Flat Out with Miss Kam
© Shan Wallace
Venomous bars, sharp delivery, and a traditional hip-hop approach make the West Baltimore rapper a fan favorite in her scene
As a kid, West Baltimore rapper Miss Kam sang in the choir each year of middle and high school. But in between bellowing out to crowds with her classmates, she hung out with friends listening to beats on YouTube, freestyling back and forth for fun. After graduating and still needing an outlet to express herself musically, Kam started to gain more confidence in her rapping ability and posted her first freestyle to Twitter in 2017. It was a pivotal moment for her creative development. “People wanted to hear more. So, I just kept posting freestyles, kept posting freestyles,” Kam reminisces as we sit in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park, a perfectly blue reservoir and a skyline of the city’s Westside behind her. “Then people were like, ‘You need to drop a song!’ That was, what, November 2018? I've really been taking my time with music. I don't really drop too much, but when I do, it hit hard.”
“No Bluffin,” which is produced by Miss Kam’s frequent collaborator Doowy Lloh, is sinister in sound. Lloh’s murky piano punches, crashes, and thumping bass fit Kam’s deep and snapping delivery (in the vein of pioneering artists like Lil Kim and Foxy Brown) like a glove. In retrospect, the affirmations of self and proclamations that litter “No Bluffin” make it the quintessential artist introduction to the world. On the song, Kam finds countless ways to maintain one central point: that her competition can’t touch her on any level. In May she dropped her debut EP with three-track Birthday Pack. The small sample size is a snapshot of her ability to bode well on a variety of sounds. “Nasty Girl” flips New Orleans bounce, on ”Never Ever” she glides over a 70s soul sample that would have made the Blog Era smile, and on “Solar Return” she’s in such a zone that there’s hardly a moment where she takes a second to breathe. And while Birthday Pack was circulating through the Baltimore/DMV region, Kam stayed true to her roots by doing Freestyle Fridays on a weekly basis, going over classics from artists like Missy Elliott to Pharoah Monch.
The best way to witness how hard Kam’s music hits is seeing her live show where, despite her catalogue being relatively slim, she has a tight grip on the Central Baltimore scene where artists like Butch Dawson, Baby Kahlo, and DDM lay claim to as well. It’s that part of town — an previously unfamiliar one for her — where Miss Kam began to add the element of performance to her artistry. “My first show was at The Crown on Charles Street,” says. “You keep the peace at The Crown. It's all types of people that come through there. Like, all types of sounds, all types of fashion. You gotta respect it because it's one place that people are encouraged to be open with themselves.”
Pre-quarantined lifestyle, you could roll into The Crown on any given weekend and there’s a good chance that you’d see Kam donned in high combat boots, dark shades, and a high ponytail stomping across that stage rapping like her life depends on it while fans match her intensity. In a way, the space serves as an unofficial launching pad for artists in the city’s DIY orbit. It’s where they can count on being in a space of like-minded, creatively-inclined peers to try out their material before it hits the internet. And even though she’s a regular in The Crown and spaces like it, Kam’s nerves still get to her before hitting the stage. “Honestly, it is therapeutic because I have very very very very bad anxiety that I deal with,” she says. “So, before shows, I be real nervous, and that kinda be the kick in my ass forreal like, ‘Ok, do this shit. Like everything you been envisioning in your head.’ And I don’t know what happens but I just go off and then the crowd be going off with me.”
Something that Kam has shown consistently throughout her short stint in the Baltimore scene is that she’s determined to find ways to get her voice out to whoever will listen. It’s still an uphill battle for rap artists coming out of the city, where information on how to maneuver through the music industry is thin outside of what a person can find out for themselves online or by traveling to hotspot major cities. It wasn’t even until this year when Shordie Shordie’s “Bitchuary” single achieved platinum status, making him the first rapper from Baltimore to ever earn a platinum record. Kam says that the general challenges of being an artist trying to make it out are one thing, but being a woman on the scene has its particular obstacles as well. “Being a woman in the scene is fucking hard, but It has its advantages in a sense,” she says.”Right now I feel like in music, the women really have the ball in our court right now. At the same time, it's still hard for people to accept. People not used to us having a voice. And now it's like, we talking loud and we talking proud and we just talking shit and motherfuckers mad at it.” Luckily for Kam, the outlook she has on success isn’t dependent on whether or not she gains riches and fame from rap music — or a mainstream career at all, for that matter.
“In my eyes, it's really being able to fill a void without materialistic things,” she says of success as the sun starts to go down in the park. “It's really like reaching those goals that break whatever generational curses you got. You feel me? Like whatever shit your mother or your teacher said you couldn't do — getting past that to a deeper level. Making it, getting where you gotta go. But at the same time, healing yourself, taking care of people, taking care of your community and all that.”