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Camp Lo: The Hollywood Shuffle

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Since the release of their 1997 album, Uptown Saturday Night, the duo know as Camp Lo has always set themselves apart from other Hip-Hop groups. Fans got their first real taste of Bronx natives, Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede’s unique slang and word play on their first hit single, the Hip-Hop classic, “Luchini.” Since then, Camp Lo has had an almost cult following with fans everywhere from New York to Japan. It’s been about five years since their last album, Let’s Do It Again, but after spending time touring and politicing, Camp Lo has returned with the new album, Black Hollywood. The album reunites them with their long-time friend and producer, Ski Beatz. If he recreated the same magic that he made with Camp Lo on their first album, or with Jay-Z on Reasonable Doubt, Hip-Hop fans world wide are in for a real treat.AllHipHop.com: Camp Lo is known for their use of slang. How do you come up with the words or terms you use?Geechi: We get about 10 or 20 new slang words every time cats snap or go someplace new. There’s no telling what the new slang is going to be. We get it from everywhere. Then when we get it, we put it in our herb. Our herb is what we call our rhymes because they get people high. It’s just a natural thing. AllHipHop.com: When people talk about slang one of the first names mentioned are Raekwon and E-40. Do you feel that your contributions to slang in Hip-Hop go unnoticed?Geechi: Well honestly, people have been telling us to do a slang dictionary since like ’96. People know what we do. They’ve been telling us to do that for over a decade.  AllHipHop.com: In 2005, you were close to releasing a mixtape album with Halftooth Records. Promotional copies were mailed and everything. What happened? Is that the same as Black Hollywood?Sonny Cheeba: Nah, that’s not what you’re hearing now. Suede and cats from Halftooth had rapped or whatever, so Suede told them that something was gonna go down, but we was tied up in some other paperwork, with a single. A whole lot of bad paperwork [killed it]. It was never supposed to be like that. AllHipHop.com: Over the last 11 or 12 years, how much has bad paperwork affected Camp Lo?Sonny Cheeba: Ever since we got up in the Arista deal, we’ve been caught up in bad paperwork. People over there at Arista…we was doing the music that they wanted us to do, but we wasn’t feeling it, which meant that we was caught up in they web, and then finally they went from Arista to J Records, and we got up outta there. We did a Stimulated [Dante Ross’ record label] thing for a bit, and then we were supposed to go to Loud [Records]. Then Loud folded. We said, “We’re just gonna go straight Indie,” and for a while, that didn’t work out either.AllHipHop.com: When you say that you made some music that you didn’t want to make, are you referring to things in your catalogue or things that people never really heard?Sonny Cheeba: I’m talking about the album that didn’t come out with Arista. On top of that, there were some songs that were never supposed to be released—but that’s something different, not Arista. As far as Arista, they wanted us to go that commercial, sing-songy, when I don’t know. There’s a way to do it…and the way they wanted us to do it, isn’t the way it should’ve been done, dig? AllHipHop.com: We see so many crews disperse. As a trio, what’s kept Camp Lo and Ski Beatz together all these years?Sonny Cheeba: Good question. I can only speak for me. Me, I just keep a level head. I just stay grounded, humble with it, chill and laid back. That’s what do it for me. As a collective unit, I guess we know that’s where it’s at, musically.AllHipHop.com: From the titles of “Coolie High” and Uptown Saturday Night, films seem to be a part of who you guys are, continued with Black Hollywood. What are the films you love?Sonny Cheeba: I’ma always have love for Coolie High, because from what I understand, it was a true story. How the whole story went down, it’s just good from beginning to end. Willie Dynamite, he was doing his thing with the broads and all that, and then it came crumbling. You can’t shine forever. I saw this movie recently, I liked…I forget the title. It was about three dudes from Vietnam going against the Klan. It was pretty serious. AllHipHop.com: Within Blacksploitation, there were directors like Melvin Van Peebles and Gordon Parks, who made movies “for us, by us.” There were also White directors, who perhaps put the “exploitation” in the genre name. Do you see any correlation between that and contemporary Hip-Hop?Sonny Cheeba: How you said, commercial rap music that I’m hearing, they don’t have any other way of doing what they want to do. If there’s somebody on a higher stage, giving you a chance to get on a similar stage, and they’re saying, “You gotta do it like this, do it like that,” you might choose that. It might not be you persay; I wouldn’t know. If somebody says, “The only way you can eat is if you throw on this suit…” a lot of people are gonna do it just like that.AllHipHop.com: What is Black Hollywood as an album and as an idea?Sonny Cheeba: Black Hollywood is just rhymes and feel-good music, party-like. It’s vines, threads, whatever makes you feel good. It’s the finest this, and the nicest that. As far as the album is concerned, we’re kinda keeping it…we’re not doing no glitz, glamour, sing-songy songs; we’re sticking to the stuff we’re used to.AllHipHop.com: What’s the track “82 Afros” about?Sonny Cheeba: “82 Afros” is just me, Suede and Ski displaying our throwback style. The ’82, with the afro. It’s kinda connecting the 7-0 [1970s] with the ‘80s. It’s kinda vicious on the car side, you’ll hear it.AllHipHop.com: Interesting. Uptown Saturday Night had a ‘70s feel to it, is part of Black Hollywood intended to be a progression into ‘80s-inspired stuff?Sonny Cheeba: It goes from the ‘70s into the ‘80s. We got “Pushahoe,” which don’t come off like that, but “Posse from the Bronx” is a semi-EPMD-ish type joint, we just Camp Lo on it. “Jack N’ Jill” reminds me of [A Tribe Called Quest] type of feel—those joints are not really ‘70s-driven; “Suga Willie’s Revenge” is ‘70s-driven and “Claudine.” We keepin’ the ‘70s/’80s mix; it all goes together.AllHipHop.com: You grew up in The Bronx in the ‘70s. Who was your favorite MC growing up, and what was the movement like in your particular neighborhood?Sonny Cheeba: I never had any favorite MCs. I was caught up into R&B heavy. Don’t get me wrong though, I was into the [KRS-One] and Slick Rick records, blasting from the cars. I could say, at that time, it was KRS, Slick Rick, Jungle Brothers, and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising. That’s when I was really on it like that. There was no number one MC for me.AllHipHop.com: To what extent do you think that The Bronx got behind Camp Lo over the years?Sonny Cheeba: I can say that the BX only was on Lo when we came through. That’s the only time I was able to catch it—from when we first came through up until about 2000 or whateva. Other than that, cats was really in Manhattan hard. The BX always give love, but the point is, we never really held the BX love, screaming it like that.AllHipHop.com: I know the Profile/Arista situation got a little hairy. Profile hasn’t kept a lot of their catalogue out, whether it’s Dana Dane or it’s Rob Base. Uptown Saturday Night is still readily available to consumers. Eleven years later, how’s that sit with you?Sonny Cheeba: It’s a double-edged banger. Yeah, I love that new cats can hear it and enjoy it. But there’s one thing that I think back on and it’s “Spanish Harlem,” and [I wish] we would’ve dropped that right after “Luchini.” That’s the only thing I think about. We’re over there in Switzerland, and cats, 16 and up love it.

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