Cam'ron has been rapping about the highs and lows of the cocaine trade since his days spitting about "D Rugs" over two decades ago. But it took the new video for the Purple Haze 2 track "Medellin" to connect him with a true OG kingpin. The video, shot in the titular Colombian city, features a notable co-star: Roberto Escobar, self-professed former "accountant" of the Medellín Cartel and older brother of the cartel's founder, the infamous Pablo Escobar. So you know Complex had to get on the phone with Killa Cam to find out how it happened.
Shot in Roberto's house and in Pablo's former home (now a museum) the clip shows Cam moving around the city, surrounded by enthusiastic locals. Surprisingly, the video came together easily. "Roberto had been trying to get with rappers for a while, and it just happened," Cam explains.
In addition to South America, Cam'ron has also been paying close attention to what's going on in New York City, including recent disputes between Lil Tjay, 6ix9ine, and others about who the current King of New York is. He weighed in with his top two choices. He also discussed his relationship with one of 6ix9ine's Nine Trey Bloods co-defendants, Aljermiah "Nuke" Mack.
Check out the video for "Medellin," and the rest of Complex's conversation with Cam'ron, below.
The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
How did you end up going to Medellín to film the video for "Medellin"?
I had a friend who was cool with Roberto Escobar. Roberto has been trying to get with rappers for a while, and it just happened. It was so coincidental that a friend was like, "You know, Roberto has been wanting to get with rappers because he feels that rappers showed his family a lot of love." I said, "Well, let's put it together." It really wasn't that hard. It kind of fell in my lap. Maybe two months later, he got all the particulars together, and we went out there and shot the video.
What was it like to meet Roberto?
Really good, man. He doesn't speak English so we had a translator the whole time, but it was great. He showed us a bunch of hospitality, a bunch of love. We had a scene to shoot at his house. Then we went to Pablo Escobar's house—they turned it to a museum—and gave us a bunch of gifts before we left. He treated us really well. To be honest, it didn't really sink in until I left: "Oh shit. We just was really at Pablo Escobar's house with Roberto Escobar."
There's great footage in the video of you playing soccer with some kids. I know you were a basketball guy. Were you ever any good at soccer?
No, I was never good at soccer. You know, soccer is number one sport in the world, and them kids were pretty good. I tried to fit in. They was playing soccer on a basketball court that was torn down.
In the song, you shout out Hud 6 [Cam'ron's lifelong friend Andre "Huddy 6" Hudson, a member of Mase's Harlem World group who was killed in a car accident in October, 2010]. Has it hit you that it's been almost 10 years since he was killed?
No, not really, because we recognize every year. Probably not a week goes by that we don't talk about him.
In the video, there's this moment where Roberto says, "I wanted to give you some advice," and then it cuts off. What was the advice he gave you?
He gave me so many different jewels on the trip about how to take care of business and how to go about things, doing things the legal way. A lot of people who do things illegal—and I'm not saying that's the case [with him], I'm just saying in general—that's their only opportunity. A lot of these guys could probably run Fortune 500 companies if they had other opportunities.
I haven't watched the video in probably a month, so I'm not exactly sure what he told me at that particular part in that video. He would tell me about a bunch of different stuff that he had going on; he has his own phone lines coming out. I don't know if they're out yet, but he's about to be like a Carlos [Slim] in Mexico, running his own phone lines. He has a lot of things going on.
There's a lot on your latest album Purple Haze 2 that's nostalgic—looking back at your childhood and different things that happened throughout your life. What was your state of mind when you were writing the album? Why did so much of that show up on the record?
Because there's a lot of stuff now that I could talk about that I wasn't able to talk about at the time. Some things are 10, 15, maybe even 20 years old. Even Big L [Cam raps about Big L's murder on "This Is My City"]: Big L died in 1999. That's my big homie. At the end of the day, it was a lot of things that may have been touchy. Sometimes you got to wait for open wounds to heal, for people to get over certain shit. I know a lot of people close to a lot of situations that I talk about—not just Big L, other things that were mentioned on the album—if I did it five or six years ago, they'd be like, "Cam, why you rapping about that?" [Now] everybody's in a calm space about the things that I was talking about. If I put this same album out eight, nine years ago, I would have had wild beef with people, because they may have not been over the things that I was talking about.
How did it feel to finally get some of these stories out?
It felt really good. My neighborhood has a real crazy story. The story for my block alone is crazier than the movie Paid in Full, way crazier. But it's still going on. Not saying the killing and the murdering, but it's generational. You got people whose family killed each other, and you got the kids being raised in it, so now they're growing up to maybe have an attitude with other kids, and it trickles down. There's still a lot I didn't rap about because everybody's not over everything 100%, and like I said, it trickles down.
I know you're always thinking a couple steps ahead. What's coming up for you?
Well, yeah. Everything slowed down for a minute, but the plan for this year was by this time we were supposed to put out the A-Trak [album]. Me and A-Trak have an album called Federal Reserve. Then we was going to put out The Program 2, maybe about July or August. Then we was going to aim for Killa Season 2, the movie and the soundtrack, in December.
With everything that's going on, music can still get handed in, but we can't promote it the way we need to promote it: can't go on tour, it's hard to do interviews if it isn't FaceTime or phone things, can't be in certain places. I don't want things to get overlooked. There's a lot of great music we got coming out, and when America figures everything else out, we'll figure out the dates for this music. In the meantime, I think in the next month or two, we'll drop a couple more videos. Definitely by July—I would say before August, 100%—we'll drop The Program 2 whether this is going on or not going on. As far as the other projects, I don't want to give you a date because we really don't know what the outcome of all this is going to be.
You've been talking about the A-Trak project for awhile.
Yeah. It's been going on for years. My schedule, A-Trak's schedule is crazy. It's really dope. It's been a couple years since we were supposed to put this out, but we always meet up in the studio two or three times a year to see what songs that we did were outdated or what newer music we could come up with.
Some of the stuff that we did is timeless as fine wine, baby. It isn't going nowhere. But some of the stuff that we talk about—I'm not saying that this is a particular bar or anything like that, but we can't be like, "My president, Barack Obama..." So we'll go through all the music and make sure everything is straight. But knowing A-Trak, and even knowing myself, I know we're going to get back in the studio when time permits and make sure everything is up to par and acceptable for the time when it's supposed to come out.
The idea of the title of King of New York has been re-entering the conversation lately. In your opinion, who is the King of New York and why?
Well, I'll tell you: the King of New York was Frank White in the movie. Who's the King of New York, realistically? Who you want me to say, [Andrew] Cuomo? Cuomo may be the King of New York.
King of New York, what does that pertain to? I know it pertains to music—I'm being sarcastic, of course. But at the end of the day, it depends on, what can the King do?
I get where you're coming from. You got 6ix9ine saying he's the King of New York or whatever; Pop Smoke [was] saying he's the King of New York, God bless the dead. I really love Pop Smoke's music. I miss him. But what is the King of New York, really, in detail? Are you going to pertain it to music? Are you going to pertain it to doing music and having the most guys in the street and not having a problem and not having beef? It really depends. I'm a little older. We all went through that coming up because Biggie was King of New York, then I said I'm the King. It's a time period to let these artists feel that way.
If you want to ask me to be genuine, as far as King of New York, as far as music or entertainment, you got two people: you got Diddy, and you got JAY. Don't get me wrong. Like I said, these young artists... I get where they're coming from, but let's be realistic. You got two billionaires; if you're not a having a billion, then you know...
These are the people that we grew up with. This is JAY-Z; he's from Marcy projects. This [is] Puff; he's from Mount Vernon. At the end of the day, if you're not cracking a billion, what makes you the King? It depends on what your philosophy of the King is. That's why I was being sarcastic with the question in general, because you could sit there and be like, "Yo, I got this many hits," or, "I got this many views," and it's like, "How much money you got, man?" I'm into money. You can be famous and broke.
So at the end of the day, if you asked me, I would say it's a tie between Diddy and JAY-Z. These [are] black billionaires from our city. They don't have a Harvard degree behind them or any tech money or stuff like that. These are people who built it from the ground up, and I watched them do it. So those are the people I would give the title to. The younger generation, I get where they're coming from, but that's my answer.
Do you remember the first time you met Diddy?
Yeah. I grew up with Mase. Mase was going on tour with Puff, and I was running around with Mase. I remember Mase had left [tour] and came back. I think it was for a wedding or a funeral. He probably left Puff hanging there. He came back to Harlem to do something, and then I went back on tour with him. He had missed like three dates on the tour, and Puff was mad, and they got into an argument. Puff was like, "What the fuck you going to do?" Looking at me, telling me this, when I had Mase's back at the time. I'm like, "What the fuck did you just bring me into, Mase?" I was literally standing on the block chilling, and now I'm in the middle of argument between Puff and Mase! So that was the first time I met Puff, in like 1996.
You mentioned 6ix9ine a minute ago. Have you paid any attention at all to his comeback?
Yeah. It's all over. It's hard not to see what's going on I've definitely seen it.
Do you have any thoughts about it?
I'm honestly going to keep my thoughts to myself on that.
I saw that you wrote a letter in support of Nuke [6ix9ine's co-defendant Aljermiah "Nuke" Mack] before he was sentenced. Have you talked to Nuke lately?
Maybe about a month ago. A lot of times, if I don't speak to Nuke, my partner speaks to Nuke—the guy I'm with every day, because I don't really like talking on the phone. I'll write a letter before I talk on the phone, because as you can see in that whole case, everybody's phone was tapped, so I don't give anybody a chance. I've been subpoenaed before—and I'm not talking about Nuke, I'm talking about previous friends I have in jail; some people get a cell phone, some people say things they shouldn't say. But I remember being subpoenaed by the government before, because our phone number was on a jail list that somebody was being indicted for. So I try to keep my jail conversations as low as possible. If it's an emergency, I'll talk to him, but I got good friends that I speak to every day to keep in contact with people that I love on the inside.
Were you concerned at all writing that letter, given that the case was so high profile?
No. What did I do wrong? If you read the letter, I didn't say anything wrong. All I said was, "This guy had maybe not the best past in the world, but he was probably on the way to do the right thing." At least every time he was around me, he was trying to do the right thing. I can't speak on other things that, allegedly, he did that may not have been the right thing. But any time he was around me, we was trying to talk about ways to get money legally and ideas and artists and so on.
I remember Nuke came to me and sent me 6ix9ine's song, before anybody knew 6ix9ine. He was like, "Yo, what you think about this guy? Should I work with him?" And I said, "Yeah, man. He got an image, he's Spanish, he's claiming the set. This looks like it may be a good look." This before anybody even knew 6ix9ine. Nuke is a good friend of mine. I'm sorry that whole situation went south with all of them, but I remember he was a big supporter in trying to get 6ix9ine off the ground. He called me for my opinion.
[So] no, I didn't feel a way [about the letter], to answer your question. I didn't do anything bad. I would talk to the judge, or whoever I was writing the letter to. It was nothing but positivity when [Nuke] was around me.
Over the past few years, the Diplomats did a reunion album, and you guys are working on a documentary. It seems like there's a lot being done to shore up the legacy of the Diplomats. Is there any new material in the works?
Well, a lot of people come to me for different situations, as far as documentaries or even scripted series or even a Diplomat movie. When all of us get on the same page—and not to say none of us are not speaking or nothing like that; we're all fine with each other—we just all need to be in the same room because this isn't a story that can be told in a hour or two. We would have to be somewhere for a week or two weeks to get the writing portion out of the way. I'm not even talking about the writing the script, just all the right stories and making sure everybody's view is the same. If we do it, it has to be done the right way. I'm not going to sell the story short for us to try to get a check.
How are you handling quarantine?
It's cool. I'm not saying anything that's going on is cool. But when I'm not working, I like to be at home. I'm not saying I like being home this much, don't get me wrong. But I'm a homebody, man. I love being home. My studio's in my house. I got a club in my house. I got all the shit I need in my house. This is dope, as far as God blessing me to be in the situation that I'm in. I know it's not cool for everybody else, but thank God that I'm in the situation that I'm in, because it could be way fucked up. Some people live in a one bedroom with eight people. I'm blessed to be in a different situation. So for me, it's not bad at all right now.
You have a club in your house?
Yeah. I have a strip club at the crib.
Do you have any dancers in there these days?
I can't. It's quarantined. But I'm just saying, I can go in there and catch a vibe by myself. I can put the lights on and the music on and catch a vibe and write some music. But no, I ain't really been having nobody over here. We in the worst part of the country right now. So as much as I miss my friends, they can't come to my house until I find out what's going on. I take it seriously. You sit there and watch the news and they'll be like, "Today, we had the least amount of deaths that we had since COVID-19 started: 395 people." I'm like, "That's the least amount?" I'll take it serious until we figure all this out.