It’s not exactly revolutionary to say hip-hop records are too long. I could rattle off twenty records that could have been straight-up classics if they’d been cut to twelve or thirteen tracks. Released around the same time as Purple Haze, Nas’s Street’s Disciple was immediately bombarded with the generic “it should have been one disc” criticism. But that record had ambition in beats and styles. Purple Haze is only ten minutes shorter, with nineteen songs mostly routine in style, and no one says it should have been half as long.
As a rapper, Cam’ron clearly makes the cut. Taking a cue from his label’s founder, his persona is the laid-back king of the hill that Jay-Z has perfected. But his (and his crew’s) rhymes are more akin to Ghostface’s abstractions. The abstract is a move for the better, though; listening to the rhymes here is alternately entertaining (“my closet’s a pet cemetery”) and bewildering (“Karl Legerfeld acting like Gargamel”). But the quality of the beats and hooks is uneven. “Girls,” the terrible adaptation of Cindy Lauper’s “Just Wanna Have Fun,” is the biggest mistake here, but there are enough mild mistakes to compel even the biggest album purist (me) to use the iTunes playlist to gut the record.
So let’s see: Cut all the totally unfunny skits and the intro, with its annoying synth hair-metal-dripping beat. Take out “Girls,” “Leave Me Alone” (I can listen to 50 Cent for that shit), “Adrenaline” (unless it’s “Slow Jamz,” forget Twista), “Family Ties” (with its now cliché cinematic beat) and “Dip-Set Forever” (the weak Kanye beat is forgiven by his work on “Down and Out”). Then you’d have a fifty-minute, thirteen-track near-classic. And the review would go something like this:
By Matthew Gasteier
The new Cam’ron album starts off with the hype track: a Juelz Santana-guesting, crew-chanting, fuck-shit-up kind of four-and-a-half minutes on “More Gangsta Music.” “Get Down” is like a cross between “Hard Knock Life” and “Cherzchez LaGhost,” in a good way. Best line: “Pose for the camera, man/ Me and Santana, man/ word to my grandma/ he’s one bad mamma jamma, damn.”
“Killa Cam” makes it seem like Cam is the king of jungle in this circle-of-life shit, and “Down and Out” proves it (“Kanye, this that 1970s her-on flow, huh?”). “Harlem Streets” continues Cam’s trend of using TV show themes, this time with Hill Street Blues, and that shit kills. Every track on this shit kills. By the time Juelz and Cam “Take Em to Church,” you’re ready for anything. But then it’s over, leaving you wanting more. Don’t tell Cam he doesn’t know when to quit when he’s ahead. This is one of the best hip-hop albums of 2004.
It wasn’t meant to be, though. Instead, we got this overlong, uneven mess. A talented mess is better than precise crap, but c’mon Cam’ron. Focus.