The 1970s in New York were legendary, particularly in the Bronx. Burning buildings, gangs, blackouts and the same energy that birthed Hip Hop culture.
BX natives Camp Lo have teamed with legendary producer/emcee Pete Rock to channel that energy into 2011 music, with the upcoming project 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s. The two outfits who built their sounds with Ski Beatz and C.L. Smooth respectively team up to interpolate the cult-championed documentary film into a Rap album that feels and sounds like something from Uptown when Reggie Jackson was Mr. October and Ed Koch was New York City’s mayor.
As the project finds a label home, and is promoted with the Intro mixtape, Pete Rock and Camp Lo’s Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba rap with HipHopDX about the past, the present and future of this sound. No pretty packages and turquoise ribbons, Hip Hop started a long way from Fifth Avenue.
HipHopDX: Pete, you are held as on of the greatest producers of all time what does bearing such a title mean to you. When you reflect on your production journey what comes to mind?
Pete Rock: I mean it’s been a good long journey. You definitely have your ups and downs during the journey. I’m proud of where I am today. Music-wise, I’m not too happy with everything I hear now. There are things out here that are and are not clever that I hear. I pay attention now, so what’s out there because it’s a good way to update my sound. The same sound that people know me from, if I was to put that out now then the public would expect that from me always and I always like to come a lil bit from the left sometimes.
DX: So Pete as a producer I know you have a special ear for talent so tell me what you look for in an artist before taking their project on and what made you step into this project with Camp Lo?
Pete Rock: You have to be able to hear an artist from the beginning to the end. Basically when you’re able to be a fan of an artist it all works. I’m a fan of Camp Lo so with this project 80 Blocks [From Tiffany’s], it’s just easy to want to work with people that you are fans of so in that same vein that’s how the album came about.
DX: You don’t see many Hip Hop duos still in action so for Camp Lo how were you guys able to sustain and be continuous as a unit in the game for so long, As well to Pete Rock?
Geechi Suede: Definitely, just the love. I would have to say the love of the music. The love of all the music and all of the success it’s brought us over the years. Pete Rock is definitely being one of those big successes, getting to work with somebody like that is such an honor.
Sonny Cheeba: But most definitely, the music kept us moving forward, and definitely wanting to create something new ’cause we love doing that all day.
Pete Rock: I love what I do. I sit in the house banging the beats out all day. Back in the ’90s, I used to crank out like 10 to 15 a day, but now it’s like five to seven, but I don’t think cats are still even making that many beats a day. The passion of the music is what it is for me. That’s my talent and that’s what I work with.
DX: The ’70s obviously influenced the sound with Pete as a producer and you guys as artist so tell me about the strong hold that era placed on your life?
Geechi Suede: I think we have to give respect to those who did it before us. We believe that people like James Brown and Jazz artist like Miles Davis, and John Coltrane or soul artist like Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Tina Marie and Rick James – rest In Peace to both, just paved the way. It goes from the ’70s to the ’80s. Really, it starts from the late ’60s and goes to the late ’80s. I think they just made the path just like we had the path for those who came after us. We always feel like we have to give back to those artist. In a sense this project is the Pete Rock sound with those elements mixed into it. This is music that’s real.
Sonny Cheeba: That plays a major part in our lives. You can’t really change what came before us so you have to just live with it and respect it. We’ve done that over the years and that why we’ve been able to continue.
DX: So what’s it like for you when you’re able to still receive the love today from songs you’re well known for like “Luchini” or “They Reminisce Over You” ?
Pete Rock: That’s always great. To see that you were able to do a record that lasted for so long and touched so many people is great. I’ve never heard anything bad about that record ever since the day I made it, and that says a lot. That’s says a lot for who we are as artist and what I’ve done in our career. Same thing goes for Camp Lo; they have mounds of hits that have never gone away. To this day I’m still a deejay so when I’m in the club deejaying and play it people still go nuts. That goes to show you how much the golden era is effective even right now.
Geechi Suede: It’s an always-humbling feeling to be considered legendary. To have made timeless music and be able to work with the caliber or artist that we have has been great. Working with Pete Rock is such an honor.
Sonny Cheeba: It’s definitely a blessing.
Geechi Suede: We able to keep the music the way we’re suppose to.
DX: How have the changes in mainstream effected putting this project together?
Pete Rock: I can start off by saying that you have to start by separating things in your head in order to do something similar but not the same. What I mean by that is creating your own still of rhyming and flowing. Really, the young artists that you hear out on the radio today are learning from us. They’re taking what we did and trying to redo it. I always say keep your ear tuned into what’s going on today that way you stay on your toes. You gotta stay on top of your game in order to make dope music that’s still different compared to what every one else might be doing. Artist today just copy off each other. The music today is lacking originality. With 80 Blocks, you’re getting a lot of originality.
DX: Describe the production on 80 Blocks...
Sonny Cheeba: Well when we are listened to the songs it sounds like a lot of catch-you-off-guard joints. It sounds like a bunch of joints that people might not expect us to make. It’s gonna catch cats from left field while still sticking to the soul that people love from us.
Geechi Suede: It doesn’t sound like anything that’s out right now.
Pete Rock: I think that with Camp Lo’s style and the ideas that they come up with from dressing to the Hip Hop is just dope. To come up with an idea from [the documentary 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s] like that was incredible. I love that movie and people who are familiar with that movie will be able to appreciate the concept being implemented into the music like that as a Pete Rock production demonstrates the great talent and taste of Camp Lo. People are going to get their money’s worth.
DX: What was it about the actual film that resonated so deeply for you that you chose to name the project after it?
Pete Rock: It’s about the Bronx. It’s one of the best movies next to The Warriors. Being able to see a New York film from back then and recognizing all of the places in it just makes you feel like “Wow, back then we were young and dumb. [Laughs]” Plus Camp Lo picked an idea that nobody has ever done. To bring that idea into Hip Hop was really dope.
Geechi Suede: New York gang movies are the best ever. We’re all from the Bronx so it was just a BX thing.
Sonny Cheeba: The movie kind of gives you an idea what was going on in the streets of BX at the time.
Geechi Suede: Kids were acting wild.
Sonny Cheeba: These were the times that led to the birth of the Hip Hop culture.
Geechi Suede: I think it’s gonna say a lot when we drop the album.
DX: Hip Hop today isn’t as dangerous as when you all started so culturally it has shifted how is that reflected in the project?
Pete Rock: We hope that it reignites the good feelings of Hip Hop. We want to get that good feeling back into the music again. Right now nobody is really feeling good about the music. Today cats glorify the materialistic side of things. I know you can’t help that ’cause those things are always going to be there but when you make your whole album with every song about the same type of stuff it doesn’t make good music. I think a lot of these guys get drunk or high then go to the studio and think that they are making something dope and that shit sounds horrible. No disrespect to any rappers but some of them don’t understand the real foundation of a true beat and it makes it too easy for these dudes to just make something simple and get a whole bunch of money from it. The music ain’t teaching the kids nothing, its just giving people headaches. I’m only talking about a certain type of Top 40 record that you cannot absolutely cannot learn from. If that music actually inspires kids, it’s only gonna make them stupid. We don’t make that type of stuff we make music you can learn from and its fun. With us and I can speak for everyone, we’ve been around the block already; we don’t have to talk about that type of stuff no more. We conquered a lot of things in the 90s so we’re accomplished. We don’t have to talk about worldly issues, theres tons of other things going on out here to talk about. You don’t have to preach about it but you can mention it every once in a while like over in Japan where people are dying right now over radiation poison. It’s real serious out here right now and it can be mentioned every once in a blue moon to let people know that you care.
DX: So you guys already leaked the intro what has the public reaction been so far?
Geechi Suede: It’s definitely been nothing but love from the very beginning. Ever since people heard about the collaboration and the emergence of 80 Blocks people have shown mad support. Now that people are seeing what happening people are very excited. Now that people are getting to hear the music these last few weeks it’s been nothing but love.
Sonny Cheeba: The Intro is just for the mixtape, that aint even from the album so people really are going to love what’s next.
Pete Rock: The Intro has been well received so we definitely know that the album has to be special. I’m definitely going to go and put my all into it. I want to really give people an movie not an album but a movie.
DX: How did you guys decide which tracks would make the final cut onto the project?
Pete Rock: Well we just finished the album and went from there. We did X amount of records and got to a point where we felt we can stop and take the best from the big bunch. That’s how we decided what would be on the album
DX: What are some of your favorite songs that you would like the fans to pay close attention to?
Pete Rock: “Neon Lights” “Dream Journey” it’s a lot of joints.
DX: Can the people expect to see you take it from the studio to the stage soon?
Pete Rock: Yeah, definitely.
Sonny Cheeba: Yeah, you gotta give the people what they want.