Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Thoughts On Come Home With Me

Someone asked in comments so I thought, why bury my thoughts on this important transitional album in Cam's career. First, I should say that I generally hate pre-CHWM Cam, some great songs like 'Pull It,' 'S.D.E.,' and 'Horse and Carriage' notwithstanding. He's a completely different, far more conventional rapper in that period (this is why on message boards and really purist blogs you see a lot of "Cam fell off after S.D.E., my favorite Cam shit, besides the immortal [correction: totally worthless 'conceptual' crap] D'rugs is on some Children Of The Corn mixtape, bring the old Killa Cam back, blah blah blah); he also had a really annoying, high-pitched voice and accent that somehow he lost at the age of 26. Maybe puberty came late for Cam. Or the IBS had palliative effects on his vocals. Anyway, there are still traces of the old Cam on CHWM, so that always rankles me a bit. The full-fledged Don of Dipset persona doesn't really get filled out until Diplomatic Immunity. Other than that, before I get into the main thrust of my attack on the record, some positives. The album undeniably contains his best commercial work, stuff that's a lot more catchy and accessible than anything that would come later, yet doesn't really make any compromises (well, almost). So there's something to be said for those two huge singles. "On Fire Tonight," Stop Calling," and the hilarious part on "Boy Boy" where Cam pretends to be a woman complaining that he's destroying her ovaries and uterus, and then replies, "RELAX, I'm doing this" all easily make the Misogynist Rap Hall of Fame. And who doesn't love the bit on 'Losing Weight' about the girl who will poison your relish and piss in your lemonade? And the opening lines of the intro ("I advise you to step, son, before I fuck your moms, make you my stepson, you'll be calling me Dad'ron")? It's Cam, so of course it's all eminently quotable.

Other than the tracks mentioned though, and Cam's lyrical insanity, I've always felt most of it is Cam's attempt to do a fairly straight Roc-a-Fella record, or rather, maybe it's Just Blaze's attempt to squeeze a conventional album out of Cam. Either way, big mistake. Something like 'Welcome To New York City,' besides Juelz's spectacular hook, is a total failure. Sure, Jay's verse would have been great on a stand-alone Jay song, but the idea of putting these two together on the same rah-rah anthem makes no sense, and that's apparent from the moment Cam opens his mouth, when he starts retreating into this unfamiliar territory of Infamous-quoting classicism. 'Losing Weight,' similarly, kinda works, but it shouldn't; Just seems to be attempting to recreate 'Streets Is Watching' or some other similarly cinematic with a capital 'c,' ominous penitentiary chances tune, but he's giving it to the wrong rapper. I've never quite sorted out what the 'Losing Weight' series (which continues through 'Harlem Streets' and arguably 'I.B.S.') is really about , but it's clearly much more about an internal struggle than any sort of external risk, which Cam would never admit to fearing. Just later figures out how to produce for someone with such a cartoonish, almost inhuman sense of invincibility on 'I Really Mean It,' but here he keeps trying to give Cam stuff that would be better suited for Jay or Bleek. Most obviously in the case of the awful Roc posse cut, which seems to just exist to demonstrate that Cam was in a whole different universe than his labelmates (although Beans has a great verse in his very earthbound way). And when Just's not doing it, lesser producers are squeezing him into equally misfitting concepts - the love song (which Cam makes work, but it's not quite on his own terms), the "this is what my childhood was like" song, the "no album that's trying to be important would be complete without a homage to Pac" song, the tribute to his dead comrade song, and even the singles. Finally, the album of course suffers from too much J&J in their we-can't-rap-a-lick-and-we're-proud-of-it height.


bding7 said...

Thanks for this. Yea, the biggest problem is that he gave Jimmy and Juelz too much face time. I do think that trying to do a typical Roc album gives it a sense of narrative, of course Cam completely abandons that once "Losing Weight" finishes.

Most obviously in the case of the awful Roc posse cut, which seems to just exist to demonstrate that Cam was in a whole different universe than his labelmates

Is it awful because Cam doesn't fit in with the Roc (or anyone, for that matter) or because it has Bleek, who just sucks? More broadly, you're right, Cam is a rapper that needs to be let loose, but not in the traditional "here's a soul banger, get super lyrically lyrical." That's why "Boy Boy" and "Dead or Alive" work to me, the concept of the song is so ridiculous that Cam is right at home.

I'm still thinking this through, but I also think Cam's sense of humor is a bit too Southern for many NYC rap fans. What I mean is, what East Coast rapper makes a song about getting an STD and wanting revenge, or a song like "Stop Callin'"? Those sorts of topics are normally left to skits in NY.

tray said...

"I also think Cam's sense of humor is a bit too Southern for many NYC rap fans. What I mean is, what East Coast rapper makes a song about getting an STD and wanting revenge, or a song like "Stop Callin'"? Those sorts of topics are normally left to skits in NY."

I think if you poked around the canon enough you could find examples. Certainly people like Redman and O.D.B. touch on similar stuff, although that's a bit different because they're sort of seen as rapping comedians. I know Das EFX has a song on Dead Serious about diarrhea. Anyway, I don't think the biggest problem is too much Jim and Juelz; to the extent they're a problem, it's how they're being used, more as, like, underling weedcariers who show up to say some shit and leave than as an organic part of Cam's milieu/equal partners, the way guest spots work on Wu-Tang solos. As for 'Just Fire,' I don't think Bleek really sucks; pedestrian, yes, but far from horrible. I just don't buy at all the notion of a Roc-pride song with Cam on it; it's like if the M.O.P. album on G-Unit had ever come out and they had a ditty with Banks and Yayo about the glories of G-Unit.

Anonymous said...

I think Cam'ron's albums got better all the way up to Purple Haze, plateauing with Killa Season and then dipping in quality with Crime Pays.

As far as Come Home With Me, I was never a huge fan of it, mostly because of the production. There were some weak beats on that album and if he had some of those Diplomatic Immunity songs on the album, it would have possibly been my favorite record from him.

tray said...

Plateauing with Killa Season? That's novel. I think it got much too bad a rap from some, it's a good album, but I don't how you'd make a case for it over Purple Haze. (That's an invitation for you to elaborate.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I must not have been clear. I didn't mean it was better that Purple Haze. I just feel like he didn't get any better after Purple Haze and he was essentially the same rapper for Killa Season.

I also really enjoy the production on Killa Season as well, and it's kinda sad to see the quality of beats drop so much with Crime Pays.

Anonymous said...

Too tired to comment. just dropping by to mention that i'm really enjoying your drops on Cam.


I agree that Just Blaze reigned him in, but that's a pretty good luck considering how spotty some of his other records have been. lame argument but imo he needs either some sort of cohesive sound via a producer/production team with a strong vision or just decide to rap on ridiculoid, dipset beats 24/7.

I'm gonna go bump "halftime show" to celebrate the good ol' times

tray said...

I should go back to Killa Season before I pontificate, but, though when I first heard it I didn't really hear any significant dropoff, just slightly worse beats, I have come to feel like Cam begins to get a bit decadent and formulaic, and that's when he's not busy dumbing down for the radio/southerners ("Wet Wipes," "Touch It Or Not"). And "War" and "Triple Up" are dull mixtape-ish showcases for third-stringers on the label that don't really need to exist. The Jay diss is garbage. However, the album definitely has its moments, including the intro, White Girls, He Tried To Play Me, We Make Change, He Tried To Play Me, Leave You Alone (cheap beat aside), the alphabetic rundown on Get Em Daddy, Do Ya Thing, and I.B.S. of course.

bding7 said...

My comment about Cam being too Southern/absurd in humor is taking into account the rap scene in '01 to '03. I don't know, I need to think about that a bit more. But yea, when you look around, you can certainly find other New Yorkers who joke like him.