10-Year Retrospective: Cam'ron's "Purple Haze"

Cam'ron's "Purple Haze" turns 10 today.

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Complex Original

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Cam’ron released his fourth studio album on Dec. 7, 2004, and 10 years later, he's still riding the wave that was Purple Haze. Personally, I feel like S.D.E. was his best, Come Home With Me was his breakout, and the aforementioned Purple Haze was his “crossover” album.  It was the project that caused the hipsters to ironically take notice, made white people love him, had the hood wearing pink, and made him an Internet favorite.

It wasn’t completely the album’s fault, though. An appearance on The O’Reilly Factor turned him into a meme God. One thing Cam never lacked was charisma. But he was on another level between 2001-2004.

He went from Big L’s understudy and Ma$e’s best friend to a true contender for King of New York. While Jigga and Nas were duking it out, and 50 Cent was trying to end Ja Rule's career, Cam swooped in and tried to take the streets right from under them with just as much personality and fearlessness. All was well in New York Rap.

He went from Big L’s understudy and Ma$e’s best friend to a true contender for King of New York.

After a piss poor promotion cycle for his sophomore LP, Killa got out of his Sony/Epic deal (he rapped about how) and signed to the Roc. At the time, it was a coup for Jay & Co. Dame and Cam were childhood friends, and the roster looked like Murderer's Row on paper. Unfortunately, the same qualities that he used to help make the Roc a monster are the same ones he used to nearly destroy it. 

From the start there was animosity between the respective leaders. Jay had carried the Roc musically since 1996, and now he had a guy attached to a dangerous up-and-coming crew that was just as nice on the team. They butted heads, but both tried to be team players, at least to the outside world. Jay was featured on Come Home With Me, and Dipset joined in on the Nas beef. Also, prior to that, Cam had a string of legendary freestyles over Blueprint beats in which he bragged about his newly formed situation.


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It all went sour in 2002 when, while Jay Z was on vacation, Dame tried to appoint Cam as Roc-A-Fella’s vice president without Jay’s blessing. The relationship between Dipset and Jay Z began to fizzle after that. Two years later, Purple Haze was released with little to no promotion while the once powerful label was being divvied up between the three founders: Jay Z, Biggs, and Dame.

Cam changed his image during the Purple Haze era. It was all talk of pink furs and Laffy Taffy Range Rovers instead of raps about raping girls and burying their skirts—a far cry from his Children of the Corn days. Originally slated to drop in 2003, the album eventually saw the light of day in 2004. The album was highly anticipated after the platinum success of Come Home With Me and Diplomatic Immunity. The lead single/hood anthem "Get 'Em Girls" was let loose a year prior and his iconic Rap City freestyle only fanned the flames.


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Although the album was ridiculously long—24 tracks in all—it features three of his greatest creations: “Killa Cam,” “Down And Out,” and “Get 'Em Girls.” Those three tracks alone are the reason this particular effort gets so much love.

Quotables like: “This the realest since kumbaya,” “Bitches say I'm tacky, daddy/Range look like Laffy Taffy,” “Kill you shoot the funeral up and Harlem Shake at your wake,” and “I get the boosters boosting, I get computers puting” shall be recited for eternity and for that we are grateful.

The project also featured a slew of sped-up soul samples and hilarious skits—a recipe for Diplomat success—not to mention hood classics "Dope Man" and "Shake."

Purple Haze may not be his best, but it is certainly his most definitive. It gave Cam his voice, his angle, his shtick. Without that album we don't have Cam on Instagram, we don't get the fucking pool in the back, or the infamous Walgreens video. Rap is like wrestling. The ones that are able to play up to the crowd with their personality and style, whether good or bad, tend to stick around longer. The events that led up to the creation of the image (running up in Sony, smacking grown folks like his only children, signing to the Roc, the rise of the Dipset movement, his relationship with Dame ultimately killing the label, and his not-give-a-fuck-attitude toward beefing) etched Cam’ron’s place in rap history.


Angel Diaz is a Staff Writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.

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