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Kwamé Did It: An Exclusive Interview with the Famed Rapper Turned Producer

 Some of my old school hip-hop fans may remember Kwamé as the polka dot clad emcee who gained fame in the late 80's and early 90's. Once the emcee fame died down, a lot of people may have not realized that Kwamé is the man behind the boards and has launched an impressive career as a producer. The list of artists he's worked with includes: Method Man, Mary J. Blige, Will Smith, LL Cool J, Skillz, Christina Aguilera, Talib Kweli, Yung Joc and The Pussycat Dolls. Kwamé was recently one of the headliners for the M.C.I.C. Family Day Festival in Philly last month and was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to sit down with us at iSocialite to discuss which artists he would like to work with in the future, what he thinks about the current state of hip-hop, his current and future projects, and more! Interview done by Jasmine Whaley.

iS: You recently performed at the M.C.I.C. Family Day Festival. Why did you want to be a part of this event?

Kwamé: One reason I wanted to do this event was because of Rick Young, president of M.C.I.C. He is a close personal friend – so close in fact, his son is my god son. But, aside from my personal connection, I’ve spent a lot of time in the Mantua neighborhood working with Rick in his studio and helping to develop artists. I have a connection with Mantua; doing this show is a way of showing my appreciation for the community.

iS: I just recently found out that you produced “Keisha” by Jawan Harris, a song that has been climbing up the charts. He’s a new artist, how did that come about?

Kwamé: This came about the old fashion way for producers; you submit songs to the label, and if there good enough, they choose it. In this case, it happened to be one of his better records and luckily is making some noise.

iS: A lot of people don’t really know that you are a mega-producer and have been behind on the boards on many hit records for years. How hard was the transition for you from old Kwame the MC to Kwame the producer?

Kwamé: The transition was easy. Even when I was an artist, I produced all my records. The hard part was the transition from making songs for me to making songs for others.

iS: What type of artists do you generally like producing for? Do you have a certain genre of music that you like to produce?

Kwamé: The thing I love about producing is that I can do all forms of music that fit my many musical moods. I love doing R&B, Rap, Pop and even scores for film and TV.

iS: You’ve worked with artists ranging from Mary J. Blige to Jesse McCartney, are there any artists that you particularly enjoy working with for any reason?

Kwamé: I love working with all artistic people who are serious about their craft. I draw from their energy, and I feel lucky to know people like this. I equally love working with major artists and new ones as well. I love to see how different folks tap in to their creativity.

iS: Are there artists that you would like to work with in the future?

Kwamé: The one artist I wished I could have worked with was Amy Winehouse. I am a huge fan. I’m also a huge fan of Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Not to mention, I’d love to do a record for Nikki Minaj and hopefully get to work with her in the near future.

iS: What do you think was the lowest point, the bottom, of your career as an artist?

Kwamé: The lowest point had to have been my realization that hip hop wasn’t about me. In the early to mid-90s, I was so into being my own thing that I lost sight of where hip hop was going. As a result, I lost my recording contract and income. By 23, I felt like I was “washed up.” Looking back, I could have easily started all over, but I knew music was what I was meant to do.

iS: Is there anything you wish you could do over or do differently in your career? One of those “if I knew what I know now,” moments?

Kwamé: Well if I knew then what I know now, my priorities would be much different. I would have actively pursued many avenues, including acting, being on different record labels, producing and, most importantly, participating in fashion design. I should have taken full advantage of that “polka dot craze!”

I was way too consumed with being a “rap star” and not a business man. I also wouldn’t have spent half the amount of money that I did. However, compared to what I make now, I didn’t make much money as a rapper.

iS: How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop as opposed to hip-hop when you were an artist?

Kwamé: It is two different worlds. Hip hop now is a multi-billion dollar industry. Most artists are only in the game because of the money. When I was a kid, it was just about making cool songs, being different and getting girls. The process is so much easier now. Anyone can put out songs via the Internet with virtually no assistance from a label.

It can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that artists can express themselves freely. The bad thing is artists can express themselves freely. There should be some checks and balances.

iS: Some people have referred to rapper, Drake as the “new version” of you. How do you feel about that comparison?

Kwamé: I don’t see the comparison. I think artists like Kanye or will.i.am use the same type of platform I’ve built, but in their music.

iS: What other projects do you have coming up?

Kwamé: Currently, I’m working with Lauriana Mae, a newly-signed artist on Atlantic Records. Also, I’m working on music for my cousin Vin Diesel, in regards to his TV show “The Ropes.”

Personally, I have a boutique indie label, called Make Noise, which will be releasing music from upcoming artists. I will be releasing music from L.A.-based female duo Nola Darling in a few weeks and NYC-based Rapper Beyond Belief in 2012.

Lastly, I’m doing a personal album, which will be released in late spring. I will be dropping two mixtapes; one is based on my production work thus far, “Scientist of Sound, Vol. 1,” and the other is a “classics” album, “The Bone Age,” hosted by Ed Lover. These mixtapes will be released in November and January, respectively. Additionally, I will be releasing two to three singles and videos leading up to the album. 

Photoed above: Our good friend Sabrina Ram from Blu Lotus Public Relations [@blulotuspr] with musician, Kwamé. Thank you so much Sabrina!

Be sure to follow Kwamé on twitter: @KWAMEDIDIT

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