Music

Cam'ron: Crime Pays

Cam'ron's sixth album finds the rapper supported by flimsy production that saps him of his vitality.


Cam'ron

Crime Pays

Label: Asylum
US Release Date: 2009-05-12
UK Release Date: import
Amazon
iTunes

Cam’ron, both as a rapper and as a person, has always been celebrated for his eccentricities: the ruthlessly efficient but wildly complex couplets delivered with disquieting nonchalance; the pink minks and the pink cars; the era-defining vocabulary. Looking back, Cam’s persona seems even more refreshing in hindsight than it did at the time, living as we do now in the era where every third-rate rapper is claiming that someone else is biting their swagger and where it’s more fashionable to claim to be from Mars than the right project.

His career as an album artist peaked with 2005’s Purple Haze. It’s a record that is over an hour long, self-indulgent as hell, and all over the place stylistically, so it’s a testament to Cam’ron as an artist and a personality that it’s a thoroughly compelling album. If it, instead of Crime Pays, were the album being released this year, it could realistically find a home amongst Tha Carter III’s three million fans. Eventually though, Cam’ron’s weirdness got the best of him, and when in the summer of 2006 he handed his slowly dwindling cult the one-two punch of the equally disastrous Killa Season movie and album, it was evident that Cam had devolved into self-parody. (The same can be said for his supporters in the critical community, who resorted to celebrating the song on Killa Season about Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)

On Crime Pays he swings too far in the opposite direction, coming back with an album that is unadventurous and uninteresting. It’s doubly disappointing considering that the songs that trickled out prior to the album’s release pointed to a Cam’ron that might’ve returned to form. Most notable among them is his verse on the remix of OJ Da Juiceman’s “Make Tha Trap Say Aye”, which opened with the epochal lines, “What up Gucci?/ What up Juiceman?/ This Louie belt/ Cost two grand” and only got better from there.

But, in the wake of “Crime Pays”, “Make Tha Trap Say Aye” only painfully illustrates what’s wrong with Cam’ron’s sixth album: that song is alive and colorful, and its undeniable energy seems to breathe life into the usually detached-by-design Cam. Conversely, Crime Pays is almost completely made up of listless, lifeless beats that are tinny and suffocating. They’re needlessly busy, like they’re trying to compete with their notoriously wordy MC. Missing are Purple Haze’s forays into reggae or California G-funk and beats like the ones for “Soap Opera” and “Hey Lady” that were buoyant and soulful. Sonically, Crime Pays provides almost no counterpoint to Cam’ron’s typically bleak ugliness.

The album was produced, with the exception of two songs, by Cam lackeys Skitzo and Araab Muzik, two guys who seem to be striving to replicate the off-kilter histrionics often achieved by Diplomat beatsmiths The Heatmakerz. Instead, they filter out everything that was great about that oppressive chipmunk-soul style and leave us with beats that are flimsy and brittle.

Harping on the producers— and Cam’s beat selection— is necessary, because in many respects Cam’ron has yet to fall off as a rapper. Second single “Get it in Ohio” featured the Cam that can crystallize his knotty rhymes into breathtaking imagery: “White coke, tan dope/ black gun, trey-deuce/ silver bullets, purple piff/ blue pills, grey goose/ Pull out the ratatat/ duck, duck, say 'goose'/ Beige coupe, suede roofs/ send him off to Jésus.” And on “Cookin’ Up”, another song that leaked early, Cam flaunts his knack for turning mercilessness into comedy: “Sledgehammer, smash his melon/ I’m the black Gallagher.”

But where Cam’ron’s appeal often lies in his long-windedness, it also means that he needs to be more on his game than most, and that simply doesn’t apply across Crime Pays’ s 70 minutes. Too often, Cam’s ramblings come off as inessential; they used to sound like the idle muses of a savant.

The most enduring track from Crime Pays is its initial single, “My Job”. On it, Cam narrates plainly but compellingly from the point of view of a 9-to-5er whose had his soul sucked dry by his cubicle: “I light the sour before I go in the office/ being here eight hours sure will get you nauseous/ Lady across from me, telling me her problems/ I look at her like ‘Yo, how the fuck I’m gonna solve ‘em?’” Its resonance and vividness is striking considering that Cam’s never held anything even resembling a normal day job. Maybe he should try acting again.

4

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image