Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Casual - Fear Itself LP (Black Vinyl, UK Version) & 2xLP (Black & Red Swirl, RSD Version)



Jive (1994, UK Pressing)
Get On Down (2024, RSD Pressing)

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 thirty 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.

Wrapping up the fifth and final Record Store Day purchase for 2024 is Casual.  But as an added little bonus, I'm also including the 1994 UK pressing of the album, which until this year was the only version that had a picture sleeve.  I picked up the UK version quite a while ago, maybe close to two years?  But it had remained in the 'to write about' pile as I had already written about the non-picture sleeve US version on this site at the beginning of the Ed Lover Dance Day project.  That made it not as big a priority to get to, but we can add it here for a two for one deal.

The picture sleeve is the only selling point of the 1994 UK version.  As a single LP, the album is crammed onto two sides of vinyl and does the dynamics no favors.  It doesn't sound bad or anything, but it definitely doesn't compare to either of the double LP versions.  I wasn't sure Fear Itself would ever get the proper reissue treatment, but it was important to me to have a copy with artwork.

The new double LP Record Store Day version on colored vinyl looks pretty good and sounds pretty great.  The bass sounds low and full on my stereo, and that's always been one of the real selling points of this record for me.  The colored vinyl matches the art well enough, but the black in it isn't really dark enough.  The inclusion of the obi strip covers up most of Casual's face on the art when everything is in a plastic sleeve, so I wouldn't say that's a bonus, but it is nice to have the bolder spine when it's sitting on the shelf.  I personally would have made the bulk of the obi also be based around that portion of the album art.  I've seen it enough times to know it's a thing and I'm not sure why they didn't go that route.

The album itself is among the very best.  If I'm ranking my favorite hip hop records of all time, this is my number two on the list, only behind Del's No Need For Alarm.  It's a nearly perfect record showcasing everything I love about that era's production.  Casual's rhyming has always been more straightforward that the rest of the Hiero crew, but that doesn't make him a lesser MC.  In fact, because his flow is a bit more straightforward, it sort of forces his to really show his command of rhyming and building complicated, but easy to follow patterns.  He can tell stories when he needs to and battles better than all but the absolute most elite rappers on the planet.

Can't say enough good things about the album and this new Get On Down pressing is the definitive version of it.  Even though it's a Record Store Day release, I still see it readily available on many online stores.  If you like 90s era hip hop and didn't catch this one first time around, I can't recommend adding a record to your collection more strongly than this one

Casual - Fear Itself:

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