January 1997. The Hip Hop world is still reeling from the tragic murder of Tupac Shakur, yet was approximately two months away from another tragic loss. Buoyed on the backs of the Shaolin sword mastery of the Wu-Tang Clan, the poetical genius of Nas and the lyrical heavyweight champion Notorious B.I.G., east coast-based Hip Hop had once again reclaimed the top spot.
It was during this time that a duo known as Camp Lo came onto the scene. Infusing their beats, rhymes and life with the life, rhymes and beats from the '70s, Geechi Suede [click to read] and Sonny Cheeba dropped their debut album Uptown Saturday Night. With producer Ski matching the duo's Technicolor rhymes with Blaxploitation-drenched instrumentals, the album was packed with vintage single after single, including "Cooley High" [click to read], "Black Nostaljack aka Come On" [click to read] and the original rain dance anthem, "Luchini aka This Is It" [click to read].
Since then however, the 'Lo have never quite been able to capitalize off the frosh effort's success. Their second effort, 2002's Let's Do It Again, was met with mediocre reviews and sales, while 2007's Black Hollywood didn't quite meet expectations as well. Now in addition to an SRC Records single deal, Cheeba and Suede are back one more time independently with Stone & Rob: Caught On Tape.
With Ski only spotted on one cut, the smoothly groovy "Ticket 4 2," the Jazzy samples that buoyed Uptown Saturday Night are replaced by a mishmash of genre-crossing backdrops which do a capable job of supporting Camp Lo's Byzantine lyrics. On the Styles P and Pete Rock-featured "On Smash," The Ghost wrecks shop over the minimalist beat, spitting his version of the Jungle Brothers entrance, "Five thousand boomin' watts/Real loud, like a gun that boom in Watts... S.P. run rhymes like an athlete/So, who wanna meet me at the track meet?" "Gotcha" is an R&B-tinged track where Geechi and Sonny toast to their leading ladies, while the Apple Juice Kid-produced "89 Of Crime" is powered by a dank echoes and a Reggae-influenced beat. Not entirely straying from their trademark sound, The 'Lo glide of the soulful chants of "Pips," while the Smoking Apples-produced "Diamond Crookz" finds the duo at their lyrical peak, backed by anthemic claps and subtle cooing.
However, the over-emphasis on minimalist instrumentation also provides mixed results. Jungle Boogie Brown's skitter verse on "Hold On" doesn't hold weight, while the boring "Ha" and uninspired "Ski Hi" both fall flat. Although Smoking Apples and Apple Juice Kid are capable soundscape artists, they simply pale in comparison to the majority producer of Uptown Saturday Night, Ski, which whom they are seemingly trying to emulate.
Stone & Rob: Caught On Tape is a decent album by Camp Lo. While it hits the mark on a few occasions, it does not capture the magic of their 1997 jump-off, which they seem to be trying to recreate. Perhaps their next release will be more Blu-Ray than eight-track.