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Cam’ron w/Flatbush Zombies, Asaad, Reese
Saturday, July 14
Better than: The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival.
Mark July 14 on your calendar as another historic date in New York hip-hop’s current growth spurt. On this day, people from all corners of the city gathered in a semi-legal warehouse yard in Bushwick to witness what few could believe: King Jaffi Joe/Young Flea/Rico/Killa Cam himself was to take the stage for the first installment of the brilliantly titled “Whippin’ Work” concert series, performing alongside buzzing upstarts Flatbush Zombies, Reese and Asaad. Folks arrived as early as 4 p.m. to ensure prime real estate for this rare occurrence, and a heavy cloud of dank hung over the yard despite bouncers searching hats, wallets, and shoes TSA-style at the door.
Things got a bit hectic during Asaad’s opening set, when the Philadelphia rapper and his crew tried to battle a jaded crowd of early attendees head-on. As he barreled through the standard fare of bass-heavy, downtempo trap raps, folks played the wall and greeted the set with blank stares. After begging, cursing, threatening, and admonishing the crowd, one crew member took things a bit too far: “We don’t give a fuck if all y’all here for Cam’ron! Fuck Cam’ron!” he shouted to immediate booing. Asaad did his best to relieve the situation with a smile, but overall his set exemplified the Entitled Internet Rapper trope that’s reared its ugly, snapback-crowned head since Odd Future made it cool to diss your gatekeepers instead of fearing them. Asaad soon stormed off stage, and the silent crowd tried their best to forget what they’d just watched.
Atlanta’s Reese faired much better. His Two-9 crew blends an authentic southern bounce with edgier lyrics/concepts, including the recently released “Moll” and a certified hit called “Guess Who” that left the crowd in such a frenzy the DJ ran it back after their set (it goes “Guess who’s fuckin’ your bitch, guess who’s fuckin’ your bitch, guess who’s fuckin’ your-guess who’s fuckin’ your bitch” and it’s incredible). The Flatbush Zombies followed; tie-dyed “ZOMBiE” t-shirts peppered the crowd. When their DJ dropped Biggie’s “Notorious Thugs” it felt appropriate—that controversial classic was the first glimpse of what post-regional New York rap could (and would) sound like, and the iconic Bone Thugs flow is enjoying a healthy resurgence thanks to brave young lyricists like the Zombies. Juice, Meech, and Erick opened with their upcoming single “YBA (Young Black & Arrogant)” and, flanked by countless crewmembers and cosigners, later dropped their Children of the Night/ASAP Mob posse cut “3FLIP6.” Once they launched into their breakthrough “Thug Waffle,” the show felt like one big class reunion, which would soon be exhilarated by the keynote speaker.
When the transcendent Just Blaze horns of “I Really Mean It” echoed through the crisp Brooklyn evening, the entire VIP section made a mad dash for the photo-pit in front of the stage—there are no egos allowed when Cam’ron is present. Killa raced through a string of hits that held the weight of entire New York summers between sharp couplets: “Cock and spray, hit you from a block away/ drinking sake on a Suzuki we in Osaka Bay” felt downright biblical. His vocal presence lands somewhere between stand-up comedian and all-knowing guru, and he managed to make a 20-minute set of back-to-back anthems feel like at least an hour. “Wet Wipes” nearly incited riot as trigger fingers fired “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-damns” into the night sky. Members of the crowd, whether VIP or not, eagerly shouted every word to classics like “Oh Boy” and deeper cuts like “Live My Life.” At least two red bandanas were spotted. “I want to thank y’all for coming out and rockin’ with a nigga, I appreciate all of y’all,” he said after hitting a quick diddy-bop over “Speaking Tungs.” He closed with “Suck It Or Not,” and though it ended too soon, one couldn’t ask for anything more.
Cam’s shadow has loomed large over the city’s new generation of rappers, all of whom undoubtedly learned the lean in their walk and slang in their talk from the glorious 2002-2005 stretch where the Diplomats ran this city. As Jay-Z preps for eight sold-out shows at the Barclays Center and Nas gears up to release his best album in a decade, it’s still impossible to deny that Cam’ron is the most influential, trend-setting, beloved rapper to claim the five boroughs. The proof lay bare: A$AP Yams, manager and mastermind behind the inescapable A$AP Rocky, came up interning under Dipset A&R Duke Da God at Asylum Records. Children of the Night pay homage in name to the ’90s supergroup Children of the Corn, of which Cam’ron was a founding member. Even the evening’s host 40oz Van, Uptown/Bronx staple and something of a Tumblr Hugh Hefner, tweeted of the proceedings: “Host a Cam’ron concert is finally off my bucket list.” Quiet as it’s kept, Cam’ron raised a generation in this city, and on a summer day in Brooklyn we were all proud to welcome him home.
Critical bias: I got my 2XL white t-shirt signed by Un Kasa in 2004. It still hangs in my bedroom.
Overheard: “Oooooh! Look how glossy he is!” as Cam’ron walked past on his way to the stage.
Random notebook dump: Cam has the most brolic bodyguard I’ve ever seen, hands down. He’s built like a superhero. I was afraid to get too close to the stage.
I Really Mean It
Down and Out
Get ‘Em Girls
Live My Life
Suck It Or Not