[illustration by Chris Hajny]
The "pioneering NYC underground-rap label" Definitive Jux, its founder, emcee/producer and New York City cultural icon El-P, and his artist and friend, Ohio's late avant-garde emcee/producer Camu Tao, have been in the news a lot more than usual lately. And I think that's a good thing. I grew up going to Fat Beats; I got fucked up and into fights to a hardcore NYC Hip Hop soundtrack composed by Company Flow, The Jugganots, Non Phixion and The Arsonists. If it weren't for these indie legends, there would never have been a Rawkus Records. And without Rawkus, there may never have been a Mos Def and/or Talib Kweli...
Plus, all this publicity now just makes sense. On February 3, 2010, El-P announced the end of the Def Jux era. Yes, the website would go on, he said, but the label would soon cease pressing physical copies.
On July 3, after a very-public twitter challenge from XL8R, El-P leaked a "death mix" (remix) of "Baby" by teenybopper Justin Bieber. Mixing in some "Live and Let Die", among other things, El-P certainly crafted an El-Producto. (For more on this, as well as the end of Def Jux, click here.)
Later that month, on July 28, 2010, El-P released (for free) "Forever Frozen In Television Time", an EP he and Camu recorded as Central Services in 2005.
Less than a week later, on August 3, 2010, El-P dropped a solo album, "Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3", the third in his megamix series.
Then, two weeks later (and a little more than a week from today), on August 17, 2010, El-P released Camu's solo album — his first and his last — "King of Hearts".
A Lot Can Change In Three Years
On February 18, 2010, The Village Voice published "Camu Tao Gets His Due". The author, Philip Mlynar, described Camu during an evening around Max Fish in 2005 with El-P, Metro, Camu's rhyme partner in SA Smash, and Aesop Rock:
- Tall, gregarious, and constantly grinning, Camu was a beacon of entertainment. On exiting one of the bar's grunge-encrusted bathrooms, he stuffed a long piece of toilet tissue up his left nostril, parodying a familiar Redman photograph from The Source. As the bar tab increased, they resembled nothing more than four close friends out for a good time.
But, the author continued:
- Just three years later, the 30-year-old rapper would pass away from lung cancer — a condition he hid from his friends, instead offering cryptic messages about his debilitating state through the solo album he was working on but hadn't quite completed: the soundtrack to his own death.
In the article, El-P says:
- "He was dying and all along making this record... We kept it faithful to the source material. The lyrics take on a new meaning when he sings, 'Death, where have you been all my life?'"
To Buy or Not To Buy
Faithfulness to source material on a posthumous project is an achievement in itself, so we should admire (and thank) the polarizing industry vet El-P for not middling in another man's legacy. (Fuck Solar). But unfortunately, an executive producer's legacy does not necessarily equate to an album's completeness... or its enjoyability. In the introduction to his Impose Magazine interview of El-P, Blake Gillespie says:
- Vocally Camu sounds unrestrained and brilliant, but the record lacks completion, as he never got the chance to flesh out his songs. What's left is the skeletal demos, almost minimalist.
What do you think? (FREE DOWNLOADS)
- Camu Tao - "Be a Big Girl" (Elvis Costello sample)
- Camu Tao - "Plot a Little" (Shout to Above Ground Magazine)
- Camu Tao - "Perfect Plan" (Shout to Above Ground Magazine)
R.I.P: Camu Tao x Def Jux <-- Complex Counts Down the Label's Top-25
But, for me personally, a few other songs really strike a chord:
- Company Flow - "Last Good Sleep"
- Company Flow - "Patriotism"
- EL-P - "Stepfather Factory"
- El-P - "Oxycontin Part 2" ft. Cage
- Cage - "Stripes"
- Cage - "Scenester"
- Cage - "Public Property"
- Cannibal Ox - "Scream Phoenix"
- Aesop Rock - "9-5ers Anthem"
- Junk Science - "Third-Person Stealth"
- Murs - "God Damned?"
- C-Rayz Walz - "The Lineup" ft. Wordsworth, J-Treds & Thirstin Howl III