We’ve seen the movies and read the comics about our favorite superheroes going through the process of aging. They don’t run as fast or jump as high anymore. They take a little longer to recover, and make mistakes that they wouldn’t have made in their prime. But they figure out new ways to stay effective. Now, we are seeing our favorite rap superheroes age in real time. Since rap is a relatively new genre, we’re just now getting used to seeing a generation of artists mature to middle age as they adapt to the times and expand their empires to other ventures. Cam’ron is one of those artists. 

Cam has been around longer than the average fan realizes. In the early ’90s, he rapped alongside the likes of Big L, who convinced him to take the craft seriously. Biggie helped get him signed. Throughout his long career, he’s always been a charismatic personality who rapped at a very high level. In 2019, Cam is comfortable enough with his legacy not to really care about it all. “I think that’s more for people to decide, and everybody with a phone has an opinion now,” he says. “If you got a smartphone, you got an opinion.”

It’s a rainy November day, and I’m navigating North Jersey streets, looking for the address of Cam’s mother’s crib. I spot an Audi R8 that happens to be painted in his signature Killa Pink in a driveway. When I walk into the home, the living room is draped in a dark red, and the famous Dipset eagle with two guns is sewn into heavy red curtains. The mood is set. 

I’m here 15 years after Purple Haze hit the streets. It’s the album that many casual Cam’ron fans started with, which arrived during the Pink Cam era, the period that made him an undeniable star. The Diplomats were the hottest thing in rap, he and Dame were making Bill O’Reilly mad (giving us a meme for the ages), and the pink Range Rover had become an iconic symbol of Americana. Cam was already a rap darling to kids in the streets, and this period is when he started to cross over to mainstream audiences. The oversized New Era fitteds, big leathers, and bandanas and wave caps of the time were all influenced by Dipset. 

Cam showed up to a Baby Phat show at New York Fashion Week in 2002 stepping out of the pink Range, in pink fur, while talking on a pink Nextel chirp. Killa Cam, the superhero, had arrived. By the time Purple Haze dropped in December of 2004, Dipset’s legacy was already etched in stone, and they continued to influence the rap landscape with their music, their fashion, and their lingo. Cam added to his aura in 2005 when, in D.C. promoting his album Killa Season, he was shot in both arms during an attempted carjacking of his 2006 Lamborghini, and drove himself to the hospital. “I got shot three times and my album comes out Nov. 22,” he told reporters, as he was leaving the hospital. And while still in a sling, he addressed the incident in the video for “Get Em Daddy (Remix).” Like I’ve been trying to say: a superhero.

Now, 14 years after that incident and 15 after the original Purple Haze, Cam is set to release Purple Haze 2. He hasn’t released an official solo studio album since 2009’s Crime Pays, but has dropped mixtapes sporadically in between. He’s 43 years old now, fully content with his legacy, and more concerned with other ventures than any obligation to put out music. When I ask him why he doesn’t take acting more seriously and follow the path of someone like Will Smith or LL Cool J, given that he was so good in his role as Rico in Paid in Full, he mentions that he’s really into producing movies these days—a new film called Is It a Crime is currently in post-production. 

But right now, as we’re closing out 2019, he’s in the mood to release music. While Purple Haze 2 will be out on December 20, he also hints at the arrival of The Program 2, and says he might finally release his long-fabled album with A-Trak. Killa Cam is back in action, durag cape flapping in the wind, ready to fly back down to Earth and give us bars again. 

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