In sad news for underground hip hop fans, rapper/producer Camu Tao died this Sunday following a long, private battle with lung Cancer. He was 30 years old. Tao embodied the collaborative spirit of independent hip hop. He was a member of Def Jux-affiliated super-group Weathermen, whose line-up has included such luminaries as El-P, Vast Aire and Copywrite. He was also half of duos S.A Smash (with Metro) and Nighthawks, a bizarre conceptual project with Def Jux's Cage inspired by a little-remembered Sylvester Stallone/Billy Dee Williams movie. He emerged from the same MHz crew that spawned RJD2 and Copywrite and worked with El-P as part of the production team Central Services. At the time of his death he was working on a solo album that will be released on Definitive Jux later this year.
What follows is a press release from El-P announcing Tao's passing: R.I.P. Tero "CAMU TAO" Smith June 26, 1977 - May 25, 2008 On Sunday, May 25th, at around 2pm, our dear friend, family member and musical collaborator Tero "CAMU TAO" Smith passed away in his home town of Columbus, Ohio. Tero had been quietly fighting for his life for the last year and a half after being diagnosed with lung cancer. To those who knew Tero, he was an almost uncategorizable force of nature. Wild, hilarious, proud, loving, tough, outspoken, spontaneous and brilliant. He wore his heart on his sleeve and he dripped creativity, leaving inspiration and awe in the hearts and minds of anyone who was fortunate enough to see him work. Camu was a brilliant rapper, singer and sought after producer. He got his start in the group MHZ which released records on Fondle Em Records. He was also a founding member of the artistic collectives known as "Weathermen" and "Cardboard City". He was in a group called Nighthawks with Chris "Cage" Palko, whose album was released on Eastern Conference Records. He was also in S.A. SMASH with Keith "Metro" Lawson, who released their debut album "Smashy Trashy" on Definitive Jux records. More recently he was a part of Central Services with myself, Jaime "El-P" Meline, whose debut album "Forever Frozen in Television Time" never got released. At the time of his death he was working on what those who had the chance to hear it considered his break through solo record, called "King of Hearts", that was scheduled to be released on Definitive Jux this year. . We, his friends and family, have truly had our collective hearts broken by his passing. Not only because of the loss of our friend, but because of the loss of his contribution to those who never knew what we knew about his talent and his potential. He was the secret that no one wanted to keep and we always knew that one day his vision and his heart could change music forever the way he changed all of our lives. His departure from us all one month away from his 31st birthday is nothing less than a tragedy. Nothing less than a crime. He was a gift to us all and he is irreplaceable. Rest in peace, Mu. We will love you forever. May god bless you and your family. Sincerely, Jaime "El-p" Meline on behalf of Definitive Jux, Weathermen and many, many wonderful and broken hearted friends. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. _____________________________________________________________ "I wish I could come up with some profound statement of everything I feel about this amazing man who impacted my life in countless ways but I can not. It has already been so difficult to not have him at home with me. I am not sure how I will carry on my life without Tero but I know that he would kick my ass if I didn't. I feel peace knowing that he is no longer in pain and can continue on in his journey of greatness in the next life. You are my partner, my best friend, and I am so in love with you. Not one day will pass that I do not think about the life I shared with you. I will carry you forever in my heart and in my spirit." Love, Gayle _____________________________________________________________ "Summing up my feelings regarding Camu, who he was as a friend, what he did as a musician, and how devastating his death is to me will never be possible. I have never lost a best friend before. These types of emotions have no names. Mu had an infectious magnetism about him that was so far removed from the comfort of any convenient adjective or classification, it makes stomaching this with any hint of grace that much more unrealistic. So much of who I am today is directly related to Camu's ability to unearth things in me that would have otherwise remained dormant forever. He had an unprecedented influence on me as a human being, and beyond that as an artist. I can only hope that when this current fog eventually lifts, I am strong enough to do justice to the things he has given me." -Ian "Aesop Rock" Bavitz _____________________________________________________________ "Camu Tao was like my big brother; hard on me, caring, inspiring, and confident. I looked up to him. On the first day we met he took his jacket off his back and put it on me because he saw that I was cold. That is the type of person he was." -Yashar "Yak" Zadeh _____________________________________________________________ "He was robbed of his life. I was robbed of my friend and brother. We created music together and he believed he could change hip hop and so did I. There are many wonderful things I could say about Tero in his passing. I am fortunate I got to tell him most of them while he was alive. I am angry. I am bitter. My life will NEVER be the same again. He said "you should pump this shit like they do in the future" and HE WAS RIGHT!!!!! I wish he could have seen all this love while he was still here. Cherish every second you have with someone you love sick or healthy. Time is NOT on your side." CC/WM FOREVER Chris "Cage" Palko