Casual (Hieroglyphics) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Smash Rockwell, The Alter-Ego Of Casual

October 2005

Casual may be the least eccentric emcee out of the Hieroglyphics crew, but his individualism shines through his music. Out of the various members the Oakland based camp, Casual had an aggressive style but was never considered weird. In his songs, the pimp within the emcee always got loose on the microphone. Some of the Hiero crew (Del or Pep-Love) are unfairly labeled as “alternative” or “back pack” hip-hop. Regardless of labels, every single emcee of Hieroglyphics has accessible traits. Casual has always been the guy who lives next door who rhymes well. At his core, he is just “that dude” from Oakland, California. The beauty of Casual’s music is that he is just that chilled out dude from Oaktown. Even though Casual is perceived as that regular guy, he brings out that slick, pimped-out side of himself through his music. He does not wear gators, floss diamonds, wear top hats, or sell prostitutes to lonely guys. He just rhymes with the same confident energy and lavish style of pimp. This alter-ego represents the pimp within us all. With a balance of style and flow, Casual has made music for the average person to mack to. He has the self-assurance of a mack without the negative, exploitative, or stereotypical style.

Casual has experienced the complete spectrum of label issues. Signed to Jive Records in the 90’s, Casual released the classic ‘Fear Itself’ album. After label troubles, Casual and Hieroglyphics went the independent route. They set up their independent label, Hieroglyphics Imperium. Throughout the years, Hieroglyphics Imperium has grown in multiple ways. They have a diverse worldwide fan base, a lengthy discography, and are currently signing other artists (Z-Man, O.C., Encore, etc.). With complete creative control, Hieroglyphics have contributed to the essence of independent hip-hop. Casual and fellow Hieroglyphics have found peace through this musical independence

The prolific emcee has left his signature mark on wax. He made a substantial contribution to the Hieroglyphics “3rd Eye Vision” LP. After a lengthy break after his debut LP, Casual’s “He Think He Raw” finally was released. With a different sound and style, his sophomore album maintained that confident Oakland flavor. During 2002, I interviewed Casual for the first time. He also kept busy with shows and multiple collaborations. His production was featured on the sophomore Hiero album, “Full Circle.” He also produced “Leroy” from the excellent “Calicomm 2004” CD/DVD (which documented the tour including Haiku D’Etat, Del The Funky Homosapien, and Zion I). He rhymed on the excellent Hiero compilations, “The Building” and “The Corner”

In 2005, “Smash Rockwell” was officially born. The fun LP album has a macked-out feel without exhausting the vibe. The LP features legendary guests like Too $hort, E-40, and Young Zee from The Outsidaz. A Casual album would be incomplete without collaborations from Hieroglyphics. Opio, A-Plus, and Tajai all contribute to his LP. While some of the beats were produced by Casual, the production on “Smash Rockwell” is also handled by J-Zone, Dan The Automator, Quincy Tones, Compound 7 (A Plus & Aagee), Bedrock, Jake One, and Domino. In the cool song “Styles”, Casual uses each verse to display his talent for rhyming. The inner-mack is let on the opening track, “Say That Then”. Like all of the albums from Hieroglyphics, the music is diverse, thick, and captivating. My second (2005) interview with Casual displays a mature and insightful emcee. His thoughts about hip-hop, technology, rhymes, and the industry have an astute hip-hop edge. Some may think Casual may be just “that dude” from Oakland. Casual may be that regular guy, but Smash is his inner-pimp released on the hip-hop world. Smash Rockwell is a talented emcee who helps Hieroglyphics lay some of the bricks in hip-hop’s foundation. Casual has just shown us his alter ego, Smash Rockwell. Escaping the chains of everyday life, Casual is smashing through music and rocking well.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Casual: Chilling, chilling. I’m enjoying life. It’s a nice Sunday.

MVRemix: Hieroglyphics Imperium just released your new album, ‘Smash Rockwell’. Tell us about the LP.”

Casual: ‘Smash Rockwell’ is my new release. It’s Casual at his finest. That’s what it is all about, basically. He’s a spokesman. It’s a little more mature. I’m just bringing it how people are expecting it, how people want it.

MVRemix: How is ‘Smash Rockwell’ different from your last album, ‘He Think He Raw’?

Casual: It’s different in a few ways. Mainly, it’s different because I’ve got more outside production. I got more cooperation and participation for this event. On my last album, ‘He Think He Raw’, I produced half of the album and I had no features. It was really all done in-house. That’s a good thing at times, but sometimes, it’s a bad thing. For ‘Smash Rockwell’, I wanted to have more of the people I looked up to and the people I admire. I also wanted to have current people I respect, be involved in my project as well.

MVRemix: Some legendary emcees are on the ‘Smash Rockwell’ like Too $hort, Dan The Automator, and E-40.

Casual: Yeah, a lot of those people, like Dan and Too $hort, are people who I have been listening to throughout my whole career. I was like, ‘Man! I want to do a song with them when I can!’ Since this was my current project, I made it happen.

MVRemix: Were these collaborations done with you and the guest in the same studio at the same time?

Casual: Each was different, actually. Me and Dan worked together. Automator and I work together all the time. Me and Too $hort worked together at High Street Studios. The E-40 song was done via the mail. My J-Zone song was done via the Internet. There were different ways for different people. As long as we communicate and bounce back and forth, there are all different types of processes. For ‘Oaktown’ song with Too $hort, E Mac, Richie Rich, and G Stack, everyone came into the studio. We listened to each other’s verses and dropped our own verses. It was the exact opposite the E-40 song.

MVRemix: What’s your favorite song on ‘Smash Rockwell’?

Casual: I think it is probably ‘Styles’.

MVRemix: Yeah, Domino produced ‘Styles’. He always comes through.

Casual: Yeah, Domino and I have been working together for a while. It’s a classic combination.

MVRemix: As an alter-ego or character, how is Smash Rockwell different from the Casual?

Casual: Not necessarily different, just a perfect person. Personally, my friends have been calling me Smash for a while. You feel me? I just wanted to present that person to my fans and let them know what is going on. Where I’m located, Smash is a slang term for getting aggressive.

>>> continued...

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"The E-40 song was done via the mail. My J-Zone song was done via the Internet. There were different ways for different people. As long as we communicate and bounce back and forth, there are all different types of processes."