Camp Lo, ‘Ragtime Hightimes’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
Bronx natives Camp Lo may not ring a bell to the casual rap fan, but if you were to play their signature 1997 song, "Luchini," at a gathering, it's a safe bet that nearly everyone in attendance will have their head nodding sooner rather than later.
With that said, Camp Lo are much more than one-hit wonders and have a nearly 20-year track record of releasing quality albums and continuing to experiment and evolve. The latest example of this is the duo's new LP, Ragtime Hightimes, solely produced by longtime-collaborator Ski Beatz.
Beginning with the smooth track "Black Jesus," the camp of Lo are in rare form from the get-go, spewing their unique brand of uptown slang all over the Ski Beatz production. Volleying bars back and forth, both impress, with Sonny Cheeba spitting, "Dancing with damsels in Zanzibar / Got a handle on Hannibal, hit the Alps, C.O.D. revolver / Revolves in a vault of voltage, high / Skydive wit diamonds and dial out," while Geechi Suede handles the hook-work, rapping, "Fast car, freeway, engine revving, relay / Bunny on my side playing DJ / First we pulling up then we out / 400 horses up and then we out / Black Jesus." This opens the album with a bang.
"Sunglasses" is a breezy number that finds Ski employing a jazzy horn, digitized drums and keys for the dynamic duo to strut their stuff over. Things get chilly on the appropriately titled "It's Cold," which features an imposing beat over which Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede deliver their hard-boiled flows over. Ragtimes Hightimes hits its first minor bump with "Power Man," an up-tempo offering that plays as a nod to the old-school, but misses the mark with a pedestrian soundbed and an underwhelming performance by the pair. "Sunshine" is a slight improvement, but ultimately is much of the same and is an example of when less could've been more.
Watch Camp Lo's "Bright Lights" Video
The proceedings get back on track with "Gypsy Notes," which lives up to its intriguing title with a plush soundscape that's pleasing to the ear and features vocalist Tyler Woods. The latter turns in a stellar performance on the song's hook, which serves as the perfect ingredient of this track and only adds to Camp Lo's solid performance as well. "Cold Retarded" is a jittery selection that sees Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede taking it back uptown to the Boogie Down Bronx, while "Award Winning" is lyrically sharp, but is a subpar effort from Ski Beatz on the production tip. However, the beatsmith quickly redeems himself on the Ragtimes Hightimes selection, "Life I Love," which stands as one of the LP's superior ditties, as well the trippy "Bright Lights."
The good vibes continue with "You," a track aimed at the fairer sex and the most commercially appealing offering included on the album. "Mean Joe" is a heavy-metal inspired effort that finds Camp Lo flowing atop steely drums and guitar riffs before ending Ragtime Hightimes with the subdued closing cut, "Time," which centers on those working through their respective struggles in life.
Slight hiccups and missteps aside, Ragtime Hightimes is a serviceable body of work that may not eclipse previous albums in their catalog, but is worthy of a spin. This effort proves Camp Lo are far from finished.
Listen to Camp Lo's "Black Jesus"
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