Rapper Camoflauge (real name: Jason Johnson), whose homespun albums made him a celebrity in Savannah, Ga., while flirting with greater fame, was fatally shot while walking with his toddler son outside

Rapper Camoflauge (real name: Jason Johnson), whose homespun albums made him a celebrity in Savannah, Ga., while flirting with greater fame, was fatally shot while walking with his toddler son outside his recording studio. The 21-year-old artist died Monday evening at a local hospital after he was shot outside Pure Pain Records in midtown Savannah.

His son was not hurt. Police had made no arrests as of yesterday (May 20). Acting Police Chief Willie Lovett formed a task force to investigate whether Johnson's death was related to recent violence including two other killings, and whether retribution might be involved.

With songs including "Cut Friends" and "Laying My Stunt Down," the dreadlock-tressed Camoflauge had become a celebrity in his hometown. He released his third album, "Keeping It Real," in August on independent label Pure Pain. The set debuted at No. 24 on the Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart, No. 26 on the Heatseekers tally, and No. 39 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list.

He was often seen hanging out near the recording studio, flashing gold teeth and wads of money, and driving around town in a Ford Expedition with his face and name painted on the side. At Christmas, he would bring gifts to housing projects dressed as "Camo Claus" in a red suit and beard.

"He watched out for the community, not just himself," said local fan Diane Bryan. "He didn't kick us to the curb. He was trying to get Savannah on the map."

Camoflauge's background formed the perfect "gangsta rap" resume. He grew up in Savannah's public housing projects, had a record of arrests on drug possession charges, and suffered minor injuries in a shooting last year. He also spent three months in jail in 2000 charged with murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Kenneth Capers. Camoflauge was released after a grand jury failed to indict him.

Lovett said a $2,500 reward would be paid for information leading to arrests in the deaths of Camoflauge, Felix Michael Scott, and Michael Grant.

Early yesterday, detectives identified a suspect named Dorian Orr in the shooting of Grant on Saturday. The police also issued a new wanted poster on Stephen Edward Roston for a recent aggravated assault, although they did not indicate a connection to the recent slayings.

The same month Capers was slain, Camoflauge's first Pure Pain album, "I Represent," climbed to No. 58 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums tally. Through its Uptown imprint, Universal Records signed Camoflauge for his follow-up album, "Strictly 4 Da Streets: Sex, Drugs and Violence, Vol. 1." The set debuted at No. 53 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, but the label dropped the rapper soon after its release.

Many considered the rapper a role model despite his violent, profanity-laced lyrics and brushes with the law. Savannah high schools would invite Camoflauge to host pep rallies. In 2001, he was invited to appear at a Father's Day celebration at Savannah's Daffin Park.

Camoflauge said last year he always knew he would be famous. "Everyone knew it was going to happen," the rapper said. "I just wanted to be like the boys I saw on the corner - with gold teeth and fancy cars."


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