It can be said that Craig A. Miller, better known to the world as Kam, put the LA neighborhood of Watts on the proverbial hip-hop map. Unlike many of his west coast counterparts, The Nation of Islam member chose to spew substance on the mic instead of tough guy gangster raps. The first time I heard Kam was on Ice Cube’s “Color Blind” from the Death Certificate album. His streetwise conscious verse delivered in a smooth laid back vocal tone is part of the reason that song is, in my opinion, one of the best posse cuts of the nineties. It was only right, since Cube gave the Watts native his first break that he would sign with Cube’s Street Knowledge imprint and release his debut album Neva Again on East West Records.
Kam would recruit a handful of producers to provide the backdrops for his black conscious messages on Neva Again. And while Neva Again didn’t move a lot of units, it was held in high regards by most critics upon its release.
Let’s give her a listen and see how it holds up twenty plus years later.
Intro – The album opens with a simple backdrop (provided by Coze, Stone, Stan The Guitar Man and Toothie, who collectively make up Torcha Chamba Productions) and a soundbite taken from a speech by Farrakhan (which is the second consecutive post that his name pops up).
Peace Treaty – This was the lead single from Neva Again. Solid Scheme (the duo of Chris Charity and Derek Lynch who were responsible for most of the production work on Das EFX debut album Dead Serious) hooks up a funk heavy instrumental that sounds like something EPMD would have hooked up and spit over back in the day (and very similar to their work on Das EFX’s “Straight Out The Sewer”). Kam uses it to shout out the Bloods and Crips for the peace treaty the revival gangs came to after the Rodney King riots. This was decent.
Stereotype – Kam uses this one to address some of the stereotypes that whites place on black people. Rashad builds the instrumental around the commonly used James Brown’s loop (“Papa Don’t Take No Mess”) as Kam cleverly dispels some of these ignorant myths.
Still Got Love 4 Um – This was the second single and the primary reason I checked for Neva Again in the first place. Over a smooth laid back instrumental (produced by T-Bone from Da Lench Mob) Kam reminisces about the relationships he formed growing up in the concrete jungle as a “little nappy head nature boy” and pledges his allegiance to his homeboys no matter where life takes him. This is easily my favorite song on the album.
Hang ‘Um High – Kam is throwing a hanging party and all black preachers, drug dealers and child molesters are invited, as pay back for their trickery and dastardly deeds on the black community. The Torcha Chamba Production team builds the instrumental around a loop from Faze-O’s “Riding High”, and it works fairly well underneath Kam’s verses.
Drama – Kam uses a Mr. Woody concoction to talk about the drama that comes with living in the Watts area of L.A. I like the Three Dog Night’s loop and the Graham Central Station vocal sample, but the Marvin Gaye Troubled Man loop (the same “”T” Stands For Trouble” loop used on Brand Nubian’s “The Meaning Of The 5%”) adds nothing to the song. This is one of those songs that you might not dig the first few times you listen to (like myself) but after a few listens it begins to grow on you.
Neva Again – Kam calls out America for its many evil deeds since its formation. While I can get with Kam’s content, the Rashad produced backdrop has a new jack swing feel that I can’t really get into.
Y’all Don’t Hear Me Dough – Kam’s on his soapbox again as he tells crooked cops, his homeboys that bang white girls and eat pork and neighborhood snitches, “I told you so”. Mr. Woody gets his second and final production credit of the evening, and it’s decent enough I guess; so is the song.
Ain’t That A Bitch – Kam remains on his soapbox as he criticizes the school system and how the American government treats its veterans. Solid Scheme gets their second production credit of the evening on this one, and while it’s not a terrible instrumental, it’s not great either. This song could have been left on the cutting room floor.
Holiday Madness – Torcha Chamba Productions hooks up this dark instrumental that Kam uses to question and call out the hypocrisy and silliness in the traditions behind Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and July 4th. Kam definitely makes some solid points on this one that will leave you with something to think about.
Watts Riot – Kam invites Ice Cube to join him on this one, as they take turns addressing some of the injustices that affect black people in America, and threaten to spark another Watts riot if things don’t change. DJ Pooh hooks up a rough instrumental that works well underneath the duo’s militant bars. Ironically, a few years later Kam and Pooh would be at odds with Cube over some business handling (aka money dispute) and recorded and released the Cube dis record “Whoop Whoop” as a single from Pooh’s solo album Bad Newz Travels Fast. According to Kam, the beef with Cube was resolved even before the single was released, but I’m sure the label (Atlantic) pushed them to release it as a single in an attempt to cash in on the controversy. In the end, it didn’t pay off.
Outro – I guess its only right since Torcha Chamba Productions opened Neva Again with an unimpressive backdrop that they end it with one just as boring. Kam only uses it to give his shout outs over, so I’ll give them a pass.
Kam definitely has a lot to say on Neva Again, and he stays true to his black militant stance as he delivers quality conscious bars, wasting no time on nonsense (i.e. boasting, bitches and flossing). The production on Neva Again is not spectacular (but decent), and Kam can come off a bit too preachy at times, but overall it’s a solid debut from the Watts native.