Caskey Talks Birdman Signing Him, Orlando Hip-Hop and Being Afraid of Rap
Less than six months ago, Caskey was off the radar but a phone call from Cash Money mogul Birdman changed everything. The 20-year-old Orlando native is now in the position to make his city known for more than overpriced mouse ears. He has since signed with Young Money/Cash Money Records and building buzz around his latest mixtape project, No Complaints.
As the industry clamors to know more about the MC, Caskey is confident in who he is: a heavy metal fan who fell in love with rap courtesy of Nas. Hip-hop has become increasingly accepting of fresh faces and new perspectives, placing Caskey front and center in the ever-changing rotation of "up and comers to watch." He's not feeling the pressure though. With his production team, The Avengerz, by his side, the "Words" creator keeps a crew around him that inspires greatness. He's currently prepping his YMCMB debut LP -- the title he can't release just yet but he promises it will be "alien-esque." For Caskey, outdoing Disney should be a small feat.
Read on as the rising lyricist tells the story of Birdman signing him, reveals his choice to be a "trap rapper or underground nerd rapper," explains how his late father impacts his lyrics and why heavy metal was his lane way before rap.
You're actually a huge heavy metal fan right? How did you get introduced to rap?
I was always into more metal music. I like that kinda stuff. I'm big on instrumentation but my older sister's like, a thug, so she was always bumping N.W.A. and Three 6 Mafia and shit [laughs]. My first introduction wasn't a great introduction. I thought the music was bad and shit because I was like in third and fourth grade listening to "Fuck the Police" and shit. I wasn't a little bad ass kid.
It was traumatizing.
Yeah [laughs]. But as I got older she also put me on to a lot of good hip-hop too. She put me on to dead prez, Nas and Eminem. Once I started discovering that, that's when my interest in the game grew. But she was always a big Tupac, Biggie fan. She knew everything.
We also hear that you're a pretty big fan of Nas. He's had a long career where all of his work sounds like different chapters of his life. Which one pulled you in?
It's funny when I first heard Nas, it was "I Know I Can," and I thought he was dope then but I didn't dive into his shit. Then when I got older, I remember hearing about Nas all the time and being like, "Was that dude really that dope and shit?" That's when I just dove into his old albums and I was just like, "Jesus Christ. Yeah, he is." It Was Written is like my favorite album of all time.
I'm not sure how close you and Machine Gun Kelly are but it's cool because you're a heavy metal fan and he sort of has that influence too.
Yeah, I've seen MGK [live] and his show has the energy of a metal show. You know metal shows are super high energy and to bring that hip-hop element into it is dope. So yeah, the influence is there. I think that the coolest thing that metal music, and just music in general, offers [is] heavy emotional context and that's what I take away from it. That passion, you know.
How did you meet with your production team The Avengerz?
I was recording one of my first mixtapes [Homegrown Vol. 1] -- that was the one before No Complaints. I was recording that out of the house of one of my homeboys and he was really cool with the Avengerz. He was doing some work with them and he always told them, like, "I got this dude and he's dope." He finally got their manager Julio entrapped in the car one day, riding with him somewhere and he was like, "Man, you've got to listen to these two tracks we have." Julio was like, "Oh, the kid's dope." That's when I linked up with the producers and they ended up producing that whole mixtape I was recording at that kid's crib, and our relationship has just been building since then. We always had a lot of belief in each other just musically and we all ended up being real good friends from there.
Listen to Caskey's No Complaints Mixtape
We also hear that you've been rapping since the fifth grade. Is that true?
[Laughs] Nah, somebody asked me when I knew I wanted to be a rapper and I made a joke that it was when I heard Lil' Bow Wow's "Basketball" when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I thought it was possible then, like, I wanted to be a rapper then but I wrote other kinds of music. I started getting into writing raps in high school and shit.
For you to be so young and new to the rap industry, you seem to be extra careful about the music you make. I don't see you flooding the blogs with new tapes every month.
Yeah. And I feel like that works really well for certain people, so no knocks to anyone. Everybody has their own way to come up but my thing is that I just always wanted to make sure that whatever we drop is like the highest caliber that we can come up with. I spent a lot of time recording and stuff and I'm just now getting better at doing that faster. We spend a lot of time really catering to the songs and being attentive to everything.
How often do you think of your late father while making music?
All the time. I wish he was here. This is what he and I have dreamed of, you know. He woulda been blown away by something like this. I think about that a lot. Right now, when I write and stuff, I just try and dive into whatever the beat is calling out of me. Not every beat is something that makes me think of that but a lot of them do. I just try and be attentive to what the music calls out of me.
This whole year has been sort of a whirlwind for you. What's been the best part?
Shit, everything's been amazing. I think the best thing was showing my mom that check, letting her know that we good to go [laughs]. I think that was the shit. Seeing my mom's reaction, because she's gone through a lot of shit with our family. Not even just my dad but her whole upbringing has been rough. So just to give her the little bit of hope that life's gonna be awesome from now on is awesome to me. That's my biggest achievement.
What's the one thing you're looking forward to within the next year?
Man, touching the people. Reaching the people. I can't wait for that. I like connecting with people you know? I'm not the secluded artist. I like just meeting people and seeing what's out there in the world and I think that this music shit is just like my perfect avenue to discover things in the world and discover people. I'm ready for that network. That's exciting for me.
How long were labels chasing you before Birdman scooped you up for YMCMB?
[Laughs] Fucking probably not at all man. Bird found me before anybody. Bird found me in the rough and once I got in contact with him it was like a no-brainer.
What's the hip-hop scene like in Orlando?
In Orlando, it's diverse. You got everything out here, from a bunch of trap shit to real underground nerdy hip-hop. It's dope. There's everything you could look for out here.
So which one are you? Trap rapper or underground nerd rapper?
[Laughs] I'm a little in between. My whole team is thuggish, you know what I'm saying. But I'm, like Kendrick [Lamar] say, "Good kid, mad city..." I'm right in between, I'm riding with everybody.
How involved is Birdman on the creation of your debut LP?
I think that his involvement is more about getting my name out there and motivation. As far as the sound, he's really given me 110 percent creative control. It's to the point where I haven't even... Like, they have beats waiting for me over there and I haven't even looked at them because he wants me to spend more time vibing with our team and making the stuff that we've been making. That was the biggest plus with the signing was that the numbers can always be better or worse but creative control is important as an artist.
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