Cam’ron And Mase Argue About Sports Now, And It’s Working
4:36 PM EDT on May 4, 2023
There's a moment early on in It Is What It Is, the new YouTube sports series hosted by Cam'ron and Mase, where it becomes apparent that the concept has legs. The two rappers are talking about Ja Morant's recent legal issues when Cam, the straight-man host trying to get his professional sportscaster on, introduces the idea that the Memphis Grizzlies star is suffering from what he calls "Gary Coleman syndrome." The phrase absolutely tickles Mase, the show's instigator, and when he's amused, he goads Cam into foolishness.
"Gary Coleman never played sports," Mase says.
"Nah, he never played sports, but I call it the Gary Coleman syndrome," Cam'ron replies. He summarizes it like this: When you get a lot of money at a young age, more than the older people around you, you can have a hard time taking useful advice, and instead listen to anyone who agrees with you.
The conversation shifts—as it often does with them—and they start going in on one another about the times they had Gary Coleman syndrome. The segment encapsulates everything that makes the show special: just knowledgeable enough that you're not turned off, but funny enough to not treat sports debate like something that can actually be won.
It Is What It Is has been running for 13 episodes (the 14th will be out Thursday night), and each episode has seen Cam and Mase (along with current moderator and statistics expert Treasure, a.k.a. "Stat Baby") grow increasingly comfortable. In Cam's words, it's the antithesis of what's on ESPN or Fox Sports: "What if I get a professional background setting meets the barbershop?"
That pitch is mostly accurate, but it undersells how seriously he's taking it. Cam's fudging with the setup, trying out different hosts, figuring out the wardrobe, and doing his research and fact-checking. Even the addition of Mase felt like a choice made in real time. In the first episode, he's just considered Cam's guest, but as childhood friends and one-time rap enemies, the chemistry was too good to ignore.
Cameron Giles has always been into sports. Anyone familiar with his discography can attest to that. He and Mason Betha were formidable high school basketball players in Harlem. Giles claimed he's been asked to do his own sports show or podcast for a while but was waiting for the right moment and concept. That moment also coincided with him rectifying his relationship with Mase, after the latter expressed his regrets over their beef, and he tapped him for the show's first episode. The concept is simple, and it's worked in their favor. They've built buzz, started tiffs with Patrick Beverley and Mario Chalmers, and interviewed Jayson Williams (then fact-checked their own interview). While Cam'ron wants this show to be different than what's on TV, it is similar in how it benefits from attention the harder it pokes at an athlete.
It Is What It Is is at once the ideal sports debate show and a funhouse-mirror version of the sports debate show. At times the co-hosts' humor can be extremely juvenile (such as the introduction of the "pause" counter), but they do try to take what they're doing seriously. Cam'ron and Mase definitely aren't dumb, but they're not going to roll out a bunch of data to back up their beliefs. They believe fundamentally that sports is supposed to be fun and arguing about it should be a little bit ridiculous.
Then there are the ads. Cam has hawked a variation of those gas-station erectile dysfunction pills for a few years now, and within the show he's weaved in some commercials that call back to the days of Killa Season if it were instead a late-night softcore Cinemax flick. Even if they're corny, they show that Cam'ron is a one-man creative director for this entire endeavor, one that he's funding himself. Besides, they're still better than those Evil Dead Rise ads that show up during every NBA playoff game.
Sports television is mostly a wasteland. Earlier this year, former ESPNer Dan Le Batard and First Take host Stephen A. Smith argued about whether the lack of a barrier to entry for sports content, and the breakdown of media in general, would be worse for sports journalism over time. Many wannabes watch First Take and think the volume is what carries it, so they start their own podcast or show. If they see rewards for being loud and wrong, they keep pursuing that. It's a plausible cycle, but a show like It Is What It Is can represent the good in those possibilities: two charismatic friends enjoying sports and each other as they talk shit.