It’s never easy to follow a classic. Camp Lo’s Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede took 1997 by storm with “Uptown Saturday Night,” an album with a found affection for the 1970’s at the peak of nostalgia for disco music and blaxploitation movies. Even the names of the artists sounded like they came straight from a Richard Roundtree movie. Their breakthrough hit “Lucchini (This Is It)” borrowed heavily from a 1980 song though, Dynasty’s “Adventures in the Land of Music,” but as anyone who was alive back then knows (cough cough) the late 70’s and early 80’s kind of bled over a bit. Decades may have firm dates on calendars but in terms of musical styles things are almost never cut and dry. By that same token what made Camp Lo sound fun and nostalgic in 1997 had worn out its welcome by 2002.
“Let’s Do It Again” seems like an easy win on paper. As with the previous album the title pays homage to a 1970’s film, and Ski returns behind the boards to provide the same musical magic he’d been known for since his earliest days with Shawn Carter. Camp Lo were out of the spotlight for a full five years before they returned though, and in musical years that can feel like well more than a decade. Their most ardent fans had moved on and those that were left scratched their heads and said, “Okay — they really DID do it again. This is the same stuff they did in ’97, but it’s just not as fly now.”
Camp Lo’s profile had dropped so far that Profile Records had dropped them from the label by the time they returned. “Let’s Do It Again” came out on the tiny imprint Dymond Crook, which seems to have existed solely to release this album, after which they promptly vanished from history. It makes me suspect that Sonny and Geechi funded the release themselves but I have no evidence to confirm that. In fact until I randomly found this album in a bargain bin at a second hand store a few months ago (right next to the raspberry berets), I had never even owned it. I’m not sure it was ever carried at any major retailers I frequented to buy physical music back then.
“Gorilla Pimp” is one of those ideas that seems fine on paper, but comes out poorly in execution. Talking about how fly you are and how great the life is was always Camp Lo’s strength, but somehow they concluded that it would be in their best interest to come HARD over a stripped down beat. It’s not quite unlistenable, but it’s not good. I can’t really picture either of these emcees gorilla pimping hoes with their minks dragging on the floor. Even Ski’s friend Jay-Z wouldn’t have been convincing on this beat though.
Now “Carnival 4 Sha” IS actually unlistenable. I’m not sure what Ski was thinking here, or that it can even be called music. It’s like he somehow reverse engineered “The Champ Is Here” by Jadakiss, which would be impossible since that song came out two years later, but let’s just assume he time traveled to the future and said “yeah that’s the hotness” and tried to bring it back. Unfortunately he didn’t record it and remade it from memory and the end result is just AWFUL. I’d rather cut my ears off and put them in a blender before listening to the track again.
Camp Lo were so bereft of ideas after a five year absence that they resorted to releasing sequels to tracks from their debut, resulting in this album’s “Black Connect II.” The fact it’s one of the better songs is telling. Highlights are few and far between here and you’ve got to take them where you can find them. I can give Ski a pass for this one and for “Soul Train” too.
On the whole though “Let’s Do It Again” feels like the whole rap game evolved while Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede regressed. Their earnest raps about the finest of things set to the finest of beats felt plush, lovely and decadent in 1997. By 2002 their fame had waned, their fortune was gone, and they were still trying to live a baller lifestyle on a po’ pimp budget.