Coolie High piqued my interest, Luchini won me over, and over the years a number of releases helped solidify my official fandom when it came to Camp Lo. Now in 2015, the Bronx duo is back with Ragtime Hightimes and it hurts me to say that I’m a little saddened by its release. Not saddened by the music so much, but saddened by the response that I know this project will receive in comparison to the crew’s previous releases. As a true Camp Lo fan, I feel like the bar was raised so high when they debuted, that the summit can never again be reached without maintaining a certain level of consistency each time they drop. If there is no seventies jive talk or videos featuring black sitcom actors of the past, then fans and critics alike would not deem the music worthy of the Camp Lo catalog. People change. As did, Suede and Cheeba, but if you choose to excavate beyond these latest tracks, what you will find are those same coded rhymes and clever styling that initially caught your attention in 1997. It’s there…trust me.
Ragtime begins with the smooth banger Black Jesus. This jam deceptively sets the tone for what, you would imagine, is going to be that comeback album that signifies Camp Lo’s return to the commercial success that they initially received with Uptown Saturday Night, but in a most disappointing fashion…the next song plays. Sunglasses is definitely not the fire kindler that I would’ve chosen to follow if I were involved with sequencing this album. Horn heavy with a thick riding bassline, it’s more on the brighter side of the Hip Hop spectrum, if you will, and while this is something that the Lo is mildly known for, the track appears to be the star instead of the Suede and Cheeba or their lyrics. Keeping with the trend of subpar sequencing and out of the box beats, It’s Cold, Power Man, and Sunshine bleed from the speakers mimicking an ode to the 80’s Hip Hop compilation. All three songs feature drum heavy backdrops that dominate the scope of the song and take away from the new millennium type flow that the fellas have chosen to experiment with for these particular records. Gypsy Notes featuring Tyler Woods is definitely a bright spot amongst the dark confusion of the project. With Woods lacing the hook in a more traditional fashion, this feels like what should’ve been the vibe of the entire project. It’s clean and easily deciphered, yet still complex enough to remind you how dope Suede and Cheeba have always been when it came to issuing darts on tracks. What shocked me most, was the lead single Bright Lights. I’m sure that those who’ve have heard this track will agree that it is vaguely similar to Jay Z’s (Always Be My) Sunshine and even shows glimpses of similarity in the visuals. And well, we all know how THAT went over with the critics. I must point out though, that Life I Love is dope. It’s the only cut that I actually did a double play on.
If I have to make the decision to move into Camp Lo’s new music stratosphere, where they’ve chosen to let fans decode their sequencing, as many do their rhymes, then I respectfully decline. I do feel as though the potential to win over fans is still present, but I would much rather throw on the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s series and vibe out while I wait for these brothers to get back to their previous formula while accepting a few slight tweaks here and there. I understand progression, so I can’t and won’t write off one of my favorite groups due to a minor misstep in their discography. I will, however, remain optimistic and look forward to the next release, because unlike a duo of one hit wonders, Camp Lo’s history negates the notion that they’ve fallen off. Check out Ragtime Hightimes for yourself and let us know what you think. Feedback is always welcomed.