Devine Carama has had a busy 2016. The Lexington, Kentucky emcee kicked off the year with a free mixtape titled The Jewelztape II: 500 Bars to Glorious. He followed that up with summer release of The Glorious BIG EP. Carama has capped off 2016 with the release of a full-length album called, “Kingtucky.”
Kingtucky has over 20 tracks and features appearances from D’Lee, Allen Poe, Joey Traux, Sheisty Krist, Talor Hall, JK-47, Deven Roberts, River Greene, Vegas Posada, and EF Cuttin. EF Cuttin, Obvious, and Well Blended produced the album.
Devine Carama spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his reinvigorated rhymes, exactly who is trying to steal Hip-Hop, the Believing in Forever nonprofit organization, and his new album, Kingtucky.
TRHH: Kingtucky is one of the illest titles ever, how did you come up with that?
Devine Carama: The title Kingtucky is kind of double-faceted. Part of it is when it comes to Hip-Hop I feel like I’m one of the kings. I’m one of the guys that’s been doing it for a long time and kind of putting on for the state. I think the other part of it was just trying to inspire the other cats coming up to want to be kings and want to have a discography – some of the things that don’t really matter to this younger generation of emcees. It was kind of a push for them to care about complete bodies of work and just them being kings in their own right. I thought it was a good play on Kentucky – Kingtucky.
TRHH: You rhymed with a sense purpose on this project…
Devine Carama: Yeah. I kind of feel like I always put lyrics at the forefront when I’m making music, but on this particular project I definitely did that. A couple of my OG’s, Deacon the Villain from CunninLynguists and Sheisty Krist, and some other guys from my city were saying, “We miss that old DC.” Where my mission is bigger than music now music has become a tool to try to inspire young people in my city and be more socially conscious. I think I kind of got away from the boom bap and trying to out-rhyme everything. I got away from a lot of the elements that got me fans from the beginning. On this album I just wanted to really focus on the technical rhyming and flexing as an emcee.
Devine Carama: I think that was from the 11 months to almost a year that I took off the year prior. I had dropped one project and I pretty much took 11 months off. I noticed that the game really changed a lot in that year. I put out a freestyle and a lot of the blogs and websites that were posting me early on were asking for money now when I’d send an email out. That was just one of the ways the game changed. It was more service based. It seemed like a lot more people were making music. Things changed. I really felt like I had to not only shake the rust off, but kind of get back in the fold. I felt like I had fell out of the fold a little bit. So I was just creating music at a high level just trying to get back in that rhythm and let people know that I’m back to making music regularly. It was more of a personal thing just trying to get back into it.
TRHH: What’s your take on the upcoming young artists whose music doesn’t put lyrics at the forefront and is more about a vibe?
Devine Carama: I think me and you might have talked about this before, I’m always going to appreciate a Hip-Hop artist that focuses on lyrics as one of the forefront elements, because that’s the essence in which the game was at its best. From a personal standpoint it’s kind of disheartening as a Hip-Hop fan when I turn on the radio and it’s 99% no lyricism. But I think that from a broader perspective I’m not really mad at those emcees, I’m just more frustrated with the lack of balance. I was talking to my daughter last night and I was like, “Yeah, we had Nas, Jay, and Big on the radio but we also had M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice.” The difference was we had balance and those guys weren’t on the cover of magazines and at the forefront of the culture. It’s just frustrating when it seems like lyricism is almost like a relic. I think Kendrick and J. Cole are dope lyricists but it’s almost like they’re heralded so much because it lacks so much in today’s generation.
I feel like if you threw J. Cole and Kendrick in the era that we came from in the mid-to-late 90s I’m not even sure they would be considered one of the top emcees – just being honest. It’s become so much of a relic that you’re almost looked at as an alien or it’s a big deal when Kendrick drops a Control verse. That just shows you how much lyricism is kind of dead to this new generation. It’s boring when you’re really rapping, that’s what a lot of the kids say that I work with. I think that part kind of hurts and it’s almost like part of the culture is dying. If it was more balanced maybe I wouldn’t feel that way. Lyricism is dying on a mainstream level, but also on an indie level as well. Social media allows indie artists and their fan base to be big, too. You got a lot of indie artists copycatting what’s popping. Back in the day the indie artists and the underground cats were the ones keeping the game true. I understand it. When I go out to the club I don’t wanna hear Canibus. I understand that, I just wish it was a little bit more balanced and focused.
TRHH: You have a song on the album that I love called “Devil Stole Hip Hop.” What inspired you to write that song?
Devine Carama: I’ll be honest with you and I’m sure you can catch it, it’s definitely some subliminal things there too but something I’d definitely love to share. I feel like Hip-Hop is beyond commercialized now. You got a lot of cats that have come into the culture that are not from the culture, don’t relate to black people, yet they’re coming in trying to capitalize on the culture. That’s one aspect that I’m speaking of in the first verse. I’m in Kentucky and it’s totally a different culture. You got cats in the country that don’t even know what Hip-Hop is built off of that have come in and because they outnumber us they’re trying to dictate the culture. I’m trying to constantly battle that. That’s one of the other reasons for Kingtucky because I feel like I successfully battled that wave of people outside of the culture trying to come in and dictate what it is. This isn’t blue grass, this isn’t country music. When we talk about things that affect the black community, this is what Hip-Hop was built off of.
Also I had the 9th Wonder clip – I really do feel like in the age when we have more freedom and technology privy to us the system uses Hip-Hop against our people. I really believe that. I think it started a while ago and it’s so embedded that it’s not something you could just turn off like a light switch. It’s so many things that have been embedded that these artists are doing when it comes to the music and what these radio stations are continually shoving down our throats – pause. I just feel like it’s a greater evil at work that might be beyond what some of these artists even realize. Some of them might be part of the problem and don’t even realize it. They’re the devil’s henchmen and they don’t even realize it. Again, that just goes back to the lack of balance. I turn on the radio, I turn on BET, and they threw Big K.RI.T. out there, that was cool, but all of these atrocities happen to the black community and I turn on the radio and I don’t hear nothing about it? Not even one? The industry at least used to be good at coining one or two quote unquote conscious rappers. We don’t even have that. I just kind of feel like the devil stole Hip-Hop or is in the process of stealing the culture away from us.
TRHH: Tell me about Believing in Forever.
Devine Carama: Believing in Forever is my non-profit that I started in 2014. A middle school teacher said a lot of kids in her class were fans of the music and asked would I come in and talk to them. Prior to that I never really did a lot of community work. I was just focused on my kids, music, and playing ball. I started going to schools regularly. I got a chance to go to Chicago in 2015 and went to Simeon Academy, some Boys & Girls clubs and spoke. I got a chance to go around the country doing that and when I saw that impact that’s what motivated me to get real involved in the community. We do a lot through the non-profit. We do weekly tutoring sessions, we did the Fresh Water for Flint water drive, we do a youth coat drive, and we do youth open mics. I’m in the schools every other day. That was the bigger mission that I was telling you about earlier. I feel like God has kind of took my life toward that. That’s my passion right now. I still makes music ‘cause I love it, and just to keep my profile up so I can continue to do things in the community. Believing in Forever is definitely where my heart is at right now.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with Kingtucky?
Devine Carama: Obviously at my age, 36, there is no delusions of grandeur. I’m not really trying to get big time, famous or popping. For me it’s inspiring these younger emcees. That’s my main goal. Somehow being an old head I’ve still been able to maintain my status in Kentucky as an emcee in a game where they turn these OG’s over quick and it’s on to the next. Somehow I’ve been able to maintain my position so I wanna use my position to shine a light on what real emceeing is. A lot of these kids 18-19 might not even know. They might have came up in the game on this mumble rap or whatever you wanna call it. I feel like it’s a privilege but it’s important for me to remind them that it is an art form, it’s a craft, it’s something you’re gifted with or something you work real, real hard to achieve, and something you gotta pay your dues in. An artist I always loved was T.I. He wasn’t going to blow you away with your lyrical techniques and all of that, but he was a dope emcee that made club music or anthem music. At least I wanna push these artists and let them know that you can be you.
If you wanna make vibe music or club music you can do that, but there is also a way that you can respect the craft and the art form of Hip-Hop and still do that. So just continue to push these younger emcees to be better and learn more about the history of the game so they can be better and find a way to use that history and take it to the next level for the future. I don’t wanna see this culture as an art form die away. I wanna see it still thriving in the younger generation. That’s my goal with the album so when these young cats come up like, “This Devine Carama, why is he getting posted on these websites? Why is everybody talking about him in Kentucky? Let me go see what he’s talking about.” I want them to know that they can still be an emcee who doesn’t necessarily sell out, maintains lyricism and subject matter in his music, and still maintain his position. I think that’s real important. That position is all a lot of these kids see. So if I can use that position to say, “Hey, this is where I’m at but I did it by staying true to myself and staying true to the culture,” that’s my biggest objective with the album.
Purchase: Devine Carama – Kingtucky