Two different stories to be told. One is of CamuTao, a rising star of the underground rap scene who first made his name in 2001 on the landmark MHz (Megahertz) album “Table Scraps.” Tao was in good company in this Ohio-centered collective, which included underground stars like the brutal freestyle rapper Copywrite and future Def Jux producer extrordinaire RJD2 among others. The other story to be told is that of Blair Cosby. On one level there is no such person – it’s just a fictitious persona invented by Tao because the name had a good ring to it. When you look at the album’s cover and see legendary comedian Bill Cosby sitting on a Mercedes Benz packing a pistol (an obvious and very crudely photoshopped image) the allusion becomes much more clear. Bill’s beloved son Ennis was brutally murdered in 1997 after he pulled off a Los Angeles highway to fix a flat tire on his car. The assassin’s motive? None other than robbery. It was pointless, senseless, and heartless.
It’s easy to get the idea that the “Blair Cosby” concept is a spirit of cold-hearted revenge against ones enemies. In life though, “The Coz” has no reason or need to avenge his son. The killer was caught, tried, and is doing life with no eligibility for parole behind bars – a cruel fate for any man. A foundation named Hello Friend was established in his memory and to help others with learning challenges (Ennis had dyslexia). There’s no bloodlust to sate here. So what’s the real story? Perhaps that CamuTao hopes to gain notoriety with this fictional character, a confusing juxtaposition of the imagination and tragic real life events. A listen to the album, subtitled “Cape Cod – Going for De Gold,” shows that in fact there’s no Cosby theme involved – Bill, Ennis, or otherwise. It’s just a name CamuTao hopes will make him more famous, or perhaps infamous.
“Blair Cosby” is produced and written entirely by Tao, other than some guest appearances by unknown names like Big Boy Priceless and Jimmy Smith. It’s almost cliche to say it, but regardless of the fact it still needs to be said anyway – self-produced MC’s can often be their own worst enemy. If the beats are really good, the rhymes can suffer. If the rhymes are really good, the beats can sound like an afterthought. The worst outcome of all is when an MC/producer tries so hard to score success in both areas that they EACH come off as mediocre – and CamuTao is unfotunately the textbook example of this phenomenon. As stated previously, Tao is a rising star of underground rap, and will no doubt continue to be with or without this album. For Tao’s sake, he should hope for WITHOUT.
The songs on “Blair Cosby” all have a raw and unpolished feel, but not like the pleasantly rugged sound of Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album. Mixing is a big part of the problem. The vocals are cued too low and seem to have been poorly recorded, like Tao was using a Fisher Price “My First Microphone.” Given that Tao is a soft-spoken MC to begin with – think of him as a cross between Kanye West and Gift of Gab – this is a BIG problem. Then there’s the music it’s mixed with, or some might say the lack thereof. What is there isn’t much – muddy, distorted, and often cracking into static due to no balancing of the levels whatsoever. Even relatively clean songs like “Save De Day” suffer from uninspiring music not worthy of Tao or any of his former MHz crew. “Simplistic” would be an understatement of how these beats are looped, and how thin and unresponsive the drum beats are – often sounding like pencils being tapped on the side of a desk.
Despite these numerous and problematic shortcomings, “Blair Cosby” still has a few songs that are enjoyable. “All That Other Bullshit” has a nice funk backdrop that works despite the bad EQ. “Reno” is a pimped out melody that sounds like something Abstract Rude or Sunspot Jonz would flow over. Tao’s rhymes on this track in particular are silly enough to be enjoyable: “My motherfuckin body is feelin like a million bucks/I wanna get down and spend some cash on them sluts/yeah, they’re in the back of the motherfuckin place/I said OH SHIT GIRL, give me some grapes!” Brief highlights like these can’t make up for songs like the all too aptly named “Smells Like Tuna,” the underproduced “Pesh Mode,” the annoyingly repetitive “Blair Tonight” and the bad mockery of crossover R&B music called “Pick Up De Phone” showcasing just some of Tao’s many bad lyrical decisions throughout the LP. It’s perplexing to try and figure out why a talented artist like Tao would intentionally record and distribute such a lousy album. In the end it’s probably best there is no real Cosby family member named Blair, because they’d want to sue to get their name disassociated from this project.