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2022-09-28 PF - Cam'ron / A-Trak: U Wasn't There Album Rev..
 

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2022 09:59    Post subject: 2022-09-28 PF - Cam'ron / A-Trak: U Wasn't There Album Rev..

Taken from Pitchfork (Sep 28, 2022)

Cam'ron / A-Trak: U Wasn't There Album Review

The Harlem veteran's long-promised collaboration with producer A-Trak is a laid-back shot of charisma.

Genre: Rap / Electronic
Label: Empire


by Dean Van Nguyen


YouTube snapshot
YouTube snapshot


You won't see Cam'ron jacking trends or chasing clout these days. Forget recruiting Fivio Foreign to administer the drill treatment-Cam's still laying down records that feel half art installation, half in-joke. He's not going to clip his rhythmically complex bars to introduce more languid melodies when he can drop classic Cam diction by rhyming "lump sum" with "yum yum." He's settled into life as a rap veteran by eschewing what's in vogue to make music that feels designed to please exactly one person: Cameron Giles himself. Though his output has slowed, he's still tremendously fun when he raises his head above the purple parapet.



U Wasn't There, Cam's first full-length since 2019's joyous Purple Haze 2, is a joint project with beatmaker A-Trak after their promised Federal Reserve EP failed to materialize. A few of these songs have likely been on A-Trak's hard drive in various forms for a while: The pair's 2014 single "Dipshits," featuring Juelz Santana and some Just Blaze & the Blazettes drums, helps to pad out a still-lean 27-minute runtime. But the out-of-time nature of the production means the record doesn't feel past its sell-by date.


A-Trak has been a useful ambassador of old forms in the past-a turntable champion who was once recruited as a Jam Master Jay surrogate to help Run-D.M.C. hawk Adidas. Here, his role is to deliver pitched-up soul sample-leaning beats to one of the greatest rappers to ever flow over pitched-up soul sample-leaning beats. A chipmunk'd vocal loop squawks the title of single "All I Really Wanted," to which Cam responds with his list of rap game fundamentals: "Money, cars, clothes, hood respect." The triumphant brass of "Ghetto Prophets," co-produced by DJ Khalil and Lakim, resuscitates a form of orchestral street rap from the 2000s-think "Cam's gon' give it to ya!"


His writing is still sharp, funny, naturally ridiculous. The "Hard Knock Life"-esque piano line of "Cheers" gives it a relaxed, back-in-the-day vibe, yet Cam eschews nostalgia to complain about a girl correcting him for liking too many of her social media snaps. "I liked the picture 'cause I liked the picture," he objects. On "All I Really Wanted," Cam delivers a typically unconventional warning to potential hostiles: "Dying'll make you way more famous than your publicist." There's no overhanging concept or deeper intent to U Wasn't There's boasts and threats: It's just a pure shot of charisma.


The laid-back nature of the album invites Cam to consider some career highlights. On "What You Do," he remembers challenging Fox News on their own platform, revealing his famously inflexible anti-snitching rules to Anderson Cooper, beefing with Nas, and purchasing some of the most opulent pink items ever conceived. He also uses the song to repeat boorish claims about Monica Lewinsky, probably the album's nadir. And while we already knew that Cam's voice is showing signs of weathering, it's still a vital instrument. His increasingly heavy vocal style hangs over the hot, crunchy reggae of "Dipset Acrylics," leaning into a half-patois and stuffing vibrant wordplay, internal rhyme patterns, and a nod to old collaborator Kanye West into a bar like, "You superficial, I'm super-official/Coupe to coupe, still I be on the stoop with a pistol/And I got it, who need meth, I'm still moving the crystal."


Then there's the presence of Damon Dash, who serves as one of the album's executive producers. On "Dame Skit," he leans back in his chair and takes stock of his three-decade journey with Cam: "We had dreams and we made 'em come true. And now we have more dreams-there is no ceiling, the sky is the limit." There's nothing revolutionary about this all-time great egoist gassing himself up, but it's comforting to hear Dame (51) and Cam (46) still dreaming, still focused. It underlines the warm feeling of familiarity that U Wasn't There elicits. "We looking overseas," says Dame. "Or rather, over galaxies."




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