TL;DR: CAS ONE TRIES TO STAY GOLD BUT FORGETS THAT HE’S MADE OF SILVER.
Cas One is a rapper, originally from Evansville, Indiana, who just made his debut on the legendary Sage Francis’ Strange Famous label. His last album The Monster and the Wishing Well was very well received and allowed him to smoothly slide into the section of the indie rap scene that holds people like B.Dolan, Sadistik and the aforementioned Sage Francis. This new album has slightly higher stakes though because of his signing to Strange Famous and the fact that he has teamed up with respectable EDM and Dubstep producer Figure on this album. It’s not the first time they’ve teamed up though, they’ve worked on and off over the past 10 years and Figure was even Cas One’s traveling DJ for his first album Liberation, but this is the first full length collaboration between the two and although Figure is not a “hip hop producer”, it still works surprisingly well.
The first two songs set the tone for the album. Walking into the Cult and Staying Gold give you the dark and wobbly production that have some immensely dense bass. This album is like 75% bangers, by the way and these songs are perfect examples of it. They’re fast and punchy but if I had a gripe with the beats, it’s just that they all feel a little “samey”. There’s not a lot of variety and the perfect example of that is when the song The Devil and Jacob Snider came on and some horns emerged; I had to check I was listening to the same album. After that song the bangers are mostly gone and the beats start to feel a little bit fresher quite honestly. Too bad that accounts for a total of three songs on the album. And even the new mellow vibe is hit or miss with the final song Back Home being a good example. It has some piano in the background that have the chord progression of an EDM anthem from seven years ago except it’s quiet and buried underneath the rest of the production and I swear to god I was waiting for the beat to drop into some loud and grander version of itself that would require some light show and dudes in tank tops and flip flops jumping up and down.
What really makes these beats great is Cas One over them and he will make or break your experience with this album. His lyrics are often times very clever and the topics range from social commentary to the media to his own personal life. And I enjoyed the lyrics on the last three songs the most as it provided the most information and poetic insight into his home life and his relationship with his family.
A standout track is the song Razor Blade Mark that details the typical Scencester poser kid who brags about self harm and addiction as well as “only buys his records from urban outfitters“. It reminds me of a Cage song called Scenester that was off Hell’s Winter that dealt with the same topics in a similarly clever and cynical way.
Staying Gold is probably my favorite track with probably the best hook on the album, which isn’t saying much because unfortunately Cas One is not much of a hook writer. But in all fairness, this is not an album you want hooks on, especially when you have lyrics like:
When there’s no gold left, turn right, go left
A hole in that chest gets filled with an X
Marks the spot. Keep the spark on hold
Look a horse in its mouth, see if them teeth still gold
With the bass-heavy and bouncy beat, this line just fucking shakes you and I love it.
Now, Cas One is not the perfect MC though. I would say that he suffers from the same ailment most indie rappers suffer from in that he lacks a sort of distinct narrative voice. This is hard to explain but I’ll try my best. I’m not getting a clear sense of Cas One’s writing style in this album and who he is in particular. The best way to explain it is that you can tell when you’re reading Slug’s lyrics or Aesop Rock’s lyrics even without the instrumentals, you know for a fact that that’s them. Cas One only feels particularly distinctive when he’s talking about himself and his struggles but other than that he can sometimes be lost in the fray of other introspective independent rappers.
There is one more potential problem with Cas One and that is his voice. The best way to describe it is that he’s got a flow like a mid-paced Eyedea but has the graveled and scratchy voice of like a Buck 65 or Sadistik. And I’m not sure what to think of it. It’s a very melodramatic delivery at times that really puts me off and stops me from listening to dudes like Sadistik. And I really think that his voice will make you love him or apathetic towards him.
I’m a little on the fence about Cas One as an MC and the beats are good if at the same time they are very samey but I find myself coming back to the album time and time again and I’m not sure why. There’s a charm to the album that you can only find in this little niche in the independent hip hop game. Cas One also seems like a really cool dude and I’m down to buy this record once I can as I would like more of these type of musicians emerging from the underground. It’s not my favorite hip hop album and it’s not a perfect album but I got some nice bangers out of it and I’m interested in Cas One’s future.
7/10- Pretty good bruh
BUY THE ALBUM