When someone comes out with an album that feels like it came from nowhere, I tend to absorb it as much as possible. That is the case with CasUno, whose new CD, “The Art of Pissing People Off!!!” (Label Illtelligence), is a recording that made an impact on me as soon as I heard it. Maybe it’s something in the air, for there have been a number of releases that made me feel this way, and CasUno definitely has something of substance. I wanted to know what made him tick, so I decided to do an interview with him.
JB: When was the first time hip-hop affected you?
CasUno: Wow. I guess this is where I can speak on how I was lucky enough to witness early stages of hip hop (and reveal my age, I’m 27, 28 this month!). By early I mean begining stages, even though there are signs of what added onto the equation we call hip hop as far back as the late 60s. I’d have to say it was a few things that made me affected by hip hop. Early 80s, no doubt, around the time one becomes fully aware of his/her surroundings. Things like going to the roller rink and watch my cousins duke it out on some Pop-a-zoids VS The Imperial Rockers breakdance ish. Going to see fam in NY/NJ and enjoying the sight of graffitti on the majority of bridges on 95 in the Bronx. My Pops records like Kurtis Blow “Christmas Rap” (My Pops loved Kurtis Blow but denies putting me onto early forms of hip hop) and NY airwaves that my Pops would twist the dial until he found “that sound” in the car on that same ride to see fam in the Tri-State area. It was an avid occurance and unfortunately living 3 to 4 hours away from “The World” made the car ride a memory itself.
JB: Did you ever see yourself ever becoming more than just a fan?
CasUno: Man, like everyone else I always thought I was more than just a fan. I was/is a pompus B Boy from the early 80s that tells kids they know not just like the prior generation before me told us we knew not. How about this for an answer. I am a fan. I always was a fan since I became conscious of my sound surroundings and I really haven’t lost that thirst to indulge in listening to the rawness….Therefore I have never and probably will never be anything more than a fan. I attempt to contribute onto the culture because of my passion and dedication in being a fan. Ceiling fan even, heh.
JB: Let’s touch on your upbringing a bit. Did your surroundings have an effect on your lyrics in anyway?
CasUno: I’m an only child. I write spit and usually talk bitter and blunt. I was raised by both my parents in a Massachusetts town. Yes, town. Wareham aka Broham, Massachusetts was and is multi cultural and perhaps one of the most ethnically diverse rural residences in Massachusetts. When hip hop made it’s way into the world, being 3 to 4 hous North East didn’t hurt. My parents raised me to express myself fully and not hold back who I is, so in application to rhymes, my upbringing strongholded me to not faking jacks. I grew up working class in a house, so the more progressive, non-cave man practitioners drew me in more so than the gun totin’, hoe bonin’, drug dealin, etc….I remember being pissed when hip hop become a Parental Warning Explicit Lyrics sticker, on some, damn, now they’re really gonna condemn my life’s love.
JB: People in hip-hop are often afraid to touch on their influences, as if to suggest that everyone is an original. But we all listen to people and want that to be a prime example, before we move on and build on becoming our own voice. Who were some of your biggest influences, as a rapper and perhaps any musical influences?
CasUno: In the early stages for me, it was Jeckyl & Hyde. I loved how their raps weren’t cat in the hat style (even for that time) and how they had the ill choreographed steps while the hook or break rocked during their joints. Cats was wearing suits and glasses and epitomized the part, yo. I took them for what I believed they were; smart, talented, and in touch w/ what they was doing. The Juice Crew, the whole team was just an all star cast, and even in Junior High, I knew that. DMC cause he was a loud agressive brother with glasses (like I envisioned my b boy self to be). Hip hop still “inspires” me today, and I think that’s what you were getting at with the afraid to admit to influences of today. Yeah, anyone really trying to MC can’t point out people of today and say they inspire said person, cause really, being inspired to MC by a person in the now would kinda be biting, no? I mean, in the sense that listening to your “favorites” inspires you to go write or what have you, and not necessarily anything like replicating what you was listening to, a lot of people would fall victim to that. It’s more of a keeping on cats on their toes kinda thing…On some yo, I gotta really get on some next sh!t, nahmean.
JB: Did you face any challenges as an upcoming rapper, from your community?
CasUno: Man, anyone trying to do anything on a “serious” level around here catches nothin’ but challenges. Someone once told me IF? you ain’t strugglin’, you ain’t livin’. So, IF? you ain’t challenged, I guess ya bored. When I was in college playing demos for cats they would marvel that a cat coming from a region that really had very few MCs representing his piece of the planet even attempted to get his rhyme on. I was told IF? I wanted to “make it” I’d have to move. I never liked that angle. I think Sage Francis is more proof than I’ll ever need to know that this philosophy never existed as truth. My community has a tendency to act as IF? me and mine don’t exist (especially when we ain’t around). IF? we based our own personal success based upon our locality’s reaction, I woulda quit ages ago. This game is full of Promotional Left Hand Daps and ins w/ people based on b.s., but hey, at least we ain’t bored.
JB: As a rapper what had you been doing up to the point you came out with the new CD?
CasUno: Working…like going TO work, heh. Nutshell styles. In 2001 me and a few local cats including my man Gibran put out a CD entitled Multiple Complications “St.ART”. I believe it’s still available in select places, which taught me the game of shelf life. We put out Vocab’s “On The Rock”, which is another jammy you can still catch. Pressed a sh!tload of free samplers showcasing The IF? (me and Gibran), Vocab, Missing Elements, & AmsUno. Rocked mad shows within MA/RI…So much that it lost a lot of luster rocking the same clubs over and over and over again. Perhaps my locality plays the too local role, I don’t know. I’m blessed to just finally see loads of hip hop ongoing in my own original community. I hosted an open mic showcase called UNITY for years w/ this promotions company called Basement Flavor…
Just lately, after doing this project twice due to some very unneeded bullshit, trimming down and acquiring pieces to the so called puzzle of people that believe in our core cause. I mean, I recorded a whole project entitled “Promotional Left Hand Daps” under The IF? title, but it never got a chance to breath yet due to what ever. AOPPO was born outta skorn spirit, rhythmic release, and sociological impatience. I guess you could say I been trying to figuire out how to make the “next” move to gain the momentum needed in achieving what ever success is in this tainted game.
JB: Now we have the CD, “The Art of Pissing People Off!!!” What’s the significance behind the title and CD cover?
CasUno: The Art Of Pissing People Off’ll leave you dumped dead on it at truck stops, hops. It’s what keeps everyone in trouble w/ one another. It’s how not to be in social settings, the simple wrongs and wrongs of human interaction. So well executed, some may have mastered the art of pissing people off and not even know it. Here’s the preface to a book dedicated to what not to do. The cover was my attempt to visualize an action, namely, PISSING people off. Worst case scenario (besides being shot which is far too gully for me to paint a picture of, visually or verbally), you get someone vexed and they beat ya ass in the basement while ya hog tied and gagged… toss you off a terrace even.
JB: What I noticed when I looked in the liner notes was the wide range of producers you have in making your tracks. What made you decide on working with many people, opposed to keeping to one or two producers?
CasUno: Ha! Where do I start. I worked with everyone not only cause of the fun with friends… rule, but really, I was in the biggest pinch yo. I mean, everyone who I worked with on this I been wanting to work with just due to my high regard for their talents…I’m kinda lucky to have all of the cats who laced beats around me whenever like that. I was a bit frustrated waiting for a project I had spent mad time and energy on to drop, so instead of being a real asshole, I just moved on as best as I could. I still have partial faith and nuff confidence in “PLHD” but sitting around waiting for others to decide my fate or existance ain’t my style. This whole ish was almost a last resort in the world of an aging aspiring MC and I am damn thankfull for all the people who didn’t hesitate to help. Praises to Esh, Joe Beats, Gibran, DJ Al Bums, D. Mott, Matty Mischief, Missing Elements, DJ Mekalek, & headcASE.
JB: The CD is well produced, as everything sounds good to my ears. For me, while most of us don’t do too much rewinding anymore, the entire album felt that way, where I wanted to go back and hear it over and over. It has an old feel to it, but a feel that for me never went away. Was this your intention?
CasUno: My intention as a MC is to try to get my point across in plain day by way of repeated listens. That obvious rap is called commercial crap. I don’t see myself as too much a shallow cat, so my music reflects the depth of my inner. Intentionally or naturally is my question.
JB: As far as doing shows, what is your mission once you hit the stage? I ask because I hear how you are on these songs, and I can only imagine what you might be able to pull off in a live setting.
CasUno: As every MC aspires to achieve, I just want to actually grab people’s attention and keep their attention for how ever long we rock. Yeah, we scream, run and jump around, get ridiculousely drunk while doing so, etc…It’s a good time, no matter IF? we’re having an off night or a stellar performance, people bug out on our behavior and presentation…we try to never do the same show twice and switch off from like an Ams song, to one of my joints, to Esh, to Vocab, to Missing Elements, back to Ams, etc….Keep ish on the non boring tip, nahmean. We ain’t afraid to cuss out a crowd or two either, how ever that ends up.
JB: If you were able to work with anyone right now, another MC or DJ, who would it be and why?
CasUno: Honestly man, I got so many ideas to get outta my head that either incorporates others or does not, that I couldn’t even think on that plain, yo. There’d be a mile list long of my favorites and how it would be dope to get down with them, but as of late, my outside the camp collabs are minimal and I ain’t the type to blow smoke up someone’s ass and talk about doing a collab that most likely will never jump off anyhow. IF? I gave an answer right now to that question, I’d just be revealing who I’m really feeling right now and I’m no one to play favorites. I know me and Ams are supposed to do a Bros. Uno project and ain’t did nothin; yet but shop for a few beats.
JB: So you have mastered the art of pissing people off. What’s pissing you off right now?
CasUno: Heh. You’re inviting a complainer to complain. Don’t get it twisted, I never reveal IF? it is I that mastered the so called art of pissing people off, that’s for the listener to decide….Or even consider, seeing I tried damn hard to be mad universal with my notions and theories.
JB: I got it.
CasUno: Having a college degree and working for a living kinda blows, especially seeing I make peanuts for pay. I hate commercial rap, but some where along the lines I learned to both ignore it and accept it seeing you can’t have dope without wack. I hate George Bush and I hate the disposition of working class people with more common sense than most political figuires, but that would contradict the whole point of politics, wouldn’t it? My most hated attributes of socializing were all covered on AOPPO (mostly). I hate all the gay love scenes on my favorite HBO programs. I hate the nasty rich white people peanut butter Esh made me mix my shrooms with the other day.
JB: People may be unaware of your hip-hop scene, shine the light on some of the other folks that people should be aware of.
CasUno: Damn… there’s so many cats, but I’ll just big up those in motion….Non-prophets, of coarse…Time Machine, even though they bounced to Cali, Shawn Jackson and all of LenAce Entertainment, Romen Rok, Roc Solid, Ams, Vocab, Jezuz, Swann Notty…There’s so many cats, man….Check www.basementflavor.com for my local science, word.
JB: I often ask where people see themselves in five to ten years, but that seems like an eternity. What is your mission for the next two to three years?
CasUno: To be happy, in good health, and naturally selected unto my environment (where ever that may be). Nothing else matters, I learned that much.