The lyrics that open the first song on Kameko's debut album, Evalt, set the tone for the album and forecast that you're about to be taken on journey you should pack light for. "Evalt is a travel through emotions," explains the singer-songwriter. Short for 'evolutionary alternative,' Evalt is a blend of R&B, Soul, hip-hop, reggae, drum n' bass and African rhythms, with inspirations from Kameko's musical muses - the guitar twist of Jimmie Hendricks, the falsetto of Jackie Wilson, the vocal dexterity of Whitney Houston, the passion of Al Green, quirkiness of Bjork, the sex appeal of Prince, combined with Michael Jackson's electric performance.
His five-octave vocal range cradles a backdrop of live instrumentation that is melodic and distinct, setting him apart from the multitude of modern day male R&B/alternative artist. "Each song reveals a little bit of my history," explains Kameko. "Whenever I listen to the album, it's a personal journey of emotions - positive and negative and I reminisce about where I was at that point of my life, about those feelings and where they've brought me." His self-penned lyrics are filled with heartfelt testimonies on relationships gone wrong, learning to love yourself, and finally finding your soul mate - honest statements from the depths of his soul - each melody flowing effortlessly into the next revealing the evolution of a young man who's seen life's ups and downs.
The shy youngster born and raised by his mother and sister in Middle River, a suburb of Baltimore, MD didn't grow up around many African-Americans so whenever he felt secluded he would head to Baltimore City and the home of his beloved grandmother where he says he would get his culture back. "My mother was a model and a singer. I can still hear her voice singing spirituals like 'On The Rough Side Of The Mountain' and 'What Shall I Do.' When I hear those songs now, it warms my soul and I feel her presence," he recalls with a smile. "I learned my sense of fashion from my father who was a fashion designer, but it was when my grandmother took me to church that I discovered that my voice could move people."
"Growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, I was the only black boy in the class and led to some feelings of insecurity, but I could sing and that was my solace. When I sang, I felt loved, honored, revered, respected, and protected because nobody could sing like Kameko." On "Love Is The Only Way," Kameko reflects back on that childhood and the struggle of being a dark-skinned black boy in a white neighborhood. He performed locally around the Baltimore area, where he was known as a young singing prodigy. Making his name on the local scene, Kameko was transferred from Chesapeake High School to Carver Center for the Arts & Technology - a school for the gifted and it was there where he says the little shy boy evolved into the vibrant and popular teenager. The school's alma mater written by Kameko is still used today. His talent enabled him to win The Apollo Theater Competition in Maryland.
Upon graduation, Kameko moved to New York on a full scholarship awarded by the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and embarked on a career in dance with the Alvin Ailey Theater Group. He made his theatrical debut as The Scarecrow in the Off-Broadway production of The Wiz, starring alongside stars like Peobo Bryson, Grace Jones, Ce Ce Peniston, Howard Hewett, Tony Terry, and Tasha Scott. Even amongst such a star ladened cast, young Kameko shined and received rave reviews, inspiring him to move full steam ahead with his singing career.
When the curtain dropped, Kameko traveled abroad, touring Italy, Germany, and France recording an album with Gospel America. He was signed to Black Kat/Sony's London division and also cast in NBC's Network Series, "Trinity." Since then, he has toured the world opening for such artists as Toni Braxton and Vanessa Williams.
While abroad in London, two life-changing events returned him to his first love, music - the 911 disaster and another devastating blow, the loss of his mother, Kameko's first musical teacher and the inspiration behind much of his music. "My mother used to sing to me all the time - jazz, spirituals, everything," recalls Kameko of his childhood in Baltimore. "With her passing and the devastation of 911, I reconnected with what's important in life, relationships with ourselves, with others, and with the world. I discovered that life can change so quickly and I'm determined more than ever to live to the fullest and to make sure that I give out loving vibrations daily."
The inspiration to write, "No More War," came as a cry-out against war after 9/11. "I strongly believe that the fighting will not stop and the war will not end until we allow The Creator to reign. Without peace, the revelation is that we'll end up destroying ourselves and this beautiful world that has been created for us. Revenge will not heal our spirits, we need to trust the creator, be still and allow his justice to prevail."
"When I wrote 'Free,' I was tired of feeling like I had to be grouped and categorized. Artistically, people try to classify me - am I rock, R&B, Soul, Neo-Soul, alt-soul? "Free" is about moving beyond those divisive categories and just experiencing music, art, and life wherever it takes you. It's about not having to choose. It's about facing the sun while relishing in the moon. It's about being free and experiencing the balance and the joy that both bring!" Funk and rock collide on "Superstar," and "Hollywood," recalling a late 80s Prince era, while the R&B flavored, "Four Leaf Clover," is about searching for your soul mate, unrequited love, and the crossroad where you either move on or loose yourself to love. Kameko says, "Once Upon A Time,' is about being honest about where you are in life and letting things go if they're not meant to be." The drum n' bass intro to "Love Is The Only Way," was influenced by his time abroad. "Traveling broadened my musical palate and created an appreciation for the music of other worlds. Garage is really big in London so I created Love Is The Only Way for the Londonites."
Kameko's music and songwriting are about as pure as music comes these days. There's funk, soul, rock, reggae, drum n' bass, slow sultry songs with different moods, live instrumentation that place you front and center at his energetic performances. On some songs you can feel an acoustics vibe. "Music is to be lived and every time you hear a song, you're supposed to feel alive with it," offers Kameko.
The songwriting on Evalt reflects Kameko's journey through life, a 14-track journal entry tracking the evolution of a man. "It's about standing in front of that mirror, bare, naked as you came into the world and being vulnerable enough to share what you see. It's the idea of letting things be and being cool with where they are," shares Kameko. "The message I want people to get is to wake up because tomorrow is not promised, you have to live to the fullest today. You have to party like it's your last day on earth."
Check out the artist's website:
1. No More War - Outro Not Afraid
2. Love Is The Only Way
4. Once Upon A Time
7. Four Leaf Clover
8. Living Single
9. Dream /Intro Concrete Jungle
10. Wake Up
11. Love Is
14. Psalms / Outro