The Bronx duo Camp Lo were one of many hip hop acts to have a fleeting time in the limelight before the full-scale corporate colonization of the genre. Their 1997 debut, Uptown Saturday Night, was equally an exercise in individuality and relatability, as these two slick MCs, Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede, discussed the exuberance of youth and picking up chicks with an intimidating array of slang and dancing flows. In that same stead, a pre-“Dead Presidents” Ski Beatz provided the hopeful 70s-influenced production for the album, shining most brightly on the opener “Krystal Karrington” and the singles “Luchini” and “Coolie High.”
Even though they went on to drop four more albums and an EP, Camp Lo never grabbed any attention with the same style or force. The duo’s latest effort, Fort Apache produced entirely by Ski, takes it back to an earlier era and feels just as exciting to hear. The EP is such a gripping collection of charismatic rhyming, irresistibly catchy hooks and percussion-driven beats that it seems odd to label this as anything else but a modern classic. The way Cheeba and Suede carve out a pocket for the hook on the overtly rhythmic “Sugar Willie’s Revenge” seems impossible and yet necessary, and the actual verses entices listeners even more.
In fact, the verses amount to the best thing about the EP, seeing as they profess the lyrical dexterity Camp Lo still has. Whether dealing with a touched-up version of Run DMC’s “Sucka MCs” on “52 Pick Up” or the hard rock-infused production on “82 Afros,” they treat each one like the last song they’ll ever make. And even though “Zoom” sounds way too spartan and slighty cheesy due to its odd opening, Camp Lo makes it work, Suede coming off harder than usual and Cheeba just as weird.
But as much as the project does things right, the usual brand of slang-laden rhymes keeps listeners at an unnecessary impasse. It’s odd to find them at fault for that seeing as that aspect is one of their core traits, but perhaps toning it down might help? That said, Fort Apache does mark a return to form for Camp Lo, which may not gain popular attraction for the group but will certainly keep them thoroughly entertaining.