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MSQ Review: Cam'Ron & DJ A-Trak "U Wasn't There"

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Killa Cam is back! Harlem hero and Dipset general, Cam’ron teamed up with super producer DJ A-Trak for the triumphant nine-track EP, U Wasn't There, containing a star-studded list of appearances from the likes of Conway The Machine, Mr. Vegas, Styles P, and even Dame Dash. Diplomats faithful will rejoice to see the big 3 all present with Jim Jones and Juelz Santana being featured on tracks as well.

Listening to this album for the first time, I had to check my phone repeatedly and make sure it wasn't 2005. This man sounds squarely in his prime. This is classic Killa; seamlessly going from his trademark off-color metaphors to larger-than-life flexes, to believable threats, and everywhere in between. A-Trak is an unsung production legend and he proves it on this album. Best known for his work with Kanye West, he very clearly tailored these beats to Cam'Ron's strengths as a rapper and pays homage to Cam and the Dips' very recognizable yet varied beat pallet. Vocal samples are a must on any Cam'Ron tape of course. Mix that with plenty of horns and piano both dark and bouncy, some Jamaican spice, and even a little Just Blaze assistance and you have a Cam masterpiece in any era.

When describing this project to folks I keep bringing up what King's Disease and King's Disease II have meant to Hitboy and Nas. Longevity in rap is very challenging and there is a razor-thin line between being relevant and being a relic. I think that for legendary rappers like Nas and Cam it is a great move to make these one-producer albums. A-Trak keeps Cam'Ron in his zone the entire time and this was both a nostalgic AND fresh experience-- which is just what I wanted.

We previously covered the first single off this release titled, All I Really Wanted which was a taste of the storytelling Cam'Ron incorporated heavily into his last album, Purple Haze 2. The NYC history lessons are prevalent throughout this album as well, but there's never a dull moment with the notoriously charismatic Cam as the narrator. Before we get to All I Really Wanted, the tone is beautifully set for the album with the victorious intro track, This Is My City. Conway delivers a hook on the latest single, Ghetto Prophets that may remind you of Max B. Dipset Acrylics featuring Jamaican artist, Mr. Vegas, and the Jim Jones and Styles P-assisted Think Boy both have a Caribbean flavor that's more common in Cam's catalog than you might think. Dame Dash shows up in his own interlude and shows us he hasn't lost a step with his shit-talking.

The feel-good, piano-driven Cheers is pure gold. The scratches A-Trak adds mid-sample give welcome whiffs of "Hey Ma." My favorite track is What You Do- it's just beautiful production and Cam'ron is the perfect voice for it. Appropriately, Dame Dash blesses the outro of that song as well as the last song, "Dipshits." Rocafella fans will get sentimental hearing Just Blaze's drop followed by a daring and well-executed machine gun flow from Killa, a very Dipset hook from Juelz, and a final word from Dame. This track would have fit right in on Cam'Ron's 2002 classic album, "Come Home With Me." Admittedly, I have made many references to a bygone era in Dipset and rap history here, but I know that 1. this album was designed to elicit those feelings with lots of callbacks and familiar soundscapes, and 2. despite that-- A-Trak and Cam have undoubtedly made this a timeless, modern listen.

Lots of "has-been" emcees can string a hot song or two together every now and then that will send you back momentarily to their glory days. This ain't that. Cam and his wisely selected producer are strong throughout the project and the way this album finished left me feeling far from "has-been" vibes and way more optimistic about a future for this legendary Hip-Hop voice.

Follow Cam'Ron and A-Trak on Instagram: @mr_camron & @atrak

Written by: Zach Kirby (@itskirbs804)

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