Three years ago, I wondered why the girls in front of me were drinking chocolate milk at a concert. It seemed like quite the odd beverage to carry along to a gig. I soon put two and two together, realizing that the Yahoo! bottle’s contents were certainly not chocolate milk.
Fast forward a few years and I’m shoved up against a wall by teenage boys who are hotboxing me in a tight circle. I quickly realized that rap concerts were experiences of a completely different breed than what I was used to. Indie concerts are a little more… gentle. The girls carry Tito’s in the bras. Rock concerts are more friendly. The frat boys carry Adderall in their coin pocket. Rap concerts strip down the simple sophistication of mundane life, prioritizing impulse, aggression, and confidence. Those kids carry Juuls (amongst plenty other substances) like it’s their eleventh finger.
Sure, call all music transcendental if you let it, but rap concerts are far from a ‘kumbaya’ spiritual journey. They hold blunts, not hands. Butt heads instead of passively singing along. It is a cesspool of testosterone and dehydrated kids.
And I loved every second of it.
There were moments when I questioned the lyrics of some of the guys performing, wondering if any of them had ever come in contact with an actual female or knew anything about anatomy, but for the most part, everyone was in their own worlds that contributed to a micro-universe in a small club in downtown Denver.
My friend and I, both relatively tiny females, hesitantly crossed the icy streets in early February, standing in a line that was gradually trailing down the block. We were two out of the six girls who attended the event, so I guess you could say we were a little alarmed by the guy wearing a Jason Voorhees mask and aggressively examining the line.
The friendly face amidst a mass of strangers was the opening rapper whom my friend had known. I tucked my legal notepad yellow pages and pilot pen into my waistband and headed into the dimly lit venue, watching how awkward everyone was, including the few guys who were about to perform.
For an hour or two, it was a group of strangers with smuggled drugs in pockets, waiting for the first line to light up. The attendees were awkward guys ranging from thirteen to mid-twenties. Shifty eyes. Awkward posture. The farthest thing from aggressively masculine. Granted, any person in the room could’ve flicked me and I would’ve passed out, but each was in his own world, unbothered by his surroundings and waiting for the show. The air was smokey and unfriendly, but oddly enough, it was far from uncomfortable.
When Kamil Oldham waltzed onto the stage with two other guys, the awkwardness in the venue seemed to dissolve. Suddenly the music melted the crowd together and I realized that rap music was about confidence. It was about becoming someone you weren’t outside, waiting in line. It was embodying the finest qualities of yourself. Some people just need a verse or two, not a Jason mask.
Kamil’s flow is inventive and catchy, managing to keep listeners on their toes while allowing them to embody the beat. It is confident and aggressive, but creates an inclusive listening experience that no one can really deny when he performs.
I kept an eye on the guys around me. A tough crowd. One comfortable with what they know, patiently waiting for the acts they actually came for. Even with this considered, a minute or two in, the knees were bent, the heads were bowed, and the crowd was entranced. The smoothness of Kamil’s voice and flow catches any ear with a gravitation towards heavy bass and quick lines.
Later on in the night, my friend and I met Kamil outside of the venue, shivering in the nearly sub zero temperatures. It was a seven minute conversation interrupted by teeth chattering and awkward pauses, but it cut right to the chase.
Starting from a young age, Kamil has held an appreciation towards music that is real. No poetry, no fancy words, just real human emotion. From playing drums at a young age to adoring pop punk music in his later years, Kamil has managed to merge his musical fascinations with his rhythm. Plagued by night terrors, he has found that music is an avenue for his pent up aggression and frustration.
Dealing with mental issues isn’t a new topic to the world of art. In fact, any sort of creation stems from a root of wanting to be understood and to create something redeemable out of the suffering. Kamil’s devotion towards making his fans feel included and empowered is what makes him stand out from the other mindless mumble rappers that water down the scene.
“Not all art has to be serious in order for people to enjoy it. What matters is that they enjoy it at all,” Kamil responded when asked about how he would describe his music.
For the past year, Kamil has been releasing singles slowly but surely, stunning his audience each time. His hit, “Bakugo!” just hit over one million streams on Spotify, followed by his other six releases. Without a doubt, Kamil will continue to create music that forces listeners into submission while simultaneously inviting them to seize the confidence that he exemplifies.
From the seven minutes shaking against a parking meter, trying to write down quotes with a dying pen, I learned that rap music is just a facade, but a fiercely beautiful one at that. It is a three minute disguise that allows us to embody characteristics that may or may not be present underneath.
Kamil’s heartfelt commentary and his constant, loving connection with his fans reveals that after an hour on stage, the personas come down. The Jason masks come off. The audience becomes a community. That’s all anyone could ever really ask for.