Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon; Photo: N/A


Casual is a lyricist from Oakland who is best know for his work with the Hieroglyphics Crew. He is a vet, a rapper who respects and treats the craft as if it were a religion.

His lazy river flow moves like melting butter over a hot skillet. And the intensity of his rhymes, coupled with his lively wordplay creates a contrast that makes his voice resound like a lightening bolt hitting the Serengeti.

Most associate Casual with battle rapping, but his acumen goes far beyond the cypher. He’s been in the game for over twenty years and has developed a nuanced style that combines the spontaneity of the battle with the thoughtful precision of the written.

Casual’s debut Fear Itself is filthy, a mid-’90s masterpiece that captured the raw energy of hip-hop’s emerging scene. It was the archetype for a community of like-minded lyricists, featuring a helix of fresh breaks, soulful loops, and ill rhymes.

The beats were essential in that it framed Casual’s husky delivery, challenging him to craft rhymes that complimented the gritty nature of the soundscape. He was relentless and flowed like a torrent, a showing that created an immediate and lasting impact.

Follow the Funk” is a masterstroke from a talented rook. The bass is heavy, creating a thick atmosphere that meshed well with his sleepy flow. It’s all style, no posturing; a creative display of handles that set the bar high: [LISTEN]

Casual stayed busy throughout his formative years, releasing a stream of albums at a steady clip. Each would represent a small but significant shift in mentality, and reflect his rise from burgeoning newcomer to wily rap vet.

For the average lyricist the workload alone would be enough to leave a person jaded, but staying close to home under his own imprint Hiero Imperium allowed him to develop at his own pace. Without a major label breathing down his neck he was able to pen rhymes that matched his growth.

Casual’s third studio album He Think He Raw captured the learning curb he experienced as a rapper. When he came out the gate he was highly coveted, but the major labels tried to package him in an inauthentic way. The idea soured him to the game, but it didn’t taint his love for rap. He Think He Raw was the culmination of all the frustrations, ambitions and breakthroughs he experienced during this time.

I Gotta (Get Down)” is Casual expressing his insatiable desire to create. Nothing could deter him from expressing himself, and if anything adversity only strengthened his commitment to the game: [LISTEN]

Casual is a lifer. So long as he can breathe he’s going to be pressing pen to pad. His newest project GodKilla is a work in progress, but it’s a process that he’s willing to share with his fans. Each song will be released as it is composed, which ensures that the product will be as fresh as possible. The two tracks he’s released so far reflect a boiling rage that has been building up for years. It’s dark and menacing, and a reminder that the ax in him is still sharp.

Marcus Garvey” captures his current state of mind. He’s ready to square off and show his adversaries what he’s made of. The militancy is not a trend for Casual, but a way of life. And even now, after 20 years in the game his voice still echoes with fury: [LISTEN]