A-Trak and Cam'Ron have the secret recipe for the most anticipated collaboration of the season. Just Mix Fool’s Gold and Dipset—and throw in a Dash of Damon.




This feature appears
in the April/May 2014
issue of COMPLEX.

Before the music, they bonded over shrimp—Killa shrimp, to be precise—seasoned to perfection by “Killa” Cameron Giles as a way of welcoming his new friend, Alain “A-Trak” Macklovitch, to his home.

Exactly how did this odd couple end up together in the ’burbs of New Jersey, feasting on Killa shrimp? Well, it turns out that Cam’ron and A-Trak have a lot in common. Both are highly creative artists and disarmingly polite men who share an unwavering belief that Cam’ron is the best rapper of his generation. And—most important—they have a mutual friend in Damon Dash, Ultimate Hustler™.

So when A-Trak hit up his old acquaintance Dame in an effort to get Cam for a song, the wheels for the Federal Reserve EP quickly went into motion. Dame, being the world’s most renowned Cam Whisperer (with apologies to Miss Info), got into his old buddy’s ear and convinced him that A-Trak’s idea for a song had greater potential as a full project. Fool’s Gold. Dipset. Festivals. Merch. Synergy! Or, as Dame puts it, understated as ever: “It’s that kind of magic where two serious legends that are ridiculously good at what they do come together.”

Now back to Cam’s kitchen: To record the EP, Dame would scoop A-Trak from his Williamsburg apartment in his Suburban and they’d make the interminably long trek from BK to Cam’s crib in Jersey. There, Cam would cook for his guests—steak, lamb, Killa shrimp—before hitting his home studio, where A-Trak would play his sublime beats and Cam would lay his inimitable raps. “With Cam,” says A-Trak, “we show up, we record, it’s done.” And so, over the course of a few autumn nights stretched over several months, the songs on Federal Reserve were born.

The end result is everything you’d anticipate from an A-Trak x Cam’ron project—but better. Cam being Cam over A-Trak’s versatile production is already an easy sell, but consider that the French-Canadian beat miner layered some gravy and cheese on his fries by enlisting famous friends like Just Blaze and AraabMuzik as co-producers. “To spruce up the tracks,” says A-Trak, humbly. On the other side of the booth, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones drop guest vocals to give the project the full Dipset blessing.

And Mr. Dash? Executive producer, obviously. But also, by popular demand, back in the booth, at his “Champions”–era, Champagne Dame “I got niggas that will assassinate you, B…lyrically!!!” best. It just feels right, doesn’t it?

We sat down with A-Trak and Cam’ron to talk about the making of Federal Reserve, their favorite Cam records of all time, and Dame’s most memorable vocabulary lesson.

"The studio’s in my crib so I would cook some lamb, then go lay a verse, then come back upstairs and cook some steak and lay a verse, then come back upstairs and cook some shrimp and lay a verse" —Cam

Cam, what were your thoughts when Dame told you about a possible Fool’s Gold collab with A-Trak?
I thought it was dope. Last year, at this DJ battle, Miss Info was telling me about A-Trak. This is something brand-new to me; I didn’t even know nothing about this world or this culture. She mentioned he was one of the biggest people to do it. So when Dame called me and said we should do an EP together, I was like, “Let’s do it. Sounds good.”

Without going through Dame, how difficult would it be to get in touch with you?
I’m type bipolar. My mood swings change, so sometimes I may want to do something, sometimes I may not, but being that A-Trak knew Dame, it was all good. To be honest, sometimes I get in my shell and I don’t want to do stuff, and sometimes I’m real active. After getting to know A-Trak, I’m really happy that I did do it. Now if he ever calls me direct, I’ll answer the phone.

Dame told me you’re big on first impressions. So when A-Trak initially came over to your house, what was the vibe like?
I think the first time they came over I was cooking lamb and steak and all types of stuff. I don’t like to have sessions where everybody’s just sitting in the studio waiting. The studio’s in my crib, so I would cook some lamb, then go lay a verse, then come back upstairs and cook some steak and lay a verse, then come back upstairs and cook some shrimp and lay a verse—so we was just cooking and recording all night. It was a pretty cool atmosphere for me.

So how’s Cam’s cooking?
It’s good! It’s real good, man. Better than mine.
Cam’ron: I’m highly requested out there, man.
A-Trak: I want to have him cater my next birthday party.

Cam, care to share any recipes?
It’s a secret. I can’t really reveal what I put in my seasoning. I might bottle that up and sell it soon. I’ll let you know when it’s time to reveal my secret. It wasn’t always food, but I always did my thing around the kitchen. I can’t wait to put that on my résumé. I’m a caterer, interior decorator—a lot of hobbies people don’t know I do.
A-Trak: He decorated his whole house himself. You know, in this day and age where so many collaborations are Pro Tools sessions being emailed, it’s refreshing to connect with someone on a more human level and vibe out. I remember Cam was real vocal about that, like, “Look, we’re going to record. We’re going to do songs. But also, we’re going to chill, cook some lamb, and then it becomes easier to connect musically.” One thing that’s cool is that this is all centered around music.

Speaking of music, let’s talk about the Dipset back catalog. What’s your favorite Cam’ron song of all time?
“I.B.S” [off 2006’s Killa Season] is kind of a personal favorite because it’s like, “Oh shit, Cam is talking about his digestive system.” [Laughs.] If I’m going to name favorites, I’m not going to name the obvious joints, but at the photo shoot, we were listening to “Killa Cam” from the [2004] Purple Haze album—one of my favorites. Also “357” is still up there for me.

“I.B.S” [off 2006’s Killa Season] is kind of a personal favorite because it’s like, “Oh sh*t, Cam is talking about his digestive system.” —A-Trak

Cam, do you play favorites from your own discography?
Certain songs bring me back to certain places I’ve been in my life. So definitely, I listen to my stuff. Offhand? Probably “Losing Weight” with Prodigy [2000]. I listen to Purple Haze a lot. If I’m in the gym, I listen to that album the whole way through sometimes.

A-Trak, you’ve collaborated with Dipset before, on 2005’s “Don’t Fool With the Dips.” What were your goals for this project?
What I enjoy doing with my production, and even with Fool’s Gold as a platform, is curating—piecing a project together and thinking about what it is that people want to hear. Also mixing that with a certain element of surprise. Linking up with Cam, there was a lot of, “What’s that ultimate feeling of Dipset that people might be missing?” And bringing that to the table with a current sound.

One thing that’s important to say is this isn’t a throwback project. To me, Cam is forever relevant. People want to hear this now. With the world that I’m in through Fool’s Gold, we’re very much plugged into the generation where all these scenes interact. Cam with Dipset was one of the first ones. He laid the blueprint for that model, where kids don’t only want to hear their music, kids want to rock the pink fur and post the picture on their Tumblr and live the whole lifestyle.

For me it makes perfect sense, because this is the artist that wrote the book without realizing it a long time ago. Now everybody’s living through that model and they still want to hear it. It’s forever current, it’s forever relevant. That’s what I like to be involved with.
Cam’ron: Thank you, man. I really appreciate that. If I inspired anyone it’s a good feeling. Because there’s people that inspired me to do what I do. Like people you see with a bunch of chains, Slick Rick was the first person I seen do it—and I don’t know who’s the first person to do it before him. So it’s always passed down. It may switch up a little bit, but a lot of stuff comes back full circle, so it’s all love.

Do you recognize your influence on the new generation?
When it’s pointed out to me. I don’t really pay many people too much mind. The only time I get to see videos is if I’m on a flight and I’ll tell niggas to download all the latest videos on my computer. I’m from the era of “If it ain’t on TV, I don’t really be watching it.”

Does that mean you’re not a daily WorldStar visitor?
Nah. Not at all. There’s too much on WorldStar. You’ll be watching somebody get beat up and then you’ll be watching someone get proposed to.
A-Trak: Yeah, it’s like an emotional roller coaster.
Cam’ron: For real. I like the outlet they’re giving people though. I’m not against it. I’m just not on there every day. When people tell you something’s hot, everybody run over to it. Like damn, if I see a lot of people do something, I’m going all the way left. I can’t do what everybody else does.
A-Trak: So when you started wearing pink and shit like that, was that to do what other people wouldn’t dare to do?
Cam’ron: Exactly. Do stuff people wouldn’t dare to do. And not only that, at that time it was Fashion Week [2002], so I knew there was going to be a thousand cameras around. Everybody’s coming in there fresh—what am I gonna do to stand out? Next day, I was in every newspaper that you could pick up: Page six, New York Post. Daily News, third page.

If you don’t try to stay in style, you never go out of style.
That was interesting to me, showing up to the crib in Jersey. I think Cam’s the type of artist that will always be Cam. I was definitely curious, like: “What’s the day-to-day life of this guy who’s always Cam?”

“Bernard Hopkins wants to fight Floyd Mayweather, which is just basically suicide for him. And I’m saying to myself, I’ll fight him on pay-per-view, seven rounds. And Dame was like, you should get that set up.” —Cam

You follow him on Vine, right?
Yeah, exactly. I’m a fan of the Vine movies—[Cam’s fiancée] JuJu hiding behind the couch with the gun and all that stuff. So when I saw the living room, I was like, “Wait, I know this couch!”

Back to the music: The first song you released, “Humphrey,” had a lot of people buzzing because you said that you want to fight [boxing legend] Bernard Hopkins.
I gotta tell you the whole story now. Me and Dame was talking about how Bernard Hopkins is fighting for money—and he’s never gonna get another pay-per-view fight. He wants to fight Floyd Mayweather, which is basically suicide for him. I’m saying to myself, I’ll fight him on pay-per-view, seven rounds. And Dame was like, you should get that set up. Bernard Hopkins, he’s a great boxer and he’s the champ. But he ain’t knock nobody out since ’05—and he’s 49. So I think I can go six or seven rounds with him.

Wow. You’re dead serious about it.
I’m not even joking. I’m 100 percent serious. I respect the shit out of Bernard Hopkins. I think he’s one of the best. But at 49 years old, you’re basically fighting for money. And you’re not gonna get a bigger payday than fighting me. If you were like, Bernard Hopkins is gonna fight [some random boxer], I ain’t paying for that. But if you say Cam is gonna fight Bernard Hopkins, you’re gonna pay top money to see that fight because it’s interesting. And I’m not no sucker. I’m not just going to go in there and run around. So if he wants to make money, that’s what I’m here to do, too. So let’s do it.
A-Trak: As long as I don’t have to fight anyone.
Cam’ron: It’s all good. You’ll just count some money.

In addition to a Cam-B.Hop fight, people will definitely want to see a Federal Reserve tour, where Fool’s Gold meets Dipset.
To me, the intersection between my world and Cam’s world is very much tied to that New York, downtown, streetwear kind of movement. It’s kids that are happy to hear his music and also jump around to electronic music and hear some Atlanta stuff and some new rap. When we connect, there’s a way to really resonate just as much with the new school, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and A$AP Rocky kind of fans, as much as with the classic rap fans, as much as with some Internet kids that listen to anything that’s got some sort of flavor—different genres or whatever. It all connects.

What’s your favorite memory from the Federal Reserve sessions?
The shrimp’s my favorite part. Also witnessing Damon’s business calls. [Laughs.]
Cam’ron: Yeah. [Laughs.] Fiduciary obligations.
A-Trak: Yeah, Cam learning the word “fiduciary.” We were rolling out to Jersey in Cam’s car. Me and Dame were in the backseat. Dame’s on the phone, on some sort of conference call, screaming at a lawyer using all his business words. “You gotta check my fiduciary obligations!!!” The call lasted like 20 minutes.
Cam’ron: Every 10 words I interrupt him, like, “What does that mean? I want to use that later.” You know what’s crazy? [A-Trak] knew what fiduciary meant already.
A-Trak: Fiduciary is a trust between business partners, I think. It’s some sort of implied obligation when you’re...yeah, something like that. Ask Dame.