Two years ago today Tero "Camu Tao" Smith died after a grueling battle
with cancer. He was a friend, a son, a brother, a groom to be and last
but not least a brilliant producer, singer, rapper and entertainer.
Words can not express the heartache that has been felt in the wake of
his passing by those who loved and respected him.
For two years i have written about Camu on this day. Not a day has gone
by that we, his family, friends and fans, haven't thought about him.
About who he was, what he did and what he never got the chance to do.
About the talent he never got to truly share with the world and the love
he did. For over four years i have hoped to make the following
This summer, on August 17th, Camu Tao's first and final solo album KING
OF HEARTS will be released by Definitive Jux in collaboration with
Fat Possum Records. In conjunction with this release we will also be
giving away (for free) the 2005 Central Services (Camu Tao and EL-P) ep
"Forever Frozen In Television Time".
In many ways KING OF HEARTS is a record of what could have been,
a snapshot of an artist mid-evolution. In some ways its a diary
discovered in the belongings of a friend who passed away. Or maybe it's a
scrap book of a master inventor with only half of the schematics of
some incredible new invention detailed inside. You don't need to see the
invention fully realized in order to recognize the magnitude of the
creative force behind the sketches.
For those of you who know, i don't feel like I have to explain to you
how important the release of KING OF HEARTS is. He was, as i've
said before, the secret none of us wanted to keep. He is a legend.
For the many of you out there unfamiliar with Camu and his work: we've
written a bio/press release as well as collected some of his music as
well as a world premier off of KOH called "Perfect Plan" which I'm
putting below. I only ask that you take a little bit of time out of
your day to investigate. Don't let yourself be closed off to this mans
music simply because you haven't heard of it/him before. Getting his
amazing, weird, raw and original music heard is all he ever wanted. We
only ask that you give him that chance. I believe you'll be happy you
finally discovered the world of the King Of Hearts. I know for the many
of us who loved and respected him that knowing Camu and his music
changed us forever.
What we hope happens when you hear King Of Hearts is that you feel the
way we feel; This music (even in its raw form) is some of the bravest,
most surprising, inspired, and (now more so than ever) poignant material
around from an artist who was only beginning to tap into his potential.
It's a raw reminder for his fans, friends, and family of how special
and off the wall his energy was, and yet it sounds nothing like anything
he's ever done before or has previously been known for. In fact, I
don't think its over the top to say that what Camu was doing sounds like
nothing before it because I know for a fact that there was never anyone
like Camu before him.
There won't ever be another after, either.
Rest In Peace, Tero "Camu Tao" Smith
Jaime "EL-P" Meline
via Definitive Jux
Camu Tao, the legendary MC, producer, and singer, whose life was tragically cut short on May 25th, 2008 after a protracted battle with lung cancer, will have his debut solo album and final statement, King of Hearts, posthumously released on August 17, 2010 as a collaborative release between Fat Possum Records and Definitive Jux. Described by friends, peers and colleagues as "wild, proud, loving, tough, outspoken, spontaneous, and brilliant," Tao was a creative powerhouse whose output was as staggering in its scope of influences as it was emotionally evocative. El-P describes King of Hearts as "raw, exciting and unlike anything anyone has heard." Even newer school rappers feel the impact of Camu's work, "These songs are so before their time it's ridiculous" says Kid Cudi. Cage sums up the album as "a masterpiece in the making."
Camu got his start in the late 90’s alongside RJD2 and Copywrite in Columbus, OH’s seminal hip hop group MHZ whose releases were issued by Bobbito Garcia's legendary vinyl only label Fondle 'Em Records. After dropping his cult classic solo debut 12-inch Hold the Floor on Definitive Jux in 2001 he went on to become a central fixture at the label, his distinctive contributions playing a key role in The Weathermen (his crew with Aesop Rock, Cage, El-P, Yak Ballz, Tame One and Breeze Brewin) and as one half of S.A. SMASH (alongside Keith "Metro" Lawson) on their 2003 Def Jux full length album Smashy Trashy. As a producer his brilliant contributions are evidenced on Cage's seminal album Hell's Winter, and The Perceptionists’ Black Dialogue, as well as appearances on Aesop Rock's Danger, Fire & Knives, El-P's Fantastic Damage and Collecting the Kid, Prefuse 73's Surrounded By Silence, and many, many others.
At the time of his death Camu Tao was working on what his friends and colleagues anticipated to be his breakthrough solo record, King of Hearts, initially scheduled for release on Definitive Jux in 2008, but left incomplete in the wake of his cancer diagnosis. Pieced together from the demos and home recordings he left behind (which have subsequently earned him fans amongst such esteemed peers as Dangermouse, Kid Cudi, and many others), the new release offers a privileged view of a magnum opus in the making by a blossoming visionary who was denied the opportunity to bring his unique masterpiece to fulfillment. The record marks a departure from his former works, most notably as it finds Camu favoring a distinctively playful, semi-soul croon as well as the off-kilter and wild rapping that earned him a reputation among peers and fans as an innovative genius. Musically King of Hearts delves into realms of gritty, electropunk pop, alternately veering between the dark carnival-esque and the sublimely summery. Pleasantly disorienting electronic tones cascade and pulse as dense, propulsive beats build a solid foundation upon which Tao constructs immensely hooky and infectious choruses. Written and produced by Camu himself, King Of Hearts is the last vision of a criminally underrated talent in the midst of a major artistic breakthrough cut short before being fully completed.
Also prior to his death Camu Tao formed production crew and side project Central Services with longtime friend & collaborator El-P, whose long awaited 2004 debut EP Forever Frozen in Television Time has gone unreleased until now. In conjunction with the release of King of Hearts Definitive Jux will be issuing Central Services’ EP as a free digital download.
Thoughts on King of Hearts:
"These songs are so before their time it’s ridiculous. The melodies and
harmonies are very clever, the lyrics are quick witted and his vocal
arrangements are genius. People need to hear this shit and know this
man's story. Camu was a great future Ohio talent who I'm sure would
have made a huge mark in this mediocre industry." - Kid Cudi
“It's a shame he couldn't fully finish this record and an even bigger
shame we lost him. You can feel the pain in his voice as you get lost
in his words and music. King of Hearts is a masterpiece in the making.” – Cage
"I can't tell you how exciting it is to be able to finally put our
dear friend Camu Tao's King Of Hearts record out and to have
partners like the good people at Fat Possum to do it. The music is
raw, exciting and unlike anything anyone has heard. Finally we get to
share the final vision of this very special person with you all." - El-P
"When i was played the Camu tracks, I thought it was one of the best things I'd ever heard from the Def Jux camp. I'm really anxious and excited to release King of Hearts, and to be working with Def Jux." - Matthew Johnson (founder Fat Possum)
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