FLINT, Michigan -- Good things come to those who wait, and for Flint artist Cameron Tyler, the wait was worth it. "This my round two," he raps on the song of the same name—one that speaks to his life's journey and the second chance given at music stardom. In a year, Tyler has dropped a slew of singles and videos to pursue his musical ambitions. As such, he solidified his lane with the help of Flint's most talented artists: Ace Gabbana, Jeff Skigh, Cam Howe, PhZD, and local legend Jon Connor.
"I'm at a point in my life where I want to make music. I want to spread it the way I want to, feed my family, and get a Grammy," he says with a laugh while sitting inside The Ferris Wheel in downtown Flint.
Jamaican culture influences Tyler's fashion, his deadlocks—a symbol of his journey to be "natural, real, and unique"—and his music's sound. On this day, he's smiling, elated at the success of his recent tracks, Round 2 and Lil Baby, both featuring Ace Gabbana. It's hours before the video release of Lil Baby and a week before releasing his "collection" called, Let Me Speak, due February 10.
"Back then, I don't think I had the confidence I needed. I felt like, and it may sound cliche, what other people thought about me was important," he says, recounting his journey. "Now I'm in a position where I don't have to worry about that anymore. I'm cool with who I am. I feel like I'm finally expressing myself honestly and confidently."
The confidence and honesty come from being born on the northside of Flint to a Jamaican immigrant father and a southern-born African American mother. Like many Flint residents, Tyler witnessed "the poverty, the [lack of] education, the lack of jobs," and his parents divorced during the latter years of his childhood. The culture surrounding rap and Hip Hop, to him, serves as an avenue "that perfectly describes a situation like people growing up in Flint."
"I'm at a point in my life where I want to make music. I want to spread it the way I want to, feed my family, and get a Grammy."But Tyler's no stranger to music. His father played an instrumental role in getting him acquainted with music—specifically reggae. "When I was growing up, I listened to so much reggae music that I wanted to be in those music videos," he says with a laugh, remembering the time spent in the backseat of his father's truck. Reggae and his Jamaican roots found their way into Tyler's music where, until he was 17-years-old, he spent the majority of his time in a home studio where he did "nothing but make music."
"I remember writing my first song when I was five or six. When I was eight, my dad put me on stage, opening for a reggae artist," Tyler says. "He put me in the studio when I was nine. At 10, he put me on stage at a reggae festival in Detroit. My dad was a heavy part of pushing me since I was an early child."
On the grind to be prosperous in music, he signed a bad contract that cost him creative control of his career, money, and most importantly, time. Eventually, he got "sick of the politics and fakery" and stopped making music. Then, as a high school graduate, he turned his sights on a different future and attended the University of Michigan-Flint to major in Communications. But life wasn't always good times. Tyler faced a few setbacks and came close to ending it all. "I went through some things in my life," he says, describing the moments after his contract ended, school days, and wondering about his purpose. These situations caused him to wonder if his life held value and was worth living. In the end, he had an epiphany and recognized that there was another choice—that he could step up and, if nothing else, try once again to make his dreams a reality.
Seizing the second chance at life, and with a growing music scene in Flint, Tyler turned his attention back to music. The change came with added support from a longtime friend turned manager, Joker Brim, who helped his friend navigate the industry and offer advice. Tyler credits Brim with helping spread awareness and "picking up the slack" in areas of weakness. But it's his longtime girlfriend, Rena, who continues to be by his side the most. Dubbed "The Queen," she's invested in and supports his career wholeheartedly. In an industry that makes it almost impossible for relationships to persist, she credits their maturity and communication.
"There's a type of maturity you have to have to date a rapper. I have friends who date rappers, and it's hard for them. They’re doing music videos with other girls, or at the studio for six hours. A lot of girls are going to be like, ‘what am I going to do?’" Rena says, making the room erupt in laughter. "It does take both sides needing to be ready. I feel we were both at the same level when we started. Now we're growing together."
In 2021, Tyler is releasing music on his terms, including the release of Let Me Speak, a collection of songs that catalogs his journey, lessons learned, and honest emotions. Each track and the music produced afterward, he promises, won't sound like any of his past work. Overall, he credits music for saving his life and intends to spread a powerful message.
"The message I want to get out to other people is, the way that you see life right now, that s*** don't have to be permanent," Tyler says. "It's just a moment. You have the ability to be and do whatever you want to. Life is not limited. That's what I want people to hear out of the music I make."
You can find Cameron Tyler on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. His latest release, Lil Baby shot by ShotBy0Degrees, is out now. Let Me Speak - The Collection releases February 10, 2021 on all media platforms.