And he still has the car
Early Sunday morning, one of the greatest rappers in the world came very close to dying. Cam’ron, the nonchalantly amoral absurdist thug-rap prince, was driving from one DC club to another around 2:10 a.m. when “an unknown number of men” pulled up next to Cam at a stoplight and demanded he turn over his car, a royal blue 2006 Lamborghini. Cam refused, and so they shot him.
He’s fine. Or he’s not dead, anyway, not even seriously injured. MTV.com News said he was shot twice, once in each arm. The Channel 11 news last night said he was shot once. Dipsetmixtapes.com clarifies things: a bullet went through one arm and into the other. Ah. In any case, the carjackers fired multiple shots, and I have to wonder how close Cam came to getting hit in the head. A foot? Three inches? Cam drove himself to the hospital with a bullethole in one arm and a bullet in the other. He spent 12 hours at Howard University Hospital before flying back to New York yesterday. Here’s Cam’s manager, Joseph Sherman, quoted on Dipsetmixtapes.com: “He even asked the nurse for her phone number when he woke up.” (This is awesome.) Here’s Cam, quoted on Allhiphop.com: “People are foolish if they think I’m going to lose my head and give up anything to anyone just because someone threatens me … I’m doing OK. It takes more than a botched carjacking to keep me down.”
All bravado. Of course he’s all bravado. Listen to him. That buttery monotone never betrays fear or regret or even anger, just effortless unemotional mastery and a sort of amused disbelief, whether he’s quietly amazed that he’s come this far in life or that some audacious fool would try to test him. If Cam was shaken after being shot (and he’d have to be insane to not be shaken), he’d never let us know. He’s not the sort of guy who shows weakness or vulnerability in public. His fans wouldn’t take to it. It would break the cult-of-personality spell he’s spent years meticulously weaving, transforming himself from a clumsy one-hit Mase-affiliated rapper in 1998 to an unflappable don and border-hopping entrepreneur in 2005. He’s got product to push, and every news report about the shooting takes care to mention that Killa Season is coming in February 2005. It’s back to business as usual.
And maybe that public profile was something that flashed through Cam’s mind on Saturday night when he decided to stomp on the gas at the red light instead of opening the gull-wing door and walking away. That blue Lamborghini is the most famous car in rap, a towering symbol of Cam’s relentless self-reliance, the first thing he copped after selling his equally famous pink Range Rover on eBay and signing a $2.5 million deal for his Diplomat Records with Warner’s regional-rap experiment Asylum Records. In July, Cam talked about his car on 106 & Park: “I bought the Lamborghini especially for New York,” so he could drive around and let people see it, so they could realize that you could be from New York and own something like that. Soon after 106 & Park, Cam was arrested in Harlem for driving the car with a suspended license. And if Cam would’ve walked away from this famous car in DC, maybe he would’ve betrayed the image he’d made for himself and shown weakness.
Probably not. Probably he just stomped on the gas pedal because that’s what you do when adrenaline is coursing through your veins and you don’t have time to think your decision through. Imagine the scene: he’d been separated from his security, and he was trying to find his way to a club. Have you ever driven around DC and tried to find a club? It’s a labyrinth. You think you’re headed in the right direction, and all of a sudden you’re on some completely other street with another name. You’re in Southwest one minute and Northeast the next with no idea how you got there. Maybe Cam’s security got lost. Maybe Cam got lost. But he drove to the hospital just fine, so maybe he knew exactly where he was the whole time; I have no idea.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about rappers’ personal problems, the ghosts of criminal pasts that follow them into their newly legit, newly artistic lives; check the Beanie post, check all the staggering new allegations about Murder Inc. But this was a different situation. It would be wrong to say that this could’ve happened to anyone, but it could’ve happened to anyone who was driving a new Lamborghini from one club to another late at night in DC. It had nothing to do with any criminal exploits in Cam’s past. Did Cam’s assailants recognize him? Would it have mattered if they did? What did they think when they saw that gorgeous blue spaceship cruising down a street that late at night, looking like an apparition? Did they follow it for a few blocks? Did they just decide that moment to pull out guns?
Or was it reckless for Cam to even be driving that thing? Does he understand the effect that a car like that might have on people who have nothing? What does it say about rap’s rampant conspicuous consumption that one of the best rappers in the game came close to dying rather than relinquishing his car? And would it have said anything different if Cam had actually been murdered? They’re important questions, but they’re questions for another time. Right now, Cam is OK, back in New York. We haven’t lost him, and we should breathe a sigh of relief.
Voice review: Jon Caramanica on Cam’ron’s Purple Haze
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 24, 2005