DJ Cam -
Posted: September 18th, 2008
“In France, and maybe the rest of the world, I am not considered like a real hip-hop DJ–and I don’t want to be considered a real hip-hop DJ, because I love so many different styles of music. My way of working came from the hip-hop, but I try to expand it.”
— DJ Cam
The number of people who ought to concern themselves with the musical innovations of DJ Cam runs into the millions. A former Parisian graffiti artist, Laurent Daumail (aka DJ Cam) has released several undeniably hip-hop records that radically rewrite the rules of the genre. Neglected in his native France, audiences in the US, UK, and Japan have embraced his envelope pushing style of downbeat hip-hop, helping to amplify the global impact of such kindred artists as DJ Shadow and DJ Krush.
An avowed enemy of the synthesizer, DJ Cam crafts his complex music with the barest of tools: a couple turntables, a sampler, and a mixer. Far removed from any hip-hop on the charts, his laid-back sound seamlessly blends obscure and familiar basement samples with thick bass lines, tricked-up scratching, and imaginative breaks.
While steeped in the classic hip-hop sounds of the mid-80s (think Public Enemy), DJ Cam‘s sprawling style encompasses a range of musical influences that goes far beyond his core hip-hop roots. His greatest talent lies in his ability to fuse hip-hop with such diverse genres as jazz, jungle, dub, funk, and orchestral scores–and to do so often within a single song.
Although always mixing many influences into his musical palette, it is heavy strains of old-school jazz that define the instrumentals found on DJ Cam‘s 1996 release, Substances. Previously unreleased in America, this fantastically mellow record plunders the jazz vaults for stirring samples from such artists as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry and others. An engrossing and often beautiful set of songs, Substances is, as Cam explains, “an ambient album, something for the home.”
The album opens with a brief but punchy hip-hop intro–a pledge of allegiance of sorts–explicitly framing the musical explorations that follow in a hip-hop context. Turntable scratching opens the next track, “Friends And Enemies,” before gently giving way to Coltrane riffs, pitched down beats, eerie strings, and spoken words by Malcolm X. After a brief jazz-sampled interlude entitled “Essences,” the mood heads East on “Meera,” a hypnotic song where arabic rhythms and atmospheric drone instruments are bent and twisted around the spiritual voicings of Kakoli Sengupta. The obscure avant funk groove of Don Cherry’s Brown Rice finds a new home as the core sample in “Sound System Children,” an up front track with plenty of drive, while the opening theme to the film “Interview With the Vampire” is extracted to form the basis of the album’s most epic downtempo track, “Twilight Zone.” “Outro” closes out the record with a book-end slice of abstract hip-hop.
A lush journey into an alternate universe of hip-hop, Substances is a groundbreaking record that reveals the infinite possibilities in music. Like all musical innovators, DJ Cam‘s strikingly individual brand of music fails to fit inside any rigid definitions, and he just might have to wait for the unknowing millions to catch on.
- DJ Cam – Scratching, Mixing
- Laurent Daumail
- Yan Leuvrey – Photography
- Kakoli Sengupta – Vocals, Performer
- Intro (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :13
- Friends and Enemies (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 6:25
- Essence (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :38
- Meera (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 7:15
- Essence (Pt. 2) (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :33
- Sound System Children (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 6:47
- Alexandra’s Interlude (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :46
- Innervisions (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 4:40
- Essence (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :40
- Hip Hop Pioneers (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 4:23
- Essence (Pt. 4) (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :33
- Lost Kingdom (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 4:00
- Essence (Pt. 5) (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :32
- Angel Dust (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – 6:25
- Essence (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :34
- Twilight Zone (DJ Cam/Smooth One) – 4:46
- Outro (DJ Cam/Smooth 1) – :46
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