Minus a praise-worthy hip hop spin on 9-to-5 recession-depression, the timely “(I Hate) My Job”, and, to a lesser extent, his middle verse cameo appearance on Clipse’ “Popular Demand (Popeye’s)”, the anticipated return of one-time East Coast rap kingpin Cam’ron from a mysterious self-imposed hiatus really didn’t become the game-changing/ career-revitalizing 2009 event most assumed it would.
Yeah, Crime Pays, Cam’s latest studio release, may have shown that the rapper was in no danger of losing his stranglehold position as one of the most absurd spitters in the game, but marred by too many goofy couplets that lacked much of his previous spark, on-the-cheap beats, and the very noticeable absence of his former Dipset peeps, the album was just such a far-cry from the critical and commercial heights of 2002’s Come Home With Me or 2004’s Purple Haze, that it mostly left one wondering why Cam didn’t simply just drop it as the stop-gap, mixtape-only set it most felt like, a “inching my way back into the game” collection preceding the release of a real, big-budget and A-list-aligned comeback affair.
Recently leaked “Ooh Baby” only strengthens our frustration with Cam’s current incarnation. From a distant perspective it’s gets everything right, working like a brand new take on his 2002 crossover smash “Oh Boy” by nicely pairing Cam with a younger, hungrier protogee/ soundalike (Harlem emcee Vado) and boasting a fetchingly looped chipmunk-ed soul sample (The Temprees’ 1972 doo-wop-ish ballad “Dedicated To The One I Love”) for the boys to playfully interact with.
But a closer listen reveals how much of a poor imitation it really is: Producer Araab Musik fumbles in smoothly transitioning the sample in between verses; Vado is good, but lacks the eased, humorous swagger of Cam’s old sidekick, Juelz Santana; and Cam sleepwalks his way through two largely lackluster verses.
In terms of repeated listenability, “Ooh Baby” easily ranks as one of the better offerings Cam’ron has given us in a year of mostly meandering, C-rated duds, but it’s hard-to-ignore shortcomings prove that the man still has a ways to go if he’s hoping to make a triumphant return bid to his previous beloved status.