The new album track "Death" from the late Camu Tao
includes a refrain with him singing in a pleading tone, "Death! Where have you been all my life?" It is hard to ignore the poignancy of these passionately sung lyrics by the artist, born Teru Smith,
who passed from lung cancer two years ago. It seems like, in a morbidly dark and humorous way, the Ohio born artist was taunting his pending death, which struck him down on May 25th, 2008, a month before his 31st birthday, following a two year battle with cancer.
Although Camu Tao had recorded albums with other artists (including S.A. Smash, Nighthawks,
and Central Services
), the recently released King of Hearts
(or Death, Where Have You Been All My Life?
as it was titled at the time of his death) was to be his long awaited solo debut. Signed to the Def Jux
label, the album would not have been released had Def Jux's main manEl-P
(also his partner in Central Services) not gone ahead and released it in its current, raw sounding form via Fat Possum Records,
since Def Jux isn't putting out records right now (even El-P's own recent solo WeAreAllGoingToBurnInHellMegamixxx3
was released on Gold Dust Media
King of Hearts
Camu Tao "Death" (Fat Possum/Def Jux 2010)
is a really good album but by no means is it a hip-hop album, and even former fans of the alternative hip-hop circles that Tao worked in (including Ohio's MHz
, & the Cardboard City
collective) couldn't get into it. As one recent online comment succinctly summed up: "A lot of people been hatin' on this album." Those haters no doubt would be the disappointed hip-hop fans who, much like the disgusted Bob Dylan
folk fans who hated him going electric, balked at the fact that the artist sings his way through most of the 16 track rock sounding album. In fact, it isn't until CD track number 10 (the title track) that he raps at all. The lesson here is don't judge someone by their past work or their musical affiliations; rather, listen to the music for itself. Unfortunately, since he didn't live to record a follow up, we will never know if this was merely a temporary detour from hip-hop or not.