Pete Rock, Camp Lo Talk New Group, 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s
80 Blocks From Tiffany’s does not come off like the run-of-the-mill name for a hip-hop group. But this is not your run-of-the-mill act. Indeed, the bold supergroup — comprised of Mount Vernon, N.Y. super producer Pete Rock and Bronx tandem Camp Lo — understands that such a union should not be treated as a random event. For one, Rock’s revered as a hip-hop studio god who has produced for the legendary likes of Public Enemy, EPMD, Big L, Nas, the Dogg Pound and Common, and two, Camp Lo changed the course of lyricism in hip-hop with just one song: the 1996 single ‘Luchini.’
With the release of 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s critically-acclaimed self-titled mixtape and a debut studio album set for this summer, the BoomBox caught up with Pete Rock and Camp Lo’s Geechie Suede and Sonny Cheeba to talk about what inspired their union, if they ever thought about competing with Waka Flocka Flame and what’s to come on the follow-up project they have in the works.
On paper, the pairing of Pete Rock and Camp Lo seems like a savvy move, given that you guys came to prominence during the burgeoning ’90s New York hip-hop scene. Did you find forming 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s to be a natural fit?
Pete Rock: Yeah, it was pretty natural. I’ve always been a fan of Camp Lo’s music. I was actually leaving a studio session and bumped into Technician the DJ on the street as I was picking my car up. The Camp Lo guys were in a session nearby, so Technician asked if I could come up and say hello to them, and I did that. I ended up jumping on a song with them and Styles P. They liked some of the beats I played for them. That’s when we decided to [link up].
Was there any initial concern over merging two very distinct sounds?
Geechi Suede: I think that’s why it worked. Pete Rock is one entity and Camp Lo is another. The way we bridged it was through 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s. So the whole dynamic of the sound is something that is completely different than from what people have known any of us to do.
Sonny Cheeba: What we bring to the table together cats haven’t seen yet. That soul feel is still there. We have a lot of visuals in mind and approaches that nobody is doing.
Pete, you are rightly regarded as one of hip-hop’s most celebrated producers. And now it seems like Camp Lo is finally getting their recognition as a groundbreaking group who contributed an original rhyme style, slang and cadence to rap. How does that make you feel that 15 years later, fans and critics are praising you for your work as trailblazers?
Sonny Cheeba: I’m glad to hear that. When I listen to the praise it’s even better. With all the slang and flow switches we contributed and the beats that MCs were rocking over that made cats feel a certain type of way. So to hear that now is big for us. That ’90s era was crazy competitive. You just couldn’t hop in. There was no EZ Pass to get in at that time. Either you had talent or you didn’t.
Geechi Suede: He’s right [laughs]. There was so much going on when we first came out.
Pete Rock: We built our castles with straight brick, man. And we were all about originality. So that’s important to us as a group. It was always important to me as a producer and as an artist… To be original. When you are original that’s what makes you dope. When you originate something and have people following you, that’s true power.
So what is your take on today’s hip-hop scene?
Cheeba: Today, I have to say respectfully, that you really don’t have to have that much talent. You can hear it in the music… It’s a little more emptier. That’s why the music is changing back to that solid foundation of the ’90s.
Has there ever been a time when you said, “Forget this. How am I supposed to compete with Waka Flocka Flame?”
Pete Rock: [Laughs] I don’t look at it that way. We have been doing it for so long, so that should tell you how much we care regardless of the ups and downs because we roll with the punches.
You have already released the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s mixtape. There’s been talk that you guys are already working on a sequel.
Geechie Suede: Yes, we are working on part 2. The [recording process] has been great.
Pete Rock: And I’m producing the whole thing. It’s going to be a dope mixtape because it’s going to be like an audio cinematic movie. We are really riding this thing hard. Then we have the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s album coming out this summer. We are really taken this seriously.
Respectively, are there any other projects that you are working on for the near future?
Pete Rock: I’m working on a Styles P album. I just finished an album with Tek and Steele — Smif-N-Wessun. I produced the whole album and its called ‘Monumental’ and it’s coming out on June 28. I did a song with Anthony Hamilton and Heavy D. There’s a lot going on.
Sonny Cheeba: 80 Blocks right now is what cats are getting into. It’s a little different for us because we don’t produce beats. There are other projects we are working on. We got ‘VIP’ coming and ‘A Piece of the Action’ when we get ready.
So how far do you want to take 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s?
Pete Rock: We are taking it all the way to space where there’s no air. I’m taking it as far as I can take it. It’s such a great collaboration because not only are we easy to get along with, we all fall into the same types of habits and things that we like to do as men.
Sonny Cheeba: I feel that we can take it all the way out. We just want to make great music.
Watch 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s ‘Mic Check’