P.Casso’s “Mr. Hollywood” has been one of the most talked about songs in rotation on RapReviews’ ABX podcast and the one thing everyone seems to want to know is “who is P.Casso?” (I know this because I get your emails, which I appreciate.) This week RapReviews caught up with the AOK Collective member to get the answer to that question, and a few others. Spoiler alert – read to the very end for a link to download a free P.Casso mix-CD!

Adam Bernard: Since this is a lot of people’s introduction to you why don’t you give everyone the Cliff’s Notes version of who you are, where you’re from and how you got into Hip-Hop.
P.Casso: Well, my name is P.Casso, earth-tone king. I’m from Buffalo, NY. We usually call it Blo City, though. I basically have always been a really musical dude. My mom said that when I was in the crib I would mimic the sounds that she would sing. She would sing a song from church or something and then she’d hear me humming the notes to it. So I’ve always been a real musical guy and I always have been really good with words. I started off as a spoken word poet doing a lot of poetry back in the 90’s when spoken word poetry was really really booming. I was very involved with that. The whole Hip-Hop thing kind of came together after I tried to do the regular person thing, and when I say the regular person thing that means go to school, get a job, try to live the regular American life, and it was not working for me, I was like this is not what’s up. That’s the type of life that people try to tell you that you should live. Your whole life you kind of get caught up in that and I was caught up in that. Not to say that my education didn’t benefit me, but it really wasn’t my destiny, so I had to break away from that and really make a segue into music.

AB: When and how did you make that happen?
PC: It was about 2003 that I decided to become an artist. I bought a red spiral notebook and said I’m gonna fill this with raps by the end of the month and I just kept doing it. I kept buying more notebooks and filling them up. Then I started doing the production thing because I wanted to be good at both. I wanted to be a dope producer and a dope emcee, so I started picking up some of the production programs, taking notes from some of the people I knew in Buffalo from the Buffalo Hip-Hop scene and after about two years I had a decent little catalogue of songs. I had a couple of mixtapes and I had a couple of songs on the local radio stations. I had a decent little buzz, but I knew that I couldn’t do what I had to do and live in Buffalo. I knew I had to come to a larger city. In New York City I knew a lot of people, so I moved to Brooklyn and I started doing my thing here. I started like every other rapper starts when they first get into New York City; trying to find any open mic to rock. I was jumping around from open mic to open mic. Then my friend Emilio Rojas, he’s from Rochester, told me about this cat Fresh Daily that he knew. Me, Fresh and Emilio did a show together and we kind of bonded from there. I kept building with Fresh and I realized he was a really cool dude. Fresh saw me perform at EOW and he liked my music, so I have to really tip my hat to Fresh because he was the first dude to really say this guy’s really talented, I’m gonna use my resources to help him to get to another level. This was before AOK was even a reality. This was when we were just a bunch of emcees.

AB: So what led to the formation of the AOK Collective?
PC: Fresh had pitched the idea of AOK to some other emcees who didn’t like the idea of it. I’m not gonna say who the emcees were, but there were certain artists who are actually in the scene right now still who didn’t like the idea of AOK because they didn’t want to share the spotlight.

AB: Shocking.
PC: {*laughs*} They looked at it as more of like a rap group and they also thought it was more about Fresh Daily and less about the collective, which wasn’t true. So Fresh decided to do his own thing and see who was down. The original AOK was me, Fresh and 8thW1 (AOK now also includes Homeboy Sandman, 2 Hungry Bros and Nola Darling). I didn’t even know 8thW1 and it was a while before I met him. If Fresh told me somebody was dope, though, he has a high level of quality control, he doesn’t really mess with everybody, so if he tells me somebody’s dope and he’s cosigning him, I would take his word for it. I was all about the love because my whole thing was like yo, New York City Hip-Hop needs unity, we need strength in numbers, we don’t need a whole bunch of artists with egos who are trying to do their own thing, we need people who are willing to join forces and make a movement, make a renaissance, make a revolution and that was the whole thing that inspired me about getting involved with AOK. I wanted to be part of something bigger and the whole thing about being in AOK is you can do your own thing as an artist and still do your whole thing as a collective. It’s not like you’re bound into a rap group where everything you do has to go through the group. I have my own albums, my own mixtapes, my own career, that’s completely separate from AOK, but then obviously me and my brand and the AOK brand run hand in hand so the more that I do for myself the more I do for AOK and vice versa. So it was a win-win situation for me and thus far it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my quote-unquote Hip-Hop career thus far just because it’s helped me a lot just being associated with these other artists.

AB: I’m glad you mentioned your solo work because last year you released For Your Consideration and this year you followed it up fairly quickly with a downloadable mix-CD, Earthtones. What went into the decision to put out two albums so quickly next to each other?
PC: First thing is it’s funny that you say quickly because I feel like in this new Hip-Hop world that we’re living in artists are dropping albums every week, like literally you have artists who are dropping mixtapes every week. For Your Consideration came out in November, Earthtones dropped in April, so that’s still four or five months of separation. The decision to do that was because I didn’t have any free downloadable content. Sometimes when you’re thinking about the marketing side of an artist you look at it from a different perspective. I’m a creator, I’m an artist, so I make the music, but I have to think of things from a fans perspective. If I’m a fan I’m hittin the blogs up everyday, I hear about this guy P. Casso, I might be mildly interested in what he’s got, I want to be able to download something. Most of these fans are gonna want to download something before they buy something and I just needed more content out there for those people who are halfway on the fence about me so they can listen to it and say OK, he’s dope, now I’ll buy the album. It was kind of like reverse engineering because most of the time you drop a mixtape first and then you build up to an album, but I did it the other way, I did the album first. I’m still dropping videos for the album and I’m dropping this mixtape, so hopefully that will generate traffic back towards For Your Consideration.

AB: I like that you switched it up a bit because it almost seems as though you have to do something a little different right now. Over the past few years EVERYBODY’S been releasing mixtapes and then following them with albums and from a writer’s perspective I don’t see that working anymore. From an artist’s perspective do you think it still works, or is the game too cluttered at this point?
PC: It’s definitely too cluttered at this point and that’s why I’ve been at the drawing board trying to figure things out because it’s very difficult right now, the music game is crazy, so there’s no one way to do anything, there’s no easy way to sell an artist and really talent has a lot to do with it, but not all. Another problem is there are a lot of really talented artists out there. The soil is rich right now and to get yourself up to that next level you have to do something completely different, you have come with an angle, you have to have a marketing plan, you have to have a machine. That’s what I’ve been pullin out my hair trying to figure out; what’s my angle, what’s my machine, how can I get over this hump? There’s no doubt in my mind that I have the product, it’s just convincing the world of it and exposing it to the world.

AB: Take a couple seconds right now to convince the world. Tell someone who maybe hasn’t heard a P.Casso song, or has just heard “Mr. Hollywood,” what a song or an album experience from you is like.
PC: When you buy a P.Casso album you’re gonna hear songs that you’re gonna wanna listen to over and over again and the reason I say that is I’m not the type of artist that just spits random bars over random beats, I take my time to form concepts and make sure that they’re cohesive with the music. I call myself P. Casso for a reason, I paint pictures through music. Even though that’s very cliché, it’s exactly what I do and it embodies what my music sounds like, so when you listen to my music you’re getting an audio picture, basically, of the world. In the topics I go over, I like to rhyme about everything, from everyday life and love and relationships to crime and some of the things that we see out here in the city. I like to make music for everybody, for all people, so if you’re a person you will find a P. Casso song that will connect with you.