Casual (Hieroglyphics) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Smash Rockwell, The Alter-Ego Of Casual

October 2005

MVRemix: There is a more pimped out and slicker vibe to ‘Smash Rockwell’, especially on the opening track, ‘Say That Then’.

Casual: That was kind of a comedy thing, to make you feel how we do. It’s always fun to stay pimping in a way. I don’t mean pimping in a derogatory way. I mean getting over any situation at hand. Someone was surprised that my album started off with me singing, ‘You look like a pimp!’ I let it be how I be. I love how it is. Everybody knows what I stand for in this hip-hop thing. I like just having fun. I’m from Oakland, California. If anyone can pull it off, I can.

MVRemix: On ‘Smash Rockwell’ interlude, you apologize for punching some guy out? What really happened?

Casual: Actually, I’ll tell you the real story. That wasn’t even supposed to be on my album. We’re an indie label and sometimes, things slide through the cracks. I don’t want to point anyone out, but I told the dude who was mastering the album, to take it out. Then, after the test press, it was on there. That was just comedy. It wasn’t really heartfelt. I was just trying to make people laugh. Still, there’s always someone out there who wants to test you because they think that you call yourself a gangster when you are not. If you don’t represent the most ignorant things on the Earth, people try to test you sometimes. I’m not a sucker, so I’ll put it in some people’s faces who actually tried to test me. They got the worst side of it. Actually, there are all types of situations. Once, I got jumped by some fools. It actually happened at The Hip-Hop Summit in Oakland. Some rappers tried to jump me. It’s cool because I socked them up. It’s on the DVD so, it’s really fun. I don’t really represent that. It’s just fun. You know how we get. What I don’t do, is represent violence.

MVRemix: Too $hort rhymes on the song, ‘Oaktown’. What was that collaboration like?

Casual: Well, I’ve known $hort for a while. I did a song on one of his compilations, back in the day. I think that was the first time we really, really spent together. I’ve known $hort since the late ’90’s. We were both on Jive together. It wasn’t hard. I just gave him a call. I had his number. I called him and told him that I wanted him to be on the song. It wasn’t a big deal because the fact he is a legend. I went to Mississippi in the 6th grade. When I came home, everyone told me Too $hort rocked at my house. He did a house party for my sister. Too $hort performed in my living room while I was in Mississippi. That’s how big of a legend he is to someone like me. We have crossed paths within the industry first. We were both on Jive Records together. It ain’t hard for me to talk with him. I know how to ask for a favor.

MVRemix: Dan The Automator produced one of my favorite tracks on the album called, ‘Critical’. What was he like to work with?

Casual: He produced ‘Critical’. That’s also one of my favorites because it’s more along those lines of something off of ‘Fear Itself’. Me and Dan are also working on our own album right now.

MVRemix: Is Dan The Automator going to produce the whole album?

Casual: We’re doing something more along the lines of ‘Deltron 3030’. It won’t be strictly a concept record though. It will just be songs. ‘Deltron 3030’ was one of the best albums that dropped that year.

MVRemix: The ‘Deltron 3030’ album was one of the best albums that dropped in the last 10 years.

Casual: Okay! Now, I feel that. In a piece like that, you can tell how much thought went into both sides, the production and the lyrics. Working with Dan, he brings out what people like about me. When I do songs with him, he brings that out of me. I did a song on The Handsome Boy Modeling School record. A lot of people say to me, ‘Damn! You need to have songs like that on your record!’ Dan is a producer and that’s a producer’s job. The producer has to find out how to maximize the artist. That is why I like working with him. He can bring it out of you.

MVRemix: You appeared on the excellent remix for ‘Calling Out’ by Lyrics Born. How did you hook up with him? What was that collaboration like?

Casual: L.B. is someone I have known for a long time. I met him in 1994. We went to Japan together. Working with him? Music wise, I’m not sure. When I went to the studio, I don’t remember him being in the studio with me. He’s a real cool dude. I am looking forward to working with him again.

MVRemix: How has Hieroglyphics changed in the last couple of years?

Casual: We’ve changed. All of the artists have changed in different ways. As for myself, I feel more mature, secure, and well rounded in life. That shows in my music.

MVRemix: Which Hieroglyphics album do you like more, ‘Third Eye Vision’ or ‘Full Circle’?

Casual: That’s a good question. I would probably say ‘Full Circle’, just because that’s the one I like the best. There’s no particular reason. They are both classic records.

MVRemix: The ‘Full Circle’ LP by Hieroglyphics had more songs that grew on me and got better with age. The ‘Third Eye Vision’ LP had some tracks that instantly caught your attention. Would you agree?

Casual: When you feel like you have something to prove, you are going to be more aggressive. ‘Third Eye Vision’ is definitely more aggressive than ‘Full Circle’. Each record is different. On ‘Full Circle’, our goal was to make a more user-friendly hip-hop record.

MVRemix: What musical direction is Hieroglyphics moving towards?

Casual: I think my focus is changing a little bit. I want to give something to the younger artists coming up. Around my way, we can help the little dudes get their act together. We’ve being doing this for 15 years. We have established a little fan base and have our company set up well. I’m trying to find new artists and help them gain exposure. I also want to give new things to our fan base.

MVRemix: Were you involved with O.C. signing to Hieroglyphics?

Casual: I wasn’t really involved in that. It was really Domino who made that happen. We just talked throughout the ordeal.

MVRemix: Hieroglyphics have changed over the years in different ways. Each album and each emcee is different. Would you agree?

Casual: Well, everyone has changed. We have to look at hip-hop as a whole. Take a look at any album released in the same week as ‘Fear Itself’, in 1994. Look at that artist and gauge him next to me. You’ll see the equal change throughout hip-hop. Nas dropped one off his album, ‘Halftime’ around the time. Listen to the Nas album and gauge the same amount of growth and maturity. This happens throughout hip-hop. It’s just one thing because you can’t outgrow hip-hop because it’s still a youth activity. Hip-hop is about rebellion and fun. You have to stay in tune with what’s really going on.

MVRemix: In the ‘Calicomm’ DVD (Decon Media), Del is a little upset as he talks about dealing with personal issues. I love his music and I hope he’s doing well. Is he alright?

Casual: I wish him the best with all of his struggles. I talked to him the other day. Now, he is perfectly fine. He’s just Del. It takes a lot to have that kind of energy.

MVRemix: What are some Hieroglyphics collaborations that are being released featuring you?

Casual: There’s a world of those. We work so much. I didn’t do nothing on Del’s ‘11th Hour’ but I have so many songs. We’re starting to put together this next Hiero record. It should be cool. I also have collabos I made for my ‘Smash Rockwell’ that didn’t come out, but I will make them available soon.

>>> continued...

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"I don’t mean pimping in a derogatory way. I mean getting over any situation at hand. Someone was surprised that my album started off with me singing, You look like a pimp!"