Genius and MTV have teamed up to bring you a new look into New York hip hop from ‘97 to ‘98. MTV has dug deep into their vaults and found three gems, each never before seen in its entirety. As part of an ongoing project, MTV is looking to the Genius community to add context and personal stories to these interviews with some of the all time greats.
Here we have the third release in the collaboration between Genius and MTV. Sitting down for his first solo interview with MTV in 1998, we see a very green Cam’Ron at the onset of his mainstream career. It’s a rare look at Cam before he emerged as a flamboyant fixture in the New York rap scene, and a testament to his drive for success.
Male: Any time you’re ready
Interviewer: All right, so if you could just tell us about how you got started?
Cam’Ron: Well, I got started because I grew up with Mase. Me and Mase is from the same neighborhood. We used to rap together on the street and – it’s like, we was a group. We was called Children of the Corn, me, him, and my cousin. His name is Bloodshed and he passed away last year. We just used to rap on the street and basically we used to play ball. Ball was a first priority. But I went away to school and Mase got put over in Bad Boy and I got into some problems in school. I used to go to a junior college in Texas and then when I came back Mase was like, ‘Yo, you start writing and I will put you on again.’ You know what I’m saying?
So I started writing again and he took me over to Notorious B.I.G.’s house. And I rapped from Biggie and Biggie was like, ‘Yo, you nice. You know what I’m saying? I want to put you on, you know what I’m saying?’ And I was like, of course, this is B.I.G., I would love to be put on. So he called his partner, Un Rivera, like, ‘I got this kid sitting at my house, I want to sign him.’ And Un was like, ‘I’ll sign him.’ You know what I’m saying? He didn’t even hear me rhyme, he just respected Big’s opinion that much. After Big passed away he got a new label called Untertainment and he wanted to make me the first artist, for the simple fact that Big wanted to sign me. And that is how I got a deal with Untertainment
Interviewer: Now how have you seen your skills develop since the Children of the Corn stuff that you were in?
Cam’Ron: Well definitely because you learn that rap is a business, you know what I’m saying? When you are on the streets you are like, ‘I just rhyme, I rhyme, I rhyme.’ But it is not about just rhyming. You have got to be able to do a song. So my skills developed basically into song-making and not just rap, you know what I’m saying? It is not just you go there and rhyme. You have got to know how to make a song. You have to know how to get people’s attention, you know what I’m saying? You could get a certain audience but you are trying to get a broader audience. You don’t want to just stay one-dimensional. You are trying to be universal and now it is one-dimensional, now I feel more universal than I was
Interviewer: So as far as the mix tape, getting on the mix tapes back then, were you down with mix tapes with Killa Cam and all that kind of stuff?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, I did a lot of mix tapes with DJ Clue 00:02:02 and that is kind of how I got my deal too, because after Biggie passed away it was like [inaudible - 00:02:07] because I didn’t know how to get in contact with Un. The way I seen Un was at the We’ll Always Love Big Poppa Video, but by that time a whole bunch of other labels had stepped at me because I did a lot of DJ Clue tapes and everybody was like, ‘Yo, I want to sign the kid Killa Cam, I want to sign the kid Killa Cam,’ but I was trying to get in contact with Un because he was the first person who really offered me the deal. I wanted to see what he was talking about before I signed with anybody else. So I did the mix tape thing and that’s what really blew me up in New York City
Interviewer: As far as watching Mase blow up over the last two years, how is that feeling for you?
Cam’Ron: I mean, it’s great to see Mase doing his thing because this is a kid I grew up with, spent the night at his house and he spent the night at my house. I would wear his clothes, he would wear my clothes, you know what I’m saying? So to see him develop into the mega superstar is a great feeling because we come from the same neighborhood, we come from the same background, the same upbringing. And just to know that he can do that and it can be possible for me is just a great feeling
Interviewer: Is there like a heavy sense of anticipation for you? Where you want to get - once you saw what Mase was doing and all that kind of stuff?
Cam’Ron: The anticipation wasn’t really heavy like that because the type of person that Mase is, I knew he was coming to get me, you know what I’m saying? Like, if [inaudible - 00:03:23] didn’t get on first, I was going to come get him, you know what I’m saying? That is just the type of relationship that we had. It was just a simple fact that he got on first and I knew it would be only a matter of time before he put me on, because he respected me as a lyricist. And he just taught me – Mase told me, because he got in the game before I did and seen how you make songs – and he was like, ‘Cam, you know what I’m saying? You have got to switch the song formation.’ Because he had been in the game maybe a year before I got in the game. And I was still just on – I want to rhyme, I want to rhyme about this, I want to rhyme about that. And then he told me, ‘Cam, you have got to learn how to do a song.’ So that is what I learned how to do, you know what I’m saying? So, basically he helped me out a lot. So my skills developed a lot since then
Interviewer: And it is saying you also wrote Crush on You?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, what happened is Mase had got like – they needed some songs for [inaudible - 00:04:09] album or whatever the case may be. And Mase gave me the beat and then I wrote the song, you know what I’m saying? I wrote the song right then and there. First it was Lil Cease’s on there, and I didn’t do Kim’s part. I just wrote Lil Cease’s part and Mase was like, ‘Yo, this is hot, this is hot.’ And the song just blew up. I didn’t expect it to do as good as it did, they were just like they needed some songs for the album. I didn’t expect it to be a single or whatever. It went platinum or whatever it was and I just wrote the song to write it
Then the way I wrote it, you know what I’m saying, it wasn’t the regular format of the way I write rhymes. It was kind of like easy, so Mase was like but this is what works. I was like, ‘This is easy.’ You know what I’m saying? Writing some rhymes. Like this, it is harder to do all the words and come up with metaphors. But if you flow and you get a bounce like this, you know what I’m saying, it comes out smooth and it is easy. And Mase was like, ‘Yo, they are making that a single.’ And I was like, ‘That’s hot.’
Interviewer: So you did Cease’s part – did you do the hook as well?
Cam’Ron: No, I didn’t do the hook. I just did Cease’s part
Interviewer: I want to ask you about the video for 357. That’s – you and Mase make fun – that’s the first part in this videos, right?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, the video 357, I filmed that in Harlem. I felt it only right since I am from Harlem, and doing my first video in Harlem. So basically it is the first part of Horse and Carriage, me and Mase got warrants and we are running through Harlem from the police, you know what I’m saying? Car chase and we just want it to be action-packed because the beat gives you that feeling like [singing 00:05:38], you know what I’m saying? You just want to be running and it is the action. It’s the Tom Selleck thing, like Tom Selleck on Magnum P.I, the TV show, that was like an action TV show so we just wanted to make the video the same feeling you got from the TV show
Interviewer: Now what’s the song about, 357?
Cam’Ron: The song, 357, there is really no particular meaning. What happened was [inaudible - 00:06:01], that’s the producer at Untertainment – he did like 12 tracks with my album That’s My Name from Harlem II and he just came up to me smiling, like yo, I got a beat for you. Then once we put it in, everybody was in the studio and we was just playing it. Everybody was like, dang. And then everybody was just looking at me like, ‘What you going to do with that beat?’ You know what I’m saying? I just went home and wrote the lyrics that night. I was like, I had my man Un, CEO of the label, like you have got to give the hardest rhyme you ever wrote on that beat, you know what I’m saying? And I just went in the studio and did it the next day. And everybody just loved it and that is how it came about. There was no particular meaning behind the song. You know what I’m saying? He came up with the beat, I came up with the rhymes, and that is just how it came about
Interviewer: Now, the second video is the continuation for Horse and Carriage?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, we get away from the cops – me and Mase get away from the cops, Mase’s car won’t start up. We knew where our car was at, you know what I’m saying? His car don’t start up, he gets arrested, me I get away and I change my clothes up and go to the party, and I am just partying. You know what I’m saying? We are going to make a Horse and Carriage like a real party so we can have fun [inaudible - 00:07:09] because nobody on the east coast really does pool videos, and that is more of a west coast thing. So we just want to show people that we get in the pool too, on the east coast. So we just wanted to have fun with the video and make it real partyish
Interviewer: What struck me as weird is I think the video – the connection of the video, it is really cool the way it works out. But what struck me as weird is that Mase is not even although he is on the song for Horse and Carriage he is not in the video for that
Cam’Ron: Yeah, Mase didn’t come to video because he had some family business to attend to and family always comes before music at any time. So whenever somebody asks me that, I understand there are a lot of fans that are out there that want to see Mase in the video, but remember music is a business and family always comes first, so yeah he had family business to take care of and that’s why he didn’t come to the video
Interviewer: That’s cool. Is there going to be a part three?
Cam’Ron: There is about to be. I am not going to tell everybody but the part three is going to be sick. It’s going to be real sick. And I am about to shoot the video in three to four weeks. It is going to be real sick
Interviewer: Well, this probably won’t air until it does come out. Can you give us an idea of what it’s about?
Cam’Ron: Well, right now – I just did the horse. I don’t know if [inaudible - 00:08:19] the video we are doing first. I just did the horse and carriage remix with me, Big Pun, Wyclef, and Silkk the Shocker, so by the time this airs out Silkk the Shocker is going to be on it. So you know, it is me, Pun, Silkk the Shocker, Wyclef, Charlie Baltimore, and that is basically it. We did the remix. We did the remix then probably after the remix, after we let that ride for a little while, I did this song off my album called Feels Good with me and Usher. So I don’t know which video we are doing first, but it will be connected
Interviewer: How was it working with Silkk?
Cam’Ron: We didn’t really work together. I talked to him on the phone a few times and we mailed the reels over to where he is at, you know what I’m saying? So I wasn’t really in the studio when he did it. When I talked to him on the phone he was a real cool guy, you know what I’m saying? We talked a couple of times and I told him that I really loved his stuff. He said he loved my stuff and we were just looking forward to working with each other
Interviewer: Now, I wanted to talk to you more about the album itself. Whose idea was it to put your mother on the track?
Cam’Ron: It was my idea, you know what I’m saying, to put my mother on my album for the simple fact that I felt nobody had ever done it and it is original and we can break the barrier for rap and parents because a lot of parents don’t always support rap. If they hear my mother on it they will feel that it is just a form of entertainment. The music they listen to, their kids might not like that music. Do you know what I’m saying? Man, I don’t want to hear that music. Just like the parents say, I don’t want to hear the music the kids listen to. I am just trying to break the barrier for parents and rap, but at the same time nobody ever put their mother on the album, do you know what I’m saying? I do things that are original like on my album it is a whole bunch of original topics. I don’t like to do things that people have done already. I like to set trends, not follow them
Interviewer: So as far as your mother rapping did you have to give her some help or how was she doing that?
Cam’Ron: Definitely I had to help her, but she is real poetic. My mom is like – she is a college graduate and all that, you know what I’m saying? She is into poems but I just had to teach her how to do it in rap formation, you know what I’m saying? So she is well-gifted with poetry but I just had to teach her how to do it in a rap formation. It was hard, do you know what I’m saying? Teach you how to ride the beat. We argue in the studio but she got it after about a week. That is real good considering she is a mother
Interviewer: I want to ask you about working with Kelly Price. How come you think she is being chosen as a lot of R&B – people are choosing her to sing on a lot of tracks, like R&B tracks. What do you think stands out about her?
Cam’Ron: The reason people are choosing Kelly Price to sing on their stuff because Kelly Price is hot, you know what I’m saying? And I think she is real underrated, you know what I’m saying? People are starting to recognize now that I went with her on the Puff tour when we were on the No Way Out Tour. She was singing on the tour and I realized she was real, real talented. And I told my people that I really wanted her to sing on this song. And they called her people up, over [inaudible - 00:11:08] and we just made it happen because the song that she is on is called prophecy and that is a real close song, a true story about my family and about my cousin who passed away, who I said previously that we were in a group together, and just a real story on music. So I really wanted the person to sing it to bring the song out more and she has the voice to do it. So I don’t know why everybody else is doing it, I met her on the Puff tour, you know what I am saying? I realized she was real good on the Puff tour and that is why I wanted her on my album
Interviewer: I wanted to ask you the song that is a reworking of Sting’s Fragile -
Cam’Ron: Excuse me? Oh, yeah, the beat
Interviewer: Were you a Sting fan at all?
Cam’Ron: Well, yeah, I like Sting’s stuff but a kid named Armando came up with it. He came up with the beat. I heard it, I loved it as soon as I heard it. I just wanted to make the song real because if you listen to the beat it is real touching so I wanted to make the lyrics just as touching as the beat. But I like Sting’s stuff. My favorite is the one that Puff did over, you know what I’m saying? I really wanted to do that song too, but he came out with it first
Interviewer: It looks like Sting is getting like -
Cam’Ron: He is getting checks, he is getting a lot of checks, in other words
Interviewer: On your album you do have some – like 357 is a real gritty track and you do have some melodic tracks like prophecy and the track with Usher. Is that a desirable position to be in, in hip hop? Where you can get both audiences in that?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, definitely, you know what I’m saying? You want to try to keep a broad audience. You don’t want to just be one-dimensional. Like, I don’t want to just have a whole bunch of gritty tracks, like you said, for three – I don’t want to have 19 songs of 357, I don’t want to have 19 problems of Horse and Carriage, you know what I’m saying? I want to balance things out, you know what I’m saying? Maybe have three different 357s or three different Horse and Carriages, or three different prophecy songs that is on my album. I try to balance it out but therefore you are going to get bored with me after a while. Like, I know what the next song is going to sound like. I know what this song is going to sound like, so I try and stay versatile. You know what I'm saying? I like to be considered versatile because a lot of people are considered one-dimensional. I like to be considered – if you put me in the studio with anybody I can do a song, you know what I'm saying? No matter who it is, once we are in the studio I can vibe. I can see what type of vibe you are on and if you can’t feel my vibe, I will get on the vibe you’re on just to make the song work out. So I just like to keep my mind broad, you know what I'm saying?
Interviewer: Cool. Now, what do you think – like, you also reveal a sensitive side of yourself. In the past you were kind of looked down upon, why do you think it seems like more and more hip hop artists are starting to reveal that side? Like Akon did on his album, he also did some stuff like that
Cam’Ron: People reveal their sensitive side because they realize it’s a big world and you’re not the only one going through these problems. You know what I'm saying? Or whatever – like in my case I have revealed a lot of things that go on in my life and I am sure I am not the only that goes on because you can turn on a talk show and be like, ‘That’s what’s going on in my life also,’ you know what I’m saying? So just basically you are just trying to do things like that to help people feel what you say. I have got a song on my album called D Rugs, you know what I'm saying? And so many people come up to me and like, ‘Cam, I love that song. That’s my life right there. That’s the life I led. I sold drugs, my mother did drugs,’ or whatever the case may be. But just to know that I touched people, you know what I’m saying? Because that’s a real story also. And then just basically to know if I could touch you like that then I did my job. So I try and get sensitive because I know I am not the only one going through the problems that I went through
Interviewer: Cool, and how is it going back to 140th and Lennox these days?
Cam’Ron: Great, I was on there last night at two in the morning, I was outside. You know what I'm saying? It’s real great and people show me a lot of love. I come back home and everybody showed me the CD, ‘I didn’t dub this CD, I didn’t dub it, I went and bought it.’ So just the support that everybody on 140th gives me, also on 110th and 115th, that’s where the rest of my other family lives at. It is just great to show that they show me a lot of love and any love that I can show them I give back to them at all times. I don’t want them to feel like Cam doesn’t show us love, because I have been on the promo tour and a lot of people don’t understand that you have got to travel to get your song world-renowned. So they feel like they don’t see me for a couple of weeks, oh, Cam ain’t over here. But I am coming right back as soon as I get back from wherever I’m at. So I just love it over there because it is like wherever you grew up at, you know what I'm saying? It’s like where you’re from – I’m sure you would love to go back. It’s just like a magnet – no matter where you have been – I have been to London and overseas, everywhere in the United States, but it is just a special feeling you get when you go back home
Interviewer: Cool. Hold on one second. Now, as far as playing ball – I want to ask you about that. I reads somewhere that you played [Stefan - 00:16:10]?
Cam’Ron: Stef, my man. Stefan, that’s my man. We see each other and we are real cool, you know what I’m saying? I mean, it ain’t like – like, we play one-on-one and I played against him and I bust his ass, you know what I’m saying? Like, in high school I used to bust his ass on the regular. Like, and Stef, you know I used to bust your ass, you know what I'm saying? But now he’s nice. He’s a pro and I’m proud of him and I’m just real proud that he went on and did his thing along with my man [inaudible - 00:16:39], who played for the Washington Wizards. So I know a lot of pro players because I was like 15, an All-American coming out of high school. And I would just like to tell them guys and wish them congratulations because they are going on and doing their thing. But if would have kept playing and then hurt my leg and then get in trouble, I would probably be in the NBA right now, because I’m nice like that. I was nice like that
Interviewer: Do you still talk to him?
Cam’Ron: Yeah, like Stef – I see him at a concert, I see him have a concert in Minnesota and he will come backstage or we will be in Atlanta because he has got a house out there. I will see him and just chill out. He will call me like maybe four times a year. It ain’t like we are buddy-buddy and call each other every day. He is busy and it is just cool. When I see him it is all love. It is definitely much love when I see him. The same thing with [inaudible - 00:17:27]
Interviewer: All right, I just want to ask you also about hip hop in general. What do you predict – I have a couple questions about hip hop as far as where do you see hip hop going? It seems to be doing really well right now. And every week there are maybe two or three hip hop artists who are one in the top ten charts
Cam’Ron: Yeah, definitely. Basically I am real happy with it right now. I can’t say where hip hop is definitely going to go because it switches up every minute, you know what I'm saying? One minute you like one person and then the next minute you don’t, so I really can’t say where it is going to go, but right now it is looking real, real good and we are just happy that everybody is supporting it, you know what I'm saying? A lot of people used to down it, saying it was going to be a fad and so on and so forth. But now it is like people are buying it, they recognize it, and it is just like I said, another form of entertainment. And as long as you can dance and have fun with the lyrics everybody just admires it. I don’t want everybody to just be like, ‘Oh, that damn rap, I don’t like this and that.’ But there are rap artists leading, at least two rappers in the top ten every week, so right now it looks real good for hip hop. I can’t say exactly where it’s going to be because I don’t know, but right now the future looks real good
Interviewer: Even in the underground, it seems to be blowing up as well like rap and hip hop
Cam’Ron: Definitely, because basically people are getting tired of all the dancing and all the dress up because everybody ain’t got enough money to dress up every week, you know what I'm saying? People got bills and children and so on and so forth, so you can’t dress up and dance all the time. That’s why songs like on my album with D Rugs or other songs like that, it is people in the ghetto too that listen to music and they haven’t got money all the – every minute, to do the songs that these people are saying, so you have got to make music for them also. So a lot of underground people are blowing up because they are getting the support from the more or less poverty or the ghetto neighborhoods
Interviewer: One more thing I wanted to ask you about is as far as hip hop becoming so popular and artists looking to go platinum and stuff like that, where do you think the idea of street credibility means to hip hop artists these days?
Cam’Ron: Street credibility means a lot. As far as with me, I got my start on mix tapes, you know what I’m saying? So when I do a song it is more or less for the radio because I’ve got to do it, that’s what I have got to do to win. I always go home and write two street songs because the street people is what got you there no matter what, no matter what kind of music you make. These are the people that pushed you to get here, you know what I'm saying? So you have always got to keep that in mind because that is your definite fan base. Pop world goes every minute. There is a new pop star every minute. Pop fans aren’t really always loyal. Like, fi you get street fans, they are loyal because they love you all the time. If you can rule in the pop world, you are great
Interviewer: Cool. I think we’ve got enough. Cool
Cam’Ron: Yo, let me get a little shout-out?
Interviewer: Can we actually have you look at the camera and say, ‘This is Cam’Ron and you’re watching MTV News 1515.’?
Cam’Ron: This is Cam’Ron and you’re watching MTV News 1515. Now I can give my shout-outs? Yo, shout-out to my man Un, Jacob, [inaudible -, 00:20:54], my man Jimmy Jones, DukeDaGod, AJ, Harlem Dilomats. And I’m out
Interviewer: Actually, can I ask just one more question? I wanted to ask you about Untertainment and how that seems to be like another little hip hop label that seems to be kicking off well with you and now we have got Charlie Baltimore. Tell us about Charlie Baltimore and the label itself?
Cam’Ron: Untertainment is like a family-oriented label. We’re all family up there. Un is like my big brother. I have got Troy [inaudible - 00:21:35], my A&Rs, Buck, Jacob, The President [inaudible - 00:21:40], you know what I'm saying? Everybody is real family. Charli is like my sister. So it is basically everybody is just working hard over at Untertainment,you know what I'm saying? It is basically like we are real close family and with Charli, her stuff will be out in September. It is tremendous. She has been doing her thing. It’s hot, it’s banging. You know what I'm saying? So basically we are one big family up there and we just signed Billy Lawrence and we have got a group called Brother – that’s an R&B group that is coming out, because you said that is a hip hop label. We have got a couple R&B acts coming out too. I am just the first artist off Untertainment so we are trying to build a foundation off of me, you know what I'm saying? I am trying to build the label off so therefore anything that comes off of Untertainment will be hot, but basically we are one big family over there and we love each other
Interviewer: As far as – I know you and Charli – I mean, Biggie got you on and Charli was close with Biggie. Is that how you planned it out, to have like the first two artists come out and be somewhat close?
Cam’Ron: Well, you have got to give the credit to UN, you know what I'm saying? Un didn’t have to sign this, Big just told him that he wanted to sign us. So Un is really living out what Big wanted to do, you know what I'm saying? It was – Un never even hear me rhyme before he signed me. It was just big saying that I was nice. So basically everything that has happened, even though Big wanted to do it, Un made it happen. Un just made Big’s wish come out. Big was going to put Charli on and if you listen to Where’s the Beef, he says Charli’s name on the album. So he was basically going to put him out. And since he passed away, Un is a good guy for just making his dreams come true, you know what I'm saying?
Interviewer: Is there any competition between Un and Puffy?
Cam’Ron: You have to ask Un that, you know what I'm saying? As far as I know, nothing that I know of, you know what I'm saying? Un is just straight street, you know what I'm saying? Un is like – yo, that’s why you have got to love Un, he knows where I’m coming from, you know what I'm saying? At the same time, you have to know what you have got to do to win. So the thing with him and Puffy, I have no idea what is going on with that, but I know Un is just a great, great CEO, you know what I mean? And I just love his work
Interviewer: Cool, I just wanted to make sure we covered that too
Cam’Ron: All right