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Public Enemy #1

If 2006 was the year people began to realize just how shitty rap music has gotten, 2007 will go down as the year of the publicity stunt. Rappers are attempting to convince people to buy their albums by turning the release of said albums into some sort of event, and damnit if it isn’t actually working.

A few months ago, Kanye West and 50 Cent got a shiteload of people to run out and cop their albums by turning the release date into a battle against one another and hence a battle for the very soul of hip-hop. By purchasing Curtis or Graduation, you weren’t just lining some TI’s pockets, you were making a statement about which type of hip-hop made by people who can hardly rap you prefer – the kind that’s primarily concerned with violence, or the kind that’s primarily concerned with materialism.

Jay-Z tied the release of his latest masterpiece, American Gangster, to the release of the film of the same name. It’s yet to be revealed whether or not Jay received any money from the studio that released American Gangster, but I’m sure they’re pleased as punch either way. It did ridonkulously well in the theaters this past weekend, even beating out that damn Jerry Seinfeld bee movie. And it looks like the Jay-Z album is poised to be his 10th album to debut at number one. I doubt it’ll sell quite as well as Curtis or Graduation, since listening to a Jay-Z album these days is like forcing yourself to watch the movie Scarface, but whatever. I’m just saying that because I hate to see black people do something positive.

When I heard, a few weeks ago, that Jim Jones was planning to release a mixtape called Harlem’s American Gangster, to coincide with the release of the Jay-Z album, I figured it might be the best idea ever. And it probably would have been, if it wasn’t such an awful listen. Last year, I found it so hilarious when Jim Jones kinda stole the thunder from Jay’s coming out of retirement with “We Fly High” – a song people actually liked, compared to crap like “Show Me What You Got.” Imagine if Capo had actually managed a similar feat this time out. It’s times like these when possessing a modicum of talent really comes in handy.

Speaking of which, it’s too bad Cam’ron’s career is probably not going anywhere anytime soon, since I think we can all agree he’s a much better rapper than Jim Jones. (We can agree on something, right?) A few years ago, he managed to endear himself to cracka-ass crackas with that Purple Haze album, and even it didn’t sell as well as that album he put out when he was on Roc-A-Fella. And since then, his career has been a downward of bad decisions, and, in many cases, even worse rap music. Only the most determined of LCD rap apologists could pretend that they liked Killa Season. His plan to release an album called Courtesy Curtis would have been at least hilarious, if not a brilliant marketing strategy, but he never did. Instead he just kinda disappeared for most of the year.

I’m usually at a loss for why giving out so much music for free on mixtapes is such a brilliant promotional strategy, but I can kinda see how it would be in Cam’ron’s case. It’s been a while since he put out anything, let alone anything that anyone liked. If he was just to put out an album this quarter, that shit would probably do Players Circle numbers – when there’s no reason, if we account for talent, the his shit should sell any worse than a Fiddy, or a Kanye, or a washed-up Jay-Z.

So the other day, Cam’ron put out a mixtape called Public Enemy #1. He was going to make a full-on event of it, by handing out copies of it in front of the legendary Apollo Theater, but of course he didn’t show up. I’m sure he’ll claim that he was busy somewhere giving a girl a dirty sanchez (which he raps about a lot on this tape), but my first thought was that he must have been afraid that he would be shot if he actually showed up. In interviews this week, as well as on the tape itself, he’s made it a point to note that he spent the summer taking care of his mother down in Florida. Now, I’m willing to believe that his mother is laid-up down in Florida somewhere, but you’d think he could have made an appearance in New York at some point or another, especially given the rumors circulating about him. And he never did offer much of an explanation for that black eye he had, did he?

As far as the mixtape itself, i.e. the music on the thing, it’s not that bad, but it’s not that good either. The production is definitely a mixed bag. There isn’t a single “keyboard beat” on it that struck me as an especially good idea, but some of the ones where he raps over pop hits from the ’70s and ’80s are a frickin’ riot. He should put out an entire mixtape of nothing but those, especially since he probably couldn’t put any of them on his actual albums anyway. I wasn’t about to make myself listen to the whole thing just for the sake of journalism, but the raps on the parts I heard were incredible – probably as good as anything on his past couple of albums.

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