Today, U Wasn’t There—the long-fabled collaborative project between superstar DJ/producer/Fool’s Gold founder A-Trak and New York trendsetter/lyricist/cultural icon Cam’ron—drops via Empire. Arriving nearly a decade after the elite duo dropped their first singles “Humphrey” and “Dipshits”, the album features masterful production by A-Trak, Just Blaze, DJ Khalil, !llmind, Thelonious Martin and more, as well as uniquely introspective verses from one of the most elusive rappers in hip-hop. U Wasn’t There recalls 2000’s-era Dipset sounds and sets the stage for Killa Cam to deliver his hard-hitting, sharply-penned wordplay exemplified on standout “What You Do” featuring Damon Dash. Single “All I Really Wanted”—a soulful Harlem anthem in which Cam effortlessly recounts his teenage years as a basketball player, growing up with fallen heroes Big L and Bloodshed, and hustling his way to legendary status—perked ears at Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Complex, Vibe, Stereogum, and more. The cold-hearted “Ghetto Prophets” featuring Conway The Machine followed suit, earning nods from XXL, HipHopDX, Revolt, and Brooklyn Vegan.
Cam’ron and A-Trak first connected in 2014 through entrepreneur and record executive Damon Dash who had a vision for a 3-way collaboration that would combine the cachet of the Diplomats, Fool’s Gold and Bluroc brands. The unlikely pair quickly became friends and started recording at Cam’s house in the suburbs of New Jersey. Their early demos were to become the Federal Reserve EP, a mythologized project that was announced with a Complex cover story but never saw the light of day.
Speaking to Complex in 2014 about the anticipated release, A-Trak said:
“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.”
The mythical work first conceived by Damon Dash is now a classic New York hip-hop record flawlessly curated by A-Trak, featuring notable guests Styles P, Jim Jones, Mr. Vegas, and some trash-talking and philosophizing by Dash himself. To top it off, A-Trak commissioned IRAK visual designer and New York art influencer Kunle Martins for the album’s powerful cover art and design. Nearly 10 years in the making, U Wasn’t There is nothing short of a cultural touchstone, cementing A-Trak and Cam’ron’s storied careers and cultural legacies.
© 2022, Seth Barmash. All rights reserved.