Few emcees indulge in their eccentricities more than Cam’ron, the gaudy gangster who can flex in a pink mink and still evoke a gritty Harlem aesthetic. Killa Cam’s maintained a lucrative and acclaimed career by glorifying the trivial and embracing the extravagant, from moving packages in Omaha, Nebraska to pulling up in a tomato Porsche wearing David Yurman.
Nostalgia operates on a 10-year cycle in Hip Hop, and the recent Dipset reunion finds Cam with both a spike in appreciation from older outlets and a repurposing for new audiences. The 1st Of The Month series thus presents the 38-year-old with a problem: how to start up the coral Range Rover again without becoming a caricature of himself, and how to ensure quality output every 30 days.
The second installment of the 1st Of The Month EP series generally accomplishes both with aplomb, and positions Cam’ron as a more mature storyteller that still brazenly drops low-brow punchlines without warning. Clocking in at just 15 minutes, the five songs of 1st Of The Month, Vol. 2 efficiently whip between rearview glimpses of ‘90s Harlem, recreations of mid-aughts parties and previews of what the rest of Cam’s career could look like.
August’s set begins with “Sweetest,” which finds a sober Cam’ron listing off lost friends over a languid sample of The O’Jays’ “Sunshine.” The rhymes remain dense—Cam’s never ditched his penchant for multisyllabic schemes and abrupt double entendres—but the harrowing narratives move smoothly down Lennox Ave. Despite an unfitting ending that’s steeped in Dipset mythos (“I’m top model, getting model top / I bust a nut like a bottle pop, mazel tov”), “Sweetest” finds Cam acting his age and refusing to embellish.
Other tracks strike a more even balance between Cam’ron the grizzled veteran and Cam’ron the ageless enigma. “Lala,” though weighed down by an overwrought hook, finds him navigating “crack vials and hard shells...killers and card sharks” in an over-the-shoulder romanticization of his former neighborhood. “Soulplane,” meanwhile, is archetypal “Cam being Cam,” flush with heavy syllable bending and charismatically awful jokes (“My attire’s good, ask my entire hood / I don’t fuck up with the white girl like Tiger Woods”). Bearing the same name as an older collaboration with Vado, “Soulplane” is a fur hat-tip to Diplomat days.
The last two songs of 1st Of The Month take drastic sonic lurches, resulting in a significantly weaker half of material. The AraabMuzik-produced “C.F.W.U.” with Jim Jones and Hell Rell brashly trumpets the return of Dipset, and all three emcees hold their own with boisterous double times. But the track is more interested in beating chests and shouting, “We’re back!” than offering the rich details and surreal stories that the collective used to be known for. “So Bad” takes a complete 180, offering a sugar-high “Hey Ma” in which Cam is called out for being self-assuming by one of Nicki Minaj’s better verses in recent memory. Neither song is particularly bad, but both are fairly generic from an artist that’s never lacked quotable punches.
Still, 1st Of The Month, Vol. 2 exceeds in allowing Cam’ron to flex range without ever looking too out of place, and serves as a medium for both somber reflection and self-indulgent celebration. If nothing else, the EP is a worthy refresher from one of Hip Hop’s most unique personalities, and a teaser of what could come on projects with Dipset and A-Trak.