High Sierra Serenade

I like Camp Lo. This statement isn’t something that should surprise anyone who knows me or anyone who spent much time listening to rap music in the 1997-2000 “Everything’s fine, but trouble’s coming” era of hip hop. Back then, they were just another rap group who put out a hot album then went back to the studio, with big things expected of them. Sadly, they fell victim to the malaise that claimed a lot of groups of the era, putting out a mostly forgettable followup in 2002. While I initially intended this post to be a love poem to Uptown Saturday Night, Camp Lo’s 1997 opus, inspired by the shuffle on my iPod, some internet research expanded the scope a bit. They have a new album coming out soon, and by soon, I mean next Tuesday. Produced entirely by Ski, the man behind the boards on Uptown Saturday Night, it seems deliciously like the “return to form” record that their fans have been waiting a decade for.

It’s worth noting that Camp Lo has always been a group with a fully realized sense of aesthetics. Impenetrable slang, beats drenched in blaxploitation soundtrack cool and impossibly smooth, Camp Lo stood out. Even more so today they sound like nothing else. Aesop Rock, oddly, has come to closest to co-opting their sense of lyrical rhythm, exchanging the slang for cultural references and the cool with pretension. But has anyone else put out anything even remotely similar sounding? They’re a group that basically can’t be bitten, a rare commodity in the world of rap.

The quick snippets I’ve heard from their new record, Black Hollywood, have sounded good. Nothing as inspired as Luchini, but that’s a tall standard to hold anyone up to. The first joint is streamed of allhiphop.com and is real smooth. Possibly too smooth for the hard rocks out there who demand M.O.P. levels of intensity on every jam. I think it’s a good augur for the record.

‘Ticket for 2’ [allhiphop.com]

The second joint got posted today over at Straight Bangin’ and is titled Sweet Claudine. I’m fairly certain that the sample is taken from the Claudine soundtrack, where Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded songs written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. I’ll have to pull the soundtrack out and confirm this. Their raps, at least, reference the movie explicitly, so I think it’s a safe bet. The soundtrack is excellent, featuring the smash hit ‘On and On.’ The movie itself leaves something to be desired, however. It shows it’s age, but it’s a fairly cute little film. Claudine is a single mother with six kids, all of whom are predictably wacky. One is mute, the oldest daughter gets impregnated, the oldest son joins a nondescript black nationalism group and gets a vasectomy in a show of solidarity. The film also features an extended sequence where a robust looking James Earl Jones wanders around his apartment, post-sex, his nudity barely obscured. It’s all a little odd, but I am glad I sat down and saw it. (And by that I mean, I’m glad I continued to lie on the couch at 2 am when it came on.) The song is similarly cute.

‘Sweet Claudine’ [Straight Bangin’]

There’s another track posted at spinemagazine ‘Soul Fever’ is probably my favorite. It just sounds like it should. The rapping is a little less complex than back in the day, but it’s still the Camp Lo style that can’t be found anywhere else. The link is for the mp3 file, since I’m unsure of how to link to their news.

‘Soul Fever’ [spinemagazine.com]

While I wish one of these leaked songs was classic material, they’ve sounded nice enough for me to give the album a chance. This year has had some decent releases from rappers who were thought washed up (Prodigy, Redman) and I hope Camp Lo keeps it going.

For people in NY, I also caught a mention at spinemagazine of a show their doing on Monday the 23rd at Element. Free admission! Rich Medina and Bobbito spin to open, doors at 10 pm. Although, the website mentions ominously that the dress code is strictly enforced, meaning they reserve to right to not let you in if you look like your broke ass won’t be buying any drinks. I’ve never seen them before and the prospect of seeing Luchini performed live is fairly exciting. It might just be enough to get me to actually leave my apartment for once.

Published in: on July 19, 2007 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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