Gangis Khan: 2 Bullets & Open Heart Surgery [Interview]
This exclusive interview with Gangis Khan was originally published in April 2010 on HipHopCanada. In light of Camo’s new label situation with Raekwon’s Ice H20 Records, we thought many of our readers might be interested in his unbelievable history. Here it is, in detail.
Toronto, ON – When I first heard of Gangis Khan aka Camoflauge, it was 2006. I was hosting Crack House Radio and invited a rapper named Hype to join us for a cipher. He brought along a heavy-set coolie guy named Heavy Hudson. The cipher commenced and I heard countless shout-outs to a guy named “Camo.” I found out later he was Hudson’s close friend and crew member and he’d recently been shot and was recovering in hospital. Now I understood the constant shout-outs.
Fast forward to 2010, as the two of us sit quietly listening to new instrumentals inside a Scarborough studio. It’s been four years since I first heard his name, but he’s spent much of that time trying to get the world to hear it too. He’s released several well received mixtapes/street albums and recently broke onto MuchMusic with the video for his single “Big Bang.” But listening to his latest street album Scardogg Millionaire I came across a song called “Second Chance” that details the events of February 25th, 2006 – the day he got shot. A play-by-play account of the day’s circumstances provoked the question “Why haven’t you talked about getting shot? In fact, let’s talk about it now…”
“The way I see it, if I was to put it really hard out there, people would be like “Oh, he’s doing a 50. He just keeps saying he got shot. Heart surgery on his Mom’s birthday…'” says Gangis Khan looking down at the weed in his lap. “I had to call her and tell her on her birthday that I just got shot, I’m in the hospital and I got shot. But I don’t wanna come off as using that.”
But, of course, it is a relevant topic given he could have died.
“I understand why you’re asking this question, because you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about it. Cause I don’t feel like I’m special or better because I got shot. I’m definitely special for getting my second chance, that’s why I made the song (“Second Chance”). But I could make 10 songs about getting shot. I could say I got shot in enough songs. And it does get you stripes, it does. A lot of people look at me differently when they hear I got shot. They like “wow, you got shot?” I know a lot of guys that got shot and they walk past you every day and you’d never know. Just because they’re not rappers, they don’t have that opportunity to tell you. That’s why I don’t really take it in like it’s a big deal.”
And it’s understandable Camo would shy away from speaking about such a serious altercation immediately after it happened. But four years later, the streets aren’t buzzing about it like they once were. It’s old news as; unfortunately Camo even admits a lot of other crazy things have happened to him and his crew since then. Even as he opens up, he remains weary.
“It could actually cause more beef with me if I talked about it too much. Not with the guy who shot me. I don’t know who shot me. It was a stranger that shot me. But it could just cause haters to be like “Ok, this nigga thinks he’s bulletproof?’ It could just lead to shit like that, so that’s kind of why I don’t talk about it.”
But today he is, and in great detail.
Camo was shot twice in the back after following his shooter outside of an apartment building. As Camo was on his way to his car, the shooter ran up on him and a struggle ensued. As Camo tried to wrestle the gun away from him, the shooter got some separation and shot Camo in the back. He recalls turning around and seeing the shooter’s hand shaking even as he called Camo “pussy” over and over again. Camo once again went for the gun as the shooter let off more shots in various directions, missing everything. Thinking the clip was empty, Camo saw a second man approaching so he took off running. The clip wasn’t empty. Another shot hit him in the back.
At the hospital, they found one bullet but advised him to leave it in his back, due to its proximity to his spine. He went home the same day. After laying down, Camo complained “it felt like a hundred people were standing on my chest.” His Dad convinced him to go back to the hospital. They did another x-ray and realized they’d missed a bullet. The second bullet had entered his bloodstream through an artery and was sitting in his right ventricle, in his heart.
The doctors gave him a drug to numb his body and then tried to fish out the bullet using a plyer-hose like tool. Now here is the eerie part, Camo was awake the entire time wide-eyed, watching the monitor as the tool went into his artery. That didn’t work. Open heart surgery was the next option. Needless to say, this time he wasn’t awake for the procedure. They cut open his rib cage and the operation was successful. At 22 years old, Gangis Khan had survived two shots and open heart surgery.
HipHopCanada: Did getting shot change how you carry yourself?
Gangis Khan: Before I got shot I used to fight a lot, go to clubs every weekend and fight. After I got shot, I still do but I won’t start a fight. I would start fights before, put it that way. Even when I got shot I could have avoided that. I followed the guy outside and I was going to my car to get my ting and I had no idea he had a ting. And I was planning on coming back on some punk shit and scaring him. Well, he caught the play or was just wilder than me and he shot me. We struggled for a bit and he shot me again. Two bullets you know.
I definitely will have heart problems. I was a 22 year old kid who got his chest cut open at the time…I figured I can either be a gangbanger for the rest of my life, or in Toronto a wanna-be gang banger. A crook is the best word to put it ’cause we’re not a gang or anything like that but at the time we thought we were. I could either be a crook all my life or I could take advantage of this talent. ‘Cause even from high school, Vanier, when I rapped everyone would shut up and listen.
Camo came to Canada from India at thirteen years old and immediately noticed differences in how the streets acted and interacted.
HipHopCanada: You were a little man when you came to Canada. What differences/similarities did you find right away?
Gangis Khan: It was very hard when I came here, cause I came from a land where shoes is shoes. Over here, cheap shoes and expensive shoes make a difference. I don’t know if you remember Biway, all our gear was from Biway. I had Champion Choice shoes. I had a pair of no name shoes that looked like Chucks. I had some girl’s shoes on but they didn’t look like girls shoes to me. Even today if you go to Footlocker, you see a lot of girl’s shoes and you wish they came in men’s. And I remember we went to school and they were like ‘Yo those are some girl’s shoes’ and everyone laughed. And I didn’t give a fuck. I was like ‘Nigga these are shoes. Where I come from not everyone has shoes.’ Its badder down there but over here people have weaker attitude towards a lot of things.
HipHopCanada: What do you mean by that? Weaker attitudes?
Gangis Khan: In India, no one fights over “what are you looking at?” In other words, people are so hungry they don’t have time to do that. Gangs will never form there and be about repping and shit like that. Over there gangs are strictly hidden…like bloods and crips and shit will never start because it’s about hunger there. It ain’t about bling either. Nobody with money shows their money.
So when I came here and they was like “Where you from?” And I told them, “oh I’m from that building over there and a few intersections down the road.” And niggas told me I can’t go there, it was strange to me, ya know? But I learned that fast though and I kind of enjoyed it like, “Ok, niggas wanna bang?” Like I was in that mood when I first came. Like I was very upset. I lost all my friends back home, people were makin’ fun of us. It’s very hard to move at thirteen. Plus, I landed here in Grade 8 and back in India I would have been runnin’ the school.
Also, nothing was ever considered dumb. Like here, mans get booked with a burner and mans are like “Oh, that’s dumb.’ Cause the way – a lot of times it is. But you know it depends on who, right? Some niggas need to carry their shit. I can’t lie I….
Camo actually was born in Kuwait and lived there till he was 8 or 9 before moving to India and then to Canada. He constantly cites the diversity of both India and Scarborough as influences on his slang and style. This is no more evident than in his raps, as the rapper from India routinely employs West Indian patois and slang.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been able to establish “Yeah, I’m Indian, but…”
Gangis Khan: But they don’t call me “The Indian Rapper” right?
HipHopCanada: Yeah, exactly. But also, Scarborough is where you’ve been living the longest right?
Gangis Khan: Yeah, well Scarborough is home now. We kept moving to find home and we found it. And I might leave Scarborough too, because I can always still call it home. I can always still come back just like I can call all those other places home. That’s what makes me more… people can relate with me more. It doesn’t have to do with my skills and my tracks – it does have a little to do with that I’m sure or a lot to do I should say but a lot of my charisma out here is due to the fact that I can sit with Muslims and know what to say and know what not to say to win them over. I can sit with anyone. Jamaicans just because of living in Scarborough and coming up here. I can sit with white people ‘cause when I came to Canada I even lived in Peterborough for like three months and a lot of my friends were rockers.
HipHopCanada: So who came up with Scardogg Millionaire as the title for this project?
Gangis Khan: I didn’t even want to call it Scardogg Millionaire. I would rather call it Slumdog, but Hudson convinced me and I’m happy with it now.
HipHoppCanada: There is a ton of straight gun talk on this street album. I find personally I remember the other kind of tracks from you more. The conceptual songs and the mythical, narrative, kind of songs – like Ninja Swords. Can you explain why there is more gun talk than those kind of tracks?
Gangis Khan: My music is fictional as far as you’re concerned. To you, you shouldn’t care whether it’s real to me or not because yeah, maybe eight out of 10 songs on a CD of mine will be violent. But those two will be powerful. You’re supposed to be mature enough, and if your kids aren’t then you should tell them, to know that these two are the real message. Those other songs are all fictional. They are all movies to get you motivated before a game, get you hype before a fight, get you hype before a job interview, anything.
In Canada, you know what we have? We say we have a lot of haters, but what we really have is a lot of real music heads and that’s why they like that. But the truth is, if I was to keep doin’ that I would fade like all those guys that did that. I want you to print this cause people wonder and they ask that. But if I was to do stuff like “Ninja Swords” all the time, I’d be that guy that only the guys like..you know the guys that are like rastamen but on a hip-hop tip? The really conscious guys would only be into it. And I myself am not that person all the time.
A lot of my songs have no point. They’re just bar after bar. It’s just lyrical slaughter. That’s the hip-hop we grew up on. So even though times have changed and I know we’ve got to go with the flow, but I know because that’s the type of hip-hop I’d listen to today, so I’m pretty sure there’s hundreds of thousands of people on the same page. I do it for them. I don’t do it for nobody else…
Check out Gangis Khan on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/camoflaugetoronto.
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada