Locals: Camu Tao: A death remembered and a legacy never forgotten

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From the May 23, 2013 edition

Saturday will mark the five-year anniversary of the death of one of Columbus’ greatest native musicians.

Camu Tao died of lung cancer on May 25, 2008 at the age of 30 after a two-year battle — taken away too young and too talented.

“Dude basically was walking art manifested,” said Copywrite, one of Camu’s best friends and MHz group mate. “He could draw, he could sing, he could produce, he could rap. Anything he tried to do, he could pretty much do.”

To many, Camu’s thought process for the way he created music was confusing. As a producer, emcee and vocalist Camu had a grasp on anything music-related and would often flip samples or incorporate unorthodox vocals, sounding strange in studio but incredible on record.

“Whenever he would try to come up with something, I’d be like, ‘What’s he going to do with that?’” MHz group mate Jakki Da Motamouth said. “It would sound weird, but when you hear the finished product, it was like, ‘OK, yeah, only he could have done that.’”

At the time of his death, Camu was signed to the now defunct Definitive Jux, one of the most prestigious independent labels in hip-hop, and was working on his debut album, King of Hearts, which would later be released posthumously in 2010.

A member of many rap cliques, most famously in Columbus for his membership in MHz and as half of the Definitive Jux duo S.A. Smash with Metro, Camu made his mark in the Columbus and national hip-hop landscape.

Alive interviewed a few people prevalent in Camu’s life to remember his legacy five years after his abrupt passing.

Blockhead: “He was just kind of a beacon of energy. He was a high-energy guy and a hilarious guy — a very abstract thinker. He was kind of a wacky, friendly dude, and it was just heartbreaking when I knew he was sick. He’s missed.”

Copywrite: “Me, Camu and my mom were at Denny’s, she came to pick me and Camu up, and all of us broke as f---. The only thing all three of us could afford was one Grand Slam breakfast. So here’s me, my mom and Camu sharing, ‘Oh, you’ll have the hash browns, I’ll have the eggs, you’ll have the toast.’ And to me that’s the s--- because we didn’t need a lot to be happy.”

J Rawls: “Camu was just one of those guys who was born to do music. From the time that I met him on that was just every conversation — and not just hip-hop. He was very eclectic; he liked electronic, funk — he just knew music. … He was just a lover of music, not just rap or hip-hop.”

Jakki Da Motamouth: “We did a lot of stuff together, like go around, we drank, we kicked it, we did a lot of practical jokes on people. Some of the funnier pieces of music we would record, he named himself “Million-Dollar Building,” and that used to make me crack up ’cause it just doesn’t make sense. … We all kind of have a weird sense of humor.”

Illogic: “Camu was one of those people who was just fearless with any type of music — his style, with singing, with anything, production, he was just fearless and there wasn’t anything that he wasn’t going to accomplish if he puts his mind to it; and I think just his charisma and everything about him was just screaming, ‘superstar.’”

Metro: “He was full of energy, positive energy. He was my friend; he was like a brother to me. … This guy used to just crack me up; the most memorable stuff were just the inside jokes, man. He would make me laugh so hard.”

Rashad: “I don’t think a lot of people understood how deep his talent went… He

would come over to my house and make beats on my ASR 10, and he definitely schooled me on some techniques; he was a little older than me, but he schooled me on some techniques that he had learned and vice versa. We were a lot alike. He had deep musical knowledge, and he was very creative.”

Tage: “He was an incredible talent, and he was very creative from the clothes he rocked to the music; and he was a good friend of mine, and I was so blessed to be around him as long as I was. Anybody who knows, he was a real playful guy, playful spirit, but he was dope. I think it’s our responsibility to share to those who don’t know of him yet and continue to lift up his legacy.”