Published Aug 17, 2014Rarely do rappers get a second chance like Cam'ron. The 38-year-old Harlem emcee (née Cameron Giles) rose to prominence in the early 2000s as a solo artist and de facto leader of New York hip-hop group the Diplomats (also known as Dipset) and later, the U.N. Released on Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella Records, his 2004 solo album Purple Haze was his best-selling record, not to mention many people's first introduction to a young Chicago rapper and producer by the name of Kanye West.
While other New York rappers his age have struggled to recapture their halcyon days (looking your way 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes), Cam's career has seen a revitalization of late, thanks largely to a knack for working with producers that work to his strengths and his sense of humour. His versatility allows him to rhyme over brash AraabMuzik trap beats as easily as bright, soulful production from Fool's Gold head honcho A-Trak. Last year's well-received Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1 mixtape, which featured assists from 2 Chainz, T.I. and the Lion King theme song, the rapper has been busy this summer promoting his 1st of the Month mixtape series.
If there were any concerns that this newfound creative spark would mean sacrificing hits from his back catalogue, he quickly silenced those doubts during the Toronto stop of a rare Canadian tour Saturday night, running through a career-spanning set that clocked in at an all-to-brief 45 minutes. Sound mixing problems made it difficult to identify Purple Haze highlight "Down And Out," but the rapper quickly rallied, tearing through a block of fan favourites including "Hey Ma" and "Oh Boy."
Decked head-to-athletic-sock-toe in red, white, blue and purple Diplomats-branded apparel, the crowd filled in for the rapper's cohorts Juelz Santana and Jim Jones when he dipped into the group's discography (the rapid-fire "Anthem" was a highlight). Cam displayed a veteran's poise and command of the audience, knowing exactly when to pause for a cheer or cut off his DJ so that he could finish a verse a cappella.
Leaving no stone unturned, the well-balanced set also featured "Speaking In Tungs" and his turn on Jones' "Certified Gangstas." Whereas other rappers would be reluctant to play deep cuts or early material, Cam'ron's live show works whether you've been recently introduced to his music or a fan since day one. Fittingly, his last song was a recent selection, the triumphant, Just Blaze-produced "Dipshits," from the rapper's upcoming Federal Reserve EP with A-Trak. "No one here is sick of me," he rapped before leaving the stage to rapturous "DIPSET! DIPSET!" chants. The lack of an encore left some scratching their heads, but by showing a willingness to grow as an artist without forgetting his roots, he's earned the right for us to never count him out again.