For those in the know, 29-year-old Buffalo MC and clothing designer Elcamino has remained a name synonymous with quality. An early player in the Griselda fold, Elcamino released his eponymous debut on the imprint in 2018. This was two years after Westside Gunn’s debut studio album, Flygod. Since then, he’s remained an active affiliate.
For fans of the rapper, his connection to Griselda was always a grey area—and rightfully so. However, as he tells HipHopDX, his connection was based on genuine brotherhood and not paperwork.
“I could put out an album tomorrow and say it’s Griselda,” he says with a laugh. The comment is tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also a flex. It makes you wonder why Elcamino isn’t more revered outside his loyal fan base. After all, he’s recognized and actively supported by some of the most respected ‘rapper’s rappers’ in the game today, appearing on numerous high-profile releases.
His debut on Benny The Butcher’s BSF imprint, They Spit On Jesus, is poised to change all that; while the quality of his albums remains consistent, this album, in particular, is the biggest platform he has to date—and the grandeur of the release isn’t lost on him.
“This bigger than just another project for the books, this shit bigger than ME … this is everything I worked towards till now,” he wrote on Instagram. “This [album is] gonna impact the culture in more ways than you can imagine.”
Much like Conway The Machine, it’s hard to accept this as a debut, as his catalog is so deep. But, the sentiment is clear: this is the beginning of something bigger.
Sitting down with HipHopDX on the eve of the release of They Spit On Jesus, Elcamino breaks down the genesis of the striking cover art, getting love from legends, lessons learned from the Griselda trio and more.
DX: They Spit On Jesus is a crazy title on its own, but the artwork is nuts. Can you explain the meaning behind it?
Elcamino: Shout out to my boy from Cali. He painted that using paint sourced from Mexico. He’s not anti-Christ or anything. That’s just where his mind took him. I just told him the name. When I saw it, I was like, “Damn, they might hate me forever,” but then I was like, “Shit, they might love me, too.”
I am a Christian. You can get that out of the way. You could throw that in the air.
But I’ve been holding on to this for like two years.
Wow. Is that how long you’ve been working on the album?
Yeah, I had the name for about two years. But see me, but see, I move at a certain pace where it’s like a year could fly by and—even if I haven’t been putting anything out—I’m active. I’m still working, putting something together. I take my time.
So what makes this one special? Because I know on Instagram, you said this one is like everything you’ve worked toward up to this point.
I put so much work into this. I mean, as far as just the creative process, the creative direction I took. It’s [a biblical theme], but mind you, I’m very biblical with all of my stuff; I’m always quoting Bible verses or recalling something I heard in a church … I was raised in the church.
Walking On Water… Let There Be Light… Walk By Faith…
Walk by Faith… they leaked that. That was supposed to be a two-sided thing. It was going to be Walk By Faith and then Not By Sight. But then something happened, and they just did some weird stuff with it.
Tell me about the LP’s producer, Ill Tone, because you two have been making some great stuff, like the Bethlehem project with Chase Fetti, not to mention that crazy “Better Than Love” joint off of Let There Be Light.
Tone? That’s my dog, man. When he’s making them beats, we just got that chemistry. He knows I will take my time… I don’t want to rush to make songs. The beats inspire me. I got to hear that good production. So he always got what I need (pause).
How big was it for you to have Inspectah Deck on this album?
It was huge for me, but I feel like it was more so for Tone because that’s what he grew up on. I’m telling you, he almost passed out when I played that shit to him. I didn’t almost pass out, but I was in disbelief that I really had that verse.
That’s probably my biggest, most legendary shit I probably ever did so far, as far as things I’ve put out.
If you think about how Deck was put out in Wu-Tang, it’s similar to you in the Griselda universe.
That’s a fact. I’m not in competition with any of my dogs, but when I hear people talk about Deck, they are like, “Deck was the hardest nigga in the Wu.” I don’t get those same comparisons, but I’ve been told I was the best before.
Something else that’s cool is that your actual debut had Prodigy on it, and now your BSF debut has Havoc on it!
That’s a fact. That’s why I did that. See, everybody hasn’t peeped that. I had that song for a minute, too. I had that song for probably three years.
How important are those legendary features to you?
I’ve been getting love from a lot of the legends, bro. That’s why I hold my head high all the time. If the newer artists don’t pick up on me, I ain’t really tripping. But as long as the legends fuck with me, that really keeps me going.
Not everyone is super hip on you to the same degree; it depends on when you got into Griselda.
That’s very true.
Your first project was like, what 2017, right? That’s very early in.
I was right there, man. It was great that they were letting me put my stuff out. Westside Gunn had dropped [Flygod] a year before that; I was definitely in the cipher.
Did that experience teach you a lot?
It taught me order. There was a clear rotation at Griselda. When everybody moves as one, it’s way more powerful than everyone dropping individually. It was structured. That helped me tremendously. I still base my releases around when they drop because I don’t want to compete with them.
So, how did you first connect with Griselda?
I met Westside first. I met him through my sister. He saw her in the mall one day, and then they called me; he asked if I wanted to come on tour with him. I was already listening to him at this point. I already knew Wes, and he was listening to my shit at the same time. That was thanks to Camouflage Monk. That’s my dog.
We went to Boston. That was the first time I went out of town to rap; that shit was dope. And ever since then, I’ve been turnt. I haven’t looked back.
How’s that journey been? Because you had that first joint on Griselda, and then when all is said and done, you’re on BSF.
I was allowed to use the [Griselda] brand, but I didn’t have any paperwork. They’re my older brothers. I was going with the flow. But now that I’m older, I know more about the business. I tried to insert myself into a position where I could do what I was already doing with more of a push.
I mean, there’s Griselda, but then there’s also Drumwork. There are other places you could have landed.
I can collect a chain from both the labels you mentioned, but it’s more about who I work better with. I work better with Benny. Since the early days when he was coming up—when he used to go anywhere—I used to follow him.
But I learned a lot from all of them. I learned a lot from Conway. I learned a lot from Westside. I learned mad shit. I took pieces of everything.
One day, you have to collaborate with Max B. That would be epic.
Yeah man, I listen to Max B every day.
I totally believe that. You can hear Max’s sing-song influence on your sound.
I grew up on Max B. My dad, around the time when my dad used to be coming to get me and shit, he’d be pulling up playing Max B, Jim Jones, shit like that. I’m young bro, I ain’t that old.
So you had great taste as a kid!
Kids fuck with good shit. But you have to play it for them so they can hear it. If you play good music for a kid, they will listen to it. If you let them listen to bullshit, that’s what they will hear. They need to learn about the good stuff.
You’re crushing it with the singing hooks lately. Do you think at some point you’ll have a whole album of just singing?
I’m working on that. It may be hard to believe, but I’m capable of some shit like that. Nobody even knows. I really know how to sing. I never do full-fledged singing for anyone. I’m just popping my neck out here and there.
I’m trying to decide if I want to have a songwriter or write it myself; because people write other people’s songs and shit in R&B. You could do that.
Speaking of different directions, I couldn’t help but notice the club/trap vibe of the song “Tap In” with Armani.
That was Benny’s play; I told him that’s who I wanted on it. She killed that shit, bro. Armani is at least one of the top three female rappers. She’s at least in the top three, and she isn’t the third one. Her versatility is different; you have to think it’s hard to make good trap music. It’s not easy if you’re not a trap rapper.
It’s easy to have it sound forced, but you’ve been sneaking in trap joints for a while now.
Right. To make trap music is different than just listening to it. It’s completely different. It’s not easy. It is easy for me, but it took me a while for it to get easy.
Actually, I’m not going to say it’s easy because I’m not trying to discredit anybody, but I do be walking on shit. I can’t lie. I have a full trap album I’m going to be dropping. I got some shit up my sleeve. I’m working on some shit. I’m just trying to stay consistent; I got a game plan.
When it comes to making artistic leaps like that, it’s cool that you listen to and trust your fans; since the beginning, you’ve maintained a very fan-centric approach.
Yeah, man. I do it for the fans, the people that fuck with me. I try to accommodate them. I am doing my own thing, man, trying to grow as an artist, and they end up liking it anyway, so it all works out. They love my direction.
How much of that blueprint came from watching Griselda come up?
It’s made it easier; I put myself in a position to learn earlier. I’m young. I’m only 29 years old. I take advantage of it, man. I don’t take it for granted. I do everything I can to push myself forward to the next level. It isn’t easy, bro. This shit is not easy with the politics and all that.
But I’ve been privileged and blessed.