"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thoughts On Cam’ron’s (Probably Ill-Advised But Perhaps Not…) Comeback Attempt

Cameron Giles: Grosser, Weirder And More Mature Than Ever?

As many of you know, I hate Cam’ron. Well, no. That’s not quite true. I hate “Purple Haze.” I find Cam’ron, himself, to be gross and inane and regard his music to be the type of retarded that was only built for snickering, teenage glue sniffers too stupid to be into something marginally smarter like the Clipse but I don’t hate the man, personally. There is actually a few songs from the man that I unequivocally love without reservation. “Dipset Anthem” is the basic definition of anthemic which is appropriate considering the titular derivation of the word, “Oh Boy” remains one of the top ten hip hop singles of the last decade, “I.B.S.” is the weirdest (and horrifyingly disgusting) and most heartfelt song he’s ever recorded and “Down & Out” is just chipmunked soul goodness at it’s purest, most goofiest best. The majority of Cam’ron’s discography (or at least, his Rocafella to the present discography... I refuse to waste my time to listen an album with this monstrosity as an album cover. Besides if I wanted to listen to a Big L biter, I’d go listen to a Papoose record... which I most assuredly won’t be doing) has this gross, sneering minstrel show-like sheen that just leaves me with a bad taste in the back of my throat. It’s like swallowing synthetic ignorance and I don’t appreciate it all.

In the last couple of years since 50 Cent finished the job that Jay-Z and a rapidly maturing audience base started, Cam’ron has been quickly approaching (and also somewhat inexplicably considering he’s always been…) total self-parody. It started first with Cam getting shot driving in his “Camborghini” in Harlem after coming out of a club, devolved further into his idiotic feud with Jay-Z over Hov’s tragic choice in footwear (I agree with Cam on this one. Sandals are never a good look on a man), spiraled into Ed Woodian cinematic disaster with the release of “Killa Season: The Movie”, (a film that can be best described as if you took the atrocious “State Property” franchise and somehow managed to subtract all semblance of production values and inject more ignorance in to the proceedings) and finally bottomed out with the now legendary boxer-clad Youtube excursion in front of the world’s saddest backyard pool where Cam “infamously” declared war against 50 Cent and claimed it would be “a hot summer” before showing off his custom Tru Life-made black eye….and then he disappeared. Cam’ron’s absence from hip hop for close to a year became one of the biggest hip hop in-jokes around as Cam’s relative lack of output and Jim Jones ignominious rise to de-facto overlord of the Dipset weed carriers made Cam’ron an easy target for mockery.

In some sense, Cam’ron’s fading relevance and subsequent vanishing were always inevitable. For a guy with only two, bona-fide top 40 hits, one platinum album, (and absolutely no classic records in my not so humble and completely correct opinion…), Cam’ron’s status as hip hop royalty has always seemed incongruent thusly making his fall from grace inevitable. He’s never been consistent like a Ghostface nor as pop oriented as Jay-Z so it would make sense that he would not be able to maintain his popularity for too long. He was the face of a goofy little cult movement in Dipset, a group that spawned some of the worst popular rappers to hit the scene since Puffy met Mase but other than that nothing really seemed to warrant his massive popularity. His music was utterly inane and idiotic, he dressed head to toe in pink fur, his misogyny was palpable and gross, and his massive ego and delusions of grandeur made him an utterly repugnant figure. Sure, Cam’ron had a certain charm and inherent goofiness to his music but his affected, calculated drug dealer disinterest and nonchalance made his rather scatological and graphic lyrics appear lose their sense of fun. It was like listening to Keanu Reeves monotonously drone on in a Richard Pryor routine. His delivery is literally bereft of any semblance of joy. It never made a hell of lot of sense that in hip hop circles, for awhile, he rivaled Jay-Z, Nas and 50 Cent as the most popular rapper alive. He wasn’t nearly as good at writing winning pop songs as Hov and Curtis, he wasn’t the brilliantly gifted lyricist that Nas was and his music was too weird and insular to guarantee continued popularity. We should of all seen this coming.

In the last couple of months, Cam’ron has made his “triumphant” return to making music and the results have been decidedly… weird (and I mean, weird by Cam’ron standards. This is a man who made a song about having the shits, after all). As Cam’ron prepares to release his new album, “Crime Pays”, the music he’s been releasing starting with the Journey-assisted “Just Us” and culminating in the insane, ignorant brilliance of “Bottom Of The Pussyhole” have been unpredictable, strange, at times painfully dated, and at other times shockingly, at moments, meaningful.

One of the underrated and underutilized strengths of Cam’ron’s music is the few songs that he drops his affected persona and lets the audience view the real Cameron Giles. For example, “I.B.S.” off 2006’s “Killa Season”, the song where Cam’ron describes his very, real struggles with his chronic irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most vivid descriptions of personal vulnerability that a rapper has ever laid on wax. It works because Cam’ron is willingly to risk his credibility and possibly humiliate himself describing an embarrassing physical disease (he talks about shitting himself backstage) and actually present himself as human. “I Hate My Job” works much in the same way and is the best song that Cam has recorded in years. On “I Hate My Job”, Cam’s ode to the working man to rival Bruce Springsteen himself, he goes into the very, real struggles of trying to go honest from a life of crime and working at a piss ant, menial labor job. Over a soul-infused, stuttering piano beat, Cam’ron crafts a song that is fitting and meaningful for these tough economic times. The song seems to work as a metaphor for both his recent struggles as a rapper as it explores his dissatisfaction and tiring from his job without being overt to what he’s actually referring to it. It could be taken literally and be referring a past job in menial labor or it could refer to his (“alleged”) days as a coke overlord of the universe. Either way, it’s exciting to watch Cam’ron traverse new territory and try to break from his traditional and very tired boundaries.

Does this suggest Cam’ron’s taking his new album into a more personal territory and away from his tired, disaffected, cartoonish super villain? Probably not as some of the other music he’s been releasing lately has suggested. “Bottom Of The Pussyhole”, while being one of the most ignorantly brilliant songs I’ve heard in a long time, has Cam at his quease inducing weirdest while “Caveman” is a true return to his ultra-low brow misogynistic roots. Some of these songs work because they traverse into late-period R. Kelly gonzo humor while some of them sound flaccid and dated. “Caveman”, for example, oddly sounds like Lil Jon’s 2006 single “Snap Yo Fingers” and weirdly appropriates Geico’s Caveman commercials into the hook. It sounds as if built for the clubs of 3 years ago and thus sounds unconsciously dated. Perhaps, it’s striving to be this album’s failed single “Suck It Or Not” although I haven’t any idea why Cam’ron would want to replicate that song’s complete artistic failure. “Bottom Of The Pussyhole” is similar but works only because it treads into such bad taste that it mines the insane Robert Kelly brand flourishes that make Kells late period working such an amusing train wreck to listen to. Other songs like “I Get It In Ohio” are lame sub-Clipse cocaine rap and “My Aura” is sabotaged by 5th rate Heatmakerz production. What’s particularly troubling is Cam’ron’s insistence of using almost exclusively flaccid synth-based Southern rap production on most of these new songs. While I have never been a fan of Dipset’s histrionic choice in production, the decision to go to a more synth based route (particularly a dated synth based route) reeks of trend chasing and dated trend chasing at that. If Cam’ron is going to make a proper comeback, he needs to come up with better production than Lil’ Jon rip-offs from five years ago. For one, it doesn’t really fit with Cam’s signature hyperbole but for other, it’s not original in the slightest and this type of lack of ingenuity is what dragged his erstwhile nemesis 50 Cent from the top of the pop charts into utter self-parody.

While I’ve never been a particular fan of Cam’ron, I’m hoping that “Crime Pays” will go a more confessional route and address some of the personal and professional issues (the Dipset dissolution, his beef with Curtis, his forced sabbatical) that have plaguing Cam’s career over the last couple of years as opposed to his stale drug dealer gimmick. “I Hate My Job” is brilliant and I would love to see an album full of those type of songs from Cam’ron as opposed to songs like “Caveman.” Comebacks are tough and re-invention in hip hop is almost impossible as fans have often refuse to let an artist grow and mature because of the expectations of the genre. You have to balance the needs of your hardcore fans while attempting to tread new ground in order to grow as an artist and make your comeback worthwhile in the first place. The few that have been successful (“Mama Said Knock You Out”, “Stillmatic”) have been able to find that balance while those that didn’t (“Kingdom Come”, “8 Diagrams”) were not. If Cam’ron wants to do this right, he needs to seriously consider what type of artist he wants to be. If he wants to continue to be the goofball clown that we all know than I feel that “Crime Pays” is destined to fail. Either way, if he wants to make me happy, he’ll make sure that it sounds absolutely nothing like “Purple Haze." What a shitty, shitty album...


Marcus said...

Confessions of Fire is frikkin great.

MLD6 said...

Only three Top 40 hits? I would guess "Oh Boy", "Hey Ma", and way back when, "Horse and Carriage".

Oh, I see "Horse and Carriage" peaked at...#41!

Marcus said...

I agree about Caveman and My Aura sounding kinda cheap, but I Used To Get In Ohio is definitely that banger he needed to get back in the streets. I live in Ohio, so I know a bunch of non-Cam fans who love that song. And it doesn't sound as cheap as Caveman

DocZeus said...


I guess "I Get It On Ohio" is ok but as a former long-time resident of the great state of Ohio (Shaker Heights, holler!), I want Cam'ron to leave Ohio out of any song he may or may not be creating in the future.

"Horse & Carriage" is nowhere near as ubiquitous as "Oh Boy" and "Hey Ma" so I don't really count that.

bding7 said...

honestly, i remember hearing "Horse & Carriage" more than "Hey Ma." and it is a better song, after all.

have you seen his interview with miss info? it was pretty interesting. rappers only do well in a comeback situation when they feel the need to defend themselves in some way, or defend their "manhood." we'll se how cam fares. the other route is to get a new crew. and judging by the "i used to get it in ohio" video, he may have done just that.

DocZeus said...

"honestly, i remember hearing "Horse & Carriage" more than "Hey Ma." and it is a better song, after all."

Really? I don't think I ever heard on the radio. Granted, it may have been because the playlist was different in Cleveland growing up than it was in New York or something. It was all Bone Thugs, all the time growing up.

Christopher said...

Hater's Ball nomination secured

Kai said...

Not a huge Cam fan by any stretch of the imagination. Much of his stuff has become self-parody and he doesn't seem to realize that thats a huge part of his appeal. It is 90% of his entertainment value.

But "I used to get it in Ohio" is a good song. It makes me think he's gonna put a couple of decent songs out.

ANd btw, regardless of my feelings on the song, "suck it or not" was a hit in terms of popularity, at least in NYC.

joseph said...

"I.B.S." is my favorite Cam song too, your description of it nailed the essence of the track. Nice to see some even-handed hatering on here.

I sorta hope he goes the "I Hate My Job" route on a few more of the album's songs, but really, a whole albums-worth of confessional-Cam might be too much.

Ass Hat said...

fair enough. but is this really a comeback? given that he released his last proper album three years ago, and a 2-cd mixtape less than 18 months ago?

DocZeus said...

Ass Hat-

I would say so. We all consider "Mama Said Knock You Out" and "Stillmatic" to be comebacks for LL Cool J and Nas and it wasn't as if they had STOPPED making music for a long period of time. They just went through a relative creative dearth and needed to get back on top which is what Cam'ron is attempting to do. He's been the better part of a running joke for two years now. I think that warrants a "comeback."

Trey Stone said...

"Oh Boy?" really? i think if there's a hell, listening to that song over and over again might be what happens

tray said...

I think it's pretty obvious that Cam lost his flow sometime after Killa Season, much like Jay, Prodigy, etc. Beyond that, what is there really to say? When you've had it you've had it.

As for I.B.S., it works because it's funny and he's a great storyteller with an excellent head for detail. It isn't this achingly human song or anything like that, nor is it so out of character, there are many human moments in Cam's work.

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