Finding Your Voice: Cam James on Hip Hop in Atlanta, Georgia
Meet the Atlanta rapper who uses his lyrics to connect with others.
Cam James talks vegan restaurants, hustling in the music industry, and all there is to discover about Atlanta.
What about the city inspires you and your music?
My music centers around relationships, love and my state of mind - all three have a direct connection to Atlanta. There's nowhere else I can think of that combines African-American culture, ambitious women, and the opportunity to make any vision a reality. Everyone's a hustler here, we're all trying to get to another level. If you don't feed off that, you're in the wrong industry.
A view of the Atlanta skyline
What are some of your favorite venues to play in Atlanta, and why?
Aisle 5 is one of my favorites, because of how professional the sound and lighting setup is. This one's top notch. The Music Room is a close second, due to the intimacy of it. I like to get up close and personal with my fans; it helps when I can feed off their excitement and interact with them in a real way. Walk around Lenox on Saturday and you'll be entertained for hours. I might be the only vegan rapper you know, so I hit spots like Soul Vegetarian No. 2 to get some of the best food in the city.
How did you get started making music?
My father had me listening to 70s/80s soul, 90s R&B and rap from every era. My mom plays piano and composes. Combine that with my ability to memorize lyrics quickly and my propensity to sing in public, and I was eventually gonna make my own songs.
I read a lot of books as a kid, which gave me a mastery of words and writing techniques. In 2010, I won Georgia Tech's first annual spoken word contest— my first time making money from my talents. After getting recruited by a campus rap group, I started to see professional potential in myself. I was just good at it.
Cam James recording a track in Atlanta
What drew you to the particular kind of music you create?
Rap allows you to innovate every few seconds. No other lyrical artform is as flexible structurally, or makes it as easy to demonstrate your sense of humor and songwriting talent.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
I want people to take a story away from my music that inspires them and gets stuck in their brain, 'cause they can relate. There's no false pretenses with my music, it's all me. If it doesn't bang in the car, you might as well go back to the drawing board fam.
Why is your city a great place to play the kind of music you make?
Atlanta is the best place to make rap. Not only is it the birthplace of so many legendary hip hop acts (OutKast were personal heroes of mine growing up), the whole city is crazy supportive of live performers. No matter your talent level or where you're at in your career, you can build a fan base here. Artists support each other and collaborate often. People walk in off of the street to see live music, so every time out you're guaranteed to scoop up some new fans. This city is the heart of innovation and new combinations of genres, so all you have to do is find your voice.
What do you love about Atlanta, and why?
There's something for everyone here. If you're a tourist who's never been to America, a resident from across the nation or a lifelong native, this city never stops surprising you with new ways to engage and enjoy life. I've been here 10 years and still haven't scratched the surface in the least. Our parks are iconic, the nightlife and opportunities make even the worst traffic worth it, and the niche food joints never end. There's a reason music, film and corporate entities converge on this city all year. Nowhere else measures up to the A.