Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Casual & J Rawls - Respect Game or Expect Flames LP


Nature Sounds (2012)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

As I've mentioned several times, Fear Itself by Casual is my second favorite hip hop album of all time. I still listen to it constantly and feel that it really holds up as a true classic of the genre.  Casual's other work has been a bit more hit and miss for me over the years.  While as an MC, Casual is beyond consistent and incredible, but the beats on his album haven't always been as reliably great.  There have been standouts over the years, in particular Truck Driver jumps out as one of the very best, but there have been other albums that fell flatter for me.

Respect Game or Expect Flames immediately jumps up on the list of my all time favorite Casual albums.  While this came out all the way back in 2012, I heard it for the first time within the last year or so.  J Rawls has created a perfect musical canvas for Casual to display his lyrical prowess.  While it doesn't sound like the quintessential 90s Hiero sound, the beats on this album are rooted in boom bap tradition, but work in innovative and jazzy measures.

Two cuts featuring other Hierglyphics members really stand out.  Del The Funky Homosapien checks in on the title track "Respect Game or Expect Flames" with typically excellent results.  The other is "Hier-o-dot" with it's uptempo bass line and guitar riff hooks.  I always feel these faster songs are where the Hiero crew truly excels and with drop ins from Souls of Mischief it's a real standout on the record.Modern hip hop isn't always the most exciting thing to me, but it's nice to know that 90s stalwarts are still out and about, creating and keeping old people like me interested. Even if it takes us eight years to show up to the party.

Casual - "Respect Game of Expect Flames":

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