Well, I’m about a year into my first legit big-boy job and I’m fully admitting that I’ll never be employee of the year, unless it’s being amazing at having daily existential crises about being a cube-dweller, but when it comes to having a dope work ethic Has-Lo and Castle have it on lock. Now Has I’ve covered before, an emcee and producer with a penchant for dark, simmering beats and murky rhymes which at times (particularly on that superlative record In Case I Don’t Make It) seems more like a rhymed suicide letter than a rap record. I’m sure he’s a pretty normal dude though. Anyway, he’s good buddies with a guy named Castle, the name likely a reference to The Punisher, a producer and emcee who has appeared a little more recently on the scene but has gained attention and praise for his entertaining lyrics, sense of humor, and sometimes demented tracks (Track down his track “Orientation” for a sample of this). Together, they make the make the formidable duo of…Has-Lo & Castle!
Well, after guesting on each other’s albums for a bit they dropped the collaborative album Live Like You’re Dead earlier this year, the record’s title inspired by a quote from Malcolm X, and a title which sums up their mentality and approach to the music quite well. Has-Lo and Castle are an unconventional pairing. Has is methodical, lyrical, and at times kinda bleak, while Castle is fantastical, strange, and for the most part pretty funny. And it just works together. Live Like You’re Dead is one of those records which sneak up on ya: You may not expect much going in, but with the off-kilter performances, the loose and random feel to the lyricism, and wide choice of topics the record feels utterly surreal and almost a bit cartoonish but still holds an edge. One moment they can be rhyming about the state of hip-hop culture and the next there is a shoutout to the Fonz. They don’t take it seriously but still come off as pretty serious, and works well.
“Go To Work” is a great open to the record, a listen which I find still gains repeat plays from me regularly. The mic-passing between Has and Castle is immaculate, and a good intro to both emcees. For some reason I’m always partial to Has’s line about indie rap beef being nothing major. The duo approach making music like going work…and both emcees may not like the office, or the politics, or the rules, or getting up early, or dealing with people, but at the end of the day they’re damn good at what they do. Huh…that kinda sounds just like me.