ThatKidCam Finds a Cure for Paranoia with the Help of a Hip-Hop Reinvention

Stanley Francisko, Cameron McCloud, JayAnalog, Tomahawk Jonez are Cure for Paranoia
Stanley Francisko, Cameron McCloud, JayAnalog, Tomahawk Jonez are Cure for Paranoia
Gavin Lueking

Cameron McCloud is a rapper, but he wants to live like a rock star. He's a paranoid schizophrenic, but music is his therapy and he has a fan in Erykah Badu. He used to go by ThatKidCam, but now McCloud prefers to be part of a group: Cure for Paranoia, which started when he and some friends set out on a road trip, looking for doomsday shelter. If McCloud's life seems all over the place, then one thing is constant: He can't stop making music.

As ThatKidCam, McCloud released several impressive recordings — some produced by J. Rhodes, and one featuring –topic. His delivery is intense, hyper and unpredictable. Backstage at The Bomb Factory in October, he approached Erykah Badu and free styled a verse for her in front of a very large group of people. Naturally, it was caught on video and tens of thousands of people watched it online. Badu was impressed enough that the two have stayed in touch.

He also dresses more like a rock star from the ‘60s or ‘70s than you may expect from a modern day hip-hop artist. “I want to be a rapping rock star,” McCloud says. He admits to spending lots of time looking at pictures of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Sitting in Drugstore Cowboy, he is wearing a fur coat, vintage shirt and enormous sunglasses, and his fingernails are painted black. He is as intense in person as his vocal delivery is when he's rapping, maintaining eye contact with a thousand-yard stare.

McCloud also suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. He brings it up casually and the subject does come up in his lyrical content. The name of his new group is even a direct reference to it. But he is quick to dismiss any sort of notion that his condition elevates his art or ever becomes a creative barrier. “It’s always been there,” he shrugs, and points out that no one knew until it started coming up in his lyrics.

If anything, music is his medicine. “When I say all these things onstage, everybody will resonate with it in their own way,” McCloud says. He believes his condition actually brings him closer to the audience because everyone has some degree of mental illness, anxiety and paranoia. “As an artist, people want to feel like they know you,” he continues. “Like they are reading a page from your diary.”

After opening for Devin the Dude at Granada Theater with a live band at the close of 2014, McCloud started to reconsider his approach to music. Being backed by a band made for a much more theatrical performance than being alone onstage. “I didn’t want to go back to just having a DJ behind me,” McCloud says. “I wanted to add more elements to the performance.”

He also found the local hip-hop scene to be cliquish, reminiscent of high school. McCloud was thinking he would rather start his own group than try to fit in with someone else’s. For live shows, he started bringing in other performers, most notably vocalist Stanley Francisko, to sing on the hooks, and the Institute production team (JayAnalog and Tomahawk Jonez) to do live DJ sets.

The four artists decided to form a group during a road trip to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. They chose the destination as a safe zone, in a half-serious attempt to protect themselves from a comet rumored to be on a collision course with earth. While in transit, they started working on some beats from the Institution and decided to form Cure for Paranoia by the time they returned to Dallas.

Now they are all living under one roof in Oak Cliff, making new music every day and usually testing out the new material in front of crowds that same night. “The organic relationships can be seen through our live performances and when we make music,” McCloud says. “It’s not something you can buy or learn.” By picking up regular gigs in Deep Ellum at places like Drugstore Cowboy, Three Links and Stonedeck Pizza, they are performing pretty much every night and now making a living as full-time musicians.

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But they also see the value in performing on the streets of Deep Ellum. It helps them promote upcoming shows and break down barriers by giving them the chance to make new fans out of anyone who happens to be walking by. They even met Grammy Award-winning producer Jah Born during one of these performances and have since started collaborating with him.

After countless hours of work they have released just one track, “Normal Person.” But they are working on a self-titled EP and planning to release each side separately just for the hell of it. Cure for Paranoia plan to release the first side in time for SXSW, put out the other half over the summer and then release the whole thing on a vinyl record.

Cure for Paranoia are using a very different approach. They write songs during the day, test them out in front of audiences that night, and run them through countless remixes. This is a long road from writing music to releasing the final product that involves a remarkable degree of collaboration and interaction with listeners. So far, it’s paying off.

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