Cas One: The Monster and the Wishing Well (2013)

Bio (from facebook.com/cas1ne):
A rabbit named wolf. I sew together my monsters and make em look purty. It’s hard to talk about yourself and not sound arrogant. It’s hard to be a rapper and not look arrogant. I use an ego as a shield. Just like you. I just talk about it in my music. We can relate. I rap songs. I work slowly on projects. “I got more fans than the average man but still live check to check”. I think about music 100% of the time but am a musician 25%. Listen to my songs. Hopefully you wont have to ask what they’re about. I’ve put out an album called Liberation, Its gotten a lot of good reviews and one that wasn’t all that great but not that bad.You should buy it and make me feel better about myself. I am working on The Monster and The Wishing Well with Eric Hunter being the producer. It’s dark,ghostly but beautiful. I put a lot of passion into my music. I think it’s worthless without. I tour from time to time, but not all of the time. I think you and I are a lot alike.

Musicians:
Cas One (Emcee), Eric Hunter (Producer), with Figure (Production on Chasing Greatness), Wick-It (Cuts on Chasing Greatness), Kristoff Kane (Featured on Never Runner), Ceschi (Featured on Never Runner), Bitter Stephens (Featured on Vultures and Empty Nest), Prolyphic (Featured on Vultures), Metermaids (Featured on Vultures)

I first heard Cas One back in probably 2006 or 2007 when he sent me his first album, LIBERATION, for review. Unfortunately, he sent it to me just about when I had stopped writing reviews, and back then I wasn’t writing music reviews yet. I’m not really quite sure how he got my contact info, I just remember getting a random CD in the mail one day with a really cool painting on the cover and some pretty damned decent hip-hop occupying the optical media inside. When I heard recently that Cas One was finally releasing another album (I didn’t realize until doing a little research for this review that this is actually his sophomore album, the first one since then), I was immediately interested: I was currently back to writing reviews again, I enjoyed the last one, and I love me some hip-hop (and right from the opening track “Long Walk,” you get the impression that THE MONSTER AND THE WISHING WELL is not going to be your average, run of the mill rap disc.)

Cas One: Stalking libraries; his vocab is better than yours.
Cas One: Stalking libraries; his vocab is better than yours.

One musical theme established early, and one thing I really enjoyed about TMatWW, is the heavy use of guitar throughout the album. This is not rap-rock, this is not nü-metal, this is true hip-hop, but there is a lot of six-string strength running throughout the 55 minutes of TMatWW’s running time. The first listen or two, it was the production that stood out to me more immediately than the lyrics, and overall I was really impressed with what was accomplished on TMatWW. There is a little bit of a lot of styles, with the near-constant theme of the guitar in most of the tracks somewhere. Some tracks head off a bit more towards a near-rock song in their production (the crescendo of “Bigger Than Life” even includes a guitar solo, a very VERY rare occurrence in hip-hop), and some veer further away, but overall I was very impressed with the production throughout. I especially enjoyed the fact that in lieu of the throwaway “skits” that too many rappers feel the need to include (that more often than not are just filler rather than adding any value to the album), there are a couple of instrumental tracks on TMatWW which I enjoyed much more than any skit silliness.

After the first couple of times through the album, the lyrics started to come through more forefront for me. Cas is a damned good emcee. Is he the best ever? No, he’s not; he swears more than he needs to in order to get his point across, he has some verses that could be a bit more complex, and sometimes his ego does get a bit over inflated. But he’s also not even 30 yet, give him some time and some more experience and could he be one of the best ever? Maybe. He’s a good storyteller, he’s got great flow and does a good job of mixing it up (in some places his delivery reminds me a bit of the late Eyedea in his ability to switch it up between relaxed and fevered in a bar or two), and he never cheaps out with some of the rap clichés out there that make it easy to rhyme anything with anything else. He has a little bit of an ego, but it is deserved, and I am glad to hear that he’s not one of these emcees that feels the need to prove how “real” they are by rapping about the streets (whether or not they’ve been there). Some songs are about his personal life, some are about life in general, and some are just about music for the sake of music. “Chasing Greatness,” while a bit of an ego-stroker, is really Cas’ “get the fuck up and move song,” as he put it on LIBERATION’s “Wings.”

I am the wolf, I am the rabbit.
I am the wolf, I am the rabbit.

I was actually impressed just how much he puts his emotions out where everyone can poke and prod, especially in “Rabbit Named Wolf” (which is also a running theme lyrically throughout the album, another strength his writing shows on TMatWW), and in “Reasons.” “Reasons” in particular is one of the sweetest hip-hop tracks I’ve ever heard, and the first time I really listened to the lyrics in full it brought a bit of a tear to my eye; as another happily married father, I can completely empathize with the emotions on display in this track and it really did touch me in a way that not many hip-hop tracks have.

I was also quite impressed listening to TMatWW and just hearing bits and pieces of so many varied influences popping up. Of course there is the classic hip-hop, and I am guessing more than a little Rhymesayers influence in there as well. Actually, if I had to pick a label for TMatWW to be released by, that would be the one I think it would fit best on. Beyond the hip-hop, there is most certainly a 90’s rock influence running throughout TMatWW as well, which can be heard in both the production, some of the lyrics, and especially so in the vocals of the chorus of “Never Runner.” It is this wide range of influences that makes TMatWW so familiar; after listening to it a few times for this review, I felt like I knew the album inside and out. Like it was an old friend that I just re-visited, that I had forgotten about and finally re-connected with. This is a certified classic album in all senses of the phrase.

Hip Hop Halo?
Hip Hop Halo?

Overall, TMatWW is a great album. The production is very well done throughout, and does a good job of being hip-hop while not being commercial radio bullshit. It works in a variety of influences, most noticeably alternative rocks, without being a rap-rock record. Cas’ emcee skills have progressed since LIBERATION, and he does a much better job with his flow, his rhyme skills, his storytelling, and just his overall emcee skills. This is an album I’d recommend to anyone looking for something new from the underground; if you like the radio thug rap that’s out there, this is not going to be for you. If you are looking for something true, and truly different from the over-produced, over-hyped mass radio rap, this is an album and an artist to spend your money on. This is one album that I will be buying myself.

Overall 8.5 / 10

TMatWW for sale: http://www.casonemusic.net/shop/

TMatWW site: http://www.casonemusic.net and http://www.facebook.com/cas1ne

Cas One: The Monster and the Wishing Well (2013)
Cas One: The Monster and the Wishing Well (2013)
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