PETE ROCK & CAMP LO – 80 BLOCKS FROM TIFFANY’S Pt. II Mixtape Review

By SUNEZ

The break, the boys breakin’ on ‘em, the graf beautifying iron horses and the rhyme talking, smooth walking, rugged stalking were all always around. But before Kool Herc brought this culture to an open converging via his defined breakbeat, the sound unique to the BX was actually 80 million rocks from today’s exploited polyphony.  The first sound, that first urban genre of NYC, through the 70’s that the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s documentary captures was Salsa.  With timbales, congas, bongos y campanas, through an updated Son with militant montunos and streetwise call and response choruses, the Funk, Jazz and Soul all were absorbed in this sound.

Now, the hell of the past sadly feels heavenly today.  And the purity of Salsa is gone where even the most gifted Salsero today (i.e. Marc Anthony) cannot offer the grit of his Spanish Harlem roots, even if the Soul of his voice punctuates through the romantic formula.  And that 1979 year when the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s documentary was released was also the beginning of a music that would be able to unite all (eventually any) the sounds of their exiled ghetto.  This Hip Hop came to be a unifying of the best sound and about always digging for a better crate.  The wonderful effect being people finally represented and all learning more of what was misrepresented, past and present.

The harkening back theme that Pete Rock and Camp Lo suggests in titling this mixtape series 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s doesn’t merely reveal the “better” days.  It reveals that this old way is the better way to make a better music now.  It’s wrong to see any Hip Hop music that digs in the crates to loop, chop and re-craft old melodies and drums as throwback.  It is wrong to see thematic sampling through an album as just ol’ school.  These are the ideas of journalists seeking fame on the other side of the cameras and eliminating the historian. 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Pt. II is a diverse beat display that harks back the 70’s Soul/Funk/Disco vibe, the rugged peak of the 90’s that Pete Rock was at the forefront of and the best of today’s underground–the hardcore Hip Hop sound that fights daily to be heard yet still infests every corner of the world.

 

Pete Rock is one of the legendary beatmakers that defined what this Hip Hop sound is.  He mastered the thickness of the track via its drums, the layering of samples and the subtlety of add ons from his excellent DJ cuts, crate digging skit highlights and chorus mastery.  Still, he does not obsessively preserve his classic sound as DJ Premier nor wildly innovate away from it as The RZA.  From his Soul Survivor 2 and the My Own Worst Enemy (w/Ed OG) LPs of 2004 through 2008’s NY’s Finest and to Smif N Wessun’s Monumental album of 2011, the aforementioned elements peak through or are subdued to an overall effect that shows a producer still seeking.  Seeking new sounds and successfully through MCs that challenge him.
The ability to produce collections of songs for different MCs of exceptional abilities is one of the highest requisites for legend status.  After Smif N Wessun, Pete Rock gives himself a similarly tough challenge with a duo with exceptional flows and abnormally deft synergy between them.   Camp Lo’s abilities were captured in the excellent beats Ski provided on their 1997 debut, Uptown Saturday Night (and to a lesser degree on their subsequent albums) but they also trapped themselves in the 70’s Blaxploitation imagery they presented themselves through.  With 80 Blocks’ first mixtape prepping and this Part II proving, Sonny Cheeba and Geechie Suede, are able to break away from that and let the Bronx grittiness they come from deliver them.

Aside from “No Hook” being a variation of “I Ain’t Gotta Love” the material is all original.  So Pete carves tracks for the flashy gutter butters Camp Lo styled and results in dynamic tracks.  “Bionic” with its frenetic horns drives through a faster tempo while “80 Blocks Party” slows the gears with a nice use of the airy popped snare.  “Glitter and Gold” lets Camp Lo continue the 70’s flix metaphors with an ill worded Pete Rock chorus.  Pete Rock’s best trend here is with the booming basslines and bass drum work as on “Supa Fly Shit,” the rugged bop in “Clean Getaway,” the grooving drums that snap through the consistent bass of “Starlight Glitz” or the R&B synth groove and thump snare on “Can I Get A…”  However, the versatility is there to match MCs with no barrier to the amount of proper flows they can apply to any tempo.  Innovating comes in the title track where Pete Rock give very minimalist breaks with success or the whistled funk of “Mafungo” with the sliced cuts of Biggie yelling “everybody hit the d-e-c-k!”  Pete Rock succeeds by manipulating Camp Lo’s strength of varying tempos to give the mixtape an ever fluctuating liveliness.

Part 1 of the mixtape series w/DatPiff player & links below

Listening deeper, Camp Lo has the gift of metaphor and flow so well merged they easily could extend it to make a more content heavy music.  One that does what they start to do here, reflect the social picture of their Bronx, as the 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s documentary did.  Our NYC genres from Salsa to Hip Hop are endlessly innovative when we possess them completely in our grasp.  Sharing freely, this mixtape is a great display of Pete Rock’s continued great work and a forum that refreshes us to Camp Lo’s talents and may even reinvigorate the innovative potential in their work.

 

 

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