Artist: Cas Metah
Album: Writer Fluid
Country: United States
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Admittedly, my breadth of musical knowledge does not span too deeply into the realm of Hip-Hop. That is not to say, that I don’t listen on a semi-regular basis or have my own personal favourites of the genre (I am very much an East Coast indie/underground kind of guy) it is just extremely difficult to stay current on any one particular scene; or in the case of Hip-Hop, region as well. In an almost paradoxical comedy, I’ve spent the entire career of Cas Metah, not knowing who he was, despite his being located in the Midwest, a region I not only hail from, but covered in Midwest Week for this very site, when I decided to write my first Hip-Hop review (though that was partly a piece inspired by my own connection with the artists). So when I was presented with another opportunity to dip my toe into a familiar yet estranged genre, I was pretty excited. Originally I was tasked to cover the first two singles off Writer Fluid, a task I failed at spectacularly as a result of an intensified work-life schedule, but it would turn out all for the best in the end, as I was given an opportunity to put my whole damn leg in with the subsequent release of Writer Fluid. What follows is an exploration into a lyrical exposition of the indomitable Cas Metah, who speaks on his love for the musical grind while touting his status as one to be respected, a fact I’ve quickly come to realize is extraordinarily well deserved and earned.
The record starts out with the titular track, and gives us a cinematic opening in the way of a brief tension through instrumentals that sound as if they would be served in an Alfred Hitchcock flick. This quickly gives way to the mainline beat of the track, a mystic style dreamland that thumps the baseline in a near imitation of a heartbeat, while a flutter of keys takes the high end by playing an upward trajectory of chime inspired chill, all of which is strung together by a solitary note that has been held since the first instant. After a few bars of instrumentals, we are introduced to Cas Metah by way of the line, “ My back itches/ but rap kids ain’t scratching no more/ or less chasing after stack figures”, a cleverly constructed versing that reflects the artists apparent fondness for wordplay and double or re-labeled meanings, exemplified by the title of the record itself. Cas’s pacing is measured and sure footed, nixing speed and oral gymnastics for a sway that draws out and enunciates with crystal clarity, trusting in the lyrical content over flash and aggrandized showboating to make an impact. This is not to say that the flow put down has no skill outside its content, the creation of a tempo within a track set aside as its own metric is a feat to be respected all in itself.
The following track, Cop Out, was originally released as a single earlier this year and features Pikhan and Vibe-one. It’s easy enough to understand why this was selected as one of the flagship tracks heralding the latest effort by Cas Metah. The lyrics serve as anthem, pledge and personal historical reckoning all at once in relation to Hip-Hop, drawing a clear distinction in the commitment made and the ongoing contribution to the development of the craft. The beat, created by Theory Hazit as are all on the record, is an admixture of West and East Coast flavors that are blended with Midwest talent in Cas Metah and his featured artists to make it uniquely his own, underpinning the lyrics, “I was raised on that West/Came up on that East/ So no surprise I wound up a beast”. There is a timekeeper in the form of a sizzling hi-hat that is offset by an intermittent thrumming of a combination bass guitar-drum that acts as a syncopated down beat, all of which serves to drive the track in a groove filled chill that is indicative of the East Coast underground. Splashed throughout, and seemingly dancing on top of the main beat, is the West Coast flare in the form of slightly muted high end trillings that sound as if they are echoes of early Dr. Dre albums. The combined efforts of Theory Hazit and Cas Metah and company provide for an energized production that is both inspired and inspiring, serving as a blueprint for aspiring MC’s.
If Cop Out is best viewed as an anthem of sorts, the following track, The Viking & The Villain, is an aggressive warning in the form of an open-handed slap in the face. The track starts off with ambient noise that sounds not only a reverbaration from the blow dealt, but also like a sample from an overly dramatic exploration film of the 70’s you’d catch at at a drive through, while the bass kicks in like the main creep who slashes out the punishment in a Horror-Synthwave fashion. Guest MC Kurupt opens up the track laying out a list of complaints of the rap game intoning with an ominous, “Man, let me show you how deep it really gets/and the Imma show you the power of membership/ One on the hip-illegal extended clip…”. What makes this all the more powerful is the slowed down, almost slurred delivery that is, oddly enough, over-enunciated to the point of feeling as if you are face to face with Kurupt, his finger in your chest. Halfway through the song, Cas Metah makes his entrance, but not before Kurupt’s voice is transmogrified into a hideous monstrosity as it rings out its final repetition of the chorus. While not as outwardly aggressive as his predecessor, Cas still cuts an ominous figure all his own in a restrained, hushed-out sort of way; with his lyrics remind one to be wary of the quiet and reserved ones, “…the mic is peace-but I might beast if I feel like it…you might get crushed like Vicodin/Rightfully spiteful…the world is mine/ ‘the word is yours’ was a typo”.
Following the bellicose, are two tracks to take the edge off in Stripes (Remix) and Slap Boxx. While the lyrical content of either could skew towards the aggressive in places still, they are largely tempered into swaggering tracks with the laid back nearly ethereal beats. Stripes (Remix) bounces with what sounds like a sampled drumtrack resplendent with the warmth given off an old vinyl, while a simple fluttering of keys jangles atop it and a hushed choral backing flushes it out. This creates an atmosphere that is both relaxes but still largely active from the movement of the beat itself to the interaction of the MC’s. Joining Cas Metah in this installment are A-Plus and Aceylone who remind people, “…of what it takes, what it took/I was out there looking for a mic- check, lost a rook/I wish I could remind it, a second look/add another song for Hip-Hop, put one in the books”. Sinking lower into the groove is Slapboxx, with it’s thudding drums, layered warbling bass line, and chopped up vocals from antiquity, creating a Trip-Hop style vibe. This track is reminiscent of early KRS-One days in Boogie Down Productions, from the perspective of Cas Metah, Sharp. One and Gensis Da God discussing the craft of Hip-Hop in addition to taking digs at other artists not deemed up to snuff while simoltaneously beefing up their own reputations. While it may seem like a stylized formatting that has been played out over the entirety of Hip-Hop’s life, the reputation being touted is well earned and deserves to be lauded in a self aggrandizing way. Not only does the track itself, or the whole record for that matter, present as a mastercraft work given at the culmination of decades in the game, the effortless delivery makes the packaged product seem overly simplified to the point of being obtainable, a notion that quickly shifts in the opposite direction the more engaged one becomes in listening. One part that illustrates this point beautifully is around the 2:40 mark of the track, we are given a breakdown of sorts where Cas Metah is left alone with the backing vocal track for a few bars before the beat has a nasty resurgence that punctuates the spoken component, “I can injure you with subliminal talkin’/ when the punch line connect/direct, forget a doctor, you gonna need a god or a deity to pop up”.
Closing out the record is Bar Fight and Worldwide, and returns to the duo of Cas Metah and Theory Hazit. Bar Fight, is perhaps the most experimental track on the record, as it starts with a tone-setting intro skit, that is reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shinning, with an impossible bar. The main focus of the track is also another surprising aspect, in the fact that the beat itself is not particularly heavy or rounded, at least, compared to the other tracks, utilizing a guitar/synth loop as the crux of the instrumentals. Additionally, the focus is given solely to Cas Metah and his ability command the track through his wordplay and presentation of flow as set to the track itself, making it a whole other instrument in its own right. Once again, Cas gives off a restrained bravado that rests in the surety of his skill, and presses it to the point of the listener imaging a sardonic grin on his face as he shrugs his shoulders saying, “If you looking for a bar fight/ Then come on, I’ll be here all night/ Don’t worry there’s not a long line”. Continuing off that surety, is Worldwide, opening with an interview wherein there are people handing out props to Cas Metah, listing his credentials and asking how he, “sustains his longevity in the game”. The answer is the beginning of the song proper with Cas responding, “I do it for the love/never out of lust…” and goes on to detail his coming up in the world of underground Hip-Hop, that is more of a personal essay and love letter to the genre than anything else. The beat is the most simplistic of the records, but it is ironically the one I find best in service to the lyrics. There is an honesty in the simplicity that helps uncover and amplify Cas’ own honesty, making for an incredibly vulnerable track that makes for a solid lockdown as a record finisher. Originally, I had thought the opposite, and believed this track better served as the opener, giving us an open invitation into a writer’s world. However, I was proved dead wrong on the several re-listens, and came to realize that it was not only the beat that enhanced the honesty and vulnerability in the track, but the transcendental process of moving through the record with Cas Metah and Theory Hazit, as the create a scope for the listener to view their world.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Cas Metah on Bandcamp: