Former Jerkin' Stars Cam and China Are the Best Young Hip-Hop Duo in L.A.
Cam and China
Joshua Thomas Photography
Cam and China were legends before they had driver’s licenses. While still stuck in P.E. class at Hamilton High, the Inglewood twins were two-fifths of Pink Dollaz, the best female rap group since Salt-N-Pepa.
This was the 2008-09 apex of the jerkin’ era, when Pink Dollaz reigned as teen queens of the function. They wrote scandalous oral-sex odes and female empowerment anthems worthy of Lil’ Kim. They played packed club dates and won a rave from The New York Times.
“There were few female rappers at the time, so it was a breath of fresh air to get on the mic and be like, ‘Fuck you, too,’” China says.
The sisters are lounging in a Leimert Park studio that they helped build, wearing matching Adidas tracksuits, sneakers and hoop earrings. It belongs to the production crew D.R.U.G.S. and has been Cam and China’s unofficial second home since they amicably split from Pink Dollaz about two years ago.
The reasons for the breakup were predictable: different personalities, priorities, schedules, creative visions. Most of their peers accepted major-label deals, but the twins stayed independent.
“The business was always a little funny,” China says.
“We saw what was happening to our friends and didn’t want to go that route,” Cam adds, completing her sister’s thought.
Labels rushed to exploit the jerkin’ trend but divested themselves as soon as people started to Dougie. Following their initial run of MySpace-platinum singles, Pink Dollaz delayed a follow-up mixtape for too long. The buzz dwindled; the breakup made sense. They all managed to stay friends.
“I didn’t get why groups usually never last for long, but now I do,” Cam says. “It’s obviously different with how my sister and I work. We’re two peas in a pod. It’s as though we share the same brain.”
“We’re basically the same person,” China adds.
This isn’t entirely true. Cam identifies as the more “responsible mom one.” The one always saying, “We need to do this right now.” China is more the chill, let’s-have-a-drink-first type.
It’s clear why they’re the best sibling duo since Clipse and probably the best young rap group in L.A. They boast the intangible and rare chemistry that can only come when you once shared a womb.
Their resurgence started a year ago with the official release of first single “Do Dat,” four minutes of glorious ratchet filth that would make Trina or Gangsta Boo offer a toast.
Since then, they’ve collaborated with some of the West Coast’s biggest producers: DJ Mustard, Battlecat, Willie B, League of Starz and D.R.U.G.S. The latter crew’s Chordz 3D signed them to his production company.
You can trace their evolution via SoundCloud. They’ve lately stepped up their songwriting, started singing and even added the occasional vocoder flourish. They could always rap ferociously, but the improved melodies, hooks and chops put them ahead of almost every single hyped rapper, male or female. Pitchfork agreed, giving the duo’s latest track, “Run Up,” a coveted “Best New Music” distinction.
Despite being part of one of the first rap groups to blow up via MySpace, Cam and China’s plan is old-fashioned: careful study of the craft, constant revision, releasing one great single at a time. The debut EP drops soon.
“The music needs to speak for itself. As women, it’s the only way that we’ll get respect,” Cam says. “We really work hard and we really don’t give a fuck.”
“We want the respect and our skills to be acknowledged,” China adds. “I’m not going to apologize for anything. I’m not going to follow the rules; I’m going to make them.”
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com.
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