A$AP Rocky has the A$AP Mob, Cam’ron has The Diplomats, and forefather to both maverick Harlemites, the late great Big L, had Diggin’ In The Crates (D.I.T.C). Seeing as how today would’ve marked the legendary slain rapper’s 39th birthday (May 30, 1974), we thought it was only right to dedicate this week’s Throwback Thursday to his legacy via a 2002 interview that Mass Appeal conducted with his former protégé, Mr. Cameron Giles himself. What’s important to note is how he regarded Big L as one of the most pivotal influences in his rap career. Big L got him his first feature and we’ll go out on a limb to say that this unknowingly birthed the modern Harlem hip hop allure that still burgeons to this day through acts like A$AP.
As it turns out, Cam’s actually performing a show this evening at New York City’s S.O.B’s and we’re more than willing to bet the house that somewhere in that slot there’ll be a really special tribute to Harlem’s own. Shoutout to Killa and rest in peace, Big L!
Words by Riggs Morales Photography by George Covalla
Mass Appeal Issue 16 (June/July 2002)
Less than a year ago, 27-year old Cameron Giles was close to becoming another victim of the good artist/ wack label curse that has bestowed many a potential artist. That was until Roc-A-Fella C.E.O, Damon Dash threw a life presever on the young gun’s promising career and made the release of his 3rd album possible. As his polite hit single, “Oh Boy,” bombards airwaves across the country at lighting pace, Cam’ron grubs away at Copelands’, a fine soul food eatery located off of Broadway, on a beautiful April afternoon, recapping the irony of his still young career.
Mass Appeal: What’s the science behind the album title?
Camron: We did a song called “Come Home With Me” and we felt it captured the vibe of the whole album.
Ain’t that some jail shit though?
Oh, yeah, but we ain’t do it based on that. If you hear the song, it’s basically about Harlem.
You’re considered by some as the originator of the repetition style, (using the same word in 2-3 different ways), which is standard with a slew of today’s new-jacks. With every new cat taking your style towards other levels, do you feel like you’ve become a victim of your own style?
Nah. I mean it’s cool, as long people [like you] recognize who originated that shit. Then I feel good. People bite, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s cool. Sometimes I think did I really originate that? I mean a lot of stuff people steal from me, but I don’t like to say it. Sometimes it’s coincidental, but sometimes I’ll be like damn that’s flagrant. But it’s cool tho, cause I stay working. I stay creative. I’m gonna think of something, cause, I’m a quick thinker.
Some heads mistakenly copped Epic’s Cam’ron’s Greatest Hits thinking it was your new album. . . .
That’s that fucked up shit that Epic did. They wanna use the promotion that the Roc worked up to go put out an album that they should’ve marketed and promoted. I tell niggas don’t go buy it. Don’t buy it!
How are things now with The Roc compared to the Epic way of doing things?
Right now I’m real comfortable, cause Damon [Dash] put me in position where I don’t have to worry about who doesn’t like the single, or if people at the label don’t like the song, cause he puts everything on you like it’s your career, it’s your life. He don’t want you to transform from being yourself. Whereas at Epic, I hand in the album, they like ‘don’t like it, do it over.’ This album that’s ready to come out; 75% of it I did at Epic, but they said they ain’t like none of the songs.
How’d you end up at the Roc?
I’ve known Dame since we was young, before music, but we eent our separate ways with music. Being that he’s a good friend of mine, when I got in the situation in Epic, I knew he had a lot of power in the game. . . and respect. I went over and asked him if he could manage me and get my situation at Epic together. Dame heard it [the album] and was like that whole joint is hot, I’ll take it. That’s one of the ways I went about getting out of my deal, cause they wasn’t feeling my music.
Are you more comfortable with the Roc than you were with Untertainment?
I couldn’t be in a more comfortable place. Dame knows my personality and what kind of person I am. Therefore, it’s great. No disrespect to Un, but Un grew up in Brooklyn. So me and him didn’t grow up in the same neighborhood. Me and Dame watched each other grow up in the same ol’ neighborhood.
Speakin of the ol’ neighborhood, your first appearance was Big L’s first album, correct?
Yeah, “8 Iz Enuff”.
How was your relationship with Big L?
L is like the best to me. I don’t only look at him as a great rapper, he was also my man. He was from 139th and I was on 140th and Lenox. He had interest in me like ‘Yo, Cam, you should keep it up.’ L was the nigga who really told me that I should take rap serious. When I did “8 Iz Enuff”, I didn’t look at it like no album type situation. When he put it on the album, I was buggin’. I was in high school at the time. I come home from school, K’s like ‘C’mon hit the studio’. . . and back to school. A year later I’m away at college and seen the shit in a magazine like, ‘Oh shit, I’m on that album.’ I didn’t take it like an album. He used to tell me ‘Yo, Cam, you nice.’ But back then I used to play ball and I was taking ball more serious.
You played the legendary Drug Kingpin rich Porter in the movie Paid in Full, what was that like being that ya’ll form the same hood?
I had fun doin’ it. He called and requested for me to play the part. So it was all love. It was my first movie.
There’s a lot of good response from the bootleg making the rounds. When’s it due out?