I wasn't born in the 70's so the Blaxploitation movement just missed me. But that doesn't mean that I ain't hip to it! The Mack, Coffy, Superfly, and Dolemite have all had impression on the kid. The movie Uptown Saturday Night (USN) really isn't a Blaxplotation flick, but it did have elements of the genre. I think Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheba watched all of those movies at least 100 times each. These cats dress, talk, and act like an extra from USN! But, when you take away the crazy threads and the slick talk you are left with two dudes that made a great debut album. Even though Jigga jacked the Feelin' It beat from Ski to use on Reasonable Doubt, Ski still found a whole bunch of tracks that suited the theme of this album well. And to pound the 70's theme down our throat even more, the album cover is a homage to Ernie Barnes' Sugar Shack. I guess it's a simple equation: 70's Blaxploitation Inspired Rappers + Great Producer = Classic Album.
1. Krystal Karrington - This song sets the tone beautifully for what you are about to hear. The beat is actually kinda grimey and had it been given to another artist at that time it could have been down-right gutta! But, Camp Lo's vocals mellow it out a bit. Also you get to hear the type of lyrics that dominate the album. Random phrases and miscellaneous gibberish that makes no sense, but sounds so good!! If we can forgive 'Ol Dirty for doing the same thing, we can give these guys a pass too, right? Hell yeah!
2. Luchini AKA This Is It - The group's biggest hit to date is still a good party record. "This is it. (What?) Luchini pouring from the sky. Lets get rich. (What?) The cheeky vines, the sugar dimes, can't quit (What?) Now pop the cork and steam the vega, and get lit. (What? What? What?) I still don't know what Cheeba was wearing in the video! A colorful scarf and a red denim jacket maybe? But, there is no denying the appeal of this record. The beat still makes you wanna dance and it was designed for a group like them to flow over.
3. Park Joint - Another song with a true hip-hop beat that somehow works with the type of flow Camp Lo uses. Not sure if this was called Park Joint because they wanted people to play it in the park, but the beat is pretty break dance-able! Ski does a good job of finding tracks that are upbeat, but still oh-so hip-hop at the same time.
4. B-Side to Hollywood - Trugoy from De La Soul produces and lends a verse on this track. In his verse he also gives us a peek into his favorite cartoons and what cereal he liked on Saturday morning. That would be Honeycomb cereal in case you were curious. That is what is so good about this album. Everyone involved understands what these cats are about. You can talk about random things because the whole album is random. This beat is also ill!
5. Killin' 'Em Softly - This is a smoother track that the group shines lyrically on. It sounds like they are really talking about robbing somebody on this song, but it's just so hard to believe when they wear ascots and scarfs you may find in your momma's closet! They mention Madam Zenobia from the movie Uptown Saturday Night a few times. That is one of the most ganstressest, (I just made that up) names I've ever heard. That sounds like a lady you really don't wanna mess with!
6. Sparkle - This is probably the beat that Hov wishes he stole! The beat for Sparkle is in my Top 5 for Highway Riding Songs! It is sooooooo smooth it's damn near a jazz cut. The vocals complement the beat perfectly and I can't think of any other artist that would have been better over this track. Okay, maybe Mase.
7. Black Connection - This is the song I like to reference when someone tells me that The Lo can't rap. They killed this ish! Another smooth beat, but Ski added a little grit to the recipe. And a Camp Lo album wouldn't be complete unless you got a Lola Falana reference. An epitome of beauty in the 60's and 70's her name just rolls of the tongue of Sonny Cheba. This may be one of the best lyrical efforts on the album.
8. Swing - This is the joint that was played at the end of the Luchini video when the beat changed. Before I bought the album I was readily anticipating to hear this whole joint. The beat is bananas! Ish, AKA Butterfly, from Digable Planets came out of nowhere to bless the track with a hot verse. "I play my cards Shark-style, Kings and Aces. Welcome to New York the illest of all places." Whew! This beat still thumps and this is probably my favorite track on the album.
9. Rockin' It AKA Spanish Harlem - The Fearless Four version of Rockin' It is one of my favorite early, early hip-hop tracks. This version is also very good. It does have a little, but not a lot, Latin flavor in the track (hence the AKA). But, it's crazy because this is one song where I don't know what they are talking about except for the hook! This is like a 3 and a half minute ad-lib!
10. Say Word - They go in on this track too! I appreciate how they follow up the 'gibberish track' with a 'lyrical track'. It shows diversity! The chorus to this song is also hot. Camp Lo tends to have hooks that are easy to remember and very repeatable. I think that is another reason why this album holds up so well.
11. Negro League - Ergh!!! How did this make the album? It doesn't fit in with the vibe and it just didn't work for me. There are two other cats on here rapping and they add nothing to the song. I think Jeru The Damaja woulda been really good over this track, but not Camp Lo. This is the only song I don't like. NEXT!
12. Nicky Barnes AKA It's Alright - Not a standout track, but this is alright. I don't know how I feel about them naming a song after a guy that the 'hood seems to hate nowadays (Thanx to American Gangster on BET), but Nicky was the man in the 70's. This track fits the vibe of the album really well, but it just doesn't standout too much.
13. Black Nostaljack AKA Come On - What's with all the AKA's for titles??? Oh well. All is forgiven because this video was the best of '97!!! How cool was it that these cats got JJ and Thelma from Good Times to be in video?!?! Thelma was like Lauren London before Lauren London was Lauren London (walk with me). And then they had the red lights at the end of the video. Classic. But, how did they slip a Noxema Jackson reference past me the past 10 years??? I'm late.
14. Coolie High - Ski is sooooooooooo underrated! The first time I heard of Camp Lo was when I saw this video. This was the only non 70's inspired video they did for this album, but the song is extra retro. Besides the obvious (The title), there are so many name drops it sounds like The Game ghost-wrote this joint! This is the song that even you didn't have the album, you know about. "You need to come inside and check Lo, Relax yaself and let the sugar love flow."
15. Sparkle (Mr. Midnight Mix) - This is almost an a Capella. The beat is so minimal all you really here is lyrics. It kinda gives you an appreciation for how well these cats spit. This doesn't really add much to the original and I don't really know how I feel about having a remix on the same album as the original, but it's all good. It's a nice way to end the album.
This album was critically acclaimed and they sold an alright amount of records. But, this is still one of the only albums that has a theme and sticks with it. I like how they went all in with the 70's theme and even somewhat overboard. They created a niche and cornered the market on it. They have had some success since the release of Uptown Saturday Night. They appeared on the track Yes Yes Y'all by Mr. Will Smith. I'm sure they can buy plenty of ascots with the royalties from that album! They did a joint with DJ Honda called Disco T-E-C that was my cut a few years back. Also, the song Gotcha which samples Shoot 'Em Up Movies by The Deele is a straight banger!!! And they shot a video for the newest singe, Lumdi (video below). I really love Lumdi and I am glad to see these cats can still flow and are still embracing the 70's to the fullest! Camp Lo, or The Lo as they are known now, are really good for the rap game. Thanks for Uptown Saturday Night.
The Lo - "Lumdi"