Cam’ron – “Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1” (Mixtape Review)  DX Consensus: “EP-Worthy”

Hip Hop’s Viral Age can often produce emcees with the life span of a common Fruit Fly. And while his adoption of Twitter and Instagram show Cam’ron is no stranger to Rap’s ever-changing landscape, his adaptation through several eras may serve as the best evidence. There’s the mid-to-late ‘90s edition of Cam, who appeared on Big L’s Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, earned a co-sign from Notorious B.I.G. as a member of the ill-fated group The Commission and established himself as a soloist with Confessions Of Fire. There’s the Cam of the early aughts who reached his critical high-water mark with S.D.E. prior to a stint on Roc-A-Fella and the Diplomats’ subsequent ascension to cult status. Then there’s the semi-reclusive guy who surfaces every few years to either illicit laughs, introduce a new artist or needle Jay Z. Cam’ron might just be one of the more random talents Hip Hop has ever seen. And if you share that opinion, the fact that some thugged-out, McDonald’s-inspired artwork surfaced a few months ago for his “Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1” mixtape likely didn’t change things.

The good news is this latest set of freebies features everything Cam’ron and Dipset fans have gravitated to during the 18 years since Killa first laid vocals down over Big L’s “8 Iz Enuff.” Cam’s trademark humor is in effect from the jump as a cast of associates leaves voicemails imploring him to return and save them from the cadre of “soft ass Rap” with “more niggas wearing skirts than bitches.” And the Harlemite obliges with 19 songs mostly focused on broads, bricks and his besting his competition. Cam’ron primarily survives on his wit and the fact that he doesn’t repeatedly over-saturate the market with material. With his first project since 2011’s Boss Of All Bosses 2.8, Cam trots out both a double-time cadence and the borderline nonsensical rhymes that powered the “Computers ‘Putin’” meme on “Told You Wrong,” where he rhymes, “Ride around in a hooptie / But look, these coups done souped me / Wanna stay loopy goofy / Look at my jewels, they lookin’ doofy…”

Arguably, the best moments on “Ghetto Heaven” are when Cam’ron is borrowing from ‘90s cultural touchstones including Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (“Me Killa”), Jodeci (“Come And Talk To Me”) and Mary J. Blige (“My Life”). These are accented when Cam re-enters S.D.E. mode, offering block talk punctuated with punchlines. The likes of ADM, YH Zombies, Lizzy and Araabmuzik supply the synth-heavy tracks with jabs of bass and articulated snares that challenge Cam’ron to diversify both his subject matter and cadences. There are even a few surprises in the form of “Golden Friends,” which references the late Huddy 6 and “Go Outside,” where Cam chucks his iPhone for a Boost Mobile and enters everyman mode as he did for “I Hate My Job.”

It’s not a Cam’ron affair without the general air of zaniness. “Instagram” won’t surprise those who have followed Mr. Giles’ exploits into social media. And while the talk of thirsty followers and busted chicks claiming they use “no filter” produces genuine laugh out loud moments, the five-plus minutes devoted to the subject between both the “Instagram” song and its preceding skit are a bit much. The same applies to Cam’s choice of backing tracks, as the sheer randomness is hit or miss. Granted, this is the man who successfully crafted singles from the “Monday Night Football” (“Let Me Know”) and “Magnum P.I.” (“357”) themes. While the results of Cam’s attempts to flip the “Golden Girls” theme on “Golden Friends” work, the same can’t be said for the T.I. and Yo Gotti-assisted “Jungle,” which is powered by Solomon Linda’s “Mbube”—the original inspiration for The Lion King’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Bouts of lackluster production and an overall lack of focus when things veer to the silly side (as on “Snapped” and “Instagram”) keep this set from being retail-worthy. Listeners can’t really penalize the notable absence of any Diplomat mainstays besides Sen City, as this was never advertised as a Dipset affair. But overall, Hip Hop is a more enjoyable, funnier place when Cam’ron is involved. And those clamoring for Killa Season to resume could do a lot worse than loading this mixtape on an iPod or USB drive and cherry picking some of the better songs for a custom playlist.

Listen to “Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1” by Cam’ron