From a young age, Cam Bells discovered a love for music. Today, he’s pushing to spread his music and Providence culture around the world.
Cam Bells, known to some as the Prince of PVD, was born into a family of musicians. As he explains, “I’ve been singing my whole life, as far back as I can remember. My uncles were in an R&B gospel group, and they took me to the studio when I was younger. That led to me seeing the live music and vocals before I even knew what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. I was always just singing. When I got to be around eleven or twelve, I got more into rap and freestyling. By thirteen I was recording myself. By fifteen I was really making mixtapes.”
Bells began his musical career recording himself, and that holds true today. The Providence born-and-bred artist is his own producer and engineer. His progression as an artist has been a consistent development from teenage years to present day: “It started off with me recording myself on a computer, learning to engineer, learning to mix vocals, and that turned into me producing stuff, playing the keys a little bit myself. I’m still recording it, still mixing it myself. It’s just a gradual growth, finding my sound, going through different influences.” Bells cites Lloyd Banks of G-Unit, Drake, The Dream, Teddy Riley, and Jay-Z as creative inspirations for his own musical output; however, he sees his specific sound as an amalgamation of his roots, split between the traditional R&B he was steeped in as a child and the more contemporary hip hop he discovered growing up.
Learning from live performances and real instruments rather than recording software and programmed sounds, Bells became focused on sound engineering and treating music as an art form rather than a hustle: “I’m more into sonics and skill sets, because I’m a studio guy. I like what sounds good, what feels good. I really don’t care about the numbers or stuff like that. That’s good for the business, but that has nothing to do with the art. The origin of my Providence music culture was not hip-hop. It wasn’t mixtapes or people rapping, it was a real live music. So when I became a teenager and I was getting older and seeing people rap and these different artists, I always thought it was cool, but for me, there was always something more.”
A product of American and Italian parents, Bells sees his identity as an intersection of cultures. As he explains, “I’ve lived in Providence my whole life, from 1989. For me, you got this mixture of the south side of Providence and Federal Hill. You get this mashup of what Cam Bells is: you mix up Frank Sinatra and Buddy Cianci and Raymond Patriarca with Jeffery Osborne and Marvin Bonds.” The artist is a representation of the variety of cultures that exist in Providence, which Bells refers to as the “creative capital of the world.”
Bells believes deeply in Providence as a nexus of creative expression and collaboration, and he recognizes the potential to spread Providence culture around the world: “I always say I got two goals. One is to be able to take care of myself and to take care of my family, be able to live off of my art. I’ve been doing it for so long, it only makes sense to make it my job. They say “find something you love, and turn it into a profession, turn it into a business. The second goal is to write the blueprint for Providence culture and then to push it beyond Providence, take it to Boston, take it to New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles. … We’re not the creative capital of Rhode Island, we’re the creative capital of America, and essentially, the world. So I feel like it’s very important to use my voice to carry that message, and spread it with the different artists from here. With music, you have the opportunity to use your voice in whatever way you want, and I chose to use it to empower my city, empower my people, and spread the message of Providence being one of the dopest places in the world.”
Listen to Cam Bells’s music here and watch his live session on wbru.com and YouTube.
Photography by Seth Israel