“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, Cameey was battling liver cancer, and needed $100,000 (N35,000,000) for a transplant. In the flyer, the usually vibrant and energetic singer could be seen bare-chested with a bloated stomach, lying helplessly on a hospital bed. Many were shocked and so moved that the picture started to make rounds on social media, echoing the call for support and donations.
But barely 19 hours later, hopes were shattered as 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 pages, confirming rumblings and suspicions. Immediately, tributes and condolence messages started pouring in all over social media, particularly from industry insiders.
Born Joel Essoumam in Cameroon, Cameey had always wanted to be an entertainer. For years, he had admired the Lagos music scene from afar, which at the time was mainly dominated by the dual forces of 2face and D’banj, and he wanted to be a part of that space.
In 2009, Cameey and two other friends decided to leave the warmth and comfort of Cameroon for Nigeria to pursue their lofty dreams in the city of excellence without having any relations or friends in the country. They practically knew no one in Lagos. But that didn’t stop them.
At the time, Cameey used to perform with celebrities as a dancer. But he wanted to be bigger. He wanted to be a star. And dance couldn’t get him there, so he decided to fully invest in his music career.
He and his friends formed a crew named the SK Boys. But the road to stardom was not as smooth as they envisaged. Talent and passion weren’t just enough. In an industry like ours, it’s just the starting point. They had to keep hopping from place to place, sleeping outside people’s homes. About five years later, the group dissolved. One of the defunct group members had had enough and returned to Cameroon while Cameey was then focused on pursuing a solo career.
Cameey caught a huge break at a gig in Surulere in 2015, where he came to the attention of Nonso Odigboh who later came to be his manager. 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.
A year later, Nonso partnered with an investor to set up A1 Muzic, an imprint which was then used to push Cameey’s career. A couple of months later, he released his official debut single and video, ‘Better Days‘, a gloomy story-so-far record, beaming with the hope of imminent success. And it did quite impressive numbers across platforms. This was followed by ‘Supernatural’ which currently has over 75k views on Youtube.
In 2018, A1 Muzic secured an affiliation with Chocolate City to promote Cameey as an artist. On the PGM Radio Show with Douglas Jekan and City Monstar sometime last year, Cameey also confirmed that he had only signed a distribution deal with the label. 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. In fact, he had already started building a buzz around his 5-track EP originally scheduled for release this week. But it was in preparation for this project’s release that he fell ill with what was thought at the time to be a mere fever.
“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. In a few days, Cameey was down again. “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 actually 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 actually 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.“ Nonso continues.
Again, everyone 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 this time he was already losing so much weight and was developing a protruding stomach. After carrying out 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 can get flown out 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 estimated funds needed for the 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 discomfort and grew hysterical. The fear of the inevitable filled the air but this was dispelled with hope. However, their unspoken fear was 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.” She further told them that “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 them to surround him with love by gathering family and friends around him in the time he has left. This was around noon on Thursday.
No one gives up on a loved one on a sickbed. Even when the doctors had moved on since it was concluded that his system had shut down, friends and family were holding on 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 actually true.”
Slowly, Nonso’s tight grip on hope was loosening as he was constantly confronted with the reality of the situation. “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 Cameroon, his home country, 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. And while at it, he had also created a family here. Not one of blood 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 and when that is over with, they’d have to make key decisions as regards of the project and its release. One of which is the proposed title of the project, as 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.
Regardless of what is eventually decided upon, the posthumous project will always be cherished for what it truly represents: Cameey’s last gift to us.