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Kamaiyah demonstrates exactly how properly execute a rap comeback with Got It Made, her first new album since 2017. The key to sticking the landing: Deliver more of the feel-good vibes and sing-along rhymes that made her breakout mixtape, A Good Night In The Ghetto, so appealing, then ladle on just enough references to her last few difficult years to come across more seasoned than salty.
The Bay Area rapper has plenty of reasons to be the latter. There’s also a well-established precedent in hip-hop of rappers embittered by their industry experiences to use their post-independence output to rail against the system. Fortunately for Kamaiyah, she avoids this pitfall, picking up where she left off three-and-change years ago when she was signed by Interscope and promptly stuffed in an icebox until being released in 2019.
She easily thaws that chill by sticking to her signature formula. The attraction of Good Night was in its simplicity; Kamaiyah selected beats indicative of her ’90s-era, Bay Area upbringing and rapped about relatable life experiences. Parties, relationships, and nostalgia were her primary stock in trade and she served them up with an infectious optimism that buoyed the lightweight subject matter and made songs like “I’m On,” “N****s,” “Freaky Freaks,” and “How Does It Feel” ratchet turn-up anthems.
If anything, the only effect that the enforced time away has had on that formula is the notably increased presence of minor chords in the production throughout Got It Made. There’s also more bite in the rapper’s approach to the topics. In Trina-featuring single “Set It Up,” Kamaiyah trades in the slumber party gossip of puppy love tracks from Good Night like “Break You Down” and its self-released followup Before I Wake (“Does She Know”) for a breakup track with much more vengeful energy.
She’s also polished up that flow, which was initially better suited to simple, singsong cadences that complemented the party anthems and cruising music on her first two projects. However, to set off the darker production and lyrical content here, she works harder at the construction of the actual rhymes, which is made even more impressive by the fact she still utilizes the same flow, for the most part. On the “Intro,” she breaks down a one-two punch rhyme scheme for over half of the aggressive, one-verse song, then on “Pressure,” devotes a solitary couplet to addressing her label drama in the midst of a snarling set that she admits “ain’t went this hard on sh*t in a minute.”
On “1-800-IM-HORNY,” my favorite track from the album, she employs Bay rap godfather Too Short to give one of the funniest, raunchiest, most problematic ad-libs rap has had in a while, then shows off her penchant for utilizing and updating nostalgia by rapping ridiculously braggadocios come-ons to both sexes over a sample of Short’s 2003 hit “Shake That Monkey.” It’s an intoxicating mix. The casual way in which she addresses both men and women with her swaggering flexes is also commendable; Kamaiyah’s an equal opportunity player.
Clocking in at just 10 tracks, Got It Made is also the perfect length for reintroducing this interrupted future star. While many rappers often fold to the temptation of maximalism, smashing in as many tracks as they can to make up for their lengthy hiatuses (see: Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V), Kamaiyah instead opts to leave fans wanting more. She offers a breezy, easy listening session in which she clearly states her goals: To reestablish her footing, to show off her growth, and to prove — as she says on “Still I Am” — that “I been that b*tch and I still am.” She’s still got it and now fully in control of her destiny, she can do whatever she wants.
Got It Made is out now on GRND.WRK / EMPIRE. Get it here.