Last March, Hip Hop mourned the loss of MHz/Weathermen/S.A. Smash emcee Camu Tao [click to read]. Tao lost a long-term battle with lung cancer during a time when he was preparing his solo debut with Definitive Jux. This month, veteran emcee Copywrite [click to read] has re-released the out-of-print rare 2001 album from MHz, called Table Scraps. The re-release is both digital and retail. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the album go towards supporting Camu Tao's family, who still resides in Ohio, along with Copy.
"A lot of people don't even know that we were a group, or that we came in the game together," Copy told HipHopDX Sunday evening. The MHz consisted of Copy, Camu, as well as famed Hip Hop producer and Electronic artist RJD2, as well as respected emcees Jakki Da Mottamouth and Tage. "I feel like a lot of people don't know the history, and it's great music." The Columbus, Ohio group would release various singles from the album on Fondle 'Em, ABB and Rawkus Records throughout the late '90s and early '00s. "It was ultimately a way to give back to [Camu Tao's] family for certain things," Copy added.
"A lot of that shit was our original demo," Copywrite revealed, pointing out that "'97 Intro," "Kryptonite" and "Combustion Spontaneous" were on the demo tape that eventually led the group to an album deal, that was brokered through Bobbito Garcia. "When we put it out in '01, that's why we called it Table Scraps. It was, in addition to it being our demo, the rest [was] turntable, scratch shit that was laying around. We were like, 'Let's compile this and put this out so people can get a little cohesive idea of who we are and what we are." Aside from a heavy MHz role in the 2003 super-group with El-P, Breeze Brewin, and Cage [click to read] in The Weathermen, the outfit never got a chance to further the brand. Copy admitted, "The sad part is that we never really [fulfilled it]. See, we all took each other for granted. We were always around each other, so it was like, 'We'll do MHz when we can.'"
"I never came in the game wanting to be solo. The first solo song I ever made was [2002's] 'Hollier Than Thou.' The only reason why was because [DJ] Mighty Mi [of Eastern Conference Records] didn't want to sign MHz. He didn't want to put out [RJD2's] Dead Ringer [click to read]. He didn't get it. He was like, 'There's no rapping on this; I don't do this kind of shit. El-P saw the vision for it [for Definitive Jux Records]. I played it for El-P when RJ was sending out his demo," Copy revealed, noting that RJD2 was first signed to a subsequently botched deal with San Francisco's Bomb Records.
Although the MHz never had the chance to fulfill their strong series of single releases, Copywrite told HipHopDX that he considered RJD2 to be a "genius" with talents in many genres, as well as the story of meeting his late bandmate. "Camu's always to sing and shit. That was kind of the direction that his [last recordings took]. I heard Def Jux is releasing an album of his, and I guarantee that's going to be [more than just traditional rapping]." Besides the various creative interests of the group, geography hindered additional recordings. "At the time, it was so hard to get us all in the same studio. Me and Camu were roommates in Middletown, New York, when Cage lived in Middletown. Jakki and RJ were still living in Columbus at the time."
"When we met, dog, we met in ninth grade," Copywrite explained to HipHopDX of the oft unpublicized career of Camu Tao. "Our first year of high school. I've been drawing since I was two, and he'd probably been drawing [as long]. People were telling me he was the illest. He wasn't 'Camu' then. 'T-Ro is the best, man.' Everybody was telling him the same thing about me." He continued, "So we had the same art class together. We found out we both liked Grand Puba, Gang Starr, and we both liked the same type of [sneakers] and all that shit. We built from that. He was like my second brother. My mom was like his mom, and vice-versa." Copy spoke about Camu's creative endeavors too, "Once he learned how to make beats, he took it to another level. He was crazy with his style. He always wanted to do something different. He never wanted to sound like anybody else. He wanted to have his own shit. He wanted to have something that you couldn't get from anywhere else. He was a real cool dude, and a real energetic dude." He added, "If you ask Cage, he'll say the same thing. El-P. He was just Camu."
Camu also made history with the MHz, as the first Hip Hop group out of Columbus, Ohio - a feat certified by the VIBE History Of Rap book. "Everybody was just surprised," recalled Copy. "All the New York cats that we were cool with: Poison Pen, Aesop Rock, everybody was like, 'Okay, I didn't know that there were rappers in Columbus - especially that were on some shit.'" Noting the elation the group felt when Stretch & Bobbito played their records on radio, as well as the subsequent contract, Copywrite declares, "We were living the dream. It didn't matter how shitty we were living, or how much we were struggling, we were just happy to be in the mix, to get on stage and rep Ohio, and put our music out there." The dream actualized in 1997, after the MHz dropped off their demo tape by hand to Bobbito at both his Philadelphia and New York Footworks sneaker and music stores. Two weeks later, after radio play, Fondle 'Em contacted the group to release "My World Premier" as a 1998 single. "Bobbito, for us, was like being on Interscope."
Copywrite spoke about his long-awaited next album, The Life & Times Of Peter Nelson. As using the government name likely hints at, the artist says this work is more personal than the past. "Don't expect The High Exhaulted. On [that album], I was very close-minded. I knew what I should have done, but I didn't want to make concept songs, I didn't want to make stories - I wanted to show people that it was not a fluke that I could write a 16 with a bunch of lines that have never been said before. That was my thing." Over six years since his debut, Copywrite admits to being in a different place. "That shit is so fucking old...I like pain music. Beanie Sigel is my shit! I like shit from the heart. I like shit I can relate to. I like shit that evokes depression; I'm not gonna lie. I like happy shit too, but there's just so many things that you can do with music."
Looking at moments in his discography, Copywrite admits that his greater accomplishments are in songwriting as opposed to punch-lines. "When people tell me that songs like 'June' or songs like 'Size 12's' helps them cope with losing somebody, that's what I'm about. I don't give a fuck about 'I'm nice,' 'cause you know what? When me and Jakki were doing all our lines, our metaphors and similes, it wasn't as oversaturated as it is now. Everybody now is about lines, and their lines aren't even clever." He added, "I'm just trying to put my life into music. And if it helps somebody, that's what I'm about. But don't get me wrong though, I'm still on my shit. I have evolved more."
The re-release of Table Scraps is available at digital retailers like iTunes, as well as at retailers like Best Buy [click here] and Barnes & Noble with physical CDs. Copywrite asserts that fans interested in hearing the album or supporting Camu Tao's family buy the 2009 version with the updated cover artwork.
With production from RJD2, Illmind and Khrysis, The Life & Times Of Peter Nelson is due in early 2010. Copywrite is planning a digital EP before year's end.