Mixtape Review: Cam'ron, Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1

Killa Cam looks to reclaim Harlem on his latest effort.

3star
Posted: 10/03/2013 01:04 AM EDT

Veteran Harlem rapper Cam'ron must love to be missed. The former Roc-a-Fella soldier is known to take indeterminate hiatuses from hip hop. But even if he takes s a little longer than some would like, the "all pink everything" MC always comes back.

On his latest mixtape, Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1, Killa Cam resurrects that classic New York sound that helped decorate his walls with plaques in the '90s and early 2000s — his unique blend of hardcore and elementary school. Many of the beats take on elements ranging from old hip hop hits to way back classics (sorry, no Dipset reunion on this one).

The mixtape starts out with a re-worked version of '90s Bone Thugs-n-Harmony hit "Me Killa," which masterfully uses the simple snap of fingers to set the beat in motion while Cam comes in with his signature slow flow, combining street tales with his gritty sense of humor. "I don't know what you heard, but I'm cool with the drama/Couple people still alive 'cause I'm cool with they mama/N----s thinking I'm with JuJu because I'm in love/She ain't Black, man she Cuban her mama the plug/I can make cocaine, crack too, baking soda, propane/No halves or quarters, I do the whole thang/Take a sniff you'll be on that soul plane," he raps.

Next, on the more ominous "Dat All," the Dipset general issues a quasi Kendrick-like namecheck to fellow legends Eminem, AZ and even Nicky Barnes while claiming himself to be Harlem's finest. Then, on the ADM-produced "Talk to Me," he takes a headline-worthy shot at a legend of a different sort, proclaiming, "When it comes to these beats, I'm like a rapist, like No. 8 from the Lakers."

"Go Outside" comes in like a Sesame Street vibe, starting out with just a xylophone, then transitioning into a nice throwback track that takes you through a day in the life of Cam'ron before the fame, when he was just Cameron worried about paying his bills on time. The day didn't sound quite as good as Ice Cube's infamous 24-hour hot streak, but still not bad. The slightly psychedelic "Instagram Catfish" then details the disappointment of meeting up with a deceptive online jumpoff only to find that the online dime is a real life nickel.

2 Chainz only gets two bars on the bad breakup anthem "Snapped" (he's literally in it for the last 17 seconds), which could double as a great Allstate commercial. T.I. and Yo Gotti-assisted "Jungle," which flipped Token's "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" into a club banger, is one of GH1's high notes, as was the Lizzy-produced "Think About It," which brought back that classic use of a soul loop with just the right amount of strings to create the perfect beat for the "Oh Boy" rapper to spit his turf stories.

While Ghetto Heaven serves as a reminder of what made Cam a force to be reckoned with, it comes off at times as lazy with songs like "You Know This" and "Murder Game," both of which come with undeniably dope beats that outshined Cam's less than energetic flows.

The tape comes in at just under an hour, but probably would've been better served ending around 40-45 minutes.

Fillers like "Think You Need Love" and the nondescript "My Life" only further emphasized a lack of versatility that prevented this effort from standing out in a year with so many great mixtapes. But it's still the Cam that is loved, the one who has gone to war with some of the biggest names in hip hop — from 50 Cent to his former boss Jay Z — and through it all is still here and still rollin' in his "horse and carriage" (made by Porsche of course) with Harlem in tow.

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(Photo: Diplomat Records/Asylum Records)

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