Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 | | Labels: , , , , , ,


I always wanted to put together an ode to one of my favorite groups, Camp Lo. People ask me why I'm so fascinated with Camp Lo and I think the reason is apparent but for those who do not see what I see, I'll break it down for you. 

1. Cultural Constructivism. Camp Lo utilizes a sort of Black referential realism to form their own epistemology. They weave historical figures and Black popular culture to form a hyperreal Black identity; collapsing numerous Black eras into one. They reference Lena Horne, Nat Turner, dashikis, What's Happening the tv show, and West African names (often in the same verse). This allows Camp Lo to piece together figures, historical events, and popular culture in hodge-podge fashion and make it seem like a set of interconnected ideas. Their lyrics are a Black cultural politics class on acid. In the selection below Sonny Cheeba "Billy Holidays" the "Foxy Browns," i.e. provides class for young dames. Holiday, an actual figure, and Foxy Brown, a movie character, become interconnected representations of Black female identity. By replacing concepts and situations (that would normally take the average rapper a few bars to explain) with pop cultural and historical references, Camp Lo packs verses with jotted imagery in hyperbolic detail. Entire identities and eras are funneled into one adjective or used as elaborate concepts.      

Case Study: Coolie High
Got the bubbly pourin through me at Cleopatra's casino
Sweetbackin' Coolie High Jackin, Jitterbugs and little (?)
Dolemite's outta site Anti-hatahs cats in the city
On the money takin the tri-state under sore savant
Billy Holidayin' the Foxy Browns with my Harlequinns
Penny he repellin reflected crystals is Hollywood

2. Cultural Malleability. The Lo primarily reference Black culture but also incorporate outside influences into their flow. The French Connection becomes "The Black Connection." They embody Blaxploitation Post Modernism. Furthermore, their cultural trajectory isn't monolithic. Whereas Ice Cube once rebelled against the Native Tongue movement for being too Black middle class all while Ice Cube himself was doing a disservice to the Black community for relying on poverty as a marker of Black identity, Camp Lo simply doesn't care. They are from the Bronx and give praise to the barrio and the boutique; something far more representative in 21st century identity politics than the socio-cultural allegiances of rappers Camp Lo came in the game with. Ahead of their time anyone?   

3. Presentation. In a recent interview, rapper/singer Cee-Lo explained that contemporary music is boring because showmanship is long gone. He believes its the performers responsibility to take the listening experience of music one step further through costume and movement. Camp Lo embodies those sentiments. In the midst of gangster rap (1996), Camp Lo set themselves a part from the pack by wearing red leather Reebok high-tops, cowboy hats, fur coats, and round sunglasses. Their presentation personified their slang. Though their live shows do need improvement, Sonny Cheeba raps with a tooth pick in his mouth and obscenely large belt buckle.      

4. Reverence for the Meretricious* From Cadillac Allante's, Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante Champagne, "slime ball jheri curls," and getting ice rock gritty with a woman named Krystal Karrington, The Lo makes the mundane and tacky seem priceless. They reference items easier to relate too (unless you own a G5) as well as praise the passé; valuing yesterday's forgotten trends, transporting the listener back to the Ali/Frazier fight where fur coats reigned.   

*Meretricious: a. attracting attention in a vulgar manner, b. superficially or garishly attractive

5. Dedication to an Idea. For 15 years Camp Lo has remained loyal to a motiff, an idea. When artists commit to an idea their personal identities aren't necessary. I have never thought of Geechi Suede or Sonny Cheeba's personal lives because their characters come off more appealing and grandiose. Kanye West probably can't decipher when Kanye the artist ends and Kanye the person begins, thus we get temper tantrums. On the contrary, when people hear Luchini, it evokes a feeling not a self serving accomplishment on behalf of the artist. Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. I think Camp Lo's music encapsulates a a wealth of ideas presented in beautifully gaudy packaging.   

With your newly acquired analysis, enjoy the music. Diamond Delegates signing off.