Cam’ron will be performing in Baltimore on July 12 at Rams Head Live.

New York’s Harlem neighborhood has birthed & housed some of the world’s most prominent Black figures. In terms of entertainment, there are few places whose residents compare, with names like James Baldwin, Sammy Davis  Jr. and Sean “Diddy” Combs. But arguably Harlem’s most popular homegrown celebrity of the 21st century is Cameron Ezike Giles, better known as Cam’ron.

Harlem is renowned for its rich culture in arts and entertainment (Harlem Renaissance) and the area has played a major role in the evolution of Hip-Hop and R&B. Artists like Doug E. Fresh and Kurtis Blow established Harlem as a force in the early days of hip-hop and acts like Combs and Big L that followed the success throughout the 1990’s. But it was Cam’ron whose charismatic style and alluring sound set the hip-hop world ablaze throughout the 2000’s. Cam’ron has left a lasting impact on rap, from his music to films to fashion, but his success came through trial-and-error.

As a teen, Cam’ron enjoyed a propitious high school basketball career at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics teaming with friend and rapper Mase. The fast-paced run-and-gun squad found success in a crowded market of good teams, even defeating former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury’s Lincoln High School in 1992. The team went undefeated in 1994, before losing on a last-second heave by Cam’ron against Louis D. Brandeis High School in the New York PSAL Playoffs. Cam’ron enrolled at Navarro Junior College in Texas, before injuries and off the court issues forced him to leave the school.

Despite his hoop dreams deflating, Cam’ron quickly established himself in the underground New York rap scene. Along with childhood friends Mase, Big L, Mcgruff and cousin Bloodshed, the Harlem super group Children Of The Corn was formed. While the group generated buzz on the streets, Mase was blowing up on Bad Boy Records. Mase introduced Cam’ron to the late The Notorious B.I.G., who helped land him his first deal at Epic Records.

After receiving a Gold plaque for his 1998 debut Confessions of Fire, Cam’ron’s 2000 follow up S.D.E (Sports, Drugs & Entertainment) failed to duplicate the success despite reaching Number 2 on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts.

After a falling out with Epic and Mase, Cam’ron sought a fresh start, signing to Roc-A-Fella Records in 2000. Cam’ron reinvented himself at Roc-A-Fella, losing weight and adapting a more flamboyant style of dress. He also brought along The Diplomats, a group of childhood friends featuring acts like Jim Jones and Juelz Santana.

After bombarding the mix tape scene, Cam’ron scored two Top 5 Billboard Hits in 2002 with “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma”. 2002’s Come Home With Me album is his most successful to date, peaking at No.1 on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts and being RIAA Certified Platinum.

The success of the album propelled Cam’ron to new heights, as his superstardom caused a riff with label mate and boss Jay-Z.  In 2003, Cam’ron introduced The Diplomats to the world, scoring another Platinum album with Diplomatic Immunity Vol.1. The group released the sequel in 2004, selling over 500,000 copies, while Cam’ron’s Purple Haze went Gold.

A big contributor to Cam’ron’s success was his image, fearlessly endorsing the color pink, an anomaly in the hip-hop community at the time. With his unconventional flow and persona, Cam’ron challenged top-tier rappers like Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and T.I. for the crown of hottest rapper.

After appearing in the 2002 urban hit film Paid In Full, Cam’ron starred in his own movie Killa Season in 2006. An album of the same name was released, earning Cam’ron his third RIAA Gold plaque.

Arguably the biggest rapper of the time, Cam’ron publicly feuded with several of the game’s top emcees, including his boss Jay-Z and 50 Cent.

At the top of his game, Cam’ron abruptly disappeared, aborting his rap success for nearly three years. In 2009, Cam’ron made his whereabouts public, revealing that his mother had suffered three strokes in a day and he moved to Florida with her to care for her.

By 2009, Cam’s and his Dipset crew had publicly fallen out, and his projects since haven’t had the impact of his earlier works. While still creating music, Cam’ron turned to business ventures, creating a clothing line (Dipset U.S.A), a web series (First Of The Month) and even his own cereal.

In 2016, Reebok even released a limited sneaker for the Harlem native, specially designed to commemorate his hit album Purple Haze.

Cam’Ron’s influence can be seen today in not only New York rappers like A$AP Rocky and Joey Bada$$, but in the fashion realm of hip-hop. Cam’ron’s career managed to survive several obstacles, including label disputes, multiple rap beefs, and a 2005 shooting in Washington D.C. Through it all, Cam’ron remains one of the most celebrated rap artists of the 21st century.