Travelling with a stylish retromodern image, the duo is a very slick underground outfit who bring a genuine sense of fun and enjoyment with their fresh new brand of hip-hop infused with eclectic musical blends. While they stay rooted in traditional hip-hop, these Camo Kids aren’t just about heavy boom-bap, sharp snares, piercing hi-hats and chopped soul samples; they keep it fresh and avoid the hackneyed and stale trappings of many slightly embittered underground hip-hop crews by being a little bold and adventurous with it. Added to this, the duo have real charisma in abundance — Lenz especially instils his nice-guy persona and sense of humour into his rhymes while Press1 impresses most with his hard-hitting accomplished set of emceeing skills.
With a smattering of industrially-geared house rhythms, their debut mixtape incorporates an eclectic mix ranging from visceral noise-bombing dubstep to more subtle layered hip-hop instrumentals with swooning melodies. One of which is ‘Luck of the Irish’, a track featuring a garage instrumental infused with a dreamy J-pop sample courtesy of local dubstep producer, Yanaku. Played off against aggressive skuzzy dubstep beat by Kripptonnic Beats, the mixtape has a surprisingly colouful and intoxicating dance-orientated soundscape.
Though less experimental in style, the mixtape’s standout track for me on balance has to be ‘Freestyle Villains’. Produced by Manchester-based beatmaker extraordinaire Pro P, the track is expertly crafted with a low-key vibe that cedes spotlight to Press1’s reminiscences on his time spent cutting his teeth battling on Jump Off as a youngster. In it he refers nostalgically to the time he got ripped by UK legend Skinnyman, and how he subsequently went AWOL from the battle scene for a few years to hone his craft: You’ve gotta learn your art before you paint the town red. Indeed listening to this mixtape, there’s no doubt he’s grown more assured and inventive as an emcee: with on-point flows and perfect syllabic placement, and equally competent spitting double-time and slower tempos, he’s really rather impressive. Both emcees prove themselves just as adept at rendering the elegant and poetic as the barefaced and candid, speaking of “doing shows just for the groupies” one minute, and indulging in introspection the next: “Logic intertwined with its best friend, the fantasist.”
Production-wise, another stand-out has to be the blissed-out ‘Lemon Seronade’. Featuring a bassy, iridium-dense lo-fi instrumental courtesy of Mr.S, it creates an expansive electrogaze soundscape and a soothing bed of sound over which those Camo Kids lace their laid-back drawl. Talented Hastings producer Wizard brings back a more orthodox slowed-down hip-hop vibe too with the slickly-executed star-gazing embrace on ‘You & Me’, and the soulful ‘Doomsday’.
There are also a couple of judiciously chosen dubs including one from Apathy, as well as a genuinely funny skit featuring a dialogue between Press1 and a no-name generic London copy-cat rapper trying in vain to get him to cop his mixtape for a fiver.
The mixtape’s only real let-down is the remix of ‘Essex Girls’, a hilarious tongue-in-cheek parody of the Essex girl stereotype released earlier in the year as a YouTube video, originally featuring production by Tom Caruana. While I can appreciate the remix conceptually, the big-room house/rave anthem does little to convey the blithe humour of the original version. It’s not bad, it’s just a little incongruous.
Overall, the newcomers have produced a robust and relistenable release with cuts that are certainly above average considering this is just a mixtape. Whether you’re a diehard UK hip-hop fan, or a casual listener, you’ll definitely have fun with this one.
Follow them on Twitter @camouflagechildren