If an entire album — songwriting, production, engineering, recording and mixing — is entirely made from scratch in just three days by a group of first-time collaborators, can it be any good?
That’s the question that East Bay rap artists Casey Cope and Marquito set out to answer last year when they invited 20 of their favorite artists from around the region to camp at their studio for a weekend to see what magic emerged. With virtually no budget, and nothing more than studio equipment and sheer talent, the result was orchestral — a surprisingly harmonious kaleidoscope of vocalists, pianists, producers, DJs, rappers, trombonists and general tinkerers.
“We’re not trying to make anything specific,” says Cope, who curates the lineup of participants and co-manages the space with Marquito at Studio Q in Berkeley. “We spend the whole year going to shows, clicking on links, listening to tons of albums, and just being music geeks. It’s like, ‘You’re good and you’re good, so we hope you work well together.’”
The recurring Qamp theme is a clear play on the idea of a summer camp, which Cope grew up attending, and where he first learned how to play guitar, from a camp counselor. It’s a feeling he’s been chasing after ever since. From Qamp, without any pre-planning or overt direction, the artists simply create art. In unison.
As much a social experiment as a weekend-long jam session, Qamp II delivers with a quality sound that reflects the talented pool of participants and their ability to be “seamless” and “[come] together.” Tracks like “Mullet” bring the hard-hitting bass line of a polished trap anthem with reserved quips from rappers like Pandaraps, who brags about “feeling free” and not having to “talk shit.” Other songs, such as “out of sight / out of mind” featuring the rising singer Nüxia, provide a gentle breeze of harmonized vocals.
No matter the song, it all sounds freshly spontaneous, with a sound that’s slightly matured over Qamp’s first installment from last year - but just as experimental.
“We want people to roam where they roam,” Cope reflects on the three-day process. “That’s how the accidents and combinations we would've never thought about actually happen.”
In one room, a singer could work with a guitarist on a funky track like “Gorgeous” while the producer quietly makes tweaks to the verses. Simultaneously, next door, a lyricist might rehearse a bar while a keyboardist lays down the smooth foundation for a song like “off / on.” And downstairs, you could find the mingling chill spot, where freestyles, jokes and ideas are exchanged.
A variegated range of contributors — including the “buttery” keyboardist and producer Hokage Simon, the poet and vocal rapper Artist Named You, producer Tope, and synth master Surfer Dave — makes for a layered, and surprisingly coherent, soundscape.
“My goal is to just build more camaraderie in the Bay Area,” says Cope. “There’s not enough spaces actively doing that in music, and there is so much talent in so many avenues here, and all of it needs to shine. It’s simpler, more fun, and easier to just package that all in one album. We’re on a mission together.”
'Qamp II' the album is currently available on all streaming platforms. The accompanying documentary debuts at a viewing party on Saturday, March 18, at Studio Q (707 Park Way, Berkeley), at 7 p.m.
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