ALL PART OF THE IMAGE Cam Groves, a rapper’s rapper.
Back in the day, Preposterously Dank, the hip-hop label/collective created by Spose and featuring Cam Groves, Dr. Astronaut, and Educated Advocates, would have hit the popular consciousness with a collective album first. À la Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Or they'd be Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and the Jungle Brothers — a group of groups that all bubbled up together.
The music industry is a little bit more every-man-for-himself nowadays, and you've got to take the opportunities that present themselves. So Spose is kind of Method Man before anyone knows who the Wu-Tang Clan is.
You know where that whole "I'm Awesome" thing first appeared, though, right? It was the We Smoked It All mixtape, a collaboration between Spose and none other than Cam Groves, who this week releases his solo debut, Hope Something Cool Happens. So, while you may know Cam mostly as Spose's hype man, he wouldn't mind terribly if you knew him for his own work, too.
Except there is the nagging problem that Groves and Spose sound an awful lot alike. They are both hyper-literary wordsmiths who are working to reclaim hip-hop by railing against the silliness of bling and crunk and bombast while at the same time adopting many of the conventions of modern-day pop-hop (dance beats, big choruses, gal backing vocals, etc.).
You can be sure, Groves knows: During the descriptively titled "Studio Beat Box feat. Doc Joshua," he acknowledges, "Spose put me out/Every rapper in Maine hate me," and since Spose likes to claim every rapper hates him, well, Groves seems to think he's especially low on the depth chart.
Is there anything quite as good as "I'm Awesome" or "Into Spose" or "Fuck It" or "Pop Song" on this album? No. But it's definitely true that Groves's best stuff is better than Spose's lesser tracks.
Why am I making the comparison anyway? That's just the dick media setting up a false dichotomy because it's an easy comparison to make.
So what's there to get excited about here? Well how about "Stand Still," a holdover from We Smoked It All that's like Eminem without the burning anger, right down to a good approximation of Dre's production style from DJ Jon, who handles all the production here and reminds us all once again of his under-appreciated talent (it's not all '80s night, people). Tell me if this doesn't sound all 8 Mile: "Never be a baller, making blue collar dollars/Holler if you're not into gangs or gun bustin'/You're selling crack, I work construction/Tell me who's hustling."
Both "This is Who I Am" and "My Life's a Mess" mine similar self-deprecating territory as "I'm Awesome" to pretty good effect: ""If I was Tony Hawk I'd name my son Mike/Mike Hawk!" (Get it?!?)
Where Groves separates himself from his partner in crime is when he wanders into tunes involving the opposite sex. While Spose has always extolled the virtues of his girlfriend, Cam's relationships are, let's say, more complicated. "I Know What You're Doing," the album's first single, is full of deep synths and skittering backbeat, a classic tale of jealousy in the modern era: "You're in the bathroom, texting your ex/Talking 'bout sex, while sending pictures of your breasts."