Casual

Meanwhile...

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Casual's major-label debut album came and went without making much of a dent commercially, or really even in the hip-hop community, for that matter. But that has always seemed to be the case with the Hieroglyphics crew, perhaps because they are too artistic, too tuned in to their own lyrical and musical impulses rather than those that move huge units on hype and trendiness alone. With his cassette-only second album, Meanwhile..., released on Hieroglyphics' own Imperium label, Casual didn't stand much of a chance at expanding his fan base, and that is unfortunate, because it is a breath of fresh air in the same way that spiritual cousins the Roots, Common, and the Native Tongues collective are. Casual's delivery and outlook are less overtly loopy than crewmates Souls of Mischief and Del, and his music is mostly less trippy, more reliant on deep, West Coast bass grooves and loping funk instrumentation than witty samples, but that does not mean it is devoid of the same abundant lyrical skill and robust exuberance, because it has those qualities in spades. In fact, the same sense of pleasure that is evident in the rest of the Hieroglyphics camp permeates Casual's rhymes, though he is a bit more straightforward, and the gluey bass-led tracks and bare-bones beats are a perfect fit for Casual's expressive, sing-song vocals, which, other than recalling Del's deep delivery, has its closest kinship with old-schoolers such as Sugarhill Gang and Furious Five as well as fellow West Coasters tha Alkaholiks. Whether it be turning the same noir sample that Portishead used as the basis for "Sour Times" on its head or simply kicking freestyles with his mates, Casual never drops the ball. It's too bad the public probably will.