Although his hiatus from the game has been a little different from Marshall Mathers, another late ’90s Hip Hop classmate, Cam’ron [click to read] has returned to Rap in a major way, with perhaps more issues to speak on. Killa Cam‘s brand, The Diplomats [click to read], have arguably mutinied their president, in favor of their capo. When Hip Hop last heard from Cam’ron, 50 Cent [click to read] did more of the talking, in a battle that never really found a resolution, or a proper rebuttal, just months after a similar word-scuffle with Jay-Z [click to read]. More overtly, Cam’ron, a once-platinum-selling bidder for T.O.N.Y. status, needs to explain his absence – caused largely due to his mother’s health and a disinterest from Rap. Crime Pays, makes up for Killa Season‘s [click to read] ill preparation three years ago, and shows that like his fans for authentic music, Cam is once again hungry.

Over an hour long, 23 tracks deep, Crime Pays leaves little on the table. When the reintroduction began, “(I Hate) My Job” [click to listen] may have showed it best. Rather than focus on himself, Cam’ron tells stories – of just the kind of people he reaches best: working-class folks, disenchanted by the monotony of life in mediocrity. If Cam does indeed still hate his, the audience can’t really tell. “Cookies & Apple Juice” [click to listen] is that other side of Cam, the silly side. This raunchy sex anthem falls in line with “Hey Ma” and “Oh Boy,” as signature cadence and rhyme-patterns return quickly, “I won’t kiss her, maybe hug her, but I don’t even like her / I’ma get it, hit it, maybe split it, but never wife her / Rowdy–Roddy Pipe-her.” The clever wordplay, Jay-Z allusions and rhyme timing sell Cam‘s talents best. The mysogynist club song employs a goofy Uptown chorus that sounds completely fun, and unlike many teen-rap contemporaries, appeals to multiple generations and both sexes in the club. “Silky (No Homo)” [click to listen] from title alone, is the same sort of party. On a pepped-up loop of King Floyd‘s 1973 Funk-Soul classic “Groove Me,” Cam talk about the same sort of other-man’s-woman-hounding that Willie D [click to read] has been championing since “Clean Up Man.” It’s not the wheel reinvented, nor is it terribly artful, but as Killa makes fun of ol’ boy complaining about “the gas price,” claiming he’s not the type to buy a lady soft drinks, “just mad ice.” He’s not using this lyricism anymore to compare his wardrobe to Fred Rodgers or recall throwing dudes off of high-rises, but the wordplay is sharp as it ever was, and Cam seems to be having more fun than he was five years ago, at the height of his stardom.

The crime, as the album title suggests, does bleed in. Self-explanatory tracks like “Homicide,” “Cookin’ Up”  [click to listen] service the same monologues contemporaries like Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and Uncle Murda favor, but true thief’s theme of the album is “I Used To Get It In Ohio” [click to view]. With one of the better synth beats on the album, Cam’ron paints a picture of why the “Midwest is young and restless.” Old styles return, as Cam‘s old “know a bunch of stealers, not from Pittsburgh” rhyme twists to, “did the whole Ohio, but started off a buckeye.” The storytelling gifts get seemingly non-fiction here, as Cam recalls his ’90s paper-route akin as Jay-Z so eloquently did on “Never Change,” saying a few names. Crime Pays is weighed down by skits attempting to be cinematic, and several erroneous buzz-back records like “Chalupa” [click to listen] and “Bottom Of The Pussy Hole” [click to listen] that should’ve have lived and died on mixtapes. The polished and name-brand production of Come Home With Me and Purple Haze has also dissolved with independent budgets to Skitzo and ARAAB Muzik, who come as catchy and Dip-set disciples, but far from the studio dwellers they’re trying to ultimately imitate with repetitious choruses, dark synth lines and ferocious bass hits.

Cam’ron‘s ’90s New York peers are often restricted by label politics, but given the budgets appropriate for polished product. With entourage guests and unknown production, Crime Pays lacks the polish, but not for one verse, does it seem like anything but the album the artist wanted to make. Cam’ron and Cam’ron alone carries this album, which says a lot about his creativity, but like albums past, prevents the Harlem veteran from having a catlogue-classic. Just as he made every rapper consider going independent five years ago, Killa Cam returns to show his followers how to be independent and still make competitive, good music that has both art and club appeal, paid in full.