April 23, 2008
Camp Lo - Short Eyes (EP) (2001)
Releasing an EP when nobody knows who you are is one thing, but when you're already an established artist in the hip hop game, an EP release means one of two things: either your label just wants to make some extra money off of you (see: how Columbia pimped leftover tracks by Nas, the Fugees, Cypress Hill, etc.), or it's been a while between album sand you're very much concerned that the fans you gained with your first album have since outgrown you, thanks to a lack of a timely follow up.
Obviously, Camp Lo would fall into the second category. Their debut, Uptown Saturday Night, was released in 1997 to critical acclaim and almost no sales, which is a shame, since it was quite good. Although the album failed to meet expectations, Sonny Chiba and Geechie Suede continued to hustle in the music industry, finding a lot of success working with artists as diverse as Will Smith and Oran "Juice" Jones. On their downtime, the duo continued to record tracks under their Camp Lo alias, primarily for their core audience, which would have been entirely made up of bloggers like myself had they existed back then.
Six of these tracks were collected and released as an EP called Short Eyes. I don't have a lot of information on this album, since it was released in Japan only (I obtained mine as an import through Amazon.com), so I'm not even one hundred percent that this is a legally sanctioned release, but I can confirm that, not only are the rappers the Geechie Suede and Sonny Chiba that we already know and, well, love is a strong word, these six tracks (which were all recorded after the Uptown Saturday Night sessions; a couple of which even found their way into deejay's crates as vinyl singles) are notable because none of them are produced by their longtime cohort Ski, whom I assume was too busy wondering why he wasn't a bigger part of Shawn Carter's career when he produced some of the best tracks on Reasonable Doubt. However, the producers that do contribute all aim toward the 1970's blaxploitation vibe that Ski perfected on Uptown Saturday Night.
That was a short intro. This is more tiring than you may think.
The awful title betrays a song that actually doesn't sound bad. A minimalist beat stays out of the way of the raps, most of which make as much sense as Uptown Saturday Night, which is to say, not at all.
For a song that is not a cover of the Ben Folds Five track "Army", it's actually pretty good. The beat is incredibly engaging, so kudos to Tribeca, yet another producer that you've probably never heard of.
This song was boring as shit. Sorry.
4. BABY'S MOTHER
Royce Da 5'9" has had a song floating around on the Interweb for quite a while now called "Clap To This" that uses the same sample as this song. It's a good component for a hip hop instrumental, so both Royce and the Lo sound great over it on their respective songs. Aside from the goofy title and hook, this song rocks.
The chorus is corny, but when you hear the song as a whole, it actually works well with the beat, so I suppose it's a decent song. The beat will stick in your head for a while, at least.
6. BLIND PHOTOGRAPHY (FEAT JUNGLE BROWN)
This beat is the closest Short Eyes comes to containing what sounds like a Uptown Saturday Night outtake. I'm not sure why they decided to distort everyone's voice on here, but the end result makes you feel as if Camp Lo and Jungle Brown recorded their verses to completely different beats, and instead of getting the artists to re-record their verses, the production engineers just mashed the lyrics onto the beat, bootleg-style. Which may be closer to the truth than I think, considering that I've never actually read anywhere that Camp Lo acknowledge this EP's existence.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Short Eyes is a pretty good chaser after hearing Uptown Saturday Night, although it is four years too late. The beats aren't on the caliber of Ski's contributions to the debut, but they're okay in their own right. This didn't do much to keep Camp Lo's name in the spotlight (Japanese-only imports have a way of stopping that from happening), but it was followed later in 2001 by their real second album, Let's Do It Again, so no harm, no foul.
BUY OR BURN? There's no way I can recommend you buy this, since it's import-only, and not worth thirty bucks (what the fuck was Max in 2001 thinking? Did I have money to burn or something?). Burn this shit and enjoy it, unless you hated the debut, in which case this EP won't change your mind.
BEST TRACKS: "Army"; "Cybersex"; "Baby's Mother"; "Blind Photography"
Camp Lo - Uptown Saturday Night