Camoflauge

Gangsta rapper in search of a 'universal language'

The gangsta rapper Camoflauge wrote most of his album
Strictly 4 Da Streets (Drugs, Sex & Violence, Vol. 1), during a three-month prison spell in 2000 awaiting trial for a murder he claimed he didn't commit.

Jason Eugene Johnson (Camoflauge), rapper: born Savannah, Georgia 1981; (one son); died Savannah 19 May 2003.

The gangsta rapper Camoflauge wrote most of his album Strictly 4 Da Streets (Drugs, Sex & Violence, Vol. 1), during a three-month prison spell in 2000 awaiting trial for a murder he claimed he didn't commit.

Appropriately enough, the album, his first for a major label, released on Universal the following year, contained tracks such as "Murda Still the Case", "Get Up Off Me", "Missin My Block" and "Raised in Da Ghetto". The rapper used his urgent, staccato delivery to confront his demons and admit his past misdemeanours, while declaring his innocence from more recent charges. He said,

This is really from my heart to the pen. I was trying to write all about my life, all about me, all about the streets. Everything I know about the streets and everything I've been through.

Part of the Southern rap scene which launched the Atlanta-based duo Outkast (of "Miss Jackson" fame), Camoflauge became a local hero in Savannah, the Georgia town he put on the hip-hop map and where he was shot dead.

Born Jason Johnson in 1981, Camoflauge grew up in the public housing projects of Savannah, where, he said,

The streets got rougher and times got harder. Growing up in the ghetto, it's not all Forrest Gump. There was a lot of banging and stealing going on, all compacted into one little city.

As a teenager, he sought refuge in the rap music of N.W.A. and Tupac Shakur, the hip-hop star who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996. Camoflauge said,

He was my biggest influence. Tupac used to speak about what was real. How his mom was on drugs, how he was a thug. Things he did, the way we live. That just taught me to keep it real throughout all my music. I just knew how to rap. I put all my life experiences on tape.

Camoflauge probably misspelt his stage name to avoid confusion with the notorious Baton Rouge rapper Mac the Camouflage Assassin. Camoflauge explained:

Niggaz can't see me, that's why I'm Camoflauge. I flow different every time, I'm always just camouflaging with the track, my lyrics disappear into the beat. You never know how I'm gonna come.

Like his troubled hero Tupac, Camouflage fell foul of the law and was arrested on drug possession charges on a number of occasions. In 2000, he was charged with murder in the death by shooting of the 17-year-old Kenneth Capers, but was released after a grand jury failed to indict him.

By then, Camoflauge had sold 20,000 copies of Crime Page, an album he released with the hip-hop collective Crime Affiliate. When I Represent, his solo album on the independent label Pure Pain, shifted over 50,000 copies, Universal offered the rapper a deal and issued Strictly 4 Da Streets, which charted in the United States in 2001. However, when Camoflauge was arrested for possession of crack cocaine, Universal didn't pick up the option on his contract, even though the charges were later dropped.

Camoflauge defiantly released Keepin' It Real, again on Pure Pain, in 2002. Like most gangsta rappers, he displayed a schizophrenic attitude towards crime and violence, boasting about his past in his hard-hitting albums while attempting to discourage local teenagers from taking up a life of crime. Dressed up as "Camo Claus", he visited local schools in Savannah at Christmas to distribute gifts to children in the housing projects. However, his tendency to flash wads of dollar bills and drive around his home town in a Ford Expedition with his face and name painted on the side of the vehicle helped draw attention to his success. Last September, Camoflauge was shot and suffered minor injuries, prompting him to move to the Savannah suburbs.

The dreadlocked rapper claimed he always knew he would be famous. "Everyone knew it was going to happen. I just wanted to be like the boys I saw on the corner, with gold teeth and fancy cars," he declared. Although Camoflauge was proud of his Savannah roots, he saw beyond his native Georgia - "I try to come on speaking a universal language. I just don't try to make music for the South, I make music for the world."

Pierre Perrone



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable