Giving Props to an Underappreciated Hip Hop Classic
Tomorrow, January 28th marks the 20th Anniversary of Camp Lo’s debut album Uptown Saturday Night.
No album, or artist, since then has been able to capture the style and impact of this conceptual classic. Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Or maybe you’ve never heard anyone speak about it in such high regard? Let me school you on the why.
“This is it, what! Luchini pouring from the sky. Let’s get rich, what!” – Camp Lo “Luchini AKA This Is It”
Perhaps you’ve heard that line before. The celebratory first line of a classic hook from a classic Hip-Hop record. Camp Lo’s unlimited flows over the Ski Beatz produced track sampled from Dynasty’s 1980 record “Adventures in the Land of Music”, is Hip-Hop perfection. That’s the obvious highlight though. This album has so much more to offer.
Released on January 28th 1997, it had been four months since Tupac’s death and two months before the eventual passing of The Notorious B.I.G. It was still very much the era of Bad Boy Records vs. Death Row Records. A lot of Hip-Hop artists’ progression had been muted by the shadow of this clash of titans.
The Bronx, New York duo of Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede (Camp Lo), on the other hand, were able to slide into the consciousness of Hip-Hop fans with their debut album produced by Ski Beatz and Trugoy the Dove. The project borrows its title from the 1974 film starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. The sequel to that movie also features a character named Biggie Smalls.
The cover artwork sets the tone with an updated reinterpretation of Ernie Barnes’ original Sugar Shack painting from 1971. You may also recognize it from the closing credits on CBS’s classic sitcom Good Times, and the cover of Marvin Gaye’s 1976 album “I Want You”. Camp Lo’s version features the duo also dancing in the Sugar Shack.
The album opens with “Krystal Karrington”, an aggressive track that shows off the groups lyrical skills. It is probably the only track that stands outside the jazz/funk inspired vibe that the album is known for. Clocking in at around three minutes in length, things quickly move into the stand out record “Luchini AKA This Is It”. It’s almost like you can see the folks from the Sugar Shack stand up and hit the dance floor.
The wordplay between the duo continues to overwhelm you on the song “Park Joint”, a record that begins like it’s being performed at a park jam back in the late ‘70s. De La Soul’s Trugoy makes an appearance on “B-Side to Hollywood”. The Native Tongue-approved track evokes visions of a cipher where Cheeba, Suede, and Trugoy take turns painting pictures of parties, rebellion, and nostalgia. Yeah, it’s like that!
The album not only features lyrical references to 1970’s films and celebrities, but many of the track titles do the same (i.e. Sparkle, Coolie High). One of my favorite tracks has to be “Black Connection”. With it’s 1974 disco sample from Van McCoy and The Soul Symphony’s "Love is the Answer", it’s another perfect banger that reinforces the album’s nostalgia. Perhaps the track that can be considered the “cherry on top” of an already dope piece of art is, “Black Nostaljack AKA Come On”.
The video featured a Good Times theme with actors from the original cast reprising their roles. Basically, Thelma looked fine making grits while J.J walked around talking sh*t about it. Ha! I loved it! Camp Lo basically threw a “throwback” party in the middle of the so-called “East Coast vs. West Coast Beef”.
15 tracks deep and around an hour in length, Uptown Saturday Night is a certified Hip-Hop classic in my opinion. Beats, flows, lyrics, and a concept that was able to capture a decade that represented style and expression more than any other. The most important asset of this release was its timing. Again, the Rap game was at odds with everything. Camp Lo reminded us that it was also about having a good time.
How does the album hold up today? I think it does a pretty good job of maintaining that nostalgic vibe. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in the ‘70s, was in your prime when the album dropped like me, or are discovering it here for the first time, the groove never stops with this one.
Support classic Hip-Hop! Let’s get rich, what!!!