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Cameo

An outlandish, in-your-face stage presence, a strange sense of humor, and a hard-driving funk sound that criss-crossed a few musical boundaries earned Cameo countless comparisons to Parliament/Funkadelic in their early days. However, Cameo eventually wore off accusations of being derivative by transcending their influences and outlasting almost every single one of them. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the group remained up with the times and occasionally crept ahead of them, such that they became influences themselves upon younger generations of R&B and hip-hop acts. By the time the group's popularity started to fizzle in the late '80s, a series of R&B chart hits -- ranging from greasy funk workouts to synthesized funk swingers to dripping ballads -- was left in their wake. Further separating Cameo from their forebears, they didn't have a diaper-clad guitarist. Instead, they had a codpiece-wearing lead vocalist.

That vocalist was Larry Blackmon. In 1974, the ex-Juilliard student and New York City club-goer instigated a funk band with a membership of 13 called the New York City Players. Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins, and Nathan Leftenant formed the group's nucleus. The Casablanca label signed the group to their Chocolate City offshoot, and shortly after that, the group changed its name to Cameo. Their excellent debut album, 1977's Cardiac Arrest, was highlighted by four singles. Three of those hit the Billboard R&B chart: "Rigor Mortis" (number 33), "Funk Funk" (number 20), and "Post Mortem" (number 70). Although the group was clearly inspired by elder funk groups like Parliament, Funkadelic, and the Ohio Players, Cardiac Arrest made Cameo's case for belonging in the same division an open-and-shut one.

In an attempt to keep the ball rolling, 1978 saw the release of Cameo's second and third albums. Neither We All Know Who We Are nor Ugly Ego were as solid as the debut, but the group's singular characteristics were becoming increasingly evident. The winding, horn-punctuated "It's Serious" (from We All Know Who We Are) narrowly missed the Top 20 of the R&B chart, while "Insane" (from Ugly Ego) dipped just inside it, peaking at number 17. The best halves of these two albums would've made a fine sophomore LP.

1979's Secret Omen, featuring a disco-fied re-visiting of Cardiac Arrest's "Find My Way" and the magnificently funky and slightly loony "I Just Want to Be" (a number-three R&B chart hit), was stacked with fine album cuts and brought Cameo back as a group that excelled in the LP format. "Sparkle" was one of their best ballads, a sinewy number that hit the Top Ten. Five albums released between 1980 and 1983 (Cameosis, Feel Me, Knights of the Sound Table, Alligator Woman, Style) brought about a slight dip in quality on the album front. Despite an abundance of filler on each record, none of those albums were strict disappointments, delivering hot Top 20 R&B singles like "Shake Your Pants," "We're Goin' Out Tonight," "Keep It Hot," "Freaky Dancin'" "Just Be Yourself," "Flirt," and "Style."

One of the most significant ripples in Cameo's time line came during that period, in 1982, when they packed up and set up shop in Atlanta. Pared down to a quintet and located in a less hectic city, the group became bigger fish in a smaller pond. Blackmon even started his own label, Atlanta Artist. The label's first LP, Style, also marked a significant shift in sound, with synthesizers taking on a pronounced role. Paydirt was struck with 1984's She's Strange; the title cut, a late-night slithery smolder, topped the R&B chart and eclipsed the Top 50 of the pop chart, kicking off a remarkable three-album run that made Cameo one of the most popular groups of the '80s. Single Life and Word Up!, released respectively in 1985 and 1986, continued the hot streak. The singles from those two albums -- "Attack Me With Your Love," "Single Life," "Word Up," "Candy," and "Back and Forth" -- held down the Top Five plateau of the R&B chart. "Word Up" even went to number six on the pop chart, giving them their biggest bite of the mainstream. The song was everywhere.

What goes up must come down, and that's exactly what happened to Cameo. Despite the fact that two more singles -- "Skin I'm In" and "I Want It Now" -- scaled up to number five on the R&B chart, neither Machismo nor Real Men Wear Black performed well as albums. After 1991's Emotional Violence, the group's profile was lowered significantly, but they did tour sporadically to the delight of hardcore fans as well as plenty of misguided people who thought Cameo was all about "Word Up" and nothing more. Notably, Blackmon spent a few years of the '90s at Warner Bros., as the vice president of A&R.

Cameo's presence continued to be felt throughout the early 2000s, not only through extensive sample use and less tangible influences upon younger artists and producers. Several retrospectives have kept the group's music alive: Casablanca's 1993 compilation The Best of Cameo is an excellent point of entry. Mercury's 12" Collection & More, released in 1999, covers the group's best dancefloor moments. 2002's spectacular Anthology, a double-disc set also released by Mercury, covers a lot of ground and does the group justice as a total package. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

shundamopar7 3
YESSSSS!I STILL LIKE,SHAKE IT BABY
Cameo , one of the greatest!!!! !
They were great at the soul food festival this summer.
Senior trip to Ft Walton Beach, Fl 1982 class McGhee, Ar
cameo gets better with time
Love Cameo. Takes me back to high school parties
I love you cameo?
Dont know who wrote this s**t but cameosis.. nights of the sound table and alligator woman are all CLASSICS AND DONT GIVE DAMN WHAT THE CHARTS SAY...BLACK FOLKS DANCED HARD ON ALL THESE ALBUMS IN DETROIT!
This sound will never die.
Cameo, Barkays, Confunksion, George Clinton too many to list where the music never stopped til the party was over....grea t tunes and memories to my ears!!
Cameo was one of the baddest groups in the 80s.. I played this Jam in the ride on a daily basis.
this whole cassette was banging. Yes, I said cassette, when music was real.
vgkind1223
Happened Borad
vgkind1223
Loses
1977versioon
Great song real music
Youis sodeep
This my jam
garionbush
Attack Me With Your Love Babbbbeee
Brings back so many memories
This is my. Jam
You go
Funny I saw them at the metrolina fair ground in 1977. It was hotttttttttt t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t t . However their show was worth the heat
My first concert was seeing Cameo in H-town. Awesome!!!
I love this group,
Cruising with my high school BF down highland Ave. windows down and playing this song. Good memories!!
always played this in my mix!!!!
Electric Slide anyone
Takes me back....way back
Throwback!!!
Love this group!!
I knew the group members of Cameo in the early days. They were from Long Island and NYC. Some of the nicest guys on earth and could sing for real!
In A WordDam!
Cameo is all the way LIVE...Love them.
YESSSSSSSSSS S S ! ! One of the ULTIMATE cookout songs and wedding reception songs!
This was and still is the slap. (In the morning when I think about you)....
thadausjacks o n
Back, back, and forth......y o u can't sit still on this song!!
clayvonk
My jam back when I was a freshman in high school. Just broke up with my boyfriend and this was my anthem, lol!!
Why did you leave me
i love this GROUP!!
This was my jam back in the day.
I just want to be what you want me to be.
Jamming on the job!
Classic throwback 2014!! My mom and them joint! Before my time!!
shawnc44.sc
Yo that was jam man!!!
kitty!!!333
hard on!!!!
towerbuilder 7
CAMEO-----MY FAVORITE FUNK BAND OF ALL TIME!! THEY JUST CAME THRU HOUSTON IN OCTOBER, AND ROCKED ITTT! AND YES, LARRY STILL WEARS THE RED CUP DURING THE ENTIRE SHOW!!!!!!
The real party days .fo sho.
I'd like a cheeseburger with mustard and pickle, OOOWWWW!
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