Ill Camille, the Female MC L.A. Has Been Waiting for, Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight
Pic Van Exel
For a couple of years it seemed like Ill Camille was some kind of musical mirage. She’d pop up and drop a great verse on a Terrace Martin project or a Kurupt song, then drop out of the spotlight again.
“I’m not trying to get your attention for the next 90 days and then have that music be swept underneath the rug the next week,” the Compton-born rapper says. “I’m speaking my heart, and putting people I love in my music. The last thing I want is for someone to not give it the attention that it needs. I’m trying to talk to you.”
Ill Camille has been trying to talk to the world through music since 2011, first as an aspiring A&R rep. “I was a part of this mixtape that I was helping coordinate,” she says, “and they needed more female rappers. Somebody told my homeboy that I could freestyle, and I could, but I couldn’t do no song construction or anything." Her friend convinced her to freestyle over a beat and after she was done, "People were encouraging me to do it. Not just like, ‘Oh, you’re good.’ It was like people saying I needed to [rap].”
That realization birthed 2011’s The Pre-Write, her debut album, a bumping and breezy record that encapsulated Ill Camille’s love of soulful jazz music, old-school hip-hop, G-funk and the new South Central and Compton hip-hop sounds that would come to prominence with TDE artists a couple of years later.
Her second album, 2012’s Illustrated, expanded on The Pre-Write’s sound, and featured future stars like BJ the Chicago Kid, Ty Dolla $ign and Rapsody, and production from Battlecat, TDE’s Tae Beast and DJ Dahi. But instead of furthering her own career, Ill Camille then took a detour to work as a songwriter for other L.A. musicians.
“The majority of the time, from like 2012 to 2013, I was writing for Terrace Martin,” she says, “which would lead into me writing for so many different people because he would bring so many people into those sessions. It’s dope, because it helped diversify me. But who I am got lost in the sauce, because when you write for other people you have to take in their energy, and then you have to rush to another session and take in somebody else’s energy."
In 2014, Camille decided to "get back on message" and refocus on her own career. She describes this time period as “isolation, extreme isolation.” A time when she stayed close to her family in Leimert Park and View Park. A time when she stopped going out to “every show” and “every studio session.” A time when she reconnected to herself, her loved ones and her favorite music.
“Slum Village, Q-Tip, Tribe in general. Things that reminded me why I love hip-hop,” she says. “And a lot of jazz. Like Quincy Jones. Soul music like Donny Hathaway, Isaac Hayes, The Crusaders ... those albums given to me by somebody I loved.”
As her friends and collaborators like Ty Dolla, Terrace Martin, DJ Dahi and the TDE family were blowing up, Camille started working with L.A. musical iconoclasts Iman Omari and Tiffany Gouche. “Iman and Tiffany were kind of doing the same thing,” she says, “and when you have peers that are trying to do their own thing while supporting others, that really helps.”
One of the fruits of that support is 2013’s “Live it Up,” Ill Camille’s sunny carpe diem anthem with Iman Omari. The video for the song on YouTube announced the impending release of a project called The Illustrated B-Sides, promising a summer 2013 release. But 2013 came and went with no new album. However, 2017 holds some hope for Ill Camille fans.
“It took me a while, but I’m OK with that,” she says about her upcoming album Heirloom, the album formerly titled The Illustrated B-Sides.
“My family is going to be proud of it,” Ill Camille says. “Their kids are going to be able to play it, your kids are going to be able to play it. I kept the foundation the same, the same staple people are on this [album] as Illustrated, and that’s going to be the case forever, because they have a lot to do with my sound, and a lot to do with what I’m trying to convey.”
Those artists include Iman Omari, rapper/singer SiR, producer Mndsgn, singer and musician Georgia Anne Muldrow, producer-rapper Like and producer Tuamie.
“I’m really proud of the roster,” she says. “It is a family. I got a family in music.”
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.