
K: I get my inspiration from life. Life is ever changing and evolving, there’s always something amazing happening. The beats I listen to help form the vibe, which forms the idea of a song. The rhythm of the beat helps form the flow, which develops the rhymes. The rhymes come from things I experience in life. Experience can be anything, imagination is experience. Deep thought and education can give you insight to anything.
W: Will we have the opportunity to see live performances from you in 2015?
The world may have just missed my first performance of 2015. I had a small performance at SXSW
. I hadn’t touched a stage in about a 18 months. It was cool to get back up there and do my thing. I’m hoping for more shows, I just need to get my affairs in order and reach out to the right people.
W: What has been the most difficult part about putting your art out to the public?
K: The most difficult part is actually putting it out. Promotion is very instrumental in staying relevant today. The music could be great but if the promotion is weak/lacking you won’t be heard. It’s like the world has ADD. Unless you’re coupled with drama or scandal no one pays attention. It’s also tough to keep a following without being consistent.
W: New things have been happening with you. You have recently relocated to Texas, surrounded by new opportunities and other fresh sounds! How has this (or how will this) change in scenery influence your music?
K: Moving to Texas was a way to change my view of life. It’s completely different from Albany. I live in Round Rock which is a suburb about 15mi from Austin, TX. I’m on to more responsible adult issues. Soon, I’ll be rapping about my lawn and mortgage!
W: I know that you are currently working on some new songs. What do your listeners have to look forward to on your next album? When do you anticipate the release?
My next project is produced entirely by Lang Vo
who’s a Ohio native. He’s actually the only person I’ve started doing music with since I’ve moved. Plus, he lives about 3 blocks away. It’s a concept album written from the perspective of a Dictator. I believe it’s a different sound from what I usually put out and I just hope people receive it well. Should be out in the next few months.
W: Will the world see a new HGH album?
K: HGH has about 10 tracks in the holster just waiting for the perfect time to shock the globe. Hopefully one day we’llsee another HGH album.
W: Who are some artists that you dream of collaborating with?
K: I could name over a dozen well known artists that I would like to work with but honestly I would rather join forces with another artist on the rise like myself. I try to link with the openers I like when I’m at shows. I think it makes the most sense to try that route.
W: What is a piece of advice that you would provide to another young artist who is working toward their dream of releasing an album?
K: My only advice would be to find yourself. Don’t follow what the billboard artists are doing. Don’t follow what the radio is playing. Make music unique to you. Also, don’t over think an idea. Let the idea be organic.
There you have it folks. Words of a man who stays true to good music and Hip Hop through his beats and lyrics. Stay tuned for more from Kwamizzle.
[Like what you hear? Support the artist! Buy Kwamizzle’s
music on bandcamp