The Roc is back! Well…not really. Kanye West lives in a real-life twisted fantasy. Jay-Z, Biggs Burke, and Dame Dash may or may not still be feuding. Roc Nation is cool but not a household name like Roc-A-Fella Records once was. No one from that early-2000s era is in their prime anymore. It’s not a diss, just a natural continuation of time. One moment, you’re on top of the world, the next, you’re trying to re-establish what you worked so hard for in the first place. People change and relationships aren’t static. That’s just the way life is. Well, unless you’re Cam’Ron of course.
The one constant to come out of Roc-A-Fella’s messy situation is Cameron Giles-aka Kill Cam. Even when shit was starting to burn down, Cam’Ron was simultaneously forming The Diplomats and creating his magnum opus Purple Haze. It was a great time to be wearing the pink fur (and the pink polos). Cam’Ron didn’t care about the business side of things in his music unless he was talking about coke flips and pimping-good ole’ street shit. He was already making hits prior to Purple Haze too (“Hey Ma” is a R&B/rap classic). He was the next great rapper to come out of Harlem, and he did so without sacrificing his incessant swagger.
When he announced a Purple Haze sequel fifteen years after the cult classic, some were pessimistic about it; and rightfully so. It felt like a last gasp for air, a final crack at relevancy if you will. But then I forgot, Cam’Ron doesn’t give a shit about all of that. He was still rapping about the same things that made him famous after the Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella split (though it was with much less personality). In a way, I guess I can’t blame him for trying to re-establish himself as a highly-touted spitter in 2019.
Oddly enough, Kill Cam’s methodology worked. Purple Haze 2 wasn’t just made for the sole purpose of nostalgia. Cam actually has something to say after ten years of no solo projects (and many years of stupid beef with 50 cent, Jay-Z and Jim Jones). There’s the intro track “Toast To Me,” which is a much-deserved moment of self-gratitude for the Harlem legend. The chipmunk sample submerges listeners back to 2004 when Kanye was making three beats a day for three summers.
One thing I admire greatly about this album is Cam’Ron’s ability to refrain from his aggressiveness towards women; a focal point in his past music. He raps “Misunderstood females, I wanna hear your voice” like a breath of fresh air, as if the child he had mad him rethink some past decisions.
His storytelling is honestly as good as ever, particularly on the piano-driven “Losing Weight 3.” Cam opens up about the implications from street hustling, and how his actions affected his family (“Week later, told nana, Look, I got a big surprise/She was happy, but listen, she ain’t no dumb-dumb Where the money for this washer and dryer come from? Won it plain’ basketball, man, a lump sum Gave her a kiss and a hug, that’s where I come from.”) The whole experience feels like old-school Kanye during his Late Registration days.
He’s rarely re-inventing the wheel here, which can be good or bad depending on how one looks at it. “This is My City” is both a moving tribute to Harlem’s people, and a stark criticism of its atmosphere. One moment he’s rapping, “Love my hood, but to make it out, woo what a feeling,” the next he spits, “Cops come reading rights, but we ain’t the reading type.” The dude’s still knows how to present a tight narrative through colorful characters and personal experience. It’s also nice hearing the incarcerated Max B sing a heartwarming chorus about pride and redemption.
With the help of his longtime producer Heatmakerz, Cam’Ron is able to conjure up that playful soul from his earlier work. While Purple Haze was a fully realized version of Cam’s dark humor and debauched wordplay, Purple Haze 2 finds the pink fur maestro in a place of recollection. Sure, he’s still finding ways to piss off Bill O’ Reilly, and he’s still saying shit like “Put my dick between her melons.” That comes with the territory at this point. But it’s Cam’s ability to locate different life-changing situations from the past to produce a wider picture of who he is.
“Losing Weight 3” is a perfect example of this, as is “Big Deal,” the exact moment where Cam realized he’s transitioned form an untouchable gangster to an untouchable father.
“I ain’t have a dollar B, I’m lucky Toy acknowledged me
This around the time the Wu had me wearin’ wallabes
Said, “You the one Cam”, I said, “Yeah, I gotta be”
Now I’m a father, B, y’all don’t bother me”
Aside from a few lackluster deep cuts (that weird EDM experiment on “Killa Bounce” ain’t it), Cam’Ron surprisingly adds to an otherwise forgettable discography since the early aughts. There’s the great Mary Jane girls’ sample on “Keep Rising” that re-affirms his immense status as a drug dealer. There’s a nice Jim Jones appearance at the end that summons the ghost of Dipset’s stellar past. There’s the forgettable Wale verse on “I Don’t Know” that does nothing other than add an artist from this decade. And of course there’s Killa Cam, the brashly funny star who never gets old, even as life continuously changes for him.