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To say that the music industry moves quickly is a vast understatement—as a rule, an artist who’s off his grind for any length of time will return to find his spot taken by the latest Next Big Thing. Dipset veteran Cam’ron, however, is an exception; though he took a two-year-plus hiatus from the game shortly after the release of his fifth studio album, Killa Season, fans and media continued to discuss his whereabouts and anticipate his triumphant return to the spotlight.
Earlier this month, listeners learned that their prayers were soon to be answered; Killa Cam lit the fuse on his long-awaited comeback with “I Hate My Job,” a recession-friendly lead single that couldn’t have come at a better time. The May 5th release of Crime Pays, also set to include newly-released street single “I Used to Get It In Ohio,” is only the beginning of a big year for the industry vet—by the time 2010 rolls around, he plans to have released his new movie, Killa Season, the film’s soundtrack, and a seventh LP.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Cam’ron steps into the Booth to discuss his activities during his time away from the industry, the future of his recording career, the female inspiration behind his latest single, a basketball career that never got off the ground, and his graduation from “swagger” to “aura.”
Listen to the Interview
Cam'ron Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Harlem emcee who is bizzack after two years. Prepping the release of his brand new album, Crime Pays, please welcome Cam’ron – how you doin’?
Cam’ron: Z, what’s goin’ on? Everything all right? How you feel?
DJ Booth: I feel pretty good, I feel pretty cold, though. I’m in Chicago right now; temperatures are frigid.
Cam’ron: I just shot a video in Chicago about three weeks to a month ago. They said I came on the worst day, like, in 30 years – it was about 15 below zero when I first got there.
DJ Booth: Are you still thawing out?
Cam’ron: Tell me about it, yeah, my feet are still a little cold.
DJ Booth: I bet. Between the XXL featured interview and the interview you did with Miss Info, I’m gonna try my hardest not to knock around any of the questions you’ve already been asked, but I wanna know, Cam, what is one question that, at this point, you don’t want to be asked by anybody anymore, never again, absolutely not?
Cam’ron: The thing with me is, I don’t mind talkin’ to anyone about anything. It’s not a problem. I don’t mind bein’ asked the same question over and over, ‘cause sometimes people haven’t heard it, or whatever the case may be. It’s not a problem asking me anything you want to ask me, and I’m not sick of anything. I just got back in motion, so I’m kinda excited.
DJ Booth: You are the ideal candidate to be interviewed, you know that? I don’t know anybody else who would say that
Cam’ron: Thank you, I appreciate that.
DJ Booth: Oh, you’re very welcome. Something that a lot of people were not aware of before the interviews you just did is that your mother had suffered several strokes and needed medical assistance. Helping family is something that I am very familiar with; my mom battles MS, and she has for many years-
Cam’ron: I’m very sorry to hear that.
DJ Booth: Thank you. I know how much of a toll it can take on you mentally and physically. You obviously helped your mom get through things, but who helped you get through it all?
Cam’ron: Well, it’s basically just me by myself. I have a big family, but we’re not really family-oriented, so, after my mom, it’s just basically kinda me, and there’s nobody after that. We have extended family, but me and my mom are the only two who kinda look after each other. Nobody was lookin’ after me; I was tryin’ to look after myself and my mother at the same time.
DJ Booth: Your mother’s made a full recovery, correct?
Cam’ron: Yeah, she’s about 75, 80 percent. She still has a little speech impediment, still a little limp, but from where she was to where she is now, it’s terrific – she couldn’t walk, she was paralyzed on the left side of her body, so, we went to therapy for about a year and she made a great recovery. It isn’t 100 percent, but she’s living, she’s walking, she’s driving, she doin’ stuff on her own, so it’s definitely a blessing.
DJ Booth: Her progress is amazing.
DJ Booth: What did her situation teach you the most about life in general?
Cam’ron: I would say, from the time I was 12 on, I had stayed with my grandmother, and me and my mom, I’m not saying we weren’t cool, but we weren’t as close as we kind of got over this period of time, so it kind of rekindled the relationship between me and my mom, ‘cause during my junior high school and high school years, I stayed with my grandmother. It just kinda made me and my mom closer. She’s my mom, but it’s kind of like she’s my sister, too.
DJ Booth: Did the relationship make you think to yourself, “You know what? Family comes first. I don’t even need to rap anymore, I’m gonna retire?”
Cam’ron: Nah, not that far. Even if I wanted to stop, I couldn’t. There was a time maybe three or four years ago when I was saying, “I’m gonna move on to something else,” but I found myself in the kitchen eatin’, thinking of rhymes, or in the movie theater, just driving, period. I’ve been doin’ it since I was nine or 10 years old, so it’s kind of installed in my body. What I figured was, my situation is that I’ve been missing for a while, but I never was forgotten. That was the main thing: everywhere I went, whether it be California or Texas or Florida, “Cam, when you comin’ back out?” “Cam, when you comin’ back out?” XXL, before I even did the cover, about seven or eight months, they had “Cam’ron sightings,” so at the end of the day I felt like I was wanted. I knew this day was coming, and the album was gonna come out, and I figured I’d answer all the questions when I had some music to put out; I didn’t want to just do interviews about certain things and not have any music, so I figured I’d wait for the music to get ready, wait for the album date, and then do everything all bunched up in one.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. I don’t want to get too far ahead, obviously, ‘cause we want to focus on the new album, but how many albums do you see down the line for you?
Cam’ron: Actually, we’re negotiating with Asylum/Warner Brothers to do a few more albums, so right now we’re in the process of doin’ a few more albums, maybe two or three over here, I don’t know. I’m gonna put out two albums this year anyways, so I might have another album comin’ out in December. But this album, it’s called Crime Pays, then this fall I have Killa Season, the movie and soundtrack, and then this winter I’m gonna put out another album. So it’s gonna be a busy year. I don’t really know right now, but for ‘09 there’s definitely gonna be two albums, a soundtrack and a movie.
DJ Booth: You mentioned in a previous interview that you felt like now was the perfect time to capitalize on the whole “Where’s Cam?” campaign-
Cam’ron: Yeah, ‘cause, at the end of the day, for people to be checkin’ for me for two years, and I haven’t really put anything out, that’s amazing, ‘cause in this game, if you leave for three, four, five months, you’re forgotten. What I didn’t want to do was wait another six months, wait another year, wait another eight, nine months – it was time to go now, because I felt like, after a while, I don’t care who you are, these people aren’t going to want to know what’s going on with you, unless you’re a person like Dr. Dre or Eminem, or people like that. It doesn’t matter when Dr. Dre comes out – he can come out with an album in 10, 15 years. I’m not Dr. Dre, though. I may have a two and a half-year span, and people are gonna be like, “F’ Cam, let’s keep it moving.”
DJ Booth: Did the state of the recording industry factor into your decision?
Cam’ron: Oh, not at all. ‘Cause what you’ve got to realize is, people want to get the records that they wanna get. You know, people blame it on the economy and the record business, and we’re in a 700 billion dollar hole – at the end of the day, people who want records are gonna buy records. T.I. sold 550 thousand in his first week, Lil Wayne did a million records his first week. Kanye, his first single with singing, he sold 400 and some-odd records his first week, so there are definitely people out there buyin’ records. I think, if you’re a mediocre artist, they might think twice and download your single and that’ll be that, but if people are interested in you as an artist, they’re gonna go get the record.
DJ Booth: No matter how bad it is, people will always need their entertainment, you’re absolutely right.
DJ Booth: Cam, during the time you spent away from the industry, everyone was led to believe that there was this concept of “swagger” born, but they clearly forgot that you oozed swagger in all the work that you’ve ever done. What are your thoughts on this, let’s call it, swagger-saturated epidemic?
Cam’ron: I would say I’m up to aura now; I swear, I’m past swagger. If you give a hundred percent, I’m on like 230 percent, so I’m up to aura. After swagger is aura, so my aura’s crazy right now. But, like you said, everything is “swagger this, swagger that,” and it’s kinda like, we put put swagger on the map. I’m not gonna say we’re the inventors of swagger and we made it up, but, you know, we used “swagger-jacker” and everything else years ago. But I’m up to aura now – my aura’s on 230.
DJ Booth: Congratulations on the graduation.
Cam’ron: Thank you! [laughs] I’m in grad school right now!
DJ Booth: Well, if a man could possess a certain swag and talk about hating his job while doing so, you pulled off that feat very nicely with the new single. Considering the absurd amount of records that are only focusing on carelessly spending money, describe your thought process behind the new, recession-friendly “I Hate My Job.”
Cam’ron: Well, actually, what happened was, I was talkin’ to my girlfriend, and she was just pissed off about having to wake up and go to work, and not getting paid what she wanted, her lunch break was 30 minutes, and I was like, “Damn, she’s kind of right – you go to school for four years, you come out of college and try to get a job, and you can’t get a job, and then when you get a job you’ve got to pay back your student loans.” I was like, “This whole process is kinda crazy,” so I wrote a verse about that. Then I though, on the other side of the coin, there are a hundred million people looking for jobs. You know, you’ve got people who have jobs and aren’t happy with the jobs they’ve got, and then you have people out there who want jobs who can’t find a job. I figured I’d write a verse about each side of the coin, and it came out pretty good, a lot of people are feelin’ it.
DJ Booth: Cam, before you got on and released your debut, Confessions of Fire, were there any jobs you had that you absolutely hated?
Cam’ron: I’ve worked two places, ever: I worked in a sneaker store in the Bronx and I kinda liked it, but I used to play basketball and it was interfering with my basketball schedule, so I got my check and didn’t come back, and then I worked for two days in the garment industry when I was kicked out of college, and, what happened was they, they paid cash, they paid $60 a day, and I got $120 in two days and never went back. I can’t say there’s a job that I hated. But you know what happens, is sometimes you say, “I’m smarter than my boss.” Sometimes you may feel that somebody’s tellin’ you what to do and bossin’ you around, and you’re like, “I’m a hundred times smarter than you,” and even if I’m not, I would feel that way anyway.
DJ Booth: Be honest with me now: how much of those sneaker-store paychecks went to kicks?
Cam’ron: I only worked for one week! [laughs] At that particular time, maybe $14 or 15; I was so in love with basketball, I didn’t really care about the money, you know? It was basically, “I’m gonna play basketball, and let my grandmother give me allowance.”
DJ Booth: How come I didn’t see you participate in any of the All-Star Weekend celebrity basketball games?
Cam’ron: To be honest, after I got shot a few years ago, a nerve got ruptured that never got healed, so, like, my pinky and ring finger on my shooting hand is kind of paralyzed – I can bend it, but I can’t move it left or right. I don’t play as good as I used to and I hate losing, so I’d rather not be seen in public until I make sure my A game is up.
DJ Booth: Okay, so maybe some left-handed Horse?
Cam’ron: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
DJ Booth: Outsiders often fail to understand what it’s like to be in the spotlight, so why don’t you explain why a recording artist who has had as much fanfare and success as you have enjoyed would even think to themselves at any point in their career, “Man, I hate my job?”
Cam’ron: As far as a rapper hating their job?
DJ Booth: Absolutely.
Cam’ron: Because, you know, at the end of the day, a lot of people get a lot of misconceptions about rappers. Everybody does not have the best deal in the world, and that’s why I’m happy my career went the way it did. My first two albums, I kinda got jerked around – no disrespect to Untertainment, ‘cause they did all they could do. Then I went over to Epic; I didn’t know the business, and it was just like no spins, no promotions, nobody out with me goin’ to the radio stations. I was just like a child being born into the world. So when I got to Roc-A-Fella with Dame Dash, he kinda schooled me into the game and got my career up and going where it should be. If I never had gotten with Dame Dash, I’d probably just be doing albums to get a 30 or 40 thousand-dollar check, to try and maintain a lifestyle I couldn’t afford. I would say 70 percent of the rappers hate their job, as opposed to the 30 percent who have their deals and everything else together.
DJ Booth: This May, the album comes out. Crime Pays has no guest features; it’s all about you.
Cam’ron: Yes, sir.
DJ Booth: Tell everybody what they should expect from this release.
Cam’ron: This album is real, real street, but, at the same time, it’s still radio-ready. You won’t hear any – well, I was gonna say there weren’t any ‘Hey Ma’s on it, but there are kind of a few ‘Hey Ma’s on there. I’d say about 40 to 50 percent is songs with concepts and thinking songs, but I’m gonna make sure you dance, I’m gonna make sure you’re in the streets, I’m gonna bring you back to Harlem. I have a big song that I’m about to release a video for. February 25th, they’re gonna play the song 11 times on MTV Jams, it’s called “I Used to Get It in Ohio.” A lot of people don’t know, I used to live in Chicago also, on the North Side, and I’d go to K-town every year, I’ve got family up there on the West Side of Chicago. I [also] stayed in Columbus, Ohio for a few years. And the love in the Midwest is way different from New York – they accepted me like one of their own, and they showed me a bunch of love, so I did a big song dedicated to them.
DJ Booth: Yes, we have, we have embraced you, and that’s why we’re so happy that you’re back, my friend.
Cam’ron: I appreciate that, my friend – thank you.
DJ Booth: You’re very welcome. Cam, give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about you and the release.
Cam’ron: Okay, everybody check out myjigy.ning.com/ – that’s a website with these up-and-coming young kids, fresh out of high school, goin’ to college, and they’re on their A game, man; I mean, these kids got it goin’. I don’t have nothing to do with the ownership or anything, but I’m gonna give them all my new stuff so they can get up and going, ‘cause these kids are dedicated and loyal. So, myjiggy.com, make sure you check out all the Cam’ron stuff up there.
DJ Booth: We’re all glad to have you back, and we hope you don’t go anywhere anytime soon. Thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth.
Cam’ron: I wanted to tell you, man, this was a real refreshing interview. Something different, not the same questions, and I appreciate you, Z. You did a great job, man; I appreciate that.