Crime Pays

(Asylum; 2009)

By Colin McGowan | 20 May 2009

Before I assault Cam with home-from-Iraq hugs and bounce my head upon its gawky pedestal to “Never Ever,” it’s important to qualify a few things so as not to posit Crime Pays as some late-career return to the awe-striking Purple Haze (2004). Because it’s not; Purple Haze won’t have a proper follow-up in the same way Supreme Clientele (2001) doesn’t have a sequel. This is the sound of Cam’ron leaning on half-baked Cam’ron-isms (Purple Haze is the brilliant incarnation of this form and Come Home With Me [2002] is a more coherent version) over chintzier Heatmakerz imitations. And the misogyny is more blatantly offensive when the packaging is less clever. The words emanating from many slacked jaws after listening to Crime Pays are probably along the lines of “is that it?”

Rebuttal: that’s fucking it (chyea!). From “Cookin’ Up”‘s opening repetition that this is Cam’ron’s Cam’ron album, as willfully Cam’ron-like as Cam pleases. And as he rolls through this typically overlong Cam album, it becomes evident he can drop whatever sentiments he wishes into his well-honed rhyme patterns, be they bling non-sequiturs (“Chain: Alaska / Bracelet: Nebraska”) or the populist “work sucks” sentiments of “My Job.” He’s phoning in a third of these tracks, almost wearily offering his surprisingly hard-to-dilute mash of syllables and whimsy, but then he threatens to shit in a girl’s car, and that’s really funny.

Throughout these too many minutes of charm, it also becomes evident Cam wishes to perpetuate no false pretenses, dissolving into full-on goofball mode with “Spend The Night,” which features harmlessly eccentric lines like “Let’s get this guacamole / You feelin’ hot, then hold me / You had your guard up at first like a soccer goalie.” It’s a track that treads down a path 50 hinted at with “21 Questions,” re: fat kid and cake, but for four minutes and couched in religious juxtapositions and chubby chick jokes. Cam gets lost in his own ramshackle stream-of-consciousness around twenty seconds in and only comes back to Earth intermittently for the hook, which drips of childish sincerity, arriving at the lewdest of closers: “Get ya mouth wet / You the outlet: got the pluggy.”

I’ve already implied that many of the beats reach for the Heatmakerz’ sleazy bounce, and about half of them attain that balance between camp and ebullience. Though the chirping synth on “Chalupa” is an annoyance and “Woo Hoo”‘s harmonizing is a limp bore, “Never Ever” is the exemplification of everything great about the Heatmakerz aesthetic as Cam amiably notes, “I feel like I’m on Broadway or suttin’, man” before making gynecologist jokes and talking about living next to Walt (Who?) Disney. It’s breezy in an “atom of contentness” kinda way without veering into all that is sickening and saccharine.

Then again, this album is plenty sickening, in every sense of the word. The hook on “Cookies-N-Apple Juice” is an idiotic stab at Southern Cam and the wholly unclever “You Know What’s Up” is wholly awful. This ew-inspiring minutia culminates in “Bottom Of The Pussyhole,” which is literally about Cam’ron apologizing for dicking too far. It’s the type of the thing that, based on your allegiances, merits a full-fledged churn of the stomach or an amused “ugh!”—plus it’s a dimly-lit piano ballad for reasons Cam probably couldn’t offer. In fact, he’d most likely shrug and make a dick joke, which gets at the crux of Crime Pays: Cam’s got nothing to lose nor hide and so decided to prop this album against sheer personality and everything we (Cam fans) love about the dude who once rebutted Bill O’Reilly with “You mad, doggie.”

I’m pretty sure my favorite Cam line is about a thrifty purchase of chicken sandwiches, and for one reason amongst many: it’s jarring, goofy normality. Chicken sandwiches are for the plebeians, but Cam pulls that reference from the air with the same ease he alludes to dope smelling like vinegar. Throughout Crime Pays Cam wobbles between comfort and rote, often landing on the correct side of that division, but illuminating in the process that the gap between laziness and his brand of lazy brilliance is both a crack in the sidewalk and a yawning canyon. On the slang-peddling “Curve,” Cam tries his hand at grizzled reaffirmation (“I know you wish those shots would’ve shot me a to death / But death becomes me / I’m a mummy, I’ll mop up ya flesh”) then never again, suggesting he’s settled into his pink armchair, and is content to play the fuck out of the one-note symphony he’s been composing all these years. And what a note it is.