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  

Been slangin’ tapes since 1983

I’m going out of town this weekend, headed back to the Midwest. A simpler place without the hustle smell and bustle overcrowding I’ve come to expect from Brooklyn. My plans, however, have prevented me from spending too much time working up exciting ideas for Easy Mode. So I decided to take the easy way out. The last refuge of a lazy man, a video post. Happily, youtube mostly obliged by providing me some good stuff to embed. I decided to focus on stuff coming out of San Francisco, because that’s where my head has been musically this week.

Too $hort – I’m A Playa (1993) Great interview in last month’s issue of Wax Poetics. This isn’t the best Too $hort video ever, but I’ve had the song stuck in my head for a few days now.

San Quinn – Don’t Funk Wit Me (????) I’ve got no clue whatsoever as to where this track and the accompanying video originated. It appears as a bonus on the DVD that came with San Quinn and Messy Marv’s ‘Explosive Mode 2’ project. A thorough search of the internet reveals nothing of it’s provenance. If someone knows, for the love of all that’s holy, let me know. Great video, even though it’s clearly a VHS of some local tv in San Fran. It appears in the same form on the DVD, I wonder if there’s a cleaner copy out there somewhere.

Rappin 4-tay – Player’s Club (1994) More champagne Mr. 4-tay?

E-40 f. Celly Cel, Mac Mall and Spice 1 – Dusted and Disgusted (1995) This is one of my favorite tracks off of In A Major Way. The track features Tupac, but he was incarcerated during the video shoot, resulting in Celly Cel’s appearance and the ‘Free 2pac’ shirts.

Ant Banks – Parlayin’ (1994) Rated F.A.S. for Funky Ass Shit. Oh, for the days when rappers played Sega Genesis.

Richie Rich – Let’s Ride (1996) Richie Rich was signed to Def Jam when he put this out, meaning it’s a little more mainstream and a little less Bay Area, which is too bad but, sadly, unavoidable.

415 – Lifestyles of a Gangsta (1991) Sorry about the incredibly low volume on this one, I couldn’t find a better one. It’s a dope video, however.

Spice 1 – Welcome to the Ghetto (1992) There are other Spice 1 video’s on youtube. They are posted by Jive, however, which uncoolly restricts them from being embedded.

Dre Dog – The Ave. (1993) Dre Dog, of the group I.M.P., now goes by Andre Nickatina.

RBL Posse – Bammer Weed (1992) Finally, a serious classic. We don’t smoke that shit in the SFC!

Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Kingz of Buk

I spend a lot of time on the internet looking for music I haven’t heard before. Old or new; I don’t really care so long as it knocks. A few weeks back the magic of the iTunes radio stations introduced me to the Kingz of Buk Muzik, the Darkside Thugz.

Darkside Thugz

The track you want to pay attention to on their page is We Ain’t Skared featuring Cubo. Real good stuff in the Bone Thugs and Tupac Thug Luv vein. What I really like about We Ain’t Skared is the confluence of styles that they incorporate into one track. Like Bone Thugs if they were Cubans from Miami who used beats that split the difference between Miami bass and Atlanta crunk. Real good stuff. From their page it appears as if they’ve deemed this hodgepodge ‘buk muzik’ and it’s an apt title. They have an album coming if, again, their myspace is to be believed. What keeps me from being more excited about this is that the other three tracks on their page aren’t nearly as kinetic and clearly made for radio/getting signed purposes. I’m not mad at that, I just wish I had more evidence that they can bring the heat more often. Lil’ Ren, one of the members, has the propulsive Rep Yo Hood on his page, which is a good sign. Coming from Chicago I must admit I have a weakness for the double time flows that these guys excel at. Their record label put out a compilation a couple of years ago, which I must admit I’m interested in hearing. What I really would like, however, is We Ain’t Skared. Someone out there have an mp3? Has it been pressed up vinyl? I think I could take a copy of that into Union Pool and get fools to go dumb. Well, either that or it’d frighten everyone out of there. It’s not often that I run into a track that keeps bringing me back to myspace, but congrats Darkside Thugz. You’ve got me looking out.

Published in: on May 3, 2007 at 7:01 pm  Comments (1)