Words by Teddy Parkin
Cassius Gray. If you haven’t heard of him, this is likely to change soon. He embodies a refreshing energy in the UK HipHop scene. As a musician and rapper, he offers compelling lyricism and conceptual wisdom. Included in his musical range is a soulful eloquence, yet to limit him to these descriptions would be inaccurate. He is diverse. Exemplified by his current catalogue on Spotify. A growing collection of music that currently stands at just under 30,000 monthly listeners.
He is a good friend of mine; brothers would be a more accurate portrayal of our relationship. I wanted to have a chat with him about his new material and what we can expect to see from him in the coming months. Throughout lockdown, Cassius worked hard, shedding out a plethora of tunes mostly unreleased. We also talked about his time indoors, how this has helped him with his music and a range of other topics including spirituality and his creative process more widely.
His new song ‘cookoo’ is coming out on the 12th of March. As a fan of music, I truly recommend you listen to it. There is something special about this one.
So, you have a new song coming out.
It is called ‘cookoo.’ It is a song produced by my good friend ‘San Tino’. Shouts the kid. He’s singing on it too but it’s different, it’s not like anything I’ve done before. It’s electronic and garage. It’s in a league of its own if we’re talking just production. Structure wise it’s diverse, versatile, it comes like a real song you know.
Was there a different energy that you accessed because it is different to what you have done in the past?
It was a different instrumental, a different canvas was given to me. The overall process was very similar. It was a bit more of a collaborative process than I’m used to. I was struggling with the bpm because it’s a garage tempo, like you really have to get it on point with the rhythm and ‘San Tino’ was helping me with that. That was different. A real collaborative effort because it was with a producer which I haven’t done as much before.
How would you describe the difference of working with a producer than with a rapper or singer?
They have a greater awareness of the final product of how they want it to come out and what they want it to sound like. They can edit and say do this there and completely change the direction of the track if they have good foresight with it. Maybe the difference between producers and rappers isn’t so certain, it’s more about the relationship and the energies between the two people.
What is the conceptual meaning of ‘CooKoo’?
I’m going to let it speak for itself really. In my opinion it’s quite subjective, specifically with this song, because you could be going through a whole list of things. I guess the overall context is getting over something or getting through a barrier. It could be something you’ve gone through, but it doesn’t need to be boxed into a concept. Rarely I come to a song with a concept in mind but that might change as I become more lyrically able. Mainly I just go off the energy.
Are there any processes that help you with writing when you’re struggling?
Currently I just look for beats and listen to new ideas. Going for walks is nice. Doing stuff that’s good for my vocab, reading is probably the best. Writing down your feelings without trying to rhyme them and then rhyming them.
During lockdown would you say you’ve struggled or thrived?
I’ve thrived musically. Definitely thrived. I’m not sure if its solely to do with the time I’ve had but there’s a lot of other stuff that’s gone on that’s allowed me to grow as well. There’s a lot of issues to be addressed when you aren’t going out and distracting yourself. A lot of bad habits came, good habits too eventually.
Where’s your mind at coming out of this (lockdown) musically? What do you want to do musically?
I’d like to delve into a bit more experimental things with my music. Do you remember we were talking about the limitation thing? Creativity is much more possible with limitations, like setting a theme, it’s something I’ve never tried. More music videos. Stuff like that.
Tell me more about that limitation idea.
It’s a cool concept. It’s the idea of setting yourself a task to create something but setting yourself a limitation. Like this song must be in C Major, or 100 BPM, or have a specific colouring. It can be whatever you make it. It’s meant to really encourage a creative flow because it’s about getting over perceived obstacles in your mind. Sometimes it’s cool for rappers just to do a stream of consciousness but getting more precise you become more skilled for sure. Like storytelling, that’s a great skill.
Who is the best lyricist?
I think Lil Wayne goes in. He’s a lyricist. The old school stuff. ‘Jay Z’, ‘Eminem’ and ‘Capital Steez’. I need another album before ‘Joey Badass’ goes in there.
Top 5 rappers/rap groups of all time?
‘A Tribe Called Quest’, ‘Biggie’, ‘Mac Miller’, ‘Pro Era’ and of course ‘Kendrick Lamar’.
Which spiritual Practice has stayed with you and resonated most with you in your life?
So many. If I had to pick one, self-inquiry. That and the Dao. Those two are all I need. I’m not much of a meditator but maybe I’ll come back to it. Self-enquiry is kind of a meditation.
Skinhead or mullet?
Sage or Incense?
Would you like to announce anything else coming out?
“cookoo” coming out 12th March. Something coming for 4/20 and a collab coming in the next month or two. Another single to follow. Big things coming.