With little contestability, Campfire Music is one of the largest and most wide-spreading hip-hop crews in Las Vegas. They have hosts at “Sunday Skoolin’.” DJs at Insert Coin(s). Business operators at DaddyMac’s bar. It’s a long-time investment that’s mainly paid off with community cred, a family vibe and a recognizable logo. But the releases have been few and far between. Until now.
When Campfire started in 2001, Vegas hip-hop was in a musical Jurassic period. The originators of the scene were starting to wife up and disappear, leaving little more than tapes in their wake. Neither “Hip-Hop Roots” nor “Sunday Skoolin'” were even glimmers in the rap community’s eye. The veterans of today’s scene were minors then, trying to figure out how to make a mark when social networking meant handshakes at the Cooler Lounge.
For rapper Omino Jakku, it was the right landscape to breed something new. “My partner Synickle was the [mentee] of an engineer at Floyd Mayweather’s Philthy Rich Records,” Jakku says. “I came into the picture and said we should do our own thing.” Jakku recalls a time when most open mics were dominated by cliques, leaving the independents to their own devices. It was that sense of belonging that Jakku and Synickle lacked. So they started recruiting.
They picked up Samson, whom you might call Campfire’s prize fighter (“He’s had so many people want to put him out, but he’s always been Campfire,” Jakku says), and Mikey VIP, who now plays both performer and recruiter for the group. “Campfire Music, for artists in Vegas, is a hub for people who want to do music here,” Jakku says. “I tell these cats who are in Campfire now: Do the best you can do, and Campfire grows with you. If you think Campfire’s gonna do the fuckin’ work, you won’t do shit.”
And it’s that mentality that made Jakku reflect on his own inactivity — he stopped releasing music in 2005 to attend to family — and realize he needed to make a musical return to live what he preached. “It’s important we don’t let the image phase out,” he says. “We need to show and prove. We’re now building on the foundation of getting back to making sure everything’s legit.”
His example paid off. At least by his estimation, when Jakku started working on his latest mixtape, out now and available for free download online, most of Campfire followed suit and began shoving out releases of their own. They pressed Jakku’s Ominous, then Mikey VIP’s The Treatment, and now Pawnshop’s Does Anybody Care Anymore, released in early May, becoming the fifth Campfire record in the last three months. By the end of summer, Samson, Synickle and Prez will all have mixtapes and full-lengths to hock. They hold regular meetings. They have a bank account. They’re an official LLC. It’s like all of them just finished reading Jay-Z’s biography.
But Jakku just says it was time to get moving. “We’re just slimming down the engine,” he says. “I feel we have the best in Vegas. But there’s so much more we could do.”
by MAX PLENKE