September 27, 2009

Cam'Ron - Confessions Of Fire (July 21, 1998)

How exactly that album cover was supposed to pull in anything but a loyal female audience I'll never understand.

The story goes that Harlem rapper Cameron Giles, known as Killa Cam, was a part of a crew called the Children Of The Corn, alongside Murda Mase, Big L, and his cousin Bloodshed. After Bloodshed passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident, the group disbanded, and the three remaining rappers went on to find solo success. Two of those three hit the jackpot first, though: Big L, thriving from his outside affiliation with the Diggin' In The Crates crew, released a couple of albums and became a lyrical monster prior to his own passing in 1999. (Cameron made a cameo appearance on Big L's first album, but Murda Mase, curiously, did not, although Cam's future boss Jay-Z somehow found the time to show up to the studio.) Mason Betha, of course, won the lottery, signing with Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records and selling the fuck out, rechristening himself Ma$e and rhyming about the joys in the excesses of life, all before finding God and becoming a pastor.

Cameron took a little bit longer to find his outlet: it wasn't until Ma$e convinced his labelmate, The Notorious B.I.G., to give him a listen that his career moved at all. Biggie introduced Cameron to his manager, Lance "Un" Rivera, and the newly-named Cam'Ron soon found himself signed to Un's label, Undeas Entertainment, alongside Biggie's mistress Charli Baltimore, who, to be fair, was also a part of Biggie supergroup The Commission (alongside himself and Hova) that never got a chance to record a single song due to Biggie's untimely passing.

Cam'Ron's debut album, Confessions Of Fire, was released in 1998 with a mild buzz created by its first three singles: "357", a violent street tale, "Horse & Carriage", the radio-friendly piffle, and "Pull It", a tunnel banger featuring DMX that failed to make the final cut of Confessions Of Fire due to sample clearance issues, but can easily be found on the Interweb if you're interested. Its production was primarily handled by Un and Darrell "Digga" Branch, with the likes of Swizz Beats and the Trackmasters also holding court. Although he garnered nary a play on MTV (I think they may have shown the "Horse & Carriage" video once or twice, but never during the day), Cam'Ron managed to sell over five hundred thousand records in his first time up to bat: Charli Baltimore, in contrast, never got to see her debut album on a record store shelf, but I'll get to that story soon enough.

Undeas Entertainment soon folded, due to financial concerns (and the fact that Jay-Z allegedly stabbed Un for bootlegging his album Vol. 3...The Life & Times Of S. Carter). I'm not entirely sure what Un has been up to since, but Cam'Ron has successfully moved on, releasing albums of increasing popularity and boosting the stock of his weed carriers, who used to refer to themselves as the Diplomats (or DipSet) until they all decided that they liked money more than Killa Cam.

But we'll get to all that shit later.

This shit was super long with no real payoff. All sorts of ridiculous.

Swizz Beats was, inexplicably, the shit during the latter part of the 1990s, so getting him to provide a beat or two for Cam's debut was a gimme. On here, the man spits a couple of lengthy verses in a cadence better suited for a conversation, which is entertaining, and a couple of the jokes he cracks made me laugh. However, Noreaga's presence on the hook was unnecessary, and there's hardly any substance to to dull instrumental.

3. 357
The first single and video. This song samples, of all things, the theme song from fucking Magnum P.I.: you would have thought Ma$e and Cam would have been wearing fake Tom Selleck mustaches while they were running from the feds in the corny video. (At least, I would have thought that to be funny.) Some of this rapid-fire threat set to music is spoken for mere shock value (especially when he says that he'll force your brother to eat your mother out), but at least most of this is delivered with confidence.

This shit is weak, reaching out for a radio audience that didn't yet exist, thanks to Jermaine Dupri's co-production work. Cam's gibberish rapping also becomes annoying for the first time in the man's career on this song. Bleh.

Killa Cam tried his damnedest to appeal to the female half of the audience with this love rap, which shakes up the status quo of Confessions Of Fire so abruptly that you'll be tempted to double check the disc just to make sure that your evil twin, who is a railroad tycoon prone to tying his opponents to train tracks while twirling his mustache, hasn't switched albums on you. Moving on...

DMX has his song-length conversations with the devil, but Cam'ron goes the more existential route, playing chess with Death himself. Some of this is interesting, especially when Cam reveals that he's still kind of dealing with the loss of Bloodshed and does not want to die himself, kind of like Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, but the beat is much too peppy for the subject matter: "Suicidal Thoughts" this is not, although Digga and Un try to trick you into thinking that "Death" is on that brilliant song's level by utilizing a Biggie vocal sample throughout.

Killa Cam's first foray into the radio-friendly mainstream features his old running buddy Murda Mase riding shotgun on the chorus to this Trackmasters-produced song. This shit is admittedly ridiculous, especially Ma$e's crooning on the hook, but I'd be lying if I didn't cop to liking this crappy song back in the day (you can thank Bad Boy's influence on the genre at the time, as this falls into the same category: if the women like it, then...). It doesn't work so well for me now, though. Side note: I always thought it was hilarious that the video for "357" leads directly into this piffle, since this is essentially the polar opposite of that track.

Sampling the Tom Tom Club's "Genius Of Love"? Who are you, Mariah Carey? This shit is just weird, especially when Fredericka (I'm still not sure if this was supposed to be Cam's actual mother) spits some bars. As far as I care to research, this is the first recorded appearance of Jimmy Jones, better known now as Jim Jones, a hip hop jackass who has nevertheless managed to carve out a niche of the genre for himself, and is now technically much more popular that Cam. Sad, that.

Kelly Price's chorus doesn't fit in with Cam'Ron's overall theme on this track. Not that it truly matters, as this shit is so boring that you'll probably cut it off midway through anyway.

Cam and Murda rhyme over the same sample Nas rocked for his "Dr. Knockboots". This sounds like the type of shit that would have been the first single, had Cam signed with Puffy instead of Un. And this would be Puffy's idea of a "street" single.

Cam starts things off promisingly, dedicating the song to those whose parents chose their boyfriend or girlfriend over them, and then switches shit into a metaphor (a blatant one, by the way) for a parent addicted to drugs. The hook, sung by Brotha in a manner as to remind listeners of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman", is stupid, but Killa Cam's lyrics are actually not bad.

Wikipedia claims that this was a hit single, but I don't remember it ever getting any burn on the radio or on BET. I'm not the biggest fan of Usher (I have it on good authority that the guy is a douchebag in real life), but the man has some good performances under his belt ("You Make Me Wanna..." is still my shit); this is not one of them. This shit was poor.


What the fuck is this shit?

This is just goofy. Cam'Ron gets his Slim Shady on and spits some of the most fucked up shit that came to his mind at the time. Ultimately, his brain goes completely "banoodles", and we listeners receive a track that could have been an audio tour of a mental breakdown, but instead turns into a track that exists simply for shock value, much like Marilyn Manson's more recent releases. Some of the imagery conjured up is fairly disturbing, though, so I have to give the man some credit.

More of an interlude passing as a song. Murda Mase kicks things off with an angry tirade, and then Killa Cam calls out the folks who refused to support him while he was coming up: one could look at this as an anti-dedication. The singing at the end is pretty fucking hilarious, I have to say.

This C&C music factory created an entire song exploring the concept of having platonic friends, all while claiming that they have never hooked up with each other. Which is probably true, but I've found that if one is overly zealous in denying something, then there's probably more truth to the story. I found it curious that Charli disappears entirely during Cam's final verse, in which he appears to lose the theme of the track like a set of keys.

This Swizz beat is offensive to Asians, and Cam'ron may as well be rhyming about mystical thousand-year-old dragons in Tienanmen Square, as the instrumental is so fucking distracting that you won't care anyway.

After a long-ass intro, Cam'Ron finally spits a verse, some of which is curiously censored. He sounded okay, and the Digga/Un instrumental is alright, but this is too little, too late.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Confessions Of Fire is a fucking mess. Cameron Giles does have an interesting way with his words, and his flow is entertaining at times, but the beats that he is matched up with all seem to be aiming for the wrong audience: while Cam is clearly trying to appeal to the streets the majority of the time, his producers are steering him toward radio stations, which makes the project sound schizophrenic. There isn't anything appealing on Confessions Of FIre at all: I wouldn't recommend a single track on here.

BUY OR BURN? I don't find a need to do either, but fans of the DipSet movement may be curious to hear how Cam'Ron's mainstream career started. This was so annoying that I plan on never listening to it again, though.




  1. Swizz Beats CAN make good beats. You cut him too short, though Shanghai is his worst attempt to make a hardcore song.

    Cam'Ron is awful, shit rapper.

  2. sad part about this was that this came out while big l was still alive

  3. Didn't need to read the review to confirm Cam'Ron's lack of ability.

  4. gotta agree with unborn here. honestly who gives a fuck about cam ron he's a piece of shit.

    wouldnt mind some more bay area reviews.... maybe some 40 water, spice 1, the luniz, digital underground, del, andre nickatina, mac dre... but do what your doin man just a suggestion

  5. Max, there's a LOT of great overlooked albums and classic artists you ahevn't even touched on yet. Why don't you stop wasting time reviewing shit that nobody was ever in any doubt was shit the first time they heard it?

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  7. Cam'ron is hilarious... "subtraction addition! Accurate vision! Gat's in the engine! Black I'm just livin'! Cats in maximum prison! Rattin and snitchin! Smacked up for livin! Clap a few women!"