Cam’ron: Built This City

In the 1920’s, Harlem was the centerpiece of the Black universe. Poets, writers, scientists, and others all made their presence known. The entrepreneurial spirit was rich, as were the innovators. While the rest of the world admired and resented the oasis, Harlem thrived. In 1929, the stock market crashed and the whole western world went […]

In the 1920’s, Harlem was the centerpiece of the Black universe. Poets, writers, scientists, and others all made their presence known. The entrepreneurial spirit was rich, as were the innovators. While the rest of the world admired and resented the oasis, Harlem thrived. In 1929, the stock market crashed and the whole western world went into recession. Harlem was nothing more than a place Across 110th Street for 75 years.

No artist has worked harder in Harlem’s history to bring Hip-Hop’s eyes back uptown. Come Home With Me was not just an album title, it was a five-year plan that brought home deals for the family. The slang, the style, the swagger – Cam’ron has been innovative in every way he represents himself.

No longer on the Roc, Cam’ron is about to lay down a new manifesto. He’s gotten all of his comrades comfortable at a medley of labels. He’s established his businesses, and closed others openly. Cam’ron’s eyes are on bigger things – and all eyes are on him. looks at Cam’s accomplishments, some of his fumbles, and the unturned stones of an artist that’s oft considered one-dimensional. With Diplomats Week in full-throttle, it’s only natural to check in with the architect of the city the Dips claim they built.

Cam’ron: I liked the things going with Mike Jones there; I feel they really helped out with the levy even though it was poppin’ already with his situation. Can you compete with the foundation they’re paving in the South?

Cam’ron: A lot of people don’t know I lived in Texas in a year, I lived in Atlanta for a couple of months, and I moved to New Orleans; I bounced around a lot of different places. I got friends a lot of different places and also I picked up, you know I went to school in Texas so I picked up in the south at a young age so already knew about the vibe. A lot of New York people back in the early 90’s didn’t really know that the South had a movement going on. Do you know when you’re gonna premier your new work?

Cam’ron: Well what I’m gonna do is, honestly, like Jim and Juelz and stuff come out, ‘cause they’re pretty much ready to go to get their stuff going. Then after that, we’ll figure out dates. [We’re] probably looking around October-ish. “’Bout It, ‘Bout It,” the remake, got a lot of love. However, there has been a lot of criticism to the “Push It” cover and some others. Usually, you’ve got a reason for all you do – so – what were you thinking?

Cam’ron: When we was little, we loved that song. That song’s still hot; that song’s still hot til’ this day in my book. I like that song. Are you concerned that The Diplomats are bringing too many acts out at once? That kinda back-lashed on Wu-Tang in the late 90’s…

Cam’ron: We still got a long way to go so before it gets to that I think it’ll go a long, long, long way. And a lot of times, like with Wu-Tang, what happened with them, I think the chemistry just wasn’t the same because certain people moved certain places, and it wasn’t like they wasn’t all back at [Shaolin] when he was making the beginning albums, and then stuff started to fade. With u,s even though it look like everybody’s fame elevated, we still stay in the studio together, we still doin’ our music, we still like, “Oh yo no, don’t do that.” How do you look at the new Roc-A-Fella situation, since you were a major Roc success story a few years ago?

Cam’ron: I don’t know, I hope it does well. I hope it does excellent. I can’t say. We’ll have to see but I don’t wish anybody bad you know. They still, everybody from the bottom trying to make it to the top so it’s all gravy. I just wish them the best. What about Dame. There’s a lot of talk going around about some unhappy dealings towards the end…

Cam’ron: That sounds like a question for Dame. Why did you not stay with him?

Cam’ron: Sometimes somebody may not negotiate the most money [that] you can negotiate yourself. You may feel you’re worth more. And somebody may not want to put that fight up for you. So what I do is, I negotiate my deals in the beginning. As soon as I get the money, I want Dame to come in and he just running the day to day operations and he’ll receive royalties with me, split points and back-end. That’s in the Asylum deal?

Cam’ron: Yes. There were no issues with Juelz staying at Def Jam?

Cam’ron: I mean no. He’s at Diplomat [Records], the distribution is Def Jam. I get paid the same amount as I would get paid on Asylum with Def Jam. It’s just that he’s distributed through them. With me, I sat down and talked to them and we had a conversation. He said if I wanted him to leave, he’d leave and I said you go. You’re 20 years old now, you gotta make those decisions for yourself. And he wanted to stay, so I was like that’s that. No matter what you want to do, I got his back. Okay.

Cam’ron: What we had was a production deal, which means we just in control of our budget. I rearranged it for a joint-venture deal, which means after [the release, we] split the profit 50/50 with Def Jam. So the way it was before, if you sold a million, two, three, four million records -you weren’t getting any backend money. And now, if he sells two, three, four million records he’s gonna be gettin’ maybe half the re-recoups. It may be about 3-400,000. He’ll be gettin’ maybe five or six dollars a record. One thing you stressed was recording in your own studios. On the More Than Music compilation, it seems that Juelz is housing the studio…

Cam’ron: He was the first one to get a studio out of all of us. We all work out of his studio; he gets the money from the studio. Do you do it all there?

Cam’ron: We do everything except for master. We mix there and do everything there except for mastering. I had heard about this track recently on a mixtape where you recounted the shooting of Freaky Zeaky and the death of Eric “E” Mangrum covered in blood. Was that a hard song to record?

Cam’ron: A lot of times when I’m rapping, it’s about the truth, just not always [what’s said] in the papers. People don’t always know about what I rappin’ about, because it wasn’t made public. You know it’s hard enough for me to see that E got killed, and [Zeaky] got shot when it really happened; wasn’t really that hard when I did the song, because that’s what I do. I take stories from the ghetto and then put them out there. But you know when that happened in reality I was hurt. People associate you with swagger and not showing emotions…

Cam’ron: Well I mean, if you ever listen to any of my albums, I always got something. It may not always get heard, or put in the public eye, but I always keep something of that nature on the album, because everything isn’t always about forcing a person to be hot or whatever. Have you spoken to Zeke recently?

Cam’ron: Zeke is doing well. He was just recently, maybe a month and a half ago, just moved back to North Carolina. He was in New York doing his bid and now he’s finished with that. He’ll be out about this time, next year. What about Mase? There’s a lot of history there, and people are confused. You’re both under the Atlantic umbrella now.

Cam’ron: I spoke to Mase, he’s a minor league player in basketball [now]. [We spoke] maybe about a month, a month and a half ago, went out a couple of times. But you know, I doubt we’ll be doing any music together. So there’s no beef between you two?

Cam’ron: No, not at all. What did you guys talk about?

Cam’ron: Nothing. Like I said, we just was telling about old stuff, playing basketball. He showed up. Who won the game?

Cam’ron: Neutral party. We played 21, not one-on-one. New Yorkers are talking about this new ride you brought on ‘em…

Cam’ron: Yep, I gotta a Lamborghini in New York. I had one in Florida but I figure this is a bigger deal in New York. Have you opened it up yet on the road?

Cam’ron: To the limit – 210 [miles per hour]. A lot of people may’ve doubted the liquor game. How has it been?

Cam’ron: Liquor’s doing excellent. We’re just the number one new liquor in the country last year. We just left the National Liquor Convention in Orlando; sold 40,000 cases our first year. I had heard you’re raising the bar with the clothes…

Cam’ron: Well, yeah. It’s called Vavoli, Upton and Malone. It’s coming straight from Italy. What I’m doing now is I’m working the runways in Italy, so that when I come to America, it’ll already be out in Italy for two years. I’m not doing like a sports clothing line; I’m doing a straight up couture line. What happens is I’ve been working with the factories and the manufacturers and getting it rocking in Italy. Their dollar is two to one to ours. It’s way more worth than our dollars, so I’m trying to get that going over there first and then bring it to America. A lot of times what people don’t realize is, you go to fashion weekend and you’re like, “Wow, fashion week.” And if you—just because there’s a fashion week in New York that doesn’t mean you can get in fashion week in Italy. If you’re in fashion week in Italy, they want you to come to fashion week in New York. Why Vavoli?

Cam’ron: That means “I’ll fly,” in Italian, and right now we have certain things in Apollo Express on 121st Street between 7th and 8th Avenue right next to the Apollo Signature Park. Is it true the beauty salon closed its doors?

Cam’ron: Yeah, it’s a wrap. Do you feel you get the proper credit for being an intelligent individual. People can joke at slang and pink cars, but you’ve brought out many successful businesses…

Cam’ron: No. I don’t think I get the credit at all. You know, that’s why I hired Damon first, because you know besides him being my man, and besides him being as smart as he is, a lot of times I would say something when I used to be at Sony [and nobody would hear me out]. It still goes on today in certain different things, not necessarily in the music business. There’s still always things to learn but on my level. I could tell somebody something, and then they’ll think I’m bugging. If somebody else tells them the same thing with a suit on or glasses, and that’s it – that’s the right thing to do.