Cam'ron on Lil Nas X Dressing Up As Him For Halloween: 'I Appreciate That'

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Cam'ron

Five days before Christmas, Cam’ron celebrated a different kind of holiday.

On Dec. 20, the release date of his sequel to his 15-year-old classic album Purple Haze, Cam performed for Noisey Nights at Villain in Brooklyn, honoring Purple Haze’s 15-year anniversary with the opportunity for fans to hear Cam’s new songs from Purple Haze 2 alongside the original album that released on Dec. 7, 2004. Dipset’s influence was alive and well in the large event space, as many fans brought out their vintage gear – the U.S.A. eagle logo in full view – for the occasion. Cam shared the stage with his Dipset family DukeDaGod and Freekey Zekey, bringing the Harlem energy to BK for one night only.

During the performance, Cam breezed through PH2 singles “Believe in Flee” and “Big Deal” before getting extremely personal on “Losin' Weight 3,” sharing a story about wanting to buy his grandmother a washing machine that he couldn’t afford until he got a hustle. “You can't get paid on an earth this big, you worthless kid/You know the rest, that's life,” he raps, a callback to the original song.

And when Cam switched from callbacks to classic records, his crowd came alive. Almost everyone rapped the words to “Dipset Forever”; “That was my shit,” Freekey said. Cam continued to work through his catalog, bringing a smile to fans who were there during his Roc-A-Fella days and got to hear him play “Down and Out,” “Wet Wipes” and “Get It in Ohio.” He honored Juelz Santana and Jim Jones by performing their songs and verses, and while the latter wasn’t there to rock their new collab “Straight Harlem,” Cam held his own like a seasoned vet.

Cam ended his set with his unimpeachable run of hits -- “Hey Ma,” “More Gangsta Music,” “Touch It Or Not,” and “I Really Mean It” -- and, seemingly realizing that so many of his day ones were in the building, thanked everyone for sticking with him after all these years. It’s one of the many reasons why Purple Haze 2 exists – to serve the fans that grew up to Purple Haze, and introduce a new generation to Killa Cam’s legacy.

When Billboard caught up with Cam’ron in December, he explained how the album is an accurate representation of his comfortable space creatively, rapping stories he has “suppressed” for a long time. Some of those revelations have already made their way onto social media, including a knife fight with Suge Knight outside of a club in L.A. (“Fast Lane”) and Big L allegedly wanting to murder his murderer first (“This Is My City”). He returned to his main producers – Heatmakerz, Rek, and more – to create the street soul that made him famous. Purple Haze 2 finds Cam excelling at what he does best, and sticking to a sound that remains a blueprint for several MCs.

In our conversation, Cam talks about the early days of Purple Haze, the making of Purple Haze 2 and releasing a “reloaded” effort with skits, more new Cam albums in 2020, and more.

The first Purple Haze dropped in 2004. What do you remember most about that time in your career?

It was a really crazy time. Nothing bad crazy, but we just got to Roc-A-Fella Records/Def Jam and I had already put my album out. I got The Diplomats album out and Juelz album out. ... And Come Home With Me was out. It was really a time, during Purple Haze the first one, where I got to settle down and get in my groove. Because like I said, even when I was doing albums and mixtapes, so on and so forth, I was trying to make sure everybody else was set up. So this was an album where I got to relax and focus on me a lot.

Do you remember the way the album was promoted?

I was in a transition from Purple Haze and my next album. When I was doing Purple Haze, it was on Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam. And Jay and Roc-A-Fella were kind of separating at the time. Def Jam, their main staff was leaving to go to Warner. Julie Greenwald, Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles and L.A. Reid were still coming in. So that album came in during a transition of corporate, which at that particular time was people who promoted the album. It just didn’t get the support that it needed at the time, but it eventually ended up going gold and I sold a lot of records. It took a while, but it was because there were a lot of moving pieces as corporate was concerned. CEOs were moving and coming in all different places.

In terms of choosing the tracks for Purple Haze, how many were you sifting through?

It’s probably 50 to 60 tracks. We were in the studio 24 hours a day just about. I’m exaggerating but probably 15-16 hours a day. We always had music, but it was more or less picking out the songs that matched what felt good going into the album. A lot of different s--t that wasn’t necessarily about the best song. Of course, you want the best music, but I want the album to flow, so this song sounds good after this song. And this song sounds good after this.

You had Kanye West beats. You went back to The Heatmakerz. Why did you want to feature them on Purple Haze?

If you do the beat, if I like it, I’ma do it. I’m not big on names. I like what’s hot. I was around Just Blaze. We was around each other, so I would get beats. Kanye was on his up-and-coming [artist], and he wanted to be around Jay-Z, myself. Not just us two, but he wanted to get his rapping career off the ground as well. But he always had beats. He was around. It wasn’t necessarily me who sought after them, they were just people that I was around.

Would you ever change anything about Purple Haze?

Nah, not at all. It’s a cult classic. People love it. I wouldn’t be sitting here doing part two if people didn’t think part one was dope. The reason I’m doing part two it is because it is the 15th anniversary of Purple Haze. I wouldn’t change a damn thing. I had a good time. I was in a good space mentally.

Why do your fans think it's the classic from your catalog?

That’s a great question, but that’s something that you gotta ask the fans. Like I said, for me, it’s like my favorite album because of the mind state I was in. When I did Come Home With Me, it was a dope album but I had to compromise a lot with Un [Kasa] cause Un had experience already. I was just coming into the game. It was like 50 percent things I wanted to do and it was 50 percent things he wanted to do. 

S.D.E., that was a dope album too, but I was at Epic Records and they really wasn’t teaching me… not necessarily teaching me because it wasn’t really they job to teach me, but they wasn’t doing what they were supposed to do as far as marketing and promotion, etc. etc. I was trying to get out of my deal, actually, when S.D.E. was coming out. That album I wasn’t mentally right.

Then when I get to Roc-A-Fella, Come Home With Me wasn’t a great space, but at the same time, I was trying to bring my crew along with me. Come Home With Me is dope. I wanted to bring my crew along with me. So by the time we get to Purple Haze, everybody is situated. My deal is situated. My life is in a better place. The artists that I am working with are not only artists, but my friends are in a better place. I can sit down finally and focus on music besides doing a 100 other things. That’s why it is the best album for me.

Do you see the impact of Purple Haze on hip-hop today?

I mean, I wouldn’t say just the album Purple Haze but I see the impact of Cam’ron on different artists. I really appreciate it, man, because artists before me, they impacted me. It’s still paving that way for the next generation. This isn’t something like I just came home one day and said I want to be a rapper or whatever. I see rappers before me make me do what I am doing.

Someone like Lil Nas X, who dressed up as you for Halloween.

Yeah, someone every year is me for Halloween and I appreciate that. Lil Nas X, this year. I think last year was Puff’s son. A couple years ago, Tyga and his crew dressed like Dipset. Everybody who shows love, I really appreciate that. 

Let’s get into Purple Haze 2. When did you start working on it?

I have a studio in my house so we are always doing music, whether we want to or not, so that’s A. Secondly, it’s the 15-year anniversary of Purple Haze, I thought it made sense. We got a bunch of music. We are doing a mixtape called The Program. I was going to do The Program 2 but I said, "If we are doing The Program 2, let’s catch the Purple Haze 15-year anniversary. Put that out, and then we will work on The Program 2 next year."

Did you go back and listen to Purple Haze while you were making the second one?

Nah, I didn’t actually. I perform a lot of songs off Purple Haze in my shows, [so] I’m kind of familiar with the album, whether I listen to it or not.

On the album cover, Hud 6, Bloodshed, Big L, Murph, Sean Q, Fat Shawn, Trell, Big Joe, and Kenny Hutch all have their names engraved on a tombstone in the background. What do each of these people mean to you?

They are all people that I grew up with. The only person I didn’t grow up with is Kenny Hutch. He’s just a legend on the east side of Harlem that doesn’t get a lot of props that he deserves because time goes on and people don’t know him that are older than me. But everybody else before that, Hud is my brother who used to work for me. He’s a great friend of mine. Trell was one of my best friends. Good, good friend of mine. He was in the movie Killa Season. He passed away. Sean, he was a legend in my hood. He passed away. I couldn’t get all the names that I wanted to get on the tombstone but everybody besides the Kenny Hutch dude is a personal friend of mine.

What memories do you have of Hud 6? Dave East also recently paid tribute to him on his album cover.

Hud 6 was a people person. He promoted parties. He ran gambling spots. He did a bunch of different things but he was very personable. He was one of them people that if he walked in this office, y’all would want to hire him before he walked out because he had that type of aura to where he had no problems, no beef, no none of that. He was one of them people that walked into a room and people gravitated towards him. He has a great personality and that’s why he was like the mayor of Harlem, because Hud would have you taking a picture of somebody you hate in the same picture, but because Hud is there, you don’t hate him.

Your mom actually shared a tracklist for Purple Haze 2. It showed you produced “Losin' Weight 3.” Why did you want to be a producer?

That’s my first record I actually produced. I necessarily don’t want to be a producer. I still don’t. What happened is I heard a sample…’cause I’m not as technologically savvy as far as actually making the beat. I heard a sample and my man looped it for me. I was like, "No, put it here. Put it here. Put it there." He was like, "You know you just made your own beat?" So I wasn’t like I went in the studio and was like, "Cam is gonna make a beat today." It was kind of like he did all the technology part of it, but I was just guiding him to how I wanted it to be.

You’ve been in the game for two decades. In 2020, are you going to focus on your business or your music?

I’m always focused on my business. Twenty years before 2020, business is always first. But music is always fun to do. Even if I didn’t want to do music anymore, I would probably do music if I didn’t want to because the studio is in my house, I catch a vibe. I could go downstairs and do a song. It’s not like I gotta book a studio or call somebody to book time. I got a million beats sitting in the computer. So whenever I catch a vibe, I could do a song. Right now, my computer, I probably have three, four hundred songs easy. That’s why we was like we need to let some of this shit go before it goes outdated.

 Is the music on your computer from throughout your career?

No, this is the past 2-3 years. Back to the question, I always focus on business no matter what. Music is always going to come naturally because I’ve been doing it for so long. 

So Purple Haze 2 is not your retirement album?

Nah, nah, nah. We are going to put out about four projects next year. We got Purple Haze 2 coming up, then Purple Haze 2: Reloaded. Then I have a deal with Empire over with A-Trak. That project is coming out, Federal Reserve. I don’t want to say a date but we have to revisit it after this. We met back up recently a few months ago and refreshed everything. 

What about Killa Season 2?

By December 2020. We gonna put the movie and the album out for Killa Season 2. We’ll probably have three or four projects out in between now and then. That’s our goal is to have that done by this time next year.

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