DJ Cam: Liquid Hip-hop

DJ Cam
Liquid Hip-hop

In an effort most worthy of discussion for 2004’s “Best Of, but Barely Mentioned” lists, DJ Cam achieves every goal of the successful DJ record itinerary in Liquid Hip-hop. He makes room for his impressive scratching on almost every soulful track, and rolls out incisive vocal samples over smooth electronic soundscapes, or spikes dusty breaks with piano loops and cuts of brass. All of this magic is credited on the record sleeve to the French beatmaker, of course, but he also attributes his work to the MPC 3000.

The MPC 3000 seems to be some kind of wondertool to DJs who have been fortunate to get this in between or next to their turntables. It’s part sampler, sequencer, and synthesizer, and a favorite of any hands that have come in contact with it. The editing and memory capacity on the MPC 3000 have made it easy for the French DJ to cut Rakim vocal samples to bits and incorporate snappy drum patterns through each of the tracks. Cam’s MPC 3000 is an essential key to Liquid Hip-hop, and its mention inside the record should not detract from Cam’s obvious ability to manipulate this partymakin’ machine.

When DJ Cam began recording for his own label, Inflamable Records, in 1995, he attracted the French and international beat-seeking masses in search of an intelligent jazz and hip-hop hybrid that would eventually become synonymous with his name. By the time his stab at the DJ Kicks series dropped, he had cemented a reputation mirroring that of a hitman, minus the killing part. His name was whispered in the same breath as Shadow or Krush in worldwide record shops because Cam had proven that although trip hop seemed to be his specialty, his forte was deep, intricate instrumental DJ records that he layered with electro beats, jungle, or jazz. On 2004’s Blue Note Revisited, Cam had the opportunity to remix a Donald Byrd track, alongside artists such as Madlib and Jay Dee. Cam peers into all genres and has showcased guest vocalists and emcees from around the globe. He has blended jazz and tripped out beats seamlessly with a respect for hip-hop and American DJs that are prime choice in their game. One such giant is DJ Premier, and he gets an affectionate tribute track on Liquid Hip-hop.

The third track, called simply “Premier”, is Cam’s shoutout to a legend, and possibly, among other albums, Premier’s flawless and epic-length work on Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth. The throbbing classic hip-hop beat on “Premier” is accented by Cam’s scratching and sultry horn blasts. Premier’s toasting, presumably from Cam’s cell phone voicemail, cuts in between the fast work on the decks and is a nice touch. Even nicer is every other beat on the record, as DJ Cam’s Liquid Hip-hop is a monster instrumental collection.

“Ghetto Supastar” is cinematic, with Platoon-esque string samples, synths, bells, chimes and more vocal cuts. Scratching is absent, but hardly missed, because this one combines every other great thing about emcee-less compositions. In another lateral pass to Gang Starr, Guru appears front and center for “Espionage”, a triumph from both the Boston native and DJ Cam. A bare and dusty snare beat provides a blunted downtempo backdrop for Cam’s canvas, before he fills it with a Western film piano loop and a bassline that punches in and out, like “Airbag”, the ominous OK Computer opener.

Damn, Guru’s storytelling should be in handsome leather bound volumes with gold trim. He and Cam make quite the pair in the DJ’s sober acknowledgment of Gang Starr, as well as his poignant tribute to the whole genre. It’s quite comforting to know that he doesn’t share in the international distaste for American people, but even more so because Cam’s 2004 work is just as solid — and often better — than the entries that have poured in all year.