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Cover Story

Baking with Caskey

Orlando rapper cooks up a video that gets him signed to Cash Money records

Photo: Legit Looks, License: N/A

Legit Looks

Photo: , License: N/A

Caskey with the Avengerz at the "Keep It On the Low" video shoot

It's not often that the pedestrian reality of Orlando – the less flashy, lived-in Orlando, rather than the theme-park imagineering – registers on anyone's radar, much less in a hit video on BET. But rapper Brandon Caskey (who goes simply by Caskey) has positioned a typical scene from his hometown front and center in his first widely distributed video, "Keep It On the Low," which premiered on Friday, Nov. 16 on BET's 106 & Park. Aside from the scene-setting text that announces that we're in Orlando at 9 a.m., anyone who's ever taken Colonial Drive toward downtown Orlando will instantly feel oriented in the opening minute of the video, which features the storefront of Mama B's Giant Subs and other familiar downtown locales as B-roll footage.

The video basically announces Caskey, who grew up in Winter Springs and lives near the aforementioned Colonial Drive landmark, as one of the latest artists signed to Cash Money/YMCMB, the national label representing big-deal rap acts like Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, and founded by rap star Bryan "Birdman" Williams. His talents are being stacked against offerings from major artists like Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross and others to compete for votes and views on the live show that counts down the most popular hip-hop and R&B music videos.

Ever since he signed to Cash Money in April, Caskey and the Avengerz – the Maitland-based production team of mixing and mastering professionals who helped the rapper shape his sound – have laid down as much as four albums' worth of material. From this catalog, they are set to select songs in January 2013 that will eventually comprise his debut album, though there is currently no release date established. But for Caskey, that flexibility is a commodity.

Cash Money's CEO Birdman recognized the chemistry between the MC and his producers and stepped back to give the team complete creative control, affording them as much time as needed to create an album that really communicates who Caskey is, as a new player in the hip-hop world. For a guy who was previously out on the streets repping his own music hand-to-hand, that freedom to focus exclusively on the music has been perhaps the nicest luxury yet. It's exceptionally humbling trying to convince complete strangers to listen to your CD, he says, especially when you're literally handing it to them for free, and they're rejecting it.

"Birdman definitely respects the whole grind and hustle to come up," Caskey says. "As far as signing [with Cash Money], for one, it's just super dope being around Birdman. That's just super inspiring. He's a real down-to-earth dude, and he wants me to just become whatever kind of artist I want to become. He's not trying to control the direction. So, for me, that's awesome, because I just get to submerge myself completely in what I want to be creatively. There's not restraints or anything like that. So, that's crazy, and then just the experience of being around all these iconic artists … and then taking that into my motivation when I go to the studio next. It's powerful."

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