When Cam’ron signed to Roc-A-Fella Records in 2001, his good friend (and Roc co-founder) Dame Dash told him that if his next solo album didn’t work out commercially, he could always have a job “answering phones or something” in the Roc-A-Fella office. We can all thank the rap gods that Come Home With Me, which arrived 20 years ago today, was successful, and Cam’ron isn’t known as the brashest secretary of all time.

The 15-track project is a quintessential time capsule of 2000s rap. It displayed the breadth of Cam’s talents, not just as a lyricist and hitmaker, but as a bonafide leader of a movement. Cam linked with Kanye West, Just Blaze, Ty Fyffe, and Rsonist of the Heatmakerz to craft what became the Dipset sound, alternating chipmunk soul records like “Oh Boy” and laidback samples on songs like “Daydreaming” with urgent ones like “Come Home With Me,” his collaboration with Jay-Z. Cam’s mesh of supreme technical lyricism, charisma, hilarity, and storytelling blended perfectly over the soundscape, solidifying both his and Dipset’s presence as a pillar of New York rap. 

The effort Cam’ron put into Come Home With Me was a consequence of him being at a major fork in the road at the start of the 2000s. His previous two Epic Records albums, Confessions Of Fire and S.D.E, had modest success, but he was so unhappy with the label that he demanded his release without a fallback plan. He’s admitted that he was dead broke during that period, recalling a story of randomly getting a $10,000 check, losing it in front of Baseline Studios, and frantically looking for it (he found it underneath a nearby car). But he needed more checks. 

Enter Roc-A-Fella, the towering movement co-led by his fellow Harlemite and longtime friend Dame Dash. Cam’ron has said that the two men had some kind of discrepancy at the time, but Dame overlooked it and gave Cam a second chance in the industry. Not only were they friends, Cam’ron was one of the most talented lyricists in New York City at the time. He came up sharpening his bars alongside Big L, Mase, and his cousin Bloodshed in Children of the Corn. After the unfortunate murder of Big L a week before he was set to sign to the Roc, it may have been an even bigger priority for Dame to sign a Harlem MC.