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A Love Letter to Cam'ron on His Birthday

If you really want to live like Killa, don't build another city on rock. Build your own city, on yourself.

Waxing hyperbolic about Cam’ron’s greatness has become sport in and of itself, writers and admirers alike scrambling over themselves to describe how a man who seems to give a sub-microscopic shit manages to obliterate beats with the nonchalance of a particularly shameless trucker plucking a hair off his balls on I-95. Shit, even I’m doing it. The irony, of course, is that no one is better at talking about Cam’ron than Cam’ron. He is better at talking about himself than most people are at talking about anything.


Today, Cam’ron turns 38. As of this writing, he has not posted to Twitter or Instagram, which leads me to believe he is still asleep. And why shouldn’t he be? Once you reach a certain age, birthdays become rote, simply another day in your life. If you’re a public figure, they begin to mean more to other people than they do to you; an opportunity for others to celebrate what you mean to them, to be thankful that you are alive and have contributed something to the world.

And holy fuck, has Cam made the world a better place. To be a fan of Cam’ron and the Diplomats is to understand that there truly are no limits, only those that exist in your mind, and those can be broken as easily as Ma$e’s jaw at the hands of Ghostface Killah. Cam took hip-hop into uncharted territory, creating a holistic, awe-inspiring DayGlo universe that defied conventional thought and reassembled the broken dreams smoldering in crack pipes down on Lenox Avenue into heretofore unseen beasts that fly with the eagles. Oh, wearing purple and pink makes you soft? Allow Cam to stitch together the pelts of Grimace and Barney the Dinosaur into a PETA-enraging coat and stunt on the haters so hard their molecules destabilize. What’s that? Starship’s “We Built this City” is the worst song ever recorded? Let Killa and Just Blaze flip it into an anthem so uplifting you’ll start doing jumping jacks and filing your taxes simultaneously by the time the drums hit. You think freestyling is hard? Cam will issue a corrective to that notion by ripping “My Block” straight from vice grip of Scarface while counting money in a pink XXXXXXXXXL Coogi T with a du-rag and hat to match.


Cam'ron at his Super Bowl party, yet again ripping through the space-time continuum, this time by wearing a Dipset cape

It is no coincidence that Cam’ron’s master work is called Purple Haze. Few musicians have been able to see the world in the way that Jimi Hendrix did, perceiving wormholes to nirvana where mere mortals would have seen roadblocks. “I stand up next to a mountain / chop it down with the edge of my hand,” is a Jimi lyric, sure, but it might as well be Cam’s life motto. You can see the imprint of Cam’s Timbs all over pop culture, even in the humor of our generation. He showed us there is no joke to be in on, that someone can do something ridiculous and be celebrated for it, simply because they’re being themselves. That’s revolutionary, and you can see it in any rapper who willfully defies tradition only to cackle while you hate, scratching your head on the sidelines.

And so, on this most glorious of days, the way to celebrate Cam’ron isn’t by putting on all purple and trying to emulate him, or putting on the Cam’ron socks that you hung up in a frame on your wall. Cam doesn’t give a fuck about how you honor him; or even if you understand how he thinks. If you really want to live like Killa, if just for one day, then you’ll be yourself to the furthest extent of whatever that means. Cam doesn’t want you to build another city on rock. He wants you to build your own city on yourself.

I have elected to embed Cam'ron's directorial debut Killa Season in its entirety below. If you have two hours, I highly recommend watching it.

Confession of fire: Drew Millard owns the Cam'ron socks. He's on Twitter - @drewmillard