Solo Albums: Come Home With me (2002), Purple Haze (2004)
Group Albums: Diplomatic Immunity (2003), Diplomatic Immunity 2 (2004)
Biggest Hits: "Hey Ma" f/ Juelz Santana, Freekey Zeekey & Toya (2002), "Oh Boy" f/ Juelz Santana (2002), "On Fire Tonight" f/ Freekey Zeekey (2002), "More Gangsta Music" f/ Juelz Santana (2004), "Down And Out" f/ Kanye West & Syleena Johnson (2004)
If Cam'ron had done nothing between 2001 and 2005 but drive his famous pink Range Rover ("Range look like Laffy Taffy") around, that would, by itself, be one of the greatest runs in rap ever. "No matter who's driving, if they are in that car, you're a star," he told MTV News in 2004. "If your grandmother got in that driver's seat, she's gonna be signing autographs. It just attracts attention." But Cam didn't just spend the early 2000s making pink cool-although he did do that, to the extent that he was the subject of a New York Times Style section pieceon the color. He was also busy taking over New York by pushing the city's rap style to its logical extreme, his ear for incredible soul samples surpassed only by his ability to write absurdly dense rhymes that tumbled out like hood tongue twisters.
Signing with Roc-A-Fella in 2001, Cam became a key part of the label's dominant early-decade run, putting out two indisputable solo classics, Come Home With Me and Purple Haze and creating some great collaborations, with Jay Z and Kanye West. During this period, The Diplomats were one of the most exciting things in rap, powered by hot, all-hands-on-deck songs like "Hey Ma" and "Dipset Anthem," the blockbuster (in intentions, if not sales) Diplomatic Immunity and a steady stream of mixtapes. Cam was so good he managed to make people excited about stray Hell Rell verses. New York hasn't had a movement as dominant and all-encompassing since. Purple Haze, which remains Cam's best album, led to much of the industry bitterness that would help drive him out of the spotlight, but it's just as possible it was Cam'ron's peak because it perfected his formula to a degree that needed no further improvement.
If he never quite crossed over in the same way as his contemporary as the face of New York, 50 Cent, it was because Cam'ron is above all a rap nerd's rapper, an artist whose instincts for making great songs are surpassed by his interest in stringing together lines of words that sound amazing when combined. The trademark Cam'ron line (say, "Parked in the towaway zone/Chrome/Don't care, that car throwaway, homes...") leans on internal rhymes, strings out one rhyme for longer than expected and piles up layers of absurdity. His work is extremely inviting to the kind of people who geek out over lyrics, almost every line of it immensely quotable. Even though the contents of his lyrics, particularly the moments of intense misogyny and violence against women, prompted plenty of serious critiques, Cam is also one of rap's most delightfully varied voices, one minute a stone cold killer threatening to kill his enemies and "let the fish eat [their] flesh," the next an absurdity-minded business man, comparing himself to the plant from the musical "Little Shop of Horrors." And he was never funnier, more self-aware or more impossibly clever than during these years.
If you're still not convinced, it was also during this run that Cam made his legendary "O'Reilly Show" appearance (in 2003, with Dame Dash), spawning rap's favorite meme and the only rebuttal needed to any Cam'ron hate in any era: "you maaaad." — Kyle Kramer