Rapper. Actor. Sports media personality.
While the older generation knows Cam’ron for his impact in rap as the leader of Dipset or his film role in Paid in Full, there’s a younger generation being introduced to him as a sports media personality. Cam’ron learned early in his career that music success might not last forever.
“I’m on a 26-year run; like even Forrest Gump wasn't on this run. You gotta reinvent yourself man,” Cam’ron says. “For rappers who came out in the ’90s or even early 2000s, [rapping] shouldn't be the main thing you're doing. Like when you say Jay-Z is a billionaire, it's not all for music, you know what I'm saying?”
Opportunistic hustle has been a trademark of Cam’ron’s legacy and career. His latest journey as a sports personality started earlier this year with the debut of his YouTube show It Is What It Is. While rappers like Joe Budden and Lil Wayne have made cameos on sports television over the years, there’s never been a rapper to go down the path of a full-time sports media personality until Cam’ron and his co-host Mase.
And clearly, there’s an audience for it. Cam’ron and Mase provide unfiltered commentary that goes way beyond the box scores. While the longtime Harlem friends provide some commentary based off their knowledge of the game, their comedic, barbershop approach to analysis is the backbone of their success. From every “pause” moment to their ruthless jabs at players to the unexpected interview guests (hello, Joe Smith’s wife!), there’s not a more entertaining sports show out right now. The industry is paying attention too: In August, Underdog Fantasy reportedly inked the duo to an eight-figure deal.
Cam’ron’s ultimate goal for the show was to break the tradition of sports talk. “I'm the new journalist, n*gga… I'm not doing regular journalism,” Cam’ron says. “To me, you got a lot of people who do things the same old way as far as journalism is concerned, and what's gonna make you stand out if you don't do things differently?”
Cam’ron’s fresh take on journalism has earned him and Mase the No. 6 spot on The Most Entertaining Sports Media Personalities list, amongst names who’ve been doing this a lot longer than they have. We traveled to Las Vegas to sit down with Cam’ron to discuss his transition to sports media and It Is What It Is.
So first off, why did you jump into the sports world, and how did the show come about?
People just like to hear me talk ‘cause they know it's really no filter when I talk. So I'm offered all type of podcasts daily, from being a host to being a guest. I argue when I be on the phone with my n*ggas and by the time I look at the phone, it say two hours and seven minutes? I'll be like, yo, I'm getting the fuck off the phone with you.
So I said people do this around the country and around the world. They debate about sports, whether teams are good or teams are bad. Dallas Cowboys fans are delusional every year; they think they gonna win the Super Bowl. New York Knicks fans are delusional everywhere. Every year they think they gonna win a championship. So you got people who debate all day about sports. So when I said, “I want to do this shit,” I was like, yo, “a professional setting with real n*gga dialogue or barbershop talk or beauty salon.”
Like mad girls would be like, “Yo, Cam, we got you in the shop every day.” I have made it to the beauty salons. The average sports show may not be in the beauty salons ‘cause girls don't even really like a bunch of sports.
Was there anyone who gave you advice on how to start your career in sports media?
I wanna give a big shoutout to Stephen A. Smith. He didn't give me the idea, but when Ben Simmons wasn't playing or whatever the fuck was going on with Ben Simmons, I went to a game in Brooklyn [in October 2022] and Kevin Durant, a good friend of mine, had like 48 or 49 points. And I'm like, “Yo, could you fucking help out, Ben Simmons?” I did this rant on my phone on Instagram. Daily News picked it up. New York Post picked it up with a bunch of blogs. Stephen A. Smith called me and he was like, “Yo Cam, I like what you did with Ben Simmons, and if anybody calls you don't apologize—that's your opinion. That's how you feel as a fan, and you ain't wrong.” So when Stephen A. Smith called me, I was like, “OK, people are paying attention to how I feel about sports.” I've been on Dan Le Batard’s show [Highly Questionable] before and killed that shit when he's on. I went on that shit and murdered them n*ggas.
If I go on cable television, I could get just as intelligent as anybody else on there and articulate myself very well and don't have to curse and could speak the way I speak without having to curse or be ignorant or anything else. So I'm very versatile in this shit.
How did you make sure your show separated itself from what’s become an oversaturated field?
We try to dumb a lot of shit down ’cause we could go analytics. We could talk QBRs. We could talk top defenses or top offenses. A lot of shit. We get into that on the show as well, too, but a lot of stuff we dumb down so that you can understand what's going on. It don't have to be all these numbers to where you have to make yourself a professional. You can do that, which we do sometimes, but I'd rather the casual fan understand what's going on.
You guys could have partnered with anybody, but you guys went independent first. Why was that important for you?
So when I did the show, I said to myself, I must spend a quarter of a million dollars to see how it goes out of my pocket first. We was probably at $90,000 or $100,000 when offers started coming in. And I started learning the business ’cause I didn't know about podcasts and how much money was out there partnering with people.
So I called different people that I knew in the game, like Gillie and Wallo. First of all, I would call them ‘cause they signed to Barstool, and they would tell me some numbers that were crazy. Kevin Garnett was giving me some advice. The person who gave me really, really good advice was Gilbert Arenas. Gilbert Arenas was independent, and he was giving me a lot of game on how to stay independent, how to make money.
That's the reason we didn't rush. I have to give a lot of credit to Mase as well, because you know when you had $100,000 put in and somebody may offer you $3 million, you're like, “Bet, let's do it.” Mase was like, “Nah, hold up. Let's not do that.”
So we keep filming and then we get to 5 million; we get to 6 million, 7 million, 8 million on offers. I'm like, “Are you sure you don't want to tap out, n*gga?” Like, “Yo, my n*gga, this is kinda getting crazy.”
An offer came in at $13 million. And I'm like, “Yo, n*gga, we about to do something.” One of the people had got up to $13.5 million, and they didn't call for a couple of days. So I called Mase and was like “Yo, n*gga, I know you ain't fucked this up ‘cause if it's $13 million and we don't get this done, you owe me $6.5 million, n*gga.” He ain't gonna never admit it, but I can hear the panic in his voice. But then it got a little higher and then we was like, nah cool.
Obviously you and Mase have your history, and you had to settle your dispute from the past. Y’all from NY. I’m from NY—I know how stubborn we can be. Was it hard to set your ego aside and set the past aside to reunite for this?
We reconciled maybe a little over a year ago. Mase actually helped me get my first record deal ever, and it was kind of my fault that we was beefing. I was going hard at him for years, pause, and saying a bunch of slick shit. So when we got cool again, I just wanted him to know that all that shit was dead for me.
I just wanted to gain his trust back because I don't want him to think that I could flip out again. I'm a grown man now. I can look back because I'm old enough to say that's maybe what I was going through because he just left and was like, fuck everybody—not fuck everybody, but he was following his path of what he needed to do, and I didn't recognize that at the time.
So how did you eventually bring him on to the show?
So when we got cool again, I was trying to put a bunch of plays together so we can make some money because I always felt like he got me my deal. This idea comes along well, It Is What It Is, and I was working with a bunch of different people with my n*ggas or whatever.
Initially, I wanted Jadakiss to be my co-host. So it was supposed to be me and Jadakiss, but Jada is busy as well. Jada got shit to do, so he never came. He kept saying he's gonna come, and it's not his fault but he's busy as well. But that was my plan to do this show with me and Kiss.
One day I was like, I'll do this shit by myself. I'm gonna just have guests, and I had Mase as a guest. So when Mase came on as a guest and we vibed, I was like, “That shit was dope. Come back every week. We could do this once a week.” So he called me. He's like, “Would you wanna be partners on this?”
I'm like, “Yeah, I don't give a fuck.” I didn't really have a concrete co-host at the time. So I told him I said we could be partners but I put up this amount of money. After I get my money back, we can split everything out of money down the middle, and then he was like, “Whatever, you put up when that money run out; I'll put up the same thing you put up if we don't get a deal, [how] about that.” We didn't even get his money. I'm like, you know this n*gga really wanna do this shit. Bet. So that's how it came about.
I’m still fairly young and I know who y’all are and what y’all mean to the culture, but there are younger kids who may not know who y’all are. Is it weird that there's a younger generation who may not know y'all for music, but they're being introduced to you guys as sports analysts?
To be honest, you gotta reinvent yourself, man. I'm not mad at it because if you recognize me now from being a sports analyst and you'll be like, “Oh shit, he do music; let me go listen to some of his music.” Streaming is really dope. You know older artists will be like, oh I can't understand the streaming this, that, and the third. I watched Zion Williamson talk about his favorite album, and I think Zion right now is 23. But his favorite album is Ready to Die by Biggie. How the fuck are you talking about Ready to Die is your favorite album? You wasn't even thought about when Ready to Die was coming out.
But because of streaming, you could go back and listen and pay attention. So if you recognize me from being a sports analyst and then one day you found out I do music and you like my personality, maybe you could go listen to some music, and I get some streaming money as well. For rappers who came out in the ’90s or even early 2000s, [rapping] shouldn't be the main thing you're doing. Like when you say Jay-Z is a billionaire, it's not all for music, you know what I'm saying?
Kanye, he's a billionaire. It’s not all from music. It's from his endorsements and Adidas and whoever else. You know, we learned that real quick ’cause when he lost the deal with Adidas, he wasn't a billionaire no more.
Staying on the topic of reinvention, I was watching your episode with Jack Harlow and a specific quote you had stood out to me. You said, “I’m a journalist.” What does being a journalist mean to you?
Do whatever the fuck I want. I'm the new journalist, n*gga. That's my journalism: Say what n*ggas fucked up last night. N*ggas ain't shit; n*gga punch that n*gga’s shit; n*gga dunked on a n*gga. This new journalism. The way n*ggas gonna understand. I'm not no average journalist. If I had to write an article, I'mma be like, “Yo, n*gga bust n*gga’s ass last night,” or if I'm typing it or whatever, I'm not doing regular journalism.
I really didn't understand it at the time ‘cause I wasn't in the space when Draymond Green was running around saying “the new media.” I was like, “The fuck is new media, n*gga? Everybody's media.” But I kinda understand what he's saying now because you got people who do things traditional and people who don't do things as traditional. And to me, you got a lot of people who do things the same old way as far as journalism is concerned, and what's gonna make you stand out if you don't do things differently?
Do you feel like you guys are influencing the current media landscape?
A lot of n*ggas are stealing our format. Shoutout to Pat McAfee ’cause he doing his thing and he go get that bag. He been doing it for years but not him per se. I'm saying his format works because, look, I've been watching ESPN since I was 3, 4, 5 years old. I never heard n*ggas curse on ESPN at 12 in the afternoon. He can say everything but “fuck.” And I'm pretty sure he won't say “n*gga.” But at the end of the day, n*gga be like, “Yo, that shit was fucked,” and “I don't believe that shit.”
And I'm like, “Yo, is this 12 in the afternoon. ESPN is cool with this shit?” I'm not saying it's us ‘cause Pat has been doing this thing way before us. But he's part of this culture that's doing things differently, the way ESPN was like, “Man, let's risk it. Fuck it.” Throw a curse out there.
Skip [Bayless] ain't low trying to be cool. You look at Undisputed. They logo is a gold chain now on the shit. Shit is fucking gold chains on that shit, like, yo, my n*gga, really? I like Skip because he sees the sense of urgency of what's going on out there and he's trying to bust a move to stay relevant or stay abreast of what's going.
We know Skip gave Stephen A. the opportunity to come on First Take to debate. Skip gave Shannon Sharpe the opportunity to come on Undisputed to debate. So I respect Skip recognizing talent like that and not necessarily how he treats them on the show, but you know, basically bringing somebody on the show that people end up loving and fucking with. But right now it looks like he's scrambling. You know what I'm saying? They look desperate to me.
That was my next question. Do you think because of people like y’all, the older generation is being phased out?
I wouldn't say they fading out. But I just think people like something new sometimes, and I don't think Skip going nowhere. I just think people got their cup of tea, more options of what you like. You know, like ESPN used to have one channel, and top 10 plays used to be once a week. Now they got what, 400 ESPN channels? I'm exaggerating, of course.
I wanted to speak about two specific elements on the show. The first one is adding O.J. Simpson. Whose idea was it, and how did it even happen?
It was Mase's idea to get O.J. on the show. We had a bunch of people we wanted to get, and Mase was like, “Let's get O.J.” So I started making the calls. I called Steve Stoute about O.J. first. I’m like I need O.J. He said, “What the fuck you calling me for?” About O.J.? So why would I know where O.J. is at?” I say, “Yo, man, I don't even know what to call to get O.J. You know every fucking body.” Steve says, “You're fucking crazy.” He said, “But let me call Lionel Richie and see if Lionel Richie knows.” I'm like, “You got Lionel Richie on the Rolodex, n*gga, like just randomly?”
I spoke to one of O.J.'s people and we worked it out, man. I didn't even know O.J. was staying in Vegas. So it worked out. It was like—oh, it was really perfect. We spoke and it was a done deal.
Look, if he was guilty we wouldn’t have him on the show. Y’all want to keep convicting an innocent man. He’s innocent. If it was somebody else whiter, y’all would say, “h, he’s innocent.”
Another aspect of the show I have to ask about is “pause” because that’s one of the drivers behind your viral clips. That is deeply rooted in New York culture, but today people can take offense to that. How important is it to you to keep that New York authenticity in the show, and what is your response when you receive backlash for it?
Sometimes I try to take it out. But as soon as I do somebody's in the comments like, “Yo, that's crazy, Cam. How you ain't say ‘pause’? That was wild—you ain't gonna say ‘pause’?” Then I gotta be petty and keep saying this shit because now n*ggas coming at me like I said some wild shit. So to answer your question, I don't even want to say it that much, but shit done got out of hand, man. Shit, the pause shit has got out of hand, man. I learned that shit when I was like 12, 13 years old from East Harlem, Jefferson Projects, man.
It's one of them things to stand on your toes like, oh, it's a joke. You know, people don't have to get that offended. We have no beef with LGBTQ.
Like what I say to that is you can create your own shit. N*gga be like, “Yo, I'm gonna get some pussy—like, no hetero.” You could change the game however you want, my n*gga—it's not subscribed to one particular sexuality. It's whatever. However you wanna play the game.
Switching to your basketball career. Some people including Mase say you could’ve made it to the NBA. Does a part of you ever wonder what would happen if you stuck to hoops, and do you think you would’ve made it to the NBA?
At this age? Looking at it, no. I wasn’t gonna make it to the NBA. At the time did I think I would go to NBA? Yeah. But my mom used to always tell me: “Cam, your attitude is too terrible to be listening to people every day, and you'll get an attitude with a coach. You just fuck around and leave it.” She thought this was a better choice for me, doing music, because it was more freedom and not having to be part of an organization— because I like to go against the grain a lot, she used to say.
As far as being good enough, if I practiced or whatever, maybe overseas. Look, I would have graduated college if I did four years, like ’98 or ’99. Like you gotta realize just the ’96 class alone: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Steph Marbury—although I bust Steph Marbury’s ass, right? So that ’96 class alone is just ridiculous. Ray Allen. Am I better than these people? Like, I don't know if I'm better than n*ggas who’s 6’7” who's dumb nice like that.
If I went to the NBA, my career would have been over a long time ago, and I may not even been doing this shit that I'm doing now. So I'm happy I did what I did for sure.
There have been some well-known podcasters that have thrown some shade at y’all doing a sports podcast. What’s your response to them and people in general saying you guys need to go do something else?
Because they ain't figured it out, you know what I'm saying? N*ggas be home hating. Still ain't fucking got a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of and mad that I keep reinventing myself every few years and figuring shit out and keep getting a bag. I’m on a 26-year run; like even Forrest Gump wasn't on this run. Shit is amazing. I thank God.
So when people see something like It Is What It Is, like, “Who do you think you are?” I'm trying to do something that I like to do. Anything I'm doing, I like to do. So stop crying and start hustling.
On that same note, have there been any athletes that take offense to y’all commentary?
As far as athletes are concerned, once you're a public figure, you're a public figure. You're gonna be talked about when you're a public figure. Some people don't have a tough skin. A lot of people get sensitive.
You know Patrick Beverley? We said something about him. He didn't want to have sex before the game. And I said, “You could go have sex. You not killing like that. It's cool but you could go bone; like that defense is still gonna be there. We don't need you for 32 points, n*gga.” He took offense to that. He starts saying, “Yo, man, I thought you were the real Rico,” and all that. I'm like, “Rico? My name is Cam, my n*gga.” We just went back and forth; then he was like, he liked the show and all that shit. So some people will take offense.
Finally, what is the ultimate goal in this new journey of being a sports media personality?
Well, right now, we having fun. I don’t consider it work. To get paid and go talk shit with my man about sports and have other people come in as guests, you can't really beat that. Our numbers are kind of speaking for themselves, and if we could be No. 6 on you guys’ list and No. 2 on YouTube for sports debate it's only gonna get better from here. But as far as anything else, I'm still shooting movies. I'm still shooting a TV series. But also what I'm doing is dumping my hard drive. I'm sick of it. I got 300 songs just sitting in the hard drive for the last five to six years. So every couple of months, what I'm gonna do is dump the songs out and put five, six, seven, eight songs on a streaming platform.