Before A$AP Rocky and his A$AP Mob, Cam’Ron and the Diplomats ruled Harlem. Cam’s charisma, style, and wit made him one of hip-hop’s most compelling figures in the 2000s. However, in the last few years, Cam’ron’s momentum has cooled down significantly. His last solo project, Crime Pays, came out in 2009 and received mixed reviews. Cam’s relevancy has faded, but he still has the potential to mount a comeback, and it was with that in mind that the Harlemite released Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1 last week.

The intro, “Ghetto Heaven,” sets the tone. A series of voicemails demand that Cam’ron return to feed the streets, with the callers lamenting the current state of music and culture (“There’s more niggas out here wearing skirts than bitches”). After the final caller announces herself as Halle Berry’s assistant, Cam calls her back immediately, only to find out that it was a prank call. Without rapping a single bar, Cam shows off his humor and savvy pertaining to the current climate in music.

Lyrically, Cam sounds hungry and focused throughout the tape. His flow fluctuates from deliberate to double-time, firing off brilliant double entendres like only the Dipset head honcho can. Cam snaps on hard-hitting songs like “Talk To Me.” On the first verse, Cam says, “So when it comes to these beats I’m like a rapist/Like number eight from the Lakers.” On another song, “Dat All,” Cam says, “But I’m smoking on that Mother Nature/pull it twice, it’s a pillow it’ll suffocate ya.” He doesn’t use complex vocabulary, but he still manages to paint pictures with vivid, slick allusions.

The production is a diverse mix of sounds from beat makers who are largely unheralded. Cam produced two songs himself, one of which, “My Life,” samples Roy Ayers’ classic “Everybody Loves The Sunshine.” Araabmuzik produced “You Know This,” in what might be an older beat of his (the sound of his familiar “you are now listening to Araabmuzik” tag is missing). Meanwhile, the rest of Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1 has production from Lizzy, Skitzo, ADM, and J. Money. Most of the beats are bass-heavy bangers, but a few take advantage of some quirky samples. Notable examples of the latter include “Jungle,” which samples "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and “Golden Girls,” which samples the theme song of the classic television show. Each of these unorthodox samples works due to the charisma and delivery that Cam brings on each song.

Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1 is the start of what should be a monthly mixtape leading into the release of his long-awaited album, Killa Season 2. At 19 songs, the project certainly has a bit of fat, and could use the removal of a song or two. However, as a mixtape, Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1 offers a nice variety of songs and most importantly, it proves that one of Harlem’s finest is far from finished on the microphone. --Dharmic X