Money On My Mind
Saturday, October 22, 2005. Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood is packed with party people celebrating Howard University’s illustrious Homecoming weekend. A couple hours past midnight, at the intersection of New York and New Jersey Avenues, Harlem rap star Cam’ron Giles reclines behind the wheel of his royal blue 2006 Lamborghini, his childhood friend Huddy Combs riding shotgun. Behind them, Cam’s pink Range Rover, full of his boys. Two cars behind the Range, the Diplomats van, manned by Cam’s security chief, T-Rell, and crew. To his right, Cam notices a bandanna-masked fan forming Roc-A-Fella’s famous diamond sign with his hands. He pays little mind—the streets are crowded, and D.C. dudes always wear bandannas around their mouths. But then the fan puts his hands down, raises a gun and moves toward the car. Bang! Bang! Bang! Shots hit the windshield and then Cam’s arms. He steps on the gas, the engine roars, but to no avail. Lamborghinis automatically shift into neutral when idle for more than a few seconds. Combs pushes the restart button and the two take off to the right, followed by the Range. The shooter jumps into the passenger’s seat of a burgundy Ford Expedition that peels off to the left. The security van follows the shooter, as does a marked police car that was right behind the Range at the light.While Cam steers against traffic the half-mile to Howard University Hospital, the Expedition crashes a few blocks away on U Street, where the shooter and the driver escape on foot. Twelve hours later, Cam is released from the hospital, both arms bandaged, and wearing over $200,000 in jewelry. He tells reporters his assailants were “real sloppy,” and hops on a plane back to New York, where he heads straight from the airport to the studio to write about his night.
A month-and-a-half later, the verses have hit the street, on the “Get Em Daddy (Remix)” from the latest Diplomats mixtape, The Title Stays in Harlem. “See it do react,” Cam rhymes. “Hud six threw me back/A few they clapped/But I ate those, them shits are Scooby snacks…”
Meanwhile, D.C. police are frustrated. They found a cell phone and shell casings in the crashed Expedition, and a .45-caliber pistol in an alley nearby. As loquacious as he is on the mic, though, Cam’s lips are sealed when it comes to cops. Unable to get him on the phone since he came home, capital officials are threatening a subpoena. They’ve enlisted NYPD help, too, raising the issue of the five years probation sentence Cam received in 2002 for weapons charges. A couple badges stopped by Cam’s place the other day. It wasn’t a friendly visit.
Still, on December 8, inside of a well-hidden Park Ave. editing studio, 29-year-old Cam’ron seems anything but cowed. He’s here to put the final touches on his self-produced, straight-to-DVD movie, Killa Season, which will accompany the April release of an album, his fifth, of the same name. It’s been almost a year since the flamboyant MC—and CEO of Diplomat Records, leader of the East Coast force Dipset—left Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam in the wake of the Dame Dash–Jay-Z split. Now, after setting up shop for a while at indie warehouse Koch Entertainment, he’s sitting pretty with a new two-album deal with Warner Bros. subsidiary Asylum Records. The figures have been reported to be in the $2.5 million range. Cam says twice that.
Indeed, the numbers keep getting bigger in Dipset World. Cam’s 2002 album, Come Home With Me, is the only Diplomats effort ever to go platinum. Twenty-three-year-old Juelz Santana, though, debuted in Billboard’s pop Top 10 just in time for the holiday shopping season, and Cam’s right-hand man, Jim Jones, is similarly rising in status. Jones took an executive position at Warner Bros. last year, and also launched a Diplomats offshoot, Byrdgang Records. A line of furs (yes, furs) has been added to the crew’s entrepreneurial portfolio—joining the thriving mixtape series and the liquor brand, Sizzurp. Jones’ third official solo album is due this year, too, along with first shots from newer Diplomats Hell Rell and J.R. Writer.
Dipset are as New York street as it gets. But this year, Cam’s aiming to take Harlem’s hood heroes nationwide.
Let’s start with the shooting. It seemed like a failed carjacking at first. But the talk has shifted toward a setup. Who do you think was behind it?
Honestly, I don’t make speculation. When I got an answer I’ll tell you, but I’m not gonna guess on this, that and a third. But before I do, I got to do research. If somebody set me up, we gonna get to the bottom of it.
D.C. cops have expressed frustration with your unwillingness to cooperate with their investigation. NYPD came to your place recently right? What was that about?
I went to D.C. I usually get permission [from my parole officer], but I ran out there because Juelz’s shit was coming out and I had to promote. I get shot and the D.C. police calling me up. I’m not answering my phone, and they’re like, I violated. They come to my house at 8 in the morning... They handcuffed me, took me in with my shit fucked up. But I’m the victim. I just went down there to take care of business, I get shot, now I’m violated? But at the end of the day, the D.C. police be calling me. But why are you calling me? First of all, the car crashed. You have the car, you have the fingerprints, you have the cell phone, and you got the gun—they found the gun in the bushes—and you have a police witness.
So what are the police saying about the shooter or his getaway driver
They talking about the nigga who car it was, he forgot who he lent the car to that night. [If that was New York], he would be in jail until he remembered. Now D.C. police want to speak to me, and the New York cops are violating me, talking about, “Cam don’t wanna cooperate.” Cooperate about what!? I didn’t see nobody. Second of all, you seen everything, you were between me and my whole entourage. You were in the center, and you cut off my squad from catching the nigga.
After you left the hospital, you came back to New York and went straight to the studio. Did you feel any fear, like, Somebody just tried to take my life?
I was more mad that niggas tried to even disrespect me. And I’m mad that we don’t know who did it, and the cops are acting stupid. So now I got to conduct my own investigation. But music has always been a good therapy for me. If I can go out and say whatever—as long as I’m not speculating and putting myself and my friends in any danger—then I don’t give a fuck… I move like somebody is trying to kill me anyway. There’s never a time when you’ll catch me slippin’. I don’t really move around if I’m not right. If I’m at the party, I’m at the party right. I was right that day, we were just off on our way. They caught Ronald Reagan slippin’. You can catch anybody slippin’. Niggas ain’t scared, niggas is upset and want to know what’s going on.