King Youngblood is an energetic young alternative rock group from Seattle that is deeply rooted in the local scene. The band is fronted by three POC: Cameron Lavi-Jones, Cory Cavazos, and Hamoon Milaninia. Each brings immense energy to the stage alongside their live drummer Alex Dillard. Last week, they gave us some DIY visuals for their moving activism-driven anthem “Opaque.” The song is meant to highlight the tokenization of BIPOC in America. It also illustrates the double-consciousness BIPOC develop from a lifetime of coded or blatant oppression. Simultaneously, it’s a call-to-action to put an end to marginalization.
In the way that many of us have felt like the outsider, targeted, or preemptively judged, “Opaque” gives us a window into the epitome of this feeling. For BIPOC, there are countless statistics proving that it’s difficult for them to even survive in this country that’s constantly trying to imprison or kill them. While at the same time, Black culture is being exploited left-and-right by nearly every form of pop culture.
This begs the question of whether overt racism has ever gone away. It seems like it’s largely sunk deep down into subversive levels of our everyday society. These are just some of the general constructs that “Opaque” brings to attention and seeks to dismantle. I had the opportunity to speak with Cameron about the message behind “Opaque,” their collaborations with the hip-hop community and charity efforts, as well as plans for the future.
They’ve literally been on a roll since the official release of “Opaque” last week through Alternative Press. Cameron put on the This Ain’t No Picnic event at the CHOP/CHAZ, and did a live stream gig with the band on July 2nd at Nectar Lounge. During which, Cameron gave an intense speech about the severity of fighting the good fight for social justice. They’ve even made the announcement of an upcoming podcast partnership and radio show with KVRU FM radio, The Revolution Will Be Harmonized.
Fueling The Hip-Hop Scene
Back when King Youngblood was still under their original name, they were finalists in MoPop’s SoundOff! Battle of the Bands collaborating with Laza (known as Misundvrstood at the time.) This was their first eye-opening experience of the organic nature of performing alongside and directly with hip-hop acts.
From there, they went on to perform at Bumbershoot as the backup band for Parisalexa. Cameron said this “helped us actualize and understand what was important about pushing the community forward in a collaborative way.” Cameron made an extremely valid point in highlighting that “rock is Black music, and hip-hop is Black music.” He said, “they all had the same movement and the same message.”
King Youngblood was brought into Chase Fade’s 2020 Diamonds Dancing studio sessions. This is where they found their next big opportunity to connect directly with the hip-hop community. Cameron and Hamoon also produce beats under the King Youngblood name, so they didn’t just come in as session musicians.
From these sessions, King Youngblood went on to do a show with Macntaj. Some of the proceeds went to their 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Hold Your Crown. “Half our live audience is hip-hop people and the other half are rock fans and the lines get blurred between hip-hop and rock because of the intensity of our live show,” explains Cameron.
Hold Your Crown
How many young bands have their own non-profit? King Youngblood has a charity organization umbrellaed under the Allied Artist Foundation of Seattle called Hold Your Crown. Its goal is to break the stigma that many young people from middle school through college-age and young adults face when they live with a mental illness.
“Cory, our cellist, has been a mental health activist even before the band,” Cameron said. “We had so many conversations where we were realizing we could speak to people and they’d listen because we look like them.” The Hold Your Crown project puts a special emphasis on de-stigmatization within communities of color and immigrant populations.
For King Youngblood, it’s not just about making revolutionary music to enact change. They are actively fostering change within their own local community. “For us, it’s been rooted in making a difference. I’m a Communications major at UW. So, I’ve come to learn the message is just as important as the medium,” Cameron said. “It’s been a dream come true to connect with young people and give them relatable resources on their journeys to mental wellness.”
“Opaque” Music Video
The music video King Youngblood has given us for “Opaque” is irrevocably current in its subject-matter. You’ll notice each member exercising proper social distancing in each frame and shots of masks. This is to highlight that COVID is yet another thing disproportionately killing Black people. Shot entirely on their iPhones with stabilizers and tripods, they’re still able to present us with a powerful narrative.
Throughout, you’ll see the female lead (who’s also the artistic director,) experiencing the brunt of society’s racial pressures bombarding her at every turn. It details how she and many others cope with marginalization and how dangerous it is to do that to people. “As a band of Black and Brown dudes, we know we have to speak up or our people will continue dying. I just hope now the country is listening and with a full-attentive ear,” Cameron said.
The guitars wail and Cameron’s vocals come crashing down like waves. You’ll hear bombastic drums from none other than Matt Cameron of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. The track truly comes alive from the production by platinum/gold record producer Adam Kasper. King Youngblood has built a healthy level of respect in Seattle’s music community to make these prestigious collaborations seem logical. Rock out below and open your eyes to the ongoing tokenization and marginalization of Black, Indigenous, and POC, and the need for change.
King Youngblood – Opaque (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
King Youngblood plans to continue fueling the local hip-hop scene. Whether they’re performing as a live band, producing beats, or working as hip-hop and R&B session musicians. Cameron is excited to be working with fellow #BLM advocate neo-soul singer Jaiden Grayson. He also made note that he’s recently done a session with Nobi. As well as put some work in on Antwon Vison’s project from Black Umbrella.
“For us, it’s going to be pushing the rock element with our band and pushing fellow hip-hop and soul artists in our community,” Cameron said. Cameron also brought up the extensive work they’ve done with Marshall Hughs from the Marshall Law Band. They specifically brought up his Emerald City Gala. You can learn more about the podcast/radio show by heading to KingYoungBlood.com/Podcast. Cameron, along with Jaiden Grayson Stay Safe Knox and Kayla Fisher is producing the show with KVRU Community Radio 105.7 FM.
Cameron also spoke about the studio time King Youngblood continues to put in with infamous rock drummer Matt Cameron. There’s talk of a new album in the works titled “God I Am Exhausted.” A new music video further speaking on the current situation is also coming soon. “I think right now the key moment for Black artists and POC is with our art. And that’s what King Youngblood intends to do more than ever,” Cameron told me.
In closing, Cameron said “I’m grateful for all of the Black and Brown artists in this community. I’m proud to be a Black artist, a mixed artist, and I’m looking forward to seeing some true equality and justice for our community. As the ‘trend’ of supporting the BLM movement inevitably decays because people struggle with maintaining the necessary attention span, it’s important to keep applying pressure to fight for the change so many of us seek to bring to our country.”