Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba have always been slick talking cool cats within their own world. While everyone popped expensive bottles, Bronx outlet Camp Lo were chilling and sipping Amaretto. By the time their 1997 debut Uptown Saturday Night hit shelves, many called it an instant classic. The album’s lead single “Luchini AKA This Is It” could be considered one of the most underrated rap tracks of all time. Sure, the project never became a huge blockbuster moment but who cares? “Sparkle” and “Rockin’ It AKA Spanish Harlem” still jams better than 90 percent of what’s pumping out of “new” New York. While remaining under the radar for some time, the duo even released several follow-ups along with lend guest verses for everyone from Will Smith and Aesop Rock to 9th Wonder.
That signature style influenced by the 70s hasn’t disappeared for their recently released full-length project Ragtime Hightimes. And yes, legendary producer Ski Beatz is still handling production. A few listens to album cuts including “Sunglasses,” “Bright Lights,” and lead single “Black Jesus,” it’s clear Suede and Cheeba haven’t missed a beat.
Speaking with DX, Camp Lo and Ski Beatz discuss Ragtime Hightimes along with longevity.
Camp Lo Talks “Ragtime Hightimes”s Direction
Geechie Suede: Hey, how you doing man?
DX: Hey, how’s it going guys?
Sonny Cheeba: It’s good, how you doing?
DX: I’m good, yeah man so you know, Ragtime Hightimes has been out for a few weeks how do you guys feel about it?
Geechie Suede: I’m excited bro, I think it’s a good time for our personalities to re-emerge on the scene and we’re just happy that the reception is good man.
DX: How did it feel to be in the studio with Ski Beatz again?
Geechie Suede: Yeah, I mean Ski never went no where though, Ski is actually here with us.
Sonny Cheeba: Hhmmm right.
Ski: Yo, what up B, this is Ski Beatz how you doing?
DX: Oh shit, I wasn’t told you’d be in the conversation. Nice to meet you! How is it going?
Ski: Man, you know I’m just hanging out checking for this interview.
SonnyCheeba: Yeah, he on deck.
Geechie Suede: The third member yo, you know, so there’s not really or no other way to describe that. Other than you know, we all came together and Allah blessed us with this fusion.
Sonny Cheeba: Yeah, so people will continue to move with it the same time.
DX: Where were you going sonically with this project, what was the end goal?
Sonny Cheeba: Do you know the full title?
Geechie Suede: The full title of the record is Ragtime Hightimes in a Padded Room Of Pink Elephants Playing With Spiked Mushrooms. That’s the full title of the record.
Sonny Cheeba: It’s not even a joke though that’s actually the title.
Geechie Suede: But it’s Ragtime Hightimes for short.
DX: Oh ok, I already listened to the album preview stream and only saw Ragtime Hightimes, which is also a dope album by the way.
Sonny Cheeba: Thank you!
Geechie Suede: Thank you!
DX: No problem. So, going back to the question. How did you guys come up with the overall sonics this time around?
Geechie Suede: I feel like we always kind of picked up where we left off and headed another direction at the same time.
DX: Where was that exact direction or influence?
Sonny Cheeba: I think more of this joint, on this particular project is probably more musical to keep that musical elements in there with collaborations and all of that. you know what I’m saying? Yeah, that type of trip. It’s really supposed to be a summertime feeling type album.
Camp Lo Talks Maintaining Classic New York Aesthetic
DX: I hear you, one of my favorite tracks on the project, is the “Award Winning.”
Sonny Cheeba: “Award Winning?” You rock with that?
DX: Yeah mane.
Sonny Cheeba: Fantastic!!
Geechie Suede: Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
DX: How do you guys maintain that type of bravado and confidence decades into your career?
Geechie Suede: Well, we definitely love it always going to love it, but we don’t really pay attention to time in the sense that, we’re not trying to do what’s hot today or hot right now we just kind of love to stretch the imagination.
Sonny Cheeba: And not to copy what we’ve done before.
Geechie Suede: Right, and not to do what we’ve done before.That’s why I said picking up where we left off and then going in another direction so it’s like departing while arriving at the same time.
DX: How do you guys maintain your classic New York aesthetic at a time where most artists are playing around with outside inspirations?
Sonny Cheeba: It’s embedded, it’s in the DNA as far as that’s concerned, you know what I’m saying. I still windmill. I still backspin. I’m still a B-Boy. I’m going to be a B-Boy, we going to B-Boy until the end of it.
Ski Beatz: Or, I can go and can do it backwards and I can do like windmill and grab my crotch. Pause.
Sonny Cheeba: The Bboyizm is always there, it’s always there.
Ski Beatz: We’re power men!
DX: I hear yall.
Ski Beatz: Can you pop, can you break dance, what can you do?
Ski Beatz: Why you laughing I’m dead serious.
DX: A little poppin, a little locking.
Camp Lo: Aight, aight. That’s what’s up.
DX: Another favorite track on the album is the lead single “Black Jesus.”
Sonny Cheeba: You said that’s your favorite?
DX: Yeah. What made you want to open up the project with “Black Jesus?”
Sonny Cheeba: The fact that we’re dealing with time, but to open it up with “Black Jesus” at this time, was perfect as far as the album is concerned.
Geechie Suede: We’ve always perpetuated cinema and fashion tied into music. All of those three things are interchangeable for us. So, the cinematic vibe will always be what it is. The fashion aspect will always be what it is and it mirrors the music. Those things always tie in.
Camp Lo Talks Longevity Nearly 20 Years After Uptown Saturday Night
DX: Uptown Saturday Night will be 20 years old in two years. How do you feel about having such an endearing career the way you guys have?
Sonny Cheeba: Oh, it’s a blessing in total.
Geechie Suede: Yeah, it really is, it really really is. It shows the Bronx. I really gotta stress that, The Bronx is a big deal for us and how that played a part in the tenacity of things. We’re built up that way.
Sonny Cheeba: Well, people buy into the unique energy we bring and that’s a beautiful thing.
Geechie Suede: Absolutely, absolutely. But, I stress the BX because it’s like we don’t have no representers like that when it comes to N.Y like everybody’s got.
Sonny Cheeba: We heard Pun’s son rocked over “Luchini” though this morning, I heard.
Geechie Suede: Shout Out to Chris Rivers.
Sonny Cheeba: Shot out to Cory Gunz and you know BX representers. I feel like that plays a big part.
Geechie Suede: Yup, whatever they did back then was gone last forever and it’s showing that.
DX: From what you’ve seen in your years, can you explain the average Camp Lo fan?
Geechie Suede: A fan?
Sonny Cheeba: I think it’s like people who actually understand us.
Geechie Suede: Abstract minded and thoughtful people.
Sonny Cheeba: The abstract , passionate, fashionable, cinematic, timeless and time travelers of sound.
DX: The biggest thing I’ve notice is how lyrically sharp you guys have remained throughout the years. Where does that come from?
Geechie Suede: How do you stay so lyrically sharp all these years?
Sonny Cheeba: Haven’t thought about it man, all these years.
Geechie Suede: That’s how, because you haven’t thought about it.
Sonny Cheeba: You love it and don’t overthink it. Just continue to be who your are and who you are is infinite.
Geechie Suede: Fall into it.
DX: How have you guys grown as artist since your last project and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe it’s 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s with Pete Rock ?
Sonny Cheeba: Well, we was working on both of them at the same time.
Geechie Suede: They grew because growing is a continuing evolution. Man you just grow because naturally you have to. Change is change. You can’t help but to change.
Sonny Cheeba: It is the inevitable.
Geechie Suede: I think once you establish a brand, establish a sound and you establish a look, the only thing you do from that point is pretty much just continue to innovate what you’ve already brought to the table. You switch the dynamic in different ways but for the most part it’s always going to be Lo. And what we represent again is that soulful, cinematic, fashionable, mirror music martini blend from the BX that resonates with the universe, simultaneously
DX: You guys always seemed so cool, and your music has always maintained that slick style since Uptown Saturday Night.
Sonny Cheeba: Thank you brother.
DX: How do you maintain that slickness without compromise? There are points when people get in there career and say, “Oh I have to do something for the newer generation or I have to do this.” Eventually they get labeled sell out for straying too far.
Sonny Cheeba: I mean once you do that, you can’t go back to what you usually do. So, to sell out like that is like a cash-in card or the cash-out card nobody supposed to be doing that.
Ski Beatz: I don’t even think we would know what that is to even do that. Yo, my man real creative people or real artist who really love their artistry don’t even know the meaning or the idea of crossing over and selling out.
It’s like that for Lo. When they’re making music, they’re not thinking this for the radio or for the girls or whatever. They’re just making music because it’s like drawing picture. It’s like painting. You get me and the people accept it for what it is. I mean, there’s nowhere in the world where we’re going to go in the studio and say “ok, today we’re going to make a trap like song a and Cheeba I want you to rap like this doubletime and Suede I want you you know sing the hook like so and so.” That just not how it works. We are true artists. We make music art for the emotional content.