Could you imagine a time when it was uncertain who’d have the brighter future; Jay-Z or Camp Lo? Well, in the beginning of 1997 it looked like they’d both be about as equally viable. Seriously.
When Uptown Saturday Night (this week’s album, in case you hadn’t guessed) dropped, it was a brand new sound, and emcees Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede had tons of (what the kids commonly call) swagger. Honestly, I’d have bet big money that Camp Lo would have been providing the soundtrack to all of my college parties.
And clearly I’d have lost a fortune, as Jay was the guy who held it down and kept the dance floor packed, while Camp Lo faded into obscurity along with fellow late ’90s “next big things” The Cru and City High.
Still, I figured that since a decade had passed, revisiting Uptown Saturday Night would be like a pleasant walk down memory lane. But then I realized that the point of this resolution was to revisit albums I’d ignored.
Beatwise, the album is dope. The beats are lush and demand attention from the ear. Most of the album was produced by Ski, who also worked with Jay-Z (Jay even admitted to stealing beats for Reasonable Doubt from the group). It’s a really good album for background music.
Lyrically, it’s something different. You know how Posdnous is lyrically dense and how Ghostface’s rhymes are so filled with slang and jargon they almost sound like non-sequiturs? Well, marry those two rhyme schemes and you end up with Camp Lo.
Trying to decipher these lyrics is absolutely futileâ€”I doubt that FBI code crackers could figure them outâ€”and I’m pretty sure that’s ultimately why the group failed to catch on. The rhymes mesh sound-wise, but don’t seem to mean anything. And it just makes guest spots, like that of Trugoy and Digable Planets’ Butterfly (on “B-Side to Hollywood” and “Swing”, respectively) stand out more so; your mind is craving for something firm onto which to latch amid a raging sea of words.
And even with my decade of experience I still couldn’t really make any headway with this album. I’d nod along with the songs I liked (“Luchini AKA This is it”, “Sparkle” and “Cooley High”) but every other song I trudged through and thought way too much about.
And while it’s refreshing, in this day and age, to listen to an album and have to think about lyrics, in this case it’s equally frustrating just because they’re so esoteric.