It’s been almost a decade since the landmark release Full Circle–the last full studio album from Oakland hip-hop collective Heiroglyphics. In the period after, the members have kept busy with their individual side projects, all with relative success. Core member Casual is back with his seventh solo LP He Still Think He Raw, a follow up to 2001’s He Think He Raw, to prove that even after all these years, he is quite simply, still raw as hell.
Keeping things as streamlined as possible, the album was produced entirely by DJ Fresh and The Whole Shabang, providing a consistent backdrop of West Coast inspired beats for Casual to confidently ride over. Things start on opener “Rock My Sh*t” as he states, “I came to rock my sh*t/and record it so y’all can knock my sh*t/and support it don’t get it distorted/I’m not one of these wannabe G’s, please no that ain’t my steez though.” It’s a straightforward way to begin an album standing as a mission statement which he commits himself to for the remainder of the album.
Whether he rhymes about the importance of females on “Hip-Hop Chicks”, “Tears”, and “Mama” or the outright positivity of “Shine” he’s confident in his own delivery and content. “I’m On” featuring Mitchy Slick and Mistah Fab builds his own personal bravado, building himself up to an almost mythical level of superiority, as he pulls up to the club on horseback basking in possessions of a global traveler. As the self-proclaimed “#RapGod,” he’s well-aware of his own rapping ability, but that’s not where things trip slightly on the album. The lyricism is evident, but a few hooks struggle to hold their own, and things can drag occasionally.
In the context of what is successful in 2012 hip-hop, Casual is coming from a different direction, one with no extreme pushing of genre boundaries, no gimmicks, and a heavy nod to hip-hop of days past. There’s nothing wrong with that and the final product gives you exactly what I imagine he intended on creating–a heavy dose of what made Casual enjoyable in the first place, his own lyricism. Where does Casual go from here? He can continue the well-established path he’s on now, and as He Still Think He Raw shows, it will yield enjoyable results, or he can push into new territory. I’m sure both paths will work out fine for Casual, one just might be more intriguing than the other.