Truth on Being a 2017 XXL Freshman: “Not to sound cocky but I knew I was going to get Freshman. I’m just so talented, you know? And I aspired to be here. I feel like last year would’ve been good but I understand from the political standpoint why [I didn’t get picked]. This is especially big for me because I’m setting a tone for a generation of young women. I’m letting them know it’s a possible thing and I’m like, the prototype. You’ve never seen a female rapper on this pedestal from the West Coast in a long fuckin’ time.

So, I feel like this is all curating a generation of young women who want to be successful, who want to be motivated. It’s like, if I can do it you can do it…you know what I’m saying? I feel like I’m setting the tone and setting the movement. That’s what I’m standing for. That’s why I don’t show my ass, I don’t do certain things. I want people to know you ain’t gotta do all that and you can still pop off. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing my shit. [And] this means a lot for The Bay! I feel like an artist from my side of The Bay hasn’t got it. So for them to see this, it’s going to turn the city up. They goin’ be like, ‘Man, Kamaiyah got in? This shit lit!’

This definitely puts certain eyes on you that potentially weren’t looking at your before. People look at it like, out of all these new artists, you got 10 who make it so what is it about these 10? And I feel like, it’s not always the one who has the biggest trajectory at that time or who’s the star at that time because if you look at the old covers, Kendrick wasn’t the staple point. But if you look at that cover now, you realize he was the biggest artist on that cover. I feel like that’s my position because right now, a lot of people don’t know who I am, but eventually I’ma stand out more than all them niggas.

I fuck with XXL. I feel like a lot of people I fuck with got XXL covers, which is big. I feel like XXL is a pioneer of hip-hop culture, so this is big. It’s one of those urban platforms that make you look at hip-hop differently that’s why I fuck with them.

Now, I just gotta focus and stay humble and just know what comes with this. I feel like that’s the part that a lot of people don’t embrace or realize before they do this. They just all about the hype. I’m looking at what’s this going to do for me career-wise and with my personal life. Now, I feel like all these eyes are gonna be on me so I can’t just go to the grocery store, you know, little stuff like that. I need to mentally adjust to that before it occurs because I know that’s what’s coming next after this comes out. That’s how I’m looking at it.”—Sidney Madden

See Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Kamaiyah at 2017 XXL Freshman Shoot