A conversation with one of rap’s most important rising voices about his latest single “Hiiigher”, his upcoming debut album, life growing up in Virginia, and more.
If you haven’t noticed by the percentage of my posts about East Coast artists from the Commonwealth (VA), it’s my home state. I (Lou Cambridge) was born and raised in Suffolk, VA. Compared to the rest of the seven cities, the Peanut City has always been looked at as the “little-brother.” Typically, Suffolk residents have ventured outside of their own room (city) over to an older sibling’s room (city) for fun and exposure. If you think things are quiet in “lil bro’s” room, they aren’t. You can guarantee that fun is being manufactured out of pure creativity, curiosity, and imagination. That’s what it was like being a “creative” living in Suffolk, carrying not only the overlooked VA music scene chip on its shoulder, but a suburb-based, backyard-sized chip in sports, entertainment, the arts, and many other fields. Do your own research. To put it plainly, the raw talent from Suffolk is second to none.
In 2014, I was a freshman in high school. There was not much to do, so most of my friends and I either went to sports camps, summer recreational camps, or both. One hot summer day while cooling off inside one of my campsite’s main buildings, my best friend Brevin Parish shared a music video with me by four teens who went by the name Breezepark. These young rappers weren’t even five years older than me, but their style, and delivery, and confidence was different from anything I had ever heard before from anyone that age or from anyone from the Peanut City. Needless to say, I was hooked on Breezepark at that point. I missed some of the previous singles which served as previews, but I was just in time for showtime because later that summer, B.P. members CMRNPRKR (fka CvmQuest), PLAY (fka Jay-R), Ty Safari, and Rye released one of their first groundbreaking hits entitled “Thrilla.” The track sampled Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” (most popularly sampled on Wiz Khalifa’s chart-topper song “The Thrill”). The song was produced by Michael Seven, and it captured the group’s bold and youthful yet stage-worthy energy perfectly. In October of the same year, the group performed at the Norva in Norfolk, VA-a phenomenal accomplishment in light of their age and their origin (Suffolk). If you look back at the highlights from this performance, you’ll see CvmQuest ripping through his verse on “PayDay”, and Rye collaborating on ad-libs in a blaze of call and response. CvmQuest with his brothers and bandmates treated their fans to an electrifying set. This iconic performance helped to solidify their place on the music scene, and it also caught the attention of Pusha-T, a superstar from right here in Virginia.
On April 15, 2015, shortly after their big single entitled “Stay Up Late”, Breezepark released their first project, the STRANGERS EP. This EP showcased the group’s ability to collectively craft a musically well-rounded, cohesive, substantial body of work for hip hop lovers of all ages. This was during a time when EP’s were still looked at like mixtapes, and this tape carried the musical potential of an album. Behind the boards, they tagged distinguished producers Mikey Carey (in-house) and Chicagoan Martin $ky. The songs “Know Me”, “Day Ones”, “Reps”, “Last Summer (Interlude)”, “Nobody”, and “Plug’s Opera / Tell Me” were standouts among a project with no skips. They only filmed three music videos, and each of the clips amassed over 100,000 combined views. After listening to STRANGERS, music connoisseurs as well as and casual listeners could sense the global impact of this little known crew from Suffolk known as Breezepark. A year after the EP’s release, Cameron “CvmQuest” Goodman, Christian “PLAY” Dillard, Tyus “Ty Safari” Joyner, and Ryan “Rye” Horstman were back headlining on the very a stage where they had made their mark just two years prior. The entire set was ten-times as electric as before.
Fast forward to 2018-Breezepark’s debut album entitled BLOOM. The title served as an acronym (Beyond Limits Of One’s Mind), and it also conveyed how to group defined the album. The project not followed the blueprint created on STRANGERS but took it further by including features from Norfolkian emcee Young Crazy, Newport News vocalist Boris The Lucid, and musical mastermind Rozwell Fitzroy. The project told the story of how they collectively overcame obstacles in the time leading up to its creative process. To fans, this marked a brand new era of Breezepark, complete with music videos at a higher planning and production level: go peep “Planet Park” and “Drought”. Unfortunately, not too much has been heard from the crew after BLOOM, and since then, each member of Breezepark has spent time living life, maturing, and working on their own personal projects. STRANGERS and BLOOM still remain two of the most uniquely-crafted group albums to come out of the 757/DMV since the Clipse’ “Lord Willin’” and “Hell Hath No Fury.” Between each member, there’s a shared understanding and absolutely no love lost, but I’ll let you read more about that from CMRNPRKR in our conversation.
Here we are in 2023 at the conclusion of Cameron “CMRNPRKR” Goodman’s debut album process eagerly awaiting a release date. The music video for the lead single, “Hiiigher”, has been making waves, earning coverage from illRoots and Lyrical Lemonade. Now, at the age of 28, he is as focused and as overwhelmingly confident as ever. He keeps his longtime friend and hard-working manager Joseph “Rove” Ingham by his side, and together they have established All Indie Records: they describe All Indie Records as their imprint on musical independence. I believe CMRNPRKR’s upcoming project will be a culmination of all the lessons learned on his journey, as well as a preview of the greatness to come. On this hot summer day, I took a short drive to Portsmouth, VA to CMRNPRKR’s home studio to have a conversation about his latest single, the process behind its captivating music video, Hip-Hop’s 50th Birthday, and more.
Preface: This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for clarity, and includes minimal responses from the interviewer.
Your new song has been out for a few weeks now. How do you feel about the feedback so far?
I’m pleasantly surprised by the feedback [because] it’s been a while. I’m not one of those people that feels entitled like now that it’s time for me to release music again, everyone should care. I just feel like “This is what I have and here it is.” I’m happy that people are hearing it and using it in their day to day lives.
I never thought at any point in my life that I would be on illRoots. I have a screenshot of that tweet on my phone. When I get put on those platforms, [I think] that’s tight, because I grew up on them. In my whole career path, I just want to work with people I’ve loved while coming up.
What was life like for you around the time you recorded “Hiiigher?”
I was really coming off the heels of a transitioning stage in life, for real. Really experiencing adulthood and learning lessons, here and there. When I made that record, I knew that this was the turning point – it starts with this.
A couple of times I was like “Hunt [referring to his manager], let’s just put it out” but he’s like, “Then we gotta really roll it out.” That’s where I credit him for all of that rollout shit. He’s really intentional. He’s the one who builds up how well things gets received. He just knows me. Even if I think I wanna do one thing, he’s like “Nah this is what you always do. This is our formula.” That’s our biggest thing – we don’t follow any [other] formulas. Every time we drop it’s different in terms of how we plan to go about it and when we plan on dropping it.
I always go for quality over quantity [though]. Because when that is there, people appreciate it differently. They really stick around and stay in-tuned.
What I tell people is, [they have] to find their own system. Once you find a system of who you want to be, how often you want to release, and how you want to go about your stuff-just follow your formula. At the end of the day, the internet [has] changed to the point where there’s no rules to this shit, and that’s the cool part. That’s how we’re getting innovative people doing stuff we’ve never seen before.
Whatever way you look at it, greatness is timeless. I wrote that song (“Hiiigher”) two years ago. That just came out in 2023 and it doesn’t sound dated. Greatness has no timeline so just stay consistent. That was one of my biggest things, honestly, just staying consistent. I’d get in it then just stop and disappear, and that’s not the way to do it…if you’re really tryna do this shit. Just make sure that you’re sure of everything that you put out, and that it means something when you do it. ‘Cause the people gon’ feel it. They gon’ know if you’re just in there playing around, and they’ll bop to it for a lil’ bit. But when you put that purpose in there, it doesn’t even matter what kind of song it is. Take Tony Shhnow’s “Mind Of The Crook” for example, which is one of my favorite’s right now.
Nowadays where visuals are very important, it seems that if you’re going to have a song that is impactful, the video needs to be just as impactful and captivating if not more. Tell us about how you and your team came up with the vision for the “Hiiigher” music video and the steps you took to execute it.
Hunt really put me on to OG FILMS (Oscar Grant, Cinematographer/Photographer), so I already knew of him because my homies close by have a lot of love for him. I was sitting back, studying his work, and he was going crazy. Then I saw that he was working with the homie [Jordan] Dunman and I was like, “This is hard, I gotta get a video.” I felt like if I was going to come back, I want everything to be [based in] Virginia. The director was [from] Virginia, the producer was [from] Virginia, the person who shot it was [from] Virginia. I love doing projects like that because it really shows what we can produce. That’s a Virginia video, you know. More power to you if you have to [outsource and] get what you have to get, to be the best for your product. But the fact that I was able to find that [talent] in our backyard and we put that together – I’ll do that a million times over.
Planning that, we had this app called Milanote where we threw in ideas of what we thought would be dope. It took about a week or two of talking and getting things set up, as far as the place we needed to rent for the shoot. But that shoot was so seamless, bro. We did it in two days.
We started with the scene where things are flashing; there’s parts of Downtown Suffolk, if anybody could tell. I just wanted to make sure that you see greatness even in the video production. You see me, you see the [Allen] Iverson highlights, and you just see the Hampton Roads area in general. You’re seeing my homeboys, who are all thriving in their own fields, everywhere throughout the video. I’m glad I included all the homies. It gets the world familiar with my people because that’s how [a city like] Atlanta got me familiar with Rich The Kid – he was in some of Young Thug’s videos. That’s the feeling I want to bring back. That’s what I want it to be like. It’s not just me coming, but these people are coming too.
Our aim was to drop the video first. The reason why, was because we thought it would be harder if they heard the song for the first time with the visual. A lot of times, people will listen to the Mp3 itself and kind-of create their own visuals in their heads. If you think about it, when you listen to music, you already have an idea of what you think the video would look like, right?
So, we’re thinking, let’s just present the vision with the song. Then someone could be like “I wanna listen to the song, now I’ma go watch the video because I want to listen to the song.” It creates a system of replay value, and it brings everybody to one place.
You’re from the city of Suffolk, Virginia. Tell me some of your favorite things to do around the city growing up?
For us, me and PLAY (childhood friend, fellow Breezepark member), a good time to us was just skating up and down Nansemond Parkway; whether you were in Beamons Mill area, or the Woodlands, or right by Nansemond River High School. Just skating, going to 7-Eleven to get stuff before we could drive. Our first time listening to Drake and Kid Cudi, we were skating in the garage. That’s really what made it for me because when I wasn’t in school, I was just with him doing that kind of stuff.
MY RESPONSE: When you think about our part of Suffolk, there’s really not much to do outside of what we do on the day-to-day. For me, when I got too old to attend afternoon programs, my time was spent chilling with or riding bikes with my friends. We’d take my camera and tripod and stay out until it got dark. So we grew up with a heightened sense of exploration, for sure.
That’s why we’re so creative, bro. It’s some gifted people out here.
We were just listening to music and just were like, let’s do something different. We knew at the time, when people were first starting to do it, people would look at you funny if you rapped. But I felt like we’re going to be the exception. I didn’t give a fuck. We’re just going to take ourselves mad seriously and really go for it.
After I agreed with him and stated my own way of answering the same question, CMRNPRKR responded with…
Hell yeah bro, just living. That’s why our stuff was so hard back in the day with the group. We were all we had, literally.
For those who don’t know, Breeepark was a four-young-man rap group all out of Suffolk, Virginia. Their collective impact while active was phenomenal. Talk a little bit about how those days still fuel you.
It’s still that member of the group that exists within me, where it’s just like “Nah, we can do more.” So I’m nothing without the group’s beginnings, and if you listen to me close enough- whether it’s out on the street or musically-you can hear glimpses of the homies that were around me. Honestly, that’s what made “CMRNPRKR” – the contributions my brothers put in, that I fed on. The different things I may have done, it’s all because of them. If you meet us all separately or together you’ll see that it [still] makes so much sense.
That drives everything. That drives my album title. My stage name has it in there. That shit just is what it is. I’m still holding the name up.
We’ve done some crazy things together [though]. If I was to stop making music right now, nobody could tell me shit. I’m just so proud of everything we accomplished in that time frame. I also think too, sometimes, that with stuff happening so fast when you’re so young, you don’t necessarily know the value of what’s going on.
We didn’t give a fuck. That’s honestly got us to the point that we were at. We still don’t give a fuck about anything now. We like what we like, and then just do the shit. It’s either you like it or you don’t. But the thing is, the quality is there, and the music is there, so even if you hated us, you still have to respect it. And it ain’t like we’re plants – I really know my people.
What other artists from your hometown are you a fan of, or whose work you respect? What do you think about where Virginia’s music scene is, right now?
I really like Kiree 3600. I like his hustle. He’s another one of them ones with the same mentality we (the members of Breezepark) had, and have now. He’s a great artist and his team is doing good on keeping him consistent, and making sure they’re branding him correctly. I like Darren G, he’s fire. He’s hip-hop and a real musician. Of course Free_Drizzy is fire. I like him because he really sings and puts his music together well. Mo Woods is crazy fire, and of course, Zara Bash.
We even got battle rappers. Suffolk has a lot.
Hip-Hop turns 50 this year. Tell me some of your earliest rap memories?
My pops was really big into hip hop. The first rap song I ever heard from watching it on TV was “Quiet Storm” by Mobb Deep. I remember living on the outskirts of Downtown Suffolk when I was younger. My pops used to be in front of the TV watching RapCity, The Basement with Big Tigger, and that’s how I got hip early. My dad and uncle would get together and play The Black Album [by Jay-Z]. That’s the first rap album I heard.
I landed my first kick-flip to “Good Morning” by Kanye [West].
Growing up, I remember seeing a bunch of Bad Boy.
I got put on early. I was like four or five and my parents were bumping Michael Jackson.
Hip hop is lit in general because it’s bleeding into other stuff now. You have country songs that sound like rap records, and they are even hard.
Only in year fifty and it’s still fresh. Even the ones who started it back then-you look at them and they look great and sound great. This shit is beautiful to see that our elders are still evolving.
We gotta take care of this [rap] shit though. Of course everybody is gonna evolve, but we gotta protect it. At the end of the day, it’s sacred. It’s delicate, and for it to have the impact it has had over the past fifty years…no other genre comes close.
We really gotta move around like royalty in this shit, and take what we do seriously because we see the influence it has, good and bad.
But for fifty years we’ve done incredible. Hip hop is literally my pop’s age, and my pops looks only ten years older than me. That’s crazy.
We recently heard Bow Wow’s comments on why he feels that there’s no #1 Rap Album/Song this year, yet. What do you think of his comments? What do you feel about where the rap game is right now and where it’s headed?
I agree with what he said and he’s not wrong. At the end of the day it’s just about individuality. Even with those people whose formula may be getting followed-they got to where they are by being the first and setting a trend.
It takes a special talent to study that type of stuff, then make it your own. It’s easy to sketch, or to put something underneath something else and trace it. But if that same formula has been charting and everybody’s doing it, who’s [really] number one? It’s gotta be some type of differential or balance. Clearly in the mainstream media, there’s not a lot. You got your few who do what they do (Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, etc.), but we haven’t seen too many newer versions of them.
Honestly I think it’s a game of moderation. Do the right moderation of it and balance it out, and it’ll be good.
I feel like nowadays you have to make noteworthy shit to cut through. It’s actually way better for pure artists to cut though. If you’re a pure artist with vision, and you put it out – nowadays things are so intertwined that, low-key, if it feels and sounds right, it can go (become popular). Even the dude that might’ve been the “underdog” artist – if his art translates the right way with the internet, he’s straight.
I enjoy it, even if there’s a market where that’s going on, because I’ve always just done my [own] thing. I think that’s what got us where we are at now – we just do what we want. We are only trying to keep up with ourselves.
Tell me about All Indie Records (AIR).
All Indie Records was born on January 8th, 2023. Me and the team were in the crib working on everything with “Hiiigher”. Hunter was cooking up some artwork and I was just listening to music. He cooked up something crazy. I said “Damn, that is hard”, and he was like, “We are wilding and doing this shit all independently. Then I said, “Bro, ALL INDIE, that’s it!”
‘Cause we’ve been thinking-for the past year or two-about starting our own imprint. Before he knew it I was on the LLC site, looking. It was a wrap.
It sounded perfect because it represents me, and him *points to Rove*. We’re literally a two-headed-dragon; one feeds off of the other, whichever way it goes. We really be on some shit like, what can we do? What can we do for ourselves, like we did for Breezepark just now with All Indie. It’s dope because we’ve literally handpicked everybody: Nykeem, who helps with media and Will who helps with management. We have Rove, and of course I’m doing my thing; and we look forward to expanding. We do it traditionally, like back in the day. We’re putting our logo with our videos, where you know what it is associated with-to where you have the brand and you have the face of it.
It’s a movement though. It’s not just an imprint. Not just a label or a logo. It’s a platform for everyone to stand on their own ten and help each other.
ROVE: We’re going to do charity work too.
We really gon’ get out here on some community shit. So you can’t be All Indie if you ain’t all in, straight up. That’s the root of this-being all in and betting on yourself. We ain’t looking for anybody to save us. You have to save yourself. We want people to listen to our shit and feel empowered. We want them to feel like “I can do that.”
My last question is about patience. I feel like you’ve always been one to intently take your time with your music. The time was extended further, before this past release. What does being intentional about the time you spend, do for you?
It builds character. It helps you practice patience and discipline. In a time like this and in a business like this, you have to have discipline. I’m glad it’s being practiced right now with my team, because it allows myself-if I ever go into any door where my patience is being tested, I know how to maneuver. If you don’t know how to maneuver in certain places, you’re going to act out of emotion, and the world will check yo’ ass real quick. In the music business, I don’t take anything personal. The only thing I take personally is the art.
We just try to focus on the music. Business is business, and that’s going to be what it’s going to be. We knock it out-boom-and get back to the quality ‘cause that’s what this shit is all about. That’s how I stay fresh.
BONUS: CMRNPRKR’s favorite artists right now are IDK, Casey Veggies, Chaz French, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar.
Keep streaming “Hiiigher” while staying on the lookout for his upcoming debut album, entitled PARK ANGEL.
Follow CMRNPRKR here.
Listen to his previous singles here.
This conversation is powered by All Indie Records (2023).