It’s the first week of July, 2014, and Harlemites should be rejoicing. Last Tuesday, Congressman Charlie Rangel won a fierce race in the final election of a forty-plus year career representing the historic neighborhood in a most charismatic fashion. Seven days later, on Tuesday, July 1, Cam’ron Giles, another illustrious Harlemite who likely needs no introduction here, graced us with First Of The Month, a five track EP that is filled with the same boastful flare that has come to be synonymous with the rapper (who knows fashion capes!), and as Mr. Rangel and others have contributed to showing over the years, Harlem itself.
Clocking in at just 17 minutes, First Of The Month saves plenty to be desired. In terms of production, rhymes, and subject-matter, the project isn’t too discernible from Cam’ron’s more recent tapes, and isn’t up to snuff with the material we’ve been privy to sample from Federal Reserve, his anticipated collaboration project with A-trak. But at this point in his career, whether good or bad, it’s likely that Cam’ron can get away with saying just about anything and still manage to endear his fans, just as long as he mixes in a fair share of effortless smugness, witty wordplay and his penchant to share a good narrative or two. And on First Of The Month, there’s just enough of that to carry the day.
“Put It In The Sky,” featuring Un Kasa, is a welcome déjà vu moment for fans of Cam’ron in the Diplomat era heyday. With a beat that’s equal parts frenetic and symphonic, and an eager Un Kasa verse to kick things off, the fourth track on the EP is vintage Cam’ron. Likewise, “Talk About It,” is a nice spot that finds Cam basking his heavy flow over a cookie-cutter, soul-sampling, beat. While the set-up on “Talk About It” feels relatively pedestrian for Cam at this point, it’s a thing of beauty, if not only nostalgia, to hear Cam in his pocket, navigating through lines like: “She said, ‘you ain’t relevant…’ Oh, that’s if you tellin’ it/Ask Alife, my face, they just be selling it,” or, later on, rattling off a string of lines that manage to incorporate “Movie yo,” “Scoobie tho’,” “Koofie’s,” “Julio,” “Coolio,” “Moody though,” and the list goes on; that’s just classic Cam’ron right there.
If First Of The Month is mainly more of the same, you might be wondering why, then, should the project earn a listen? Well for one, at only 5 tracks deep there are worse ways to spend your time. But the project deserves a shot for the same rationale behind why the good folks in Charlie Rangel’s district voted him to go to Congress one last time: because we love the same old Cam; and like those voters, we listeners know what to expect when it comes to Cam’ron, and what that is, is pretty damn good and entertaining.—David Inkeles