Casual (Hieroglyphics) - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
Casual: Rhymes Galore
Casual has been on the cutting edge of underground Hip-Hop for over ten years. His breakthrough debut - Fear Itself - helped put his name on the map as one of the West Coast's finest lyricist, even though the album was slept on by the mainstream. Casual then went on to release two more solo albums, as well as more material as part of the super group Hieroglyphics. Now with his fourth solo album - Smash Rockwell - Cas is back to show you what West Cost underground Hip-Hop is all about.
MVRemix: Where was Casual born and raised?
Casual: I was born and raised in East Oakland, California.
MVRemix: What was it like growing up there for you?
Casual: It was kind of cool. I had a supportive family that tried to keep me away from all the bullshit.
MVRemix: What kind of area did you grow up in?
Casual: I grew up on 82nd and Aster - which is like three blocks above Macarthur, which is what you would possibly consider the hood.
MVRemix: How do you think your environment and surroundings helped shaped who you are as men today?
Casual: It helped shaped me a lot - because I lived in one area, then my mom sent me to school in a different area. So I went to school with white people, but I lived in the hood. Not really the hood, but no white people lived on my street. Plus, I got exposed to a whole different bunch of stuff. It just made me the guy that you hear rapping.
MVRemix: What is your first memory of Hip Hop?
Casual: I think one of my first memories was - at first I thought they were rapping on that one song, Jamaican Funk, or something. But I think it was that Jimmy Spicer song - I think it was "Super Rhymes." My sister used to buy wax and never let me spin it, but she couldn't make me plug my ears. So she used to always play that record when her friends came over.
MVRemix: What was the one album you constantly listened to growing up?
Casual: I would it was probably Big Daddy Kane's Long Live The Kane.
MVRemix: Switching to the present, how do you think you have evolved and grown as an artist from Fear Itself to now with Smash Rockwell?
Casual: I think I have evolved as much as any artist from that time span. You can take almost any album that came out in '93 and look at their album in 2005, and you will probably be able to grasp the same amount of change. But the difference is in my situation - dealing with the Heiro and solo projects - I don't get to release albums very frequently. Now I will be able to, but I haven't released them so frequently thus far. Between albums a lot of time passes in mine and your life. You can kind of grow with an artist that puts out an album every year, then things won’t seem that drastic. But personally, I feel more mature, focused, able and ready now than before.
MVRemix: As an emcee, is there anything specific you feel you have gotten better at?
Casual: Not necessarily, because I always felt like I have been at a master of rhyming. There are certain degrees of a master, but once you are a master, you are a master - you feel me? I focus more on the science of rhyming now and I want to be able to write a book one day and be able to teach a person how to rhyme. For instance, the song on my new album - "Styles" - is where I am breaking down the reasons why I think certain emcees are raw to me. I'm documenting styles and coining terms - its all about being multi-syllabic. Some guys - you won't notice it - but they will rhyme in one syllable for their entire album. Then some guys, they won't and they'll be more complex. There are more reasons than just that, but I want to get into the science of rap. That is what I have been focusing on, as I'm a bit more studious.
MVRemix: How would you go about teaching - let's say - a teenager how to rhyme then?
Casual: It's easy, because you would have to learn the normal music terms - such as bars and measures. If you know bars, beats and measures, then you……For starters - I wouldn't want you to write your rhymes on regular paper. I would have you write them on music paper. At least you can get some orientation and you realize where the beat hits and stuff. I would say, 'Drop that on the one,' or, 'Drop that on the two,' or 'Write a rhyme where all your raps are on the four.' That is just basic stuff that you would know how to do if you are an emcee. But to teach the average guy that - there is a science and its all mathematical. You can teach a guy how to actually rhyme, but this is all some formula that hasn't been discovered yet. But hey - we are doing it everyday, but we just haven't figured out how to document these patterns on paper to where a guy can actually write a rhyme on paper, and anybody can kick it the exact same way, because they can see where each word hits on the music sheet.
MVRemix: Do you feel overlooked or underappreciated as an artist?
Casual: Oh yeah - that is the plight of being an artist. Unless you are on top, you always feel like that. Even the guy who is number two probably feels like that. That is just how it is, because you always aspire to be in a bigger position than you are in. But that is just speaking generally, because I have definitely felt that way. I can name specific incidences when I was like, 'Damn, how did that happen?' I seen a movie about freestyling that was made in Oakland, California, and they didn't even mention Hieroglyphics. That is kind of bullshit to me. That whole thing was our campaign, which is the reason we abandoned that shit. When we came out with that, everybody jump on it. They started making TV shows, but nobody was fucking with us. So that's not what we are championing anymore, because half of these freestyle motherfuckers can't even do songs and shit. But that is just one particular incidence where I felt slighted or underappreciated. I mean, come on, all of the emcees - well, not all of them - they got their styles from us. When we came out back then, motherfuckers were taking little parts of our style and blowing up with it. "Oh, I'm gonna take that style and freak that." Back when Hiero came out, how many motherfuckers were sounding like us? Listen to some of our music back then, and then put on some music coming out today. Its like we were so ahead of our time. As far as my bars and lyrics, I feel like it took dudes 10 or 12 years to finally make it to my level.
For instance, how I was breaking down multi-syllabic rhymes…. If I wanted to pick an artist out right now that rhymes good to me - and they probably don't even know it - I'm not saying they are ignorant or being disrespectful - but a dude like Fabolous is one of the rawest rhymers out right now. He will hit you over and over with multi-syllable rhymes, and every syllable switches. Some dudes be fakin' like they do that though. I can give you an example - some dudes will do the same word style and frontin' like they are coming up with hella clever rhymes, when they are really only thinking of one syllable rhymes. They will say, "Rat, cat, hat," but they will say three more syllabus of that after that. Something like, "I got my gat in this bitch, and I'm out in the hood chillin' with my cats in this bitch." You feel me? They ain't doing nothing but saying gat, cat, hat. So I give props to cats like Fabolous, Young Zee and even Eminem. Listen to how he rhymes - he can straight take a chorus line of a song and rhyme 'em on 16 note and make everything straight. It all makes perfect sense and its all multi-syllabic. That is some of the hardest stuff to do.