Thursday, January 19, 2006
It was the year after 9/11. I had just finished up my freshman year of college, academically getting by with the skin of my teeth. It was the year I learned from a play I was in, Icarus, the infamous adage that has stayed with me since: "Don't look back. Don't ever look back."
It was also the year I started to learn, after a random conversation with a fellow student, to never regret anything. And although I shaped it over time to work within my own set of morals (which do exist, believe it or not), I never forgot that moment, and I began to have the personal epiphany about what I really wanted.
Digressing now from here on in....
2002 was the year when I started foolishly working for Vector Marketing as a summer job, selling Cutco knives to families who didn't know any better. Thankfully, I didn't get past the second week because I realized I had no heart to scam people I didn't know: see, after the first two weeks you simply can't just try selling to your parents or your parents' friends, you have to sell to your parents' friends' friends.
Yeah, so I got paid some money but the method of conduct this business practiced in was too....not unethical, but definitely a bit much. Kinda like if Evangelism translated into a summer course on business. And although the people who stuck with it whom I know quite well have made a buttload of money, I myself knew in my overly enlarged heart that I simply couldn't seriously go forth with this practice. It wasn't me.
But that was fine! Because shortly after, starting in June, I went into NYC to move on with my accredited internship at a small production company. My parents managed to find me a sweet sublet apartment in Chelsea for me to stay at for six of the eight weeks of my internship, making it officially the first time I would ever really stay in Manhattan for any long period of time at all. The first and last weeks were spent crashing at my cousin's apartment in the Upper East Side area.
You could say I learned a lot in those eight weeks: I got my first taste of the trains, got lost in Harlem, experienced first hand how awful New York summers are, became exposed to the retardedness of Hot 97, oogled over the beautiful women (at FIT), got served with the reality of rejection in the working world, and fell victim to the madness of losing my only set of keys. All in one summer. It was a nice crash course.
It was also the summer when I first heard of this character called Cam'ron. That summer he would be all over Hot 97 and MTV with songs from his critically acclaimed and recently released Come Home With Me. Songs like "Oh Boy" and "Hey Ma", you couldn't escape hearing them. Though these songs were indeed dope and the videos were entertaining, I wasn't buying the steez at all back then cause I wasn't into his pretty boy pink-outfits and staggering flow.
But there was one track I enjoyed. One of the first songs of his I heard on any radio station, and it was actually before I even arrived into Manhattan to begin with.
See, the Vector people made all of us recruits at the first meeting sit in these grade school chairs inside a barren office space located in what probably was otherwise a drug trafficking center in the heart of Kingston, New York. While all of us sat waiting for the meeting to start, the radio hummed in the background. An awful pop station that had been marketing itself as "The All New" for three years, K104. A trashy bimbo and I were arguing about Eminem (who at that point was still too busy rapping about pajama time and beefing on Moby and a few other dated idols of the early aughts) and the quality of his music. Annoyed that I actually allowed myself to get into an argument with someone who didn't think, I slumped back into my chair and attempted to tune out and shrug off the ignorance. And then this song came on:
Cam'ron w/ Jay-Z and Juelz Santana - Welcome To New York City (mp3 link)
This is what they call "fighting music". Fuck R. Kelly; this track is what really went down as the Best of Both Worlds. Here you had BK's own banger and Harlem's own gangster, supplement with the gangster's second banana who was still ripe at the edges waiting to open up. While Juelz brings the hook, Jay and Cam go back-to-back rhyming over what might go down as the best Just Blaze production of all time. If not the best, certainly one of the best, and certainly capable of going down as one of the best beats to come out of New York this decade. Just Blaze is the truth and its essentially one of the main reasons I check this song as certifiably definitive. Not only because it was a dope track laced by one of New York's premiere commercially succesful producers to come out in a hot minute, not only because it was the unification between president and secretary-of-state, but because of this:
After 9/11, riding on U2's dicks for emotional support was getting totally played out. The band wasn't even from America. And falling in line with the masses by parading around quoting Alan Jackson was simply too patriotic and a little bit hokey if you want my honest opinion, espeically if you were from the east coast. New York needed an anthem, that spoke to the streets and carried a triumphant sound underneath a confident, precise chorus. This was it.
But unless I failed the Billboard chart history test (completely possible...), "Welcome" was never an official single. It just happened to be one of those tracks that could be played on the radio. So I suppose I was lucky that hot day in May, as the fan whirred from across the room and my peers conversed in clumps, to listen to the anthem that never was.
"Welcome to New York City" eventually saw its way as the theme song to some video game (I remember seeing the commercial and all and being like, wait, this isn't the 50 Cent game?), but it would have been cooler if the song picked up when it was still fresh. It stands the test of time as one of the all-time Killa Cam fan favorites.
A little bit more about Cam'ron and then I'll wrap up. I have heard all of Purple Haze. Nothing on that album lyrically comes close to the velocity that Cam takes it on this track. Very few times does Cam keep it somber and sensical in his songs without talking smack. Something tells me that its these few chances he takes to keep away from being flashy and pun-driven, is what makes him so notable as a rapper nowadays. It's all in perspective. And though he really will go down as one of the best lyricists in the game, there is no way I could see Cam'ron going down in hip-hop history as an "emcee". There's just no way. Whether he sounded intelligent compared to Bill O'Reilly or not, duke has more stuffing in his head than the teddy bear I got back upstate.
And so that's why I don't take this recent dis of his to Jigga too seriously. Cam is otherwise all jokes---he just knows the right way to be clever and clear and still "talk to the streets" at the same time, is all.
Right...but so does Jay, and whether you like it or not Dame and him were business partners. So technically were it not for Hova stepping into the fray once upon a time when R-O-C was a force, Cam would arguably not be in the position he is in the game (but most importantly, I wouldn't be posting this entry, heh).
If you want to hear what Cam has to say about Jay in his ridiculously cumbersome seven-minute dis track, go ahead and go to any of those hip-hop links I have on the side. I'm sure they'll talk about how Cam'ron is the truth and all that, but in the end, I'm not too impressed. Politics to this degree never really impressed me, to be perfectly honest.
But a triumphant track with an all-star cast? Sure as hell gets my nod of approval.
Man, its these kinda factors put into account that make me kinda miss 2002.