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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

For folks familiar with Orlando's hip-hop scene, many are wondering: Who is Caskey? And how'd a 20-year-old kid from Winter Springs get an audience with Birdman? Turns out, it comes down to talent, hours logged and what Caskey calls a blessed situation.

Here's how it came about: During his sophomore year of high school, Caskey became interested in rap and hip-hop – mostly influenced by the music his older sister was listening to – while growing out of his childhood fandom for heavy metal. A friend, producer Kyle McClellan, was interning with the Avengerz and helped play matchmaker between the upcoming rapper and the production team. Caskey's relationship with the Avengerz helped him produce high-quality videos and his first official mix tape, No Complaints. The hype machine barely had a chance to boot up before Birdman stumbled upon the videos through YouTube and called Caskey in for a meeting. Birdman said he recognized Caskey's star power immediately. Then, it was just a matter of telling Caskey and the Avengerz to keep doing what they do.

"Obviously, not every artist has a producer they work super closely with. Some artists are just jumping from studio to studio," Caskey says. "With me, it's like the whole No Complaints album, it was all mostly Avengerz produced, so I had this kind of condensed sound, and we'd been working together for so long that my sound is at the quality it is because of them. I think Bird's just conscious of that. He understands the relationship between artist and producer. If you're an artist that doesn't have a producer you're close with, it's not like you can force that."

For hardcore hip-hop fans, hearing about a rapper who transitioned from an interest in heavy metal into hip-hop can induce cringes faster than nails hovering over a chalkboard. Yet instead of going the route you might expect, what Caskey takes from his youthful music inclinations is simply the raw expression of emotion that makes metal so engaging, especially live.

"As far as the metal goes, I hate rap rock. I hate it," Caskey says. "My dad used to love Kid Rock, and I like Kid Rock, too, but I don't wanna be that. My stuff is like strictly hip-hop. I think that the metal comes back … just that emotional content, you know what I'm saying?

When it's angry, it's angry. When it's painful, it's painful, so like, I try to add that emotion and energy to the live show, because you know, I used to go to metal shows all the time, and they're way turned up. So, that's where the influence is, but you won't be hearing any distorted guitars on my CD."

Caskey's creative process is to let the beat lead his lyrics, so he responds emotionally to what the track is already offering, and then alters his delivery style accordingly to communicate and emphasize the feelings inherent in the music. This creates a nice balance in his tracks where his vocal styling transitions, not just from track to track, but also from verse to verse, subtly manipulating what the listener hears and feels from his music.

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