“One of the most amazing people you’d ever come across. First of all, he has an infectious energy. He is the kind of person that would enter a place and everybody almost immediately likes him. Very playful. He plays a lot. Very energetic guy. We used to call him the energy god. During his performances, he jumps, flys off stages. The guy’s energy is next level. Extremely loyal, super guy.” – Nonso (Cameey’s Manager)
On Wednesday, August 21, Cameey‘s team desperately called out for help. They revealed that burgeoning rapper was battling liver cancer, and needed $100,000 (N35,000,000) for a transplant. In the flyer shared across social media, the usually vibrant and energetic singer is seen bare-chested with a bloated stomach, lying helplessly on a hospital bed. Many were so shocked and moved that the picture started to make rounds on the internet, echoing the call for support and donations.
Barely 19 hours later, Cameey was pronounced dead. “Breaking News We Lost Cameey…R.I.P Please Stop All Donations Right Now!!!” read the latest post on his Instagram page, confirming rumblings and suspicions. Immediately, tributes and condolence messages started pouring in all over, particularly from industry insiders.
Born Joel Essoumam, Cameey had always wanted to be an entertainer. Being a Cameroonian, he greatly admired the Lagos music scene from afar, which was mainly dominated at the time by the dual forces of 2face and D’banj, and all he wanted was to be a part of that space.
In 2009, Cameey and two other friends packed their bags and left the warmth and comfort of their home country for Lagos, Nigeria; a place where they practically knew no one. They had no friends or relations in the country but that wasn’t enough to stop them.
Upon arrival, Cameey started to perform on stage as a backup dancer for local celebrities; but he wanted to so much more. He wanted to be a superstar and he knew dance wasn’t going to get him the kind of success he craved. After much deliberation, he made the switch and decided to fully invest his time and effort in his music career.
He and his friends joined forces to form their SK Boys crew. But the road to stardom wasn’t as smooth as they thought. They found Lagos to be a very tough city; one very unkind to indigent migrants. The crew had to keep hopping from place to place and catch bits of sleep outside people’s homes.
After five years of incessant struggles and a continuously dimming hope of success, the exhausted group dissolved. One member had had enough and decided to return to Cameroon. But Cameey wasn’t one to give up that easily as he then focused on pursuing a solo career.
In 2015, he finally caught a break at a Surulere gig where he came to the attention of Nonso Odigboh who later became his manager. Right from that night, Nonso began to seek ways to help this young talent whose energy was so infectious. “So I saw Cameey perform, we exchanged numbers. I now said I’d see what I can do to help you. And we started helping him get gigs and shows to perform.
“Then he was staying with a producer Jaybeatz, somewhere in Aguda. So basically, I was just coming in the capacity of assistance like recording, paid for recordings, all that stuff. Lifestyle generally, feeding, helped with clothes when I could. Just in my small capacity, I was assisting.” Nonso tells me over the phone.
Barely a year after, Nonso partnered with an investor to set up A1 Muzic, an imprint which was then used to push Cameey’s career. In a couple of months, he released his official debut single, ‘Better Days‘. This was a gloomy story-so-far record, beaming with the hope of imminent success whose accompanying visuals pulled quite impressive numbers across streaming platforms. This was followed-up ‘Supernatural’ which currently has almost 100k views on Youtube. Not so bad for an up-and-coming rapper,you’d admit.
A1 Muzic finally secured an affiliation with Chocolate City to promote Cameey as an artist in 2018. On the PGM Radio Show with Douglas Jekan and City Monstar sometime last year, he confirmed that the label, one of Nigeria’s biggest, was only to help with distribution. It was under this deal he released the Otis-assisted ‘Juice’ alongside its video in June last year.
Cameey kicked off 2019 with one goal in mind: recording and releasing his debut project. He had already started building a buzz around his 5-track EP originally scheduled for release this week. It was while in preparation for this release, that he fell ill with what was thought to be a mere fever at the time.
“A couple of weeks ago, he just started complaining of fever, thinking it was normal malaria or typhoid. So he just used normal drugs and the rest of that. Then he was better.” Nonso recounts.
Even Cameey himself felt that all this was behind him and wanted to immediately get on with the roll-out for the EP. On Tuesday, July 30, he shared the cover art and the title of the project “O.H.S (Only Hit Songs).” “Been a minute guys and I have been working on an EP of 5 songs, the title of the EP is “O.H.S” …… in the process I seriously fell sick but I thank God am back on my feet again 🙏🏼 … this EP will speak for its self and I do this for “YOU” ❤️ my Friends aka my Fans aka my Family ❣️❣️❣️ Art by @uchay_of.
EP is coming soon …………” he wrote on Instagram.
But this lasted only a short while as Cameey fell ill again; this time worse than the last. “The label got him an apartment in Surulere. I barely ever go there anyway, so when he was sick I didn’t even know. One day, I was at the mall and someone bumped into me and went, ‘this guy was really down o’. So I went there, saw him, he was on a drip. I asked what was up and they were like ‘The thing don weigh am down again o’.
With the drip, he was getting better. They now ran a lab test, that what they were suspecting because his eyes were a bit yellowish was Hepatitis B. Hepatitis generally. So the next day, the lab results came out and they found it was Hepatitis so they started immediately treating. They said the treatment was a load of IVC* to flush out the system and to the best of my knowledge, he was getting better real quick.“
Again, everyone thought it was all behind them until Saturday, August 16, when things took a turn for the worse and he had to be rushed to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). By then, he was already losing so much weight and was developing a protruding stomach. After a series of tests, the doctors found out that his liver had been damaged and needed immediate attention. Friends began to make frantic movements to arrange how he could get flown to India for a liver transplant.
In Nonso’s words, “We tried to get in touch with some hospitals in India to send us feedback on the pricing and all. So we waited on Monday, Tuesday, it didn’t come. By Wednesday, we were already getting frustrated. We agreed that we can’t just keep waiting for these guys to send a mail and this guy is just depreciating.
So, let’s just start a campaign immediately because they had told us verbally that it should be within the rate of 100 thousand dollars. We were waiting for an official invoice because you know Nigerians are quite sensitive with money. But considering that and the risk of losing someone, I didn’t even care. I was just like let’s start this campaign quickly, let’s start raising money so that hopefully, within a week or two, we should have gotten somewhere really good.”
Immediately, his team kicked off a campaign on social media to raise the funds needed for a liver transplant. Nonso was quite shocked at people’s swift response because, by the next morning, they had already raised about 1.2 million Naira.
But it was perhaps a little too late.
Cameey’s condition continued to worsen. He was in really terrible shape, wallowing in pain and growing hysterical. The fear of the inevitable started to creep in but everyone held on to hope. Their unspoken fear was soon confirmed when the consultant taking care of Cameey called his friends to side and told them, “guys, let me be straight with you. This guy is not going to make it. Even this transplant thing you’re talking about, this thing has gone way beyond it. The guy’s system had packed up.” She then advised calling on family and friends to surround him with love in the little time he has left. This was around noon on Thursday.
But no one simply gives up on a loved one on a sickbed. Even when the doctors had moved on, convinced that his system had shut down, friends and family clung to hope and giving it everything they could.
“We were just trying to do anything, the pastors were there, they were giving him coconut water, they were giving him lemon. There was a drug we got, it was like a supplement, food and all that in powdered form, anything just to help him and keep him alive. All those things didn’t work o. We just kept trying, so it kind of just dawned on us that what the doctors were just saying was true.”
Slowly, Nonso began to accept the actual state of things. “At that point, people were reaching out from Yankee that ‘create a GoFundMe account so we can put in something’. My guys were telling me to create something. But I didn’t know how to tell them that there’s no need. So I just kept stalling. They were so upset. I just said, there’s no point collecting people’s money. At the same time, part of your mind doesn’t want to lose hope. We just didn’t want to believe all the things the doctors were saying. So I was like let me just watch this guy, if I see that he is more stable, I’d ramp up campaign times ten, like go really really hard.”
Sadly, Cameey passed away sometime between 2 and 3 pm. And upon the official announcement, people started to pay their tributes. A gem had been lost; a dream chaser denied.
This life is nothing and we need to live right while we can.
We’ve lost a vibrant one.A fast rising artiste😭
Rip cameey🙏 pic.twitter.com/mhxp852zzO
— princess_paris💝 (@princess_paris3) August 22, 2019
Damn! 😔 rip Cameey 🙏🏾 https://t.co/Sl3VI9o8PC
— Douglas Jekan #Pttgm (@DouglasJekan) August 22, 2019
Rest in Peace Cameey 😭😭😭🤮😓😓😓🤮 … Another youth trying to hit the spot light but his no more.. You didn’t get to complete your EP 😭😭😭😓😓😓
Rip Cameeygram 😣😣 pic.twitter.com/HvknO2hRPZ
— 👑Agbero with the love (@MakswehlO) August 23, 2019
His family has decided to bury him in his home country, Cameroon where he can rest in peace with family, not in a land where he had spent his youth chasing his dreams of being a superstar. In his quest, he had also created a family here. Not one bonded by blood though, but one of shared struggles, values and experiences. The money raised was partly used to settle Cameey’s hospital bills and the rest expended to his family.
Nonso assures me that the EP is eventually going to be released although he isn’t exactly sure when. For now, family and friends are all focused on the burial rites. Maybe when that’s over, they’d be able to come to conclusions on the release of the project. Another thing to be decided is the proposed title of the project. Some feel that it should be reworked into something more befitting for Cameey’s legacy, while others maintain that the original title is left exactly the way Cameey wanted it.
But regardless of what is eventually decided, the posthumous EP will always be cherished for what it truly is; Cameey’s last gift to us.