Cam’ron
Boss of All Bosses 2

Beats: XL
Lyrics: L
Originality: L

Cam’ron’s new DJ Drama-helmed mixtape Boss of All Bosses 2 is everything the first tape wasn’t. Featuring much-improved guest appearances from Cam’s protégé Vado, a cohesive sound courtesy of consistent contributions from Dipset producer Araab Muzik, and inspired lyrical efforts from Killa, this sequel comes closer to living up to its name this time around.

It doesn’t take long to notice the difference, either. Over Araab’s soulful samples on “Always Made It,” the Harlem rapper recounts stories about overcoming hard times. The thumping “They Feelin Us,” finds Vado and Cam showing off some of that circa-2003 Dipset swag that had all but disintegrated by the time Cam disappeared shortly after releasing his 2006 album, Killa Season. And over the frenetic keys on “Nuthin Like Araab Muzik,” the good-humored lyricist mixes clever boasts and wit to whimsically rap lines like, “I’m the bomb, boo, we can kick it like Kung Fu/It’s on you, your heart’ll be mine, true, John Q.”

Of course, not everything here is boss material, though. The freestyle over Mobb Deep’s “Get Away” sounds curiously out-of-place, while the dated samples on “Lonely” and the poor chorus on the hustler’s anthem “Movin’ Raw” take away from otherwise stellar tracks. But thanks to the chemistry displayed elsewhere by Cam and Vado on the catchy “Whistle” and the mixtape’s best track, “Stop It Slime,” the setbacks only amount to minor damages in Cam’s attempt to reclaim a prominent position in hip-hop. After returning to the rap game in 2009 with the lackluster Boss of All Bosses mixtape and an underwhelming Crime Pays album, Cam finally sounds like he’s back on the job again. —Chris Yuscavage