Purple Haze came out of a whirlwind of transitions. Cam’ron had been recording his oft-delayed and highly anticipated fourth studio album amid a wave of industry changes in 2004. The Diplomats' founder and Harlem representer was leaving Def Jam and going to Warner Bros., along with music moguls Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles.
After securing debut album releases for Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, Cam’ron was finally left to focus on his personal effort, but not without some setbacks. “The album didn’t get a lot of credit until six or seven months after it came out,” Cam’ron recalls, suggesting that the timing of the premiere was rather unharmonious.
Fifteen years and seven studio LPs later, Cam’ron is slated to return with Purple Haze 2, a comeback to a sound he describes as unique to the Dipset camp and native to New York City. “I think that we created a sound over the years that is timeless. People really missed that sound, so a lot of my album [will be] produced by Heatmakerz.
In anticipation of Purple Haze 2, Cam’ron stopped by BET’s headquarters in Times Square to talk all things music. Our biggest takeaways from a recent catch-up with the multifaceted wordsmith includes his dream movie project on the life and times of Harlem rapper Big L, thoughts on Jay-Z’s controversial NFL deal, Nicki Minaj and the new wave of women MCs, a custom strand of weed to commemorate the upcoming album, his big NBA collaboration and more.
See below. Purple Haze 2 descends December 16.
"There’s a lot of stories that go under the radar. One story that’s really, really dope and hits close to home is the Big L story. He was the big-time rapper on my block, and he got murdered. And his brother got murdered, and his nephew just got murdered, and his cousins got murdered, and the guy who allegedly murdered [Big L] also got murdered. That story is still on-going, even as we speak.
"I’m trying to get everybody organized and to get everybody on the same page to sell that story is really hard. But I think that’ll be a dope story to tell once I can get everybody on the same page. Not saying I will ever be able to make that happen, but you know, Big L was the best rapper coming up out of Harlem. He had a record deal before any of us had a deal, and he got killed in 1999. A lot of people don’t understand it. Because they see me at the guy’s funeral who allegedly killed Big L. But people don’t know the back story to how, allegedly, Big L tried to… it’s a long story. If people get on the right page to get that story together, I think that story would be bigger than Paid in Full.
"Am I actively pursuing this? Yes and no. I know the people involved. Like I said, this is generational murder that’s going on. His nephew just got killed two months ago, so I would love to do it. But just getting everybody on the same page… ’cause these are people who are friends that end up killing each other, not saying for reasons right or wrong, but now you got friends… For instance, me and you grow up with each other and we end up killing each other. So now your mother is mad at my mother and my mother is mad at your mother. It’s generational, you know? Then that gets passed down.
"It’s hard to get everybody on the same page for that. But hopefully, one day everybody gets on the same page. I think that’ll be dope. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening anytime soon."
"I think it’s dope. A lot of people were upset about that because the NFL is quote/end-quote racist, etcetera. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I know it’s more than 50 percent Black people who are still playing in the NFL. So whether it’s racist or not, it’s still providing jobs for Black athletes. What happened with Colin Kaepernick is a shame, it’s really a shame that he’s not playing right now, because I think he’s dope. But I think that we do need somebody up there in the executive level to make some dope decisions for the players or for anything else [Jay-Z] might have in mind — I don’t want to speak on behalf of him. I don’t know exactly what kind of title he has with them, but I do think there needs to be somebody who can see eye to eye with them.
"You have to realize that every NFL owner is a billionaire. There are no Black NFL owners. Jay-Z is a billionaire. So a lot of times they may not respect you not only because of your skin color, but because of how much money you don’t have in comparison to them. This is someone who doesn’t need their money, someone who is a billionaire on his own. So he could see eye to eye with another billionaire as opposed to anyone else in the NFL who might be an athlete or a coach or maybe an executive, but they’re not billionaires. Sometimes money relates to money as opposed to just skin color. Because everyone wants to make it racist. I think they have more respect for Jay-Z because he has a billion dollars. That still doesn’t make it right, but at least we have somebody in there that can speak on our behalf."
"It’s always been room for females. Dope females. I wouldn’t put a gender on the face of hip-hop today. But right now, what I would say is that females got great momentum. Not just females. I’m a little older, so I’ve seen how a lot has transitioned over the years. I’m not just talking about females. Gay people have more rights, as they should. Females have more rights, as they should. Even trasngendered [people], they have more rights. These are things that were totally frowned upon in the '90s and definitely in the '80s. So to see people get their just due is dope.
"As far as female rappers are concerned, they always had a wave, whether it was Lil’ Kim or Foxy Brown, or Queen Latifah and them before that. This was the only era – before Cardi B and Megan [Thee Stallion] and everybody else – that there was a single female rapper running the business for eight, nine, 10 years, which was Nicki Minaj. There was no competition, ever. Until now, where City Girls is out and all those other people I previously mentioned. She had no competition for 10 years, and that was kind of unheard of. So I think it’s dope all these female artists are here and getting their just due."
"We have New York Knicks jerseys coming out at the top of 2020, between January and February. Basically the New York Knicks have created a Diplomats jersey that we’re going to be selling at select NBA stores as well as at Madison Square Garden. My publicist, Chanel, gets all the credit for bringing this to the table. I take credit for the color scheme." [Laughs]
"I’ve been working with a partner of mine in Vegas on G5 cultivations. My friend and business associate Larry, we’re working on a strand called Pink Mink that won’t be available until maybe the end of January when I get ready to go on tour.
"But we also have a strand called Ver-GOG that’ll be out in conjunction with the release of Purple Haze 2. So when Purple Haze 2 comes out, we’re doing all these different cities and going on publicity tours, we’ll definitely be offering a strand called Ver-GOG. But at the end of January, we have the Pink Mink with G5 cultivation coming out. That one’s going to be continuous regardless, that’s long term."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo by Evans Alexandre for BET)