Exclusive Premiere: Curly Castro – ‘Babel’ feat. Defcee, Collasoul Structure & Elucid + Interview

curly castro grown up rap interview

Wrecking Crew emcee Curly Castro releases his anticipated TOSH LP next week, but today we’re bringing you the exclusive premiere of album track Babel, featuring his frequent collaborator Elucid, plus Defcee and Collasoul Structure. Listen above, then read on for our Curly Castro interview.

You’ve described TOSH as being inspired by DOOM, George Orwell and Spike Lee. That’s quite the dinner party. Can you unpack that for us?

TOSH is an amalgam that I had in the works for four years. I am an admitted DOOM acolyte, a Sci-Fi cine-file, and a Spike Lee devotee. So any of my works will always have those gamma radiated glows, within. TOSH is the Wrecking Crew combination of Brooklyn boom-bap with Schoolly D Drums.

There’s also an obvious reference to Peter Tosh in the album’s name, and to an extent in the sound. How does his story and legacy inspire you?

I wanted to make a record that illustrated some of my cultural influences, as well as my musical ones. I wanted folks to know what Flatbush & Church Ave smelled like, in a West Indian-Brooklyn morning. The sounds, the air, I hoped to give a little sample of that with TOSH, with Peter Tosh being the main catalyst for the message, in the sense that Peter was unapologetically HIMSELF within his music. He took no shorts and listened to no one beneath him musically. He was a force incarnate. TOSH also flexes some unmatched bladework, I am Wrecking Crew after all.

When we interviewed billy woods last year, we talked about how spending parts of his upbringing in the West Indies shaped him as a musician. Seeing as you have ties there too, I was curious about how it may have molded you?

Well I am a third generation Bajan (Barbados in origin), and my upper firmament of relatives (Grandmother, Grandfather, Great Aunts & Uncles, etc.) all came from the island and relocated mostly in Brooklyn. America and her ways have a totally different tint when you look through ‘Foreigner’ shades. To make a long story short, my evolution came of the American wilderness, but my five senses were of a Caribbean tilt. Our eyes see things different, our palate tastes things different, our ears hunt for different sounds, and our skin begs for different climate, so on and so forth. So anytime I create, I am influenced by those base ideals and stimuli.

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TOSH is an ambitious, expansive project, covering a lot of ground. You also have a lot of different producers on there, providing different soundscapes. Was this intentional, maybe to help each track stand alone, while also still fitting cohesively with the rest of them?

Usually, most of my bigger releases have the multiple producer format employed. I sent out the call as a mission to accomplish, to all those interested. I asked for hip-hop beats with a Dub slant or influence. As the sonics dictate, the results were exceptional and uniquely varied. I only work with folks whom I trust with total autonomy. And all the producers involved performed with great aplomb. Couldn’t have been more blessed with their respective contributions. BIGGUPS!

I was also pleased to see a beat by someone who is vastly underrated as a producer, Blueprint (Eulogy to Hottentot). How did you and Printmatic connect?

Print is a gift to our culture and we are all very lucky to have him. Blueprint produced the lead single for my last solo record, FIDEL. The song was They Call Me Castro (there’s a video out there for that as well). We also did a song together on my Wrecking Crew A-alike Small Professor’s Gigantic Vol. I LP (Make Moves). So we have a decent working history, and I am a big fan of his work. So when word got out about what I was looking for in terms of TOSH sonics, Print said “Oh I have something that might fit that aesthetic, try this one out.” And of course it fit PERFECT, and became one of my more enjoyable songs on the record.

Elsewhere you also have production from Blockhead, who in my opinion in recent years has created some of his best work for Backwoodz Studioz artists.

Blockhead’s contribution came about as a fit of hip-hop generosity as well. The beat was originally for billy woods, but again, when woods heard about the TOSH initiative, he was like “Hey, try this Blockhead beat out, see if it works.” Another one that fit like a glove! So I humbly asked Blockhead if ownership of the beat could be transferred from the enigmatic one, woods, to myself. He was more than down, and even complemented the track once I completed it and added woods as the guest feature.

Regular readers will know we’ve championed music from your circle for a long time; Wrecking Crew, billy woods, Elucid et al. It comes across as a strong creative network where all of you are genuinely rooting for each other to do well and produce your best work. Is that a fair assessment?

Very Fair. All of us in “otherground” (what we call our collective, sometimes) have been in crews, clicks, clans, clandestine and otherwise. So we all went thru the gamut of competitive-cooperative hip-hop economics. And with our current incarnation, we’ve been through all that already. So we support one another without any pause whatsoever. A win for one, is a win for the Massive. Man sharpens man, like steel sharpens steel.

Tell us about working with billy’s Backwoodz Studioz imprint. It feels like a label that gives artists free reign to produce exactly the kind of music they want, with no pressure to conform to something that will help sales?

Backwoodz supports the creative, they want our creative spirit to be free-flowing and as envelope-pushing as possible. They embrace the Mutant X gene, and encourage its use. It’s refreshing to have a label with the same sensibilities as your own. I was a great fan and supporter of their entire catalogue before my inclusion. It was only right, and a matter of time, that I crafted something, that would spark their antennae, and give a neighbourhood rebel a shot.

You have billy woods on Ital-You-Can-Eat, and Elucid on Babel. Was having them feature separately as their own entity instead of together on the same track as Armand Hammer a conscious decision? I ask because them together is definitely different to them apart.

The way I featured them on the record, was strictly governed by the needs of the song. Simply put, billy woods fit ITAL-You-Can-Eat for his culinary expertise and mastery of the slang of sustenance. And Elucid fit well with the serrated samurai work of Babel, along with Defcee & Collosoul Structure (of Jyroscope). Armand Hammer in full force, I might not be worthy. LOL

Any final words about TOSH?

I hope the people dig the record, I put a lot of myself into this record, and I hope to make my Caribbean ancestry proud. ‘Wrecking Crew God!! Even on my worst day.’ And Biggups to Backwoodz Studioz for believing in the kid. Please snatch up TOSH on December 14, when it drops. Also grab Future Former Rapper from my best friend, Zilla Rocca. And grab Church Jawns by Small Professor. Oh, and Poet’s Payday by Premrock & Fresh Kils. Just know that Wrecking Crew is working, catching wreck from planet to planet!! WonL.

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TOSH it out December 14 on Backwoodz Studioz. Get it here. Follow Curly Castro on Twitter. Interview by Grown Up Rap Editor Ben Pedroche.

Bonus Beat:

Curly Castro also handed us this unreleased track he did with the group Black Uhuru a few years back:

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Smif-N-Wessun – ‘Let It Go’ (video)

SMIFF 9TH LET IT GOTek and Steele drop a video for this dope 9th Wonder produced single from a few weeks back, off of the anticipated upcoming new album, The All.

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Juga-Naut – ‘Silk Portraits’ feat. Scorzayzee & Vandal Savage

juga bonQuality product from a bunch of artists out of Nottingham, the UK city that also happens to be the hometown of the person writing this very sentence. From a new album named Bon Vivant, on the way soon.

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Interview: The Big Rap Cookbook

big cookbook

The Big Rap Cookbook features recipes from some of the finest names in hip-hop, including Masta Ace, The Doppelgangaz, Sonnyjim, Marco Polo and many more. We spoke to the book’s authors, Sam “Fatty” Hemingway and Scott “Booda” French, for the lowdown on how the project was created, who writes the best foodie rap lyrics, and a lot more.

Where did the idea to write The Big Rap Cookbook come from?

Sam: I originally had the idea to do it after hearing so many food bars in hip-hop…they go round and round in my head all day even now! Stuff like Jehst: “It’s the troglodyte bachelor, flipping tyrannosaur meat with a spatula”. Or; “My name is Mos Def, this is as good as it gets…I make you rub your lips like sardines and grits”. Bars which include some obscure food reference have always tickled me for some reason. We started posting food bars on Instagram and then approached artists to contribute an interview and a recipe. We got a great response and it grew pretty quickly once we were able to connect the idea with people.

What’s great about the book is that, unlike some previous hip-hop cookbooks, your contributors take it seriously, with genuine passion for the recipes. And there’s an impressive number of emcees included. Did you reach out to some artists specifically because you know they drop a lot of food references in their rhymes (The Doppelgangaz, SonnyJim, Juga-Naut), or was it more based around who you could schedule time with?

Sam: We never wanted it to be a jokey, humorous, throwaway thing. We did a lot of research for the interviews in order to explore the artists’ backgrounds from the food angle. And yeah, we tried to target people we knew would be into the project, either because they reference food a lot in their bars or in some cases they just like eating…much like us! The way the book is presented you get the background of each artist through the interview and then the personality really comes out in the recipe part. It’s makes for an interesting read – I’d definitely buy it!

Scott: I’ve been around the hip-hop scene for nearly 20 years (ouch!) in various forms, so the first people we reached out to were friends or people in my network. I think those early collaborators gave us a bit more clout, and even self confidence in the project, to go and approach others. We were very keen to make something that could stand up in the food world as much as the hip hop world and have been fortunate that the artists we’ve featured have all been excited to be apart of it and respected the project enough to put a lot of thought into the recipes. Even those who aren’t into food as much as others still provided amazing recipes and often had an interesting food-based back story to speak about in the interviews. Some really surprised us.

doppelIt must have been hard pulling it all together and getting the photo shoots done, especially as you are based in the UK?

Sam: Yeah man, it’s been a lot of work. Obviously, these artists have got a thousand things going on so it’s hard to pin them down for a shoot and interview, especially when we’re both working full time as well. But all the artists who contributed to the first issue have been really helpful and offered us a lot of advice on what moves to make next with it so it’s always rewarding. We’ve got to shout out our photographers who have given up a lot of their time for it as well – Jae Storer and Anis Ali. The shots they’ve given us really tie the two worlds together. We took Jae out to NY with us and he got bitten by a spider while crouching in the gutter, shooting The Doppelgangaz in Coney Island! His ankle swelled up like a balloon. Luckily, Marco Polo invited us up to his crib and gave him some magic pills which took the swelling down and he trooped on!

Scott: It was definitely a lot of work and luck, both good and bad. Learning to control what you can control and letting go what you can’t – especially when you’re dealing with up to 30 people’s schedules, across 3 continents and countless cities. Again, we really relied on everyone’s enthusiasm for the project to make it work. We definitely worked Anis and Jae way too hard on the shoots, and my girlfriend, Georgia who turned around some dope illustrations in record time. Certainly learnt a lot on this issue. We could probably write another book just from the conversations we had during the shoot.

Who was on your wish list that you wasn’t able to get? Bronson springs to mind as someone who would have been a good shout.

Sam: Yeah, obviously Action has been a big inspiration for us…we’re both addicted to the Fuck That’s Delicious series and Big Body’s quotes! We wanted to lean away from him a bit as well because he’s already done the whole cookbook thing and we didn’t want people to just associate food and rap with his name. We also wanted to get Jarobi from ATCQ as he’s a chef as well but he didn’t take us up on the offer. The biggest names are always the hardest to get but hopefully after releasing this first issue we’ll have a bit more leverage to approach artists we want to feature.

Scott: Of course, Action is the obvious one and we’d love him involved. Like Sam said, he’s kind of covered the ground ten fold but would be great to see if we could find any new angles to discuss. Jarobi, of course would be amazing. Styles P and Jadakiss co-own a juice bar in Queens and Styles has spoke about the changes he made in his diet which we’d love to get in a future issue. I’ve seen GZA speak about a health consciousness in food and you know you’re always going to learn from the Genius. Prodigy (RIP) would have been amazing also, he released a cookbook so it would have been cool to learn more about that. I’m reluctant to say too many names as we’ve already started on Issue 2 and the line up is looking ridiculous.

Were you surprised at how much some of these recipes mean to the artists? For instance, Masta Ace talking how vital a healthy diet is for him since being diagnosed with MS?

Sam: When we were in NY, the first three interviews we did were with artists who had changed their diet completely for various reasons. John Robinson talks about turning vegan after being on tour and wanting to detox, Masta Ace, for his health reasons, eats really clean and J-Zone talks about how Greg Nice called him fat one day and he changed his lifestyle after that! It was a common theme – Coops talks about turning veggie after spending some time out in South America. There’s a good mix in the features of clean eaters and a few dirty ones as well! Dirty Dike used to live off sugar sandwiches!

Scott: I was surprised and unsurprised. It was interesting to hear the individual relationships with food but food is food, its essential to existence so everyone has their relationships and idiosyncrasies with it whether they consciously think about it or not. Food can be a mutual grounds for discussion between all worlds of life, we just chose to explore that through a world which is a part of our life – hip-hop. Which adds another element to it as rappers and producers are often represented as these macho, unreachable egomaniacs but speaking to them through food really brings out the “human” in them that’s not often on show and everyone can relate to.

masta aceWhich is your favorite from all the recipes contributed, and why?

Sam: For me personally, it’s The Purist’s Lobster Linguine recipe. It’s quite a delicate dish and very tricky to get the flavors right. I spent four years living in Italy so I can definitely relate to that one.

Scott: Good question. For me, probably Melanin 9’s Fly Salmon Fillet. I’m trying to get off meat so admittedly I haven’t tried them all. Jae, who photographed the food shots vouched for Grim Sickers Brown Stew Chicken, as did my girlfriend. Looking forward to who the people vote for!

And who in your opinion writes the best food raps?

Sam: I’ll break it down to US and UK. For the US guys I’ve got to give it to The Doppelgangaz with bars like: “It’s truly valid, shorty schooled me on shawarma and tabouli salad”. In the UK I’ve got to give a joint title to Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim for bars like this: “Lump fish beluga, sushi on the move, she a mover, Subaru cruise seared tuna” (Juga-Naut) and “Got your girl cookie baking, tushie shaking, tagliatelle with the truffle shaving, I’m done playing” (Sonnyjim).

Scott: For me, Sonnyjim and The Doppelgangaz – both are in the book. It’s interesting, as a rapper myself, to hear the Dopp say they call about food because the words are often phonetically pleasing. That’s a geek mode for me. I’d say Juga-naut, Roc Marciano and Ghostface would make the top five for me. The more obscure, the better.

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This is billed as Issue 1 of the book. When can we expect Issue 2, and who will we likely see in it?

Scott: Issue 2, next year. Hopefully summer. Bi-annual would be nice but it’s a lot of work around our full time jobs and we’d much rather take the time to make it right than rush it to fulfill a promise. We want to make it a collectible series and want everyone who gets a copy to be proud to have parted with their hard earned money for it.

We’re also working on some other mediums to branch out to. Personally, I’m really into the interviews and the sociological side of the relationships with food so I’d like to get the podcast up and running where we can explore these in more depth. Can’t say any names yet but we’ve got some exciting people for issue two! Going to be nuts. Can we just take a moment to thank everyone who’s supported the project on any small or large way. The love has been overwhelming and it’s definitely taken us back a bit. Can’t wait to get the books delivered to everyone…

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The Big Rap Cookbook Issue 1 is available for order here. Follow on Twitter and Instagram. Photo credits: Jae Storer, Anis Ali. Interview by Grown Up Rap Editor Ben Pedroche.

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Bloodmoney Perez – ‘Time Is A Motherfucker’

perez timeImpressive new project from Bloodmoney Perez, featuring Curly Castro among others.

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Big Kahuna OG – ‘Kahuna Cartagena’

big kahunua cartNew niceness from the Mutant Academy artist.

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Spectacular Diagnostics – ‘Raw Studies’

SPEC DIAG RAWFull stream of the new album by the talented producer, with raps from a fine selection of emcees.

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Evidence – ‘Rain Drops’

Ev ends the year with one more video from the utterly dope Weather or Not album.

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WISECRVCKER – ‘Supreme Paradigm: The Grand Scheme’

Moka Only produced new project, with an incredible line-up of guest emcees.

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Main Flow & Mil Beats – ‘Already Dead’

Dope new one from producer Mil Beats and Mood emcee Main Flow.

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Sadat X & El Da Sensei – ‘XL’ (video)

XL SADAT EL DARowdy new visual for the title track from September’s dope album by these two legends of the game.

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