Camu Tao’s “King of Hearts”

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When I wrote about Tero “Camu Tao” Smith’s tragic death from lung cancer last year, I noted that he had been working on his solo debut. At the time of his passing, it was titled Death, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Definitive Jux co-owner El-P has compiled those tracks into an album called King Of Hearts. It doesn’t have a firm release date yet, but is tentatively scheduled for November. All of the songs are written and produced by Camu except for one, which El-P co-produced under Central Services, the name of his production team with Camu.

Anyone expecting a return to the grimy Def Jux styles of “Hold the Floor,” or even the backpack thuggery of S.A. Smash will be shocked. Camu sings on most of these tracks, striving for an raw funk sound similar to Cody Chesnutt channeling Prince and Sly Stone. In a long press release, which is excerpted below, El-P admits that King Of Hearts is a collection of demo tracks that, sadly, are unfinished.

In many ways this is a record of what could have been, a snapshot of an artist mid-evolution. Camu was a wildly talented man on the verge of something so different and exciting that, due to his tragic and unexpected sickness, was left for the most part unfinished. Most of the tracks are either rough demos pieced together from garage band, beats he made and only dropped as two track files, and the occasional fully fleshed out Pro Tools file. … Much of the music and vocals is distorted; Camu would drop his demos so hot that they would naturally bit-crush and distort, but this is what he wanted. This was the sound he heard and in lieu of being healthy enough to record and mix it all professionally he used that natural distortion of sound, when it’s pushed to it’s breaking point, as a sonic effect. We in turn used it as a guideline when piecing together what we could in order to get the best, most faithful representation of what we think he wanted to put out there.

So again, this is some of what could have been but it also is an accurate and true collection of the songs he wanted to put out and present to the world. Despite its raw and unfinished nature the end result is, I believe, beautiful. 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 to recognize the magnitude of the creative force behind the sketches.

Here’s the track listing:

  • 1. “Fuck Me” (feat. Central Services)
  • 2. “Be A Big Girl”
  • 3. “Bird Flu”
  • 4. “Death”
  • 5. “Fonny Valentine”
  • 6. “Actin A Ass”
  • 7. “Get At You”
  • 8. “Ind Of The Worl”
  • 9. “Intervention”
  • 10. “King Of Hearts”
  • 11. “Major Team”
  • 12. “Plot A Little”
  • 13. “The Moment”
  • 14. “The Perfect Plan”
  • 15. “Play O Run”
  • 16. “When You’re Going Down”
  • 17. “Kill Me”
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