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by Matt Conaway
1 January, 2001@12:00 am
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While Pep Love put some of the “pep” (pun intended) back in Hiero’s step with Ascension. The Hieroglyphic crew desperately needs another member to step-up. And to be blunt, its about time Casual stood up, as he has been lurking in the shadows for over seven-years now.

Though a seven-year hiatus is a virtual death-sentence in hip-hop, with He Think He Raw’s opening stanza, “Same.O.G.”, Casual wastes no time in reassuring us that ain’t a damn thing changed—- “Just because I got my own CD, and I’m probably on TV, it ain’t no changing me, its the same O.G.” While conceited boasts of this nature (when was the last time anyone saw Casual on T.V.?) embody what we have come to love about Casual; after all, this kid does not think he’sraw, he knows it! But, is Casual really the same O.G.?

Maybe it’s just that Cas’ East Oakland roots are displayed more prominently here, but it seems as if he has mutated into Too $hort’s younger brother on He Think He Raw. Not only is there an overwhelming West Coast ‘G’ mentality etched all over this LP, but Casual has adopted the same predatory, skinz-fetish traits that have exemplified hip-hop’s ultimate pimp for the past fifteen-years; evidenced by the cheesy “Snaggle Puss”, where Cas assumes a tired Dolemite identity. Furthermore, it’s obvious by the LP’s cover-art (with Casual posted up on a high school locker) what target-audience Cas is trying to reel in, which becomes all to clear on the adolescent “Windows”, a breathy “me so horny” romp that all teenagers can relate too.

While Casual shows minimal growth, he is still as flamboyant as ever, and with a very likeable style all his own. Yet, truth be told, Fear Itself exhibits a maturity, and musical sophistication that this sophomore effort desperately lacks. Though the plateauing horns of “New Wave Freak”, and Alchemist’s burly production on “I Gotta (Get Down)” stand-out, they are the exceptions, as the majority of the production is clunky, and the newer material sags in comparison to the work Casual released (“Turf Dirt”) under the Stimulated moniker.

Listening to He Think He Raw, it becomes evident how much hip-hop has changed since Cas blew our wig back with his stellar debut Fear Itself. Reason being, either A) Fear Itself was an ambiguous debut, which found a then baby faced Casual simply rehashing the same formula that his Hiero crew became synonymous with. Or B) Cas is merely attempting to keep up with the Joneses with his “pimped out” sophomore effort. For all intensive purposes, I’m sticking with the latter.

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