Most fans typically hail Purple Haze or Come Home With Me as Cam'ron's best work, but one writer argues why Cam hit his peak in 2000.
[Ed. Note—The opinions expressed in this article reflect the opinions of the writer and the writer only. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Complex Media.]
When people talk about Cam'ron’s discography only a select few will bring up S.D.E. It originally flew under the radar when it was released. The album didn’t get the proper push from Sony/Epic—an important thing pre-Internet. On “That’s Me,” S.D.E.’s second track, Cam rapped: “This is for my niggas that load the pipe/Saying I'm the best just not promoted right.” And it was true. As someone who's been following Cam's career from his Children of the Corn days, I've always felt like he had the ability to become one of rap's elite. And when I first heard "Pull It," and then "Horse & Carriage"—forget about it. He was gonna be next up. I loved Confessions of Fire but it felt too all over the place, the sequencing was off, and I wasn't feeling some of the beats. Cam was still one of my favorites. He killed the songs he was featured on during that period, like Clue's "Fantastic Four" and Nore's "Banned From T.V." So when S.D.E. finally dropped I was all in.
Sports, Drugs & Entertainment is his most cohesive album to date. The beats, the rhymes, the skits, the features, everything. The entire album showcases Cam's ability to make us laugh and sheds light on how honest he could be.
Sports, Drugs & Entertainment is his most cohesive project to date. The beats, the rhymes, the skits, the features, everything. The entire album showcases Cam's ability to make us laugh and sheds light on how honest he could be. Cam'ron came up just like so many other ghetto youth. Unfortunately, all we have to look forward to is selling drugs, playing some type of sport, or music. (In Cam's case, he dabbled in all three.) Those are the first examples of "success" that we see as youngsters. Those are the people who have all the women, money, clothes, and toys (or so it seems.) The streets and pop culture raise us because our parents are either working multiple jobs or just aren't around at all.
That's why this album is so important to me. And it meant even more once Cam demanded a released from his Sony deal and blew the fuck up after signing to Roc-A-Fella. But more about that later. S.D.E. was one of the first times he mentioned his new collective, The Diplomats. In the album booklet (remember those?) there was a spread of his Dip tattoo he had on his hands. He shouted out his new crew and featured them on multiple tracks. S.D.E. was Cam’ron entering his prime. The album served as the Diplomats' message to the game that they were coming.
He touches on this in the album's title track. After sampling the perfect line: "either you slingin' crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot" from Biggie's "Things Done Changed." In it Cam talks about his hooping days and how he threw them away because he wanted to be a thug instead. The mistakes mentioned in that song lead him to finally take rap seriously. Something that we're all grateful for:
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S.D.E. starts out with “Fuck You,” set to the same instrumental used for the skit of the same name on Confessions—and it's a very appropriate intro for what was to come. Then “That’s Me” comes on. That track has to be top five in Cam’s catalog. It’s so clever and disrespectful. He talks about how he’s tired of not getting his just due and mentions his late friend Bloodshed in the intro. The whole song is an exercise in lyrical ability and prophecy. He tells Jim Jones that he’s going to get him out of his shitty apartment and he did just that. A year later, he got out of his deal and signed to Rocafella/Def Jam while simultaneously finding a home for Diplomat Records.
Digga produced all but four songs on the album. From beginning to end, S.D.E. mixes great street production with humorous, clever rhymes that could only come from Cam. It’s his most personal entry to date. In “Do It Again” featuring Beyoncé, he talks about his drug-dealing days and has the Destiny’s Child lead singer singing about slinging dimes. This was a triumph in itself and something Cam brought up during his spat with Jigga. It's also one of the first rap songs that she was featured on, which goes to show how forward-thinking Killa is.
With the exception of "Freak" (I hate it and it stinks of reaching for spins, but the skit before it is funny as hell so whatever), the tracks “Come Kill Me,” “What Do I Have to Live For,” and “Violence” featuring O.D.B. (who’s one of the most interesting people Cam has met) begin an unskippable stretch of songs. Juelz ripped his spot on “Double Up,” closing his verse with “Fuck A&R’s that want me to dance and pose/I rather stand on poles with grams and Os/White shirt, construction Timbs, a pair of Girbaud’s/And white powder stuff that’ll clear up your nose.” Santana also ends the song with a notable skit that leads into “Losin’ Weight” featuring Prodigy, in which Juelz plays the part of a knucklehead runner that could be found in any hood.
Although it features some classic tracks, Come Home has more weak links like "Daydreaming," "Boy Boy," and "Tomorrow." While Purple was released two years after it was supposed to come out, was too long, and had Cam switching up his flow for most of the project.
The album then starts to come down from its climax with the underrated lead single “What Means The World To You,” on which Jim Jones pulls off his best acting performance in the back of the limo pool.
The hilarious “All The Chickens” featuring Juelz is full of quotables that only Cam could deliver such as "Cam is a son of a bitch/That'll tell a girl/Ma, wash under your tits" over hoodrats gossiping and an appropriate sample provided by Self. “Fuck You At” with Noreaga was an attempt to cash in on the Southern sound that was beginning to dominate airwaves at the time. Althought it kind of fell by the wayside commercially, it still kind of goes hard, though, depending on the mood you're in. And “Why No” introduced the world to the brilliance of Freeky Zekey's shit-talking. Zekey was tired of being broke and he made it be known when he said: "I want that money too, nigga. Fuck that lil' two-dollar brew. I wanna get that Cristal shit too, nigga." The track also features Jim Jones rapping in Spanish.
Then we get into possibly Cam’ron’s best verse (or my favorite one anyway) on the entire album in “Where I’m From.” After Major Figgas members Dutch & Spade put in quality bars, Killa murders Digga’s piano sample with a two-minute verse:
“Jewels we keep frozen/Y'all keep dozing/The wolf in sheep's clothing/Streets buzzing/V dozen/Bitches calling me husband/Saying we fuck when we wasn't/Lying on her coochie/I'm dyin' for a hoochie but I’m eyein’ for a boobie/Casino style diamonds in her doobie” are a couple bars that stand out.
Finally the LP concludes with the Monday Night Football theme song-sampling “Let Me Know” that had Cam (always the trendsetter) debuting the NBA team leather in the video, followed by “My Hood,” a play on “War” by Edwin Starr.
A lot of folks prefer Come Home With Me and Purple Haze over S.D.E., but with the exclusion of a couple songs, Killa’s sophomore effort is his best. He was more aggressive and hungry on this joint. He wanted to come for the game and the fact that he did just that once he got out of his deal makes this release even sweeter.
Speaking of his deal, Cam alluded to the situation on his classic "Takeover Freestyle": “Cats say how I get out my deal/Dawg, I pull out my steel, I’m ‘bout it for real/I ran into Sony’s building/Smacked grown folks around like they’re my only children.”
Matter of fact, that whole stretch of freestyles leading up to the release of his Roc-A-Fella debut was Cam reaching another level. He was learning the business, and adding more humor and bravado to his rhymes.
Although it features some classic tracks, Come Home has more weak links than S.D.E. Tracks like "Daydreaming," "Boy Boy," and "Tomorrow" are a few that I could've done without. And Purple Haze was released two years after it was supposed to drop, was too long, and had Cam switching up his flow for most of the project (at times he kinda sounded like JR Writer—or JR sounded like him, whatever.) His delivery changed during this stint but that's what success does to you—it makes you more calm and calculated. And in Cam's case it made him more cocky. Both of those albums shot Cam into the realms of superstardom. The whole pink era and his divorce from Roc-A-Fella made him a household name.
Combined with the release of the street classic Diplomatic Immunity Vol 1, Dipset had the game in a stranglehold by 2003. They began cashing in by producing and selling their own mixtapes instead of releasing them for free and letting bootleggers reap the benefits. They were one of the first to switch up once the industry shifted into the digital realm and those mixtape days introduced hip-hop to hood legends like Stack Bundles (RIP) and Max B.
They don't give a fuck either. The Dips have never backed down from anybody whether it be 50, Nas, or Jigga—and I appreciate them for that. But Dipset’s massive rise began with S.D.E. Let’s not ever forget that.
With that being said, I leave you with this:
Angel Diaz (@ADiaz456) is a Staff Writer for Complex.