In the offhand chance that there is a heaven, there will be an entire wing devoted to obscenely talented but perennially unsung rappers. There will be Myka 9 and Doseone. Serengeti and Ras Kass. Andre Nickatina and Max Minelli. Camp Lo will have a bronze statue built for them with imported ostrich feathers in their Panama hats and silken cravats draped over their necks in the winter. Celebrating their 20th anniversary, Sugar Shack connoisseurs from the Boogie Town bring a video for a vinyl only jam for ’96.
What the silky strutters have lacked in punctuality, they’ve always made up for in crooked slang and flamboyant style, which hasn’t abandoned them as they enter this latest nostalgic phase of their career — where they’re releasing an album full of Ski Beatz outtakes from the mid-90s. But nostalgia has always been as bespoke as a Savile Row suit for these two, considering their initial entrance to the game found them appropriating Marvin Gaye album covers and clips from Good Times. Uptown Saturday Night remains as timeless as “One More Saturday Night” in that you can still play it on any weekend and it still sounds advanced. Some people are ahead of their time by being behind their time — Camp Lo fit that category as well as the Dead did.
This video starts with them pouring coffee on a bus, boasting about “keeping it jig on the sugar flats…back in action.” If they look a little more like 40-something pimps than the young diamond crooks of their first inception, this song offers permanent reminder that your agility may dip, you may get a little thicker around the waistline, but creating your own lane allows you a way to age gracefully. There were analogues to the Lo — Ghost and Rae being the most notable — but their voices, vocabulary and the Tribe Called Quest levels of back-and-forth baton rap have never sounded anything less than mesmerizing. You can get lost in a Camp Lo song like the best Blaxploitation action sequence, which is the presumptive goal.
The second half of this video flips into their opium den, silk pajama style. Hugh Hefner by way of Superfly by way of The Pink Panther. Two decades deep, they remain heroes because we know so little. They’ve kept the mystery and retained that otherworldliness. Camp Lo still feel like superheroes, where no decoder ring or erstwhile Rap Genius could decrypt their dialect. If A Tribe Called Quest proved once and for all that age doesn’t necessarily diminish all our old idols, I’m holding out hope for another classic from these two. If nothing else, the Lo will carry on until they present St. Peter with gold ropes.