Smash Rockwell

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Released four years after the disappointment that was He Think He Raw, Casual's fourth full-length provides yet another change of pace in the MC's career. While Casual produced much of He Think He Raw, he opts here to take a load off, focuses on the MCing, and allows a number of beat-makers -- Dan the Automator, Dante "Is a Scrub" Ross, Domino, J Zone, Jake One, Bedrock, Compound 7, Quincy Tones (!) -- to take the spotlight. The album is fairly uniform and consistently strong, despite the range of producers involved, and Casual is in improved form lyrically, nearly as sharp as he was throughout 1994's Fear Itself. All the talk of taking things back to the early '90s can become nearly as grating as relentless gun talk, but Casual is thankfully less irritable than he was on He Think He Raw. (He even seems to poke fun at himself during the end of "Smash Don't Hurt 'Em," where he humbly apologizes for instances when he caused bodily harm: "And then for them niggas who tried to jump me, and I knocked out three of y'all and it was only like five of y'all so you all had to football tackle a nigga, I hope we all learnt a valuable lesson from that moment, 'cause I know I did.") By the way: the very Casual-like character Smash Rockwell, Casual claims, is the cousin of Handsome Boy Modeling School's Chest Rockwell (aka Prince Paul).

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