Camp Lo is one of the dopest Hip-Hop duos from the Bronx, and one of my own personal favorite groups. It was nearly 20 years ago that their first legendary album “Uptown Saturday Night” dropped and made a massive splash on the strength of classic singles like “Luchini” and “Coolie High”, and a 14-year-old DJ CHiEF was riding home on the Palm Tran with a fresh copy of the vinyl.
Fast forward to 2015 and Camp Lo has an album dropping next week called “Ragtime Hightimes” and it’s a very exciting moment for Hip-Hop heads.
We were very fortunate to speak with the Camp Lo duo themselves, Geechi Suede (@officialcamplo) and Sonny Cheeba (@camplo), and to learn about the history, philosophy, and soul of the ‘Lo’ and their connections to Bboying and Hip-Hop culture.
You can listen to the full interview right here, and dig the highlights below.
DJ CHiEF: Who is Camp Lo?
Geechi Suede: We were two cats from The Bronx that came together, had a mentor named Ski [Beatz] (@skibeatz) and Ski kind of saw something different and original in us…
It all happened so fast, to be honest… It was like boom, we had a deal, and we was kids, and just kind of figured it out.
And now, I would say we’re two kids from The Bronx that grew up in the business and helped transcend Hip-Hop in different ways.
What has changed about Camp Lo over the years?
Sonny Cheeba: I think on this new album, it’s more musical, live instruments and all that… It’s always gonna have that soul feel to it… but the portrait is iller, the paints are a little bit iller this time.
What influence has the Bboy element of Hip-Hop had on Camp Lo?
Suede: I would say real massive, just because we from The Bronx, and that’s where it all originated, so I think that Bboyism is just straight in our blood. I mean, we suckas for the drum. That’s in our DNA all day right there.
Were you Bboys?
Suede: Yes. And I can still windmill, and I can still backspin, and I can still do the funky hops…
What’s your favorite Camp Lo track?
Suede: On this album, it’s “Bright Lights”…
Cheeba: “Bright Lights” is the joint on this one… But I love all of them for different reasons, because they don’t sound alike. Neither one of them sounds like the last one.
What would be your advice for producers?
Suede: Coming up under somebody like Ski, he was just always doing it. He hardly took breaks. And even now, it’s like he does, but it’s like he don’t.
He’s just always doing it. That’s how he reached his skill level. You know, as well as it being just actually in him, but he spent so much time on his craft. And I really think that has a lot to do with it.
Also, just staying around those that are just as passionate as you and may have been in it longer than you, and can tell you some different things that you may have not known.
But I would definitely have to say, just always doing it.
Cheeba: I’d probably tell a producer to look through his own sound. I guess if you’re always doing it, you’re gonna come up with your own sound at some point.
What advice would you have for MCs out there?
Cheeba: I’d stick back to the originality thing. When they hear you, they need to hear you. You have to be distinct.
Suede: When we was coming up, we had those inspirations off to the side… For me, it was like Butterfly’s voice, Nas’ lyrics… It was like a chemist adding those different things that you want, but then you add your own to it.
[hr]”I see a lot of these young dudes right now, and I see their influences, and then sometimes I see a lack of acknowledgement when it comes to those influences.”[hr]
Suede: Where as like us, we came out the gate acknowledging De La [Soul], Digable [Planets]… those that we grew up loving and were inspired by. And we’ll always do that… We’ll always acknowledge those that touched us.
How did you choose the name “Camp Lo”?
Cheeba: We had “C-Lo” first, and we found out there was a CeeLo Green, so we can’t really rock that. So we kept the ‘C’. We used to roll c-lo for push-ups while we were waiting on Ski outside the studio…
Suede: First we was the “Lost Boys”, and then Dame Dash was like, “Nah, there’s already a ‘Lost Boyz’ outta Queens.”
Cheeba: The “Lo” means you’re probably not gonna hear nobody else with these flows, you’re probably not gonna hear nobody rocking’ what we dress in, and you’re probably not gonna hear too many cats rocking’ over the music we decide to rock over. That’s the “Lo” part of it.
Suede: The “Lo” means the rarity of it.
What would you say to the Bboys and Bgirls around the world?
Cheeba: Continue. Just continue to keep that craft growing.
Suede: When we came out, it was just that balance there, and now it’s like there’s no balance.
[hr]”There’s no diversity on the mainstream platform right now. So it’s just very, very vital that we keep our roots watered and growing. Because Bboying is how this all started…”[hr]
Suede: They just always taking pieces of the branch, of the root, and incorporating… It’s like all these dance shows on TV, all these different things that came right from the art of Bboying.
They make it obvious to us that we’re vital because they keep sampling what we doing… Because they know that we’re crafting the next.
That’s the thing about Bboyism. It’s a retro-futuristic thing. Because we’re so engulfed in the culture and we started the culture, we’re always gonna be ahead of it…. So it’s very important that y’all keep doing what y’all doing.
A massive thanks to Suede and Cheeba for taking the time to speak to us and our audience. Make sure to listen to the full interview to hear much more from Camp Lo, including:
-What was Geechi Suede’s Bboy name?
-What is Camp Lo’s advice to both producers and MCs?
-How did Geechi Suede and Sonny Cheeba choose their MC names?
-How did Camp Lo develop their unique style of rapping back and forth?
-What was the first track they brought to Ski Beatz as a demo?
-What was the timeline from forming the group to dropping “Uptown Saturday Night?”
-About the first tour with De La Soul and how the buzz for “Coolie High” foreshadowed the success of the first album.
-What was it like working with Pete Rock on “80 Blocks from Tiffany’s”?
-How did the track “Swing” come about, as a collaboration with Butterfly of Digable Planets?
Make sure you check out the album “Ragtime Hightimes” dropping next week, and click here to check it out now on iTunes.