Kam DeLa | photo by Myles Cream | courtesy of the artist
The never-ending creative story of Kam DeLa
“Never Stop Creating” is more than just a phrase that influenced merchandise made by Kam DeLa. It’s what keeps the 25 year old Cherry Hill producer/singer happy.
Jam sessions with his family when he was a kid geared him into making music, and the production of his happiness is something that has caught the ears of upcoming artist like Mir Fontane, Ivy Sole, Franky Hill and Nightchild. We recently were able to sit and talk with him about his early beginnings and how his creative vision has taken root in projects such as East, User and Overgrown.
The Key: What came first, producing or singing?
Kam DeLa: I was a singer first, I sang in a choir in this church in west Philly called Calvary Baptist while my mom played bass and my dad played drums. That started around first grade. The crazy thing is producing was never a thing I thought about until I heard Pharrell’s album In My Mind in 2007. When he dropped that, I looked how he was making music that didn’t sound like anything on the radio — like “Can I Have It Like That” was a big record, but had jazz breaks in it. So I’m looking at it like, you can make this crazy different-sounding music, but still be popular and widely accepted, and that was super interesting to me.
After listening to that album, I was inspired to produce music. I had this keyboard at my crib my parents had got me when I was in the 5th grade and we had these electronic drum pads in our basement. When I found out I was able to record drum patterns on it, I would play chords on the keyboard and try to match it together. I had this flip phone that I would put on top of my keyboard and record on my voice memos. The beats were super ass, but I was just really happy to be making music and figuring it out.
In 8th grade, we had a new music teacher and he took over and made a new music program. In 6th grade you learn piano, in 7th grade you learn guitar, but I never knew what the 8th grade program was until I got there because it had changed once he got there. He made all the 8th graders collaborate and make a song, and when he said that, I was with it, but confused as to how we were going to do it. That was the first time I ever saw production software, he probably had Logic or something, but I was like “Wait, you can make music on a computer? Impossible!” I was in the front of the class, at his desk trying to learn everything I could possibly learn, and by the end of the semester we came up with this song that I produced while this girl was singing on it. I showed my parents what I made and by the time my birthday came around in July they pooled some resources from my family, including my grandfather who is a big influence on my musical journey, to get me a keyboard, computer and production software to get me started making beats.
TK: You’re also part of music trio called Def Bananas, how did that come about?
KD: I was making beats all through my freshman year and didn’t tell anyone until the end of it. This guy name Lugo, who’s family is close to my family, was the first person to find out that I made beats, and once he found out, he would come over and rap over them. That was the first time I ever made music with someone. I started making music with this other guy named G separately, and we brought it all together senior and became Def Bananas. It was lit because we were doing shows, but we were mad different from everyone. You got our sound, which was chill boom-bap, and were on shows with artist who are 808 trap rappers, which was fine but funny because people would look at us and be like “What are y’all doing here?”
TK: You worked with Mir Fontane in his beginning stages as an artist. How do you feel like he’s evolved from when you worked with him up to now?
KD: First time I worked wit Mir was 2013 and it was lit. I got to make some awesome stuff with him, whether producing or singing on his tracks . Mir has always been good at telling stories, but I feel like now he’s more connected with his roots, talking about his experience growing up in Camden whereas before on his earlier project He So Crazy, he literally made up a whole story about the Martin series. That was fire, but now he’s more tied into his own true life and I feel like that’s why he’s done so well with connecting with his fans.
TK: What was your experience like working with Ivy Sole?
KD: I was working with Ivy in the beginning of 2016 and that’s when we did the East EP. I produced everything on that project besides the song “Deep.” Ivy is crazy, man, because she’s such a songwriter. It’s crazy; the first song we ever did was a song that’s going on my project. It’s funny because she had just dropped Eden and was in between trying to figure what she was doing next and we linked up because she saw me at a show. She loved my production and was like “Yo we should link up,” and we did something for me, had a conversation about her trying to figure what she was trying to do and finding new producers to help her find a new sound, and I’m just wishing her the best of luck in her journey. By the end of the session she asked to link up to record again and the first song we did was “Life.”
TK: What is the process like when you help guide an artist to find their sound?
KD: The biggest key for me is creating fearlessly. If you’re not afraid to try things, you’ll figure it out, but if you’re too afraid to try new things, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. For me, when it comes to working with artists, it’s about exploring as many options as possible and really digging deep. I pay close attention to people’s influences — who do they listen to, who do they want to sound like — and draw inspiration from. Putting all that together and cross-referencing to what I do, it’s just mix matching all these things. Another big part in gaining an artist’s trust is being honest. You got a lot of people fluffing these artists up and saying “Everything you’re doing is awesome. It’s fire, fire fire fire!” Nah, not everything someone does is fire and perfect all the time. Everyone needs someone that is honest and not saying “yes yes yes” to everything. It’s having that ability to know when something isn’t it, and work on something else or find ways to improve. That’s where you gain the trust.
TK: How was it working with Nightchild?
KD: Nightchild is hilarious, that’s my guy. Franky and Nightchild have this collective called The Committee and they intertwine with one another. They’ve been rocking out together for a minute and I got introduced to them in 2014 or 2015, and started working with them heavy in 2016. I love working with Nightchild because he’s a songwriter and good songwriters make everything so easy. The satisfaction of great words and great melodies then I just come do what I do and emphasize that and vice versa is crazy.
TK: When you work with artists, do you go in with a beat you already have in mind for them, or do you make one on the spot?
KD: It’s funny you asked that, because a lot people will approach me and ask me to send them beats. And I don’t do that. I don’t have beats laying around, and I should as a producer, but to me it it’s very important to make beats in front of the artist. Take East: I didn’t do anything of that prior. Everything we made, we made that day, it was based off of Ivy’s mood that day. One day she feels like rapping her ass off and we make “East,” the next day she’s feeling emotional so we make “Lost,” and that’s how I like to work. I don’t know, I don’t like trying to force vibes, it’s kind of weird.
TK: You’ve worked on Overgrown and User and have witnessed both Ivy and Franky be completely open about past issues that have haunted them. What’s it like for you to watch an artist be as vulnerable as possible on certain tracks when recording with them?
KD: It’s very humbling and super eye-opening. Like, I’m hearing things in the studio that may or may not be things they’ve ever talked about to anybody, that’s crazy to me. Even in Germany when we’re doing “Bloom,” Ivy was crying, we had to take breaks recording that song, dead ass. The situation she wrote about had just happened! Songs like that and “Achilles” are situations that I never knew about and I don’t know if she’s openly talked about this, I don’t know! I just know that these aren’t causal conversation pieces. And with Franky, I remember the day he spit me that verse, it was before I had the beat for it. He had just had a majority of the first verse done and I was like “What?!” It almost feels like you’re providing a therapy session for the artist to vent and get their feelings out, and that’s a humbling experience that I’m blessed to have.
TK: What was it like to go to Germany to work on Overgrown?
KD: That was my first time out the country. We went in the middle of January, Ivy had presented this idea to me in the beginning of January 2017 and said “Get your passport, bro, we’re going to Germany” and I’m like “Ok cool.” Ivy’s always traveling and I just never thought I would be a part of that, but it didn’t get real until December. She asked me if I had my passport and I told her no and she’s like “We’re going to Germany, it’s happening.” She brought me all the details and I was like “Oh we going going!” It was amazing, we went and stayed with the artist named Cro, who had super randomly reached out to her in 2017 to work on his album, and it was all legit. When she came back, she told me how dope it was and that they established a good rapport during that trip. Then she called in a favor and asked him to help produce her album and record it at his crib, because he has a whole studio in his house in southern Germany and he was with it. Next thing you know, I’m on a plane from Trenton to Iceland connecting to Berlin. As a producer, I’m honored to travel across the world just to make music. We were in his crib for a week and throughout that entire week we did nothing but make music. I’ve never been in that type of setting is where that’s the only focus.
TK: What was the experience like producing the entire User album?
KD: We did User in 2017, it came out in 2018 but I was done with that before I went to Germany. We started in January 2017 and finished it either December 2017 or January 2018. We were in the mixing session when I came back from Germany. Producing for User prepared me for Germany, I’ll definitely say that. User was a big step for me production-wise, because I really felt like I had found my sound. I felt like I found my pocket and sounds that I really loved and connect with me and I was able to take these sounds and bring everything I learned through the User process and incorporate it with the Overgrown process.
TK: I noticed you’re into digital drawing, creating cartoon and anime characters. Are there certain cartoon and anime shows’ music that you grew up watching that influenced your production now?
KD: I’ve been watching Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy and the music in those shows are crazy! Both have a similar way of story telling and the music plays key role in both of those animes. Cowboy Bebop has more of a jazz and big band influence while Space Dandy is more funk influence which are genres that have always inspired me.
TK: You keep speaking about the idea “never stop creating” on your Instagram, so much that you made this phrase into merchandise. Why is the idea “never stop creating” important to you?
KD: It’s more than just a brand or phrase, it’s just my life. In 2016, I was super depressed because a lot of things weren’t going right and I felt like I had nothing going for me. I started doing graphic design and literally the only thing that kept me happy was creating. I was learning and continuing to create through sadness and everything that was keeping me down. I remember being able to smile making music because that was when I was working with Ivy and The Committee and they had a studio in Philly and we would basically be living in there.
I needed that energy, I needed to be around other creatives who are like “this is what we’re doing, we never stop creating.” That’s what it means to me and why I talk about it so much it me. When I’m creating, I’m happy.
Dig into Kam DeLa’s discography and keep up with his latest projects on Soundcloud.