By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Thanks to Tom Ridge and Homeland Security, we know what it means when the terror alert goes from yellow to orange. But what does it mean when Harlem rapper Cameron Giles upgrades his wardrobe from pink to purple? Pink Air Force Ones, pink chinchilla fur, and a pink Range Rover went to the curb as Cam'Ron replaced them with a hue to rival the Vikings' home jerseys. It's the color of his cognac punch, Sizzurp, and it tints the bricks, buildings, and clouds behind him on the cover of his second album for Roc-A-Fella--it's called Purple Haze, of course.
Ever the canny CEO, Cam'Ron expands his brands past pop charts to pie charts. After a stint alongside Mase in the Children of the Corn, Cam broke out with two gold albums and the chirpy "Oh Boy" (which is now the name of his line of cologne.) He's a ghetto author and CEO of his own company, as he once explained on The O'Reilly Factor. (Leave it to Bill to remind his audience that Cam also "raps about pimping and bitches.")
On Haze, Cam still talks about the supply side of the economy--pimping, slinging, blinging, killing--but he delivers his lines with a steady Dada flow that relishes the ludicrous sound of his own loquaciousness. Loping along with the African vocal cadences that gurgle through the title of "Killa Cam," he boasts about being realer than "Kumbaya," babbling about "yellow diamonds in my ear: Call 'em Lemonheads... ice like Winnipeg, gemstones, Flintstones/You could say I'm friends with Fred." Then he namedrops Scrappy, Governor Pataki, and Laffy-Taffy in the next line. Surreal and street, his rhymes are exquisite corpses making exquisite corpses.
Growing stronger as it progresses, Purple Haze could've been a contender for the best hip-hop album of 2004, had it not been released in December. Godboy producer Kanye West speeds up some old soul (what else?) for the radio rotation of "Down and Out," bringing in the chirpy voices that have been a part of Cam'Ron and his Diplomat crew's mix tapes even before The College Dropout. "Shake" accelerates a femme mewl until it stabs through the melodramatic violins, while a creepy chipmunk voice goads girls to "twist your hips and lick your lips."
Though Killa flows over staples like Roger Troutman, Smokey Robinson, and Ohio Players, he really shines when he's brunting against tracks that aren't necessarily funky or even good. On "More Reasons," Cam shuffles slowly through a show-tune strut lifted from Earth Wind and Fire, nonchalantly filling the measures. For "Harlem Streets," he breaks bricks of coke over Mike Post's theme from Hill Street Blues, and elsewhere brags about "days on Kawasaki, nights with Lewinsky" against soundtrack strings. He even rides Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"--one guess as to how he flips the title's intent.
But Cam'Ron's purple prose also matches the blue-haired crowd. Namedropping Cocoon and shopping at Neiman Marcus and Bloomies on Haze's vertiginous peak, "Get 'Em Girls," Cam'Ron could be the answer to Vice magazine's question: "When did hip hop get so Golden Girls?" Deadpan and steely, his absurd lines about The Maury Show and the Hokey Pokey cut through ruffian huffs and histrionic choruses from--of all things--Carmina Burana. It's the type of beat that's used to push indigo BMWs.