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Interview: Inland Empire Rapper Cam Gnarly

Cam Gnarly is a wordsmith hailing from San Bernandino, California. As a representative of the Inland Empire region that San Bernandino is located in, Cam dedicates his music to delivering knowledge through progressive energy, clever wordplay, and melodic harmonies. In the past three years, he has released three albums and Cam just dropped a visual for his song The Healz.

The Healz is a soundtrack for those that do the shadow work of growing through something. It encourages listeners to be gentle with themselves as they unpack pain, and do the invisible work of balancing themselves out. Cam continues expanding into a more melodic and harmony-driven style, featuring the angelic contributions from songstresses Rae & drum-heavy funky production from Speeks Geak. It's a song from his latest album, Love Really Is... which he turned into an art gallery out in San Bernandino. Each piece of artwork was named after song titles from the project along with a visual representation of what the song looks like to Cam. Below is an example of his song Boundaries from that album.

You can also watch the video for Boundaries below. I caught up with Cam after China Williams shouted him out in our interview to talk about his origins and artistry.

Jay: Can you expound on the experience of performing for the Plant Gallery Dispensary out in Riverside, California? Elaborate on the song selection from your performance in early January.

Cam: That show was a fun experience because not only did I get to work as a performing artist but I was also a part of the marketing team for the grand opening. I did most of the graphic designs for the fliers and promotional materials. So I felt invested in many levels and the vibes were so felt I was asked to appear on both days of the Grand opening. The song selection for that was pretty easy, I stuck with the bops and the songs that were centered on smoking and vibing like; Levitate, Maryjane, Top-Notch, Cabbage, and The Nine. They're all fan favorites and inspired by my second longest relationship besides music; smoking weed.

Jay: How would you describe the growth from your album 333 HZ to your last album, Love Really Is…?

Cam: The growth from 333HZ to LRI is pretty vast with 333 being the last album I created before COVID and the isolation that came with the creation of "Love Really Is... I always thought it was really ironic that I made an album centered on healing with 333hz being a healing frequency of sound and then the whole world got sick. Felt like I was on the right path at that moment. With LRI, it's really personal and reflective of the self-reflection I was experiencing during the pandemic, exploring different areas of my heart; romantic love & self-love. I always try to lace my music and albums with messages and themes listeners can take away from and be better having listened so I'm proud of the flow of releases and messages over my last three releases: GNARVANA (2019), 333HZ (2020), and Love Really Is... (2021).

Jay: What influenced you to turn your last album release into an art exhibit? And why did you choose the Little Gallery In San Bernardino?

Cam: I've always wanted to come up with more creative ways to showcase a project, when the opportunity arose to make an immerse art exhibit, I knew it would give the listener a deeper understanding of the music as well as give the new potential fan a different introduction into who I am and how I showcase my work. The Little Gallery of San Bernardino was a perfect place to execute this idea, I couldn't pass up the chance to not only display my music work in a new way but it was an added plus to do it in the heart of my hometown. Not only highlighting my work but putting the spotlight on the space to let people know there is a gallery in the Dino as another resource in the artist community in the Inland Empire. Merging both titles into one: "Love Really Is... A Little Gallery"

Jay: Describe your beginnings in Santa Monica, California. How did Santa Monica prepare you for your transition over to the Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles?

Cam: My early beginning of living in Santa Monica/Hawthorne was all transitional, we moved to the Inland Empire during the riots in the early nineties after the Rodney King verdict. Even after that, it was a continued back and forth between IE & LA every weekend as my pops still worked in LA. He would drop me and my brother off in South Central like clockwork, giving me a pretty unique experience of taking in two different communities of people, family, and friends. I always felt it made me a more well-rounded person, able to adapt to both environments and navigate both in a unique way.

Jay: Are there more similarities or differences between the I.E. music scene and the LA music scene?

Cam: There is a mixture of both honestly. IE is a big melting pot of sounds and scenes and LA has some of that same energy. We got really eclectic hip-hop, street rap, alternative bands, R&B, and punk. I feel like the difference is that artists from the IE have to/had to work harder to get acknowledgment for their work as opposed to LA artists who are already immersed within the city and its given politics. There is unity and bridges being built all the time but there's a lot of unnecessary division too. We're all just real prideful of our respective sections.

Jay: With prior features on EarMilk and performances for festivals like SXSW, what are some platforms that you would want to see yourself on?

Cam: Yeah, all those publications and platforms are really great career-wise to have been displayed on, I've always been grateful to be written about or reviewed by sites I used to check out for new music. In the future, I think I'd love to just be celebrated by the major outlets like High Times, XXL, Noisey, Fader, Rolling Stone, The Source, Vibe just to name a few... in due time though.

Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?

There are so many to name, but off top, I got to start with my homies: Phantom Thrett, Noa James, Waju, Richard Wright, Rae, Zyah Belle, Myagi. These are all some of my favorite indie artists that are constantly inspiring me or collaborators of mine in past releases.

Jay: What are your thoughts on the rising popularity of the Metaverse and NFT’s? How would you see those two virtual platforms impacting the music industry?

Cam: I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as I should be in the developments of the Metaverse or the growing NFT communities, but lately, I just saw that a site was selling NFT versions of my music/music pieces, etc. So my focus like many artist rn is making sure artists' creations and Intellectual property isn't being taken advantage of. It's definitely a major shift for the music industry and done correctly and really gives artists the money they deserve for their work.

You can listen to Cam Gnarly's Love Really Is... on all streaming platforms and you can find him on Instagram @camgnar and Twitter @CamGnarly .

He will be performing on February 11th and you can get tickets for the show here.

Written by: Jay Guevara @justinhisprime on all social media.

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