Shoulda Gone Platinum

Posted: August 6, 2017 in Music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Drugs Don’t Work


There seriously must be something in the water in North London and I’m not talking about the fluoride, because for over a decade now North London has consistently produced some of the country’s top MCs. I mean I where do I start, Mercury Prize Winner Skepta hails from the streets of Tottenham, as does Wretch 32 and most recently Avelino looks set to continue on this path laid out by his predecessors. Although I absolutely love the aforementioned crop of MCs, there has been one MC who has truly stood out to me, but has perhaps flown under the radar of the masses and that’s CASisDEAD.


Over the last 12  months or so Cas has significantly raised his profile with Giggs featuring on a remix of his track “What’s My Name”, and then Cas himself being the star feature on Giggs’ debut album Landlord. However Cas is not new to the game by any stretch of the imagination, previously going by the name Castro Saint, he released a slew of Grime tracks in the early Noughties. Although his style and approach were not as polished as they are now, his masterful manipulation of the English language has always been there.


Since then Cas has transformed into an international man of mystery. Sporting a mask and going by a different moniker, complete with slower delivery and with content 50 shades darker Castro Saint really is dead. The mysteriousness goes so much deeper than just the identity of Cas, even though most of his fans don’t even know what he looks like. The YouTube comment philosophers have fuelled conspiracy theories that even go on to raise questions about exactly why he calls himself “Cas”. Is it simply a shortening of Castro Saint? Or is it in reference to the CAS numbers list? C.A.S is an acronym for Chemical Abstract Service and these numbers are used to help identify chemical substances, including drugs of course, which is fitting as Cas’ content is riddled with drug references. What does “isDead” signify? Is it a clever way of him displaying his rebirth as a new artist? Or is it the more sinister suggestion that has been encrypted in some of Cas’ lyrics, that he sold his soul to the devil after what should have been a fatal motorcycle crash? Either way, I could write an entire article attempting to uncover the many mysteries surrounding Cas. In a time where information is just a short Google search away, Cas has worked miracles in order to shroud himself in such mystery.


“Drugs Don’t Work” is easily one of Cas’ magnum opus’s. MssingNo’s production (yes eagle eyed Pokemon Red and Blue players will recognise his namesake as the Pokemon that would spawn while you did the infinite rare candy or master ball cheat) plays a big part in this tracks success. It’s immediately obvious that the beat is MssingNo’s take on The Verve’s 90s hit of the same name. He’s pitched down the original instrumental, but his own additions are not far away, as hi-hats can be heard ominously in the distance like a marauding band of cavalrymen; and before you know it the hairs on the back of your neck are standing up as MssingNo’s entire arrangement prepares to plunge you into the dark recesses of Cas’ mind.


The journey you embark on when you listen to Cas’ “Drugs Dont Work” isn’t a pleasant one (in the conventional sense). His morose lyrical depictions remind us of a grim reality, which we’ve become accustomed to escaping through TV, social media and of course music. You’ll find no such hyper-real escapism when listening to “Drugs Dont Work”, instead Cas forces the listener to face some of these harsh realities. This then begs the question how does Cas manage to make this entertaining? Music is a form of entertainment at the end of the day, even if you’re trying to educate the audience they’ll be much easier to reach if you manage to retain the entertainment factor. Cas’ gritty, and sometimes macabre storytelling lands somewhere in the promised land of entertaining social realism. Most artists that tread down this beaten path fail to find the difficult balance between the two. Their songs end up either sounding like a TED talk or like some hood version of Keeping up with the Kardashians- i.e. full of gross self-glorification and not an ounce of substance.


Although Cas traditionally plays the role of drug dealer, on “Drugs Don’t Work” Cas displays duality by encapsulating the difficult of experiences of a chronic drug user. This Bruce Banner/Hulk dichotomy is a central theme in much of Cas’ music, although he can sometimes appear cutthroat and callous, in the next bar you might hear him reflecting on the damages his actions may have caused. This foresight is rarely seen in music like Cas’, you’ll often just get MCs fraudulently glorifying drug dealing but never the acknowledgement of the societal ills caused by it.


The juxtaposition is immediately apparent as the track begins with Cas reflecting on the negative effects of his over indulgence, but he quickly snaps out of the self-pity as he derides himself for showing vulnerability:


I’m wire thin/ I dunno why I aint dieting/ maybe it’s the Vicodin that strung me out like a violin/ fiend Simon dialled he’s tryin to buy a ting/ its mad I used to look down at him for piping up and firing/ talking to myself not recognizing who’s replying/ I’m becoming so much like the clients that I’ve been supplying/ BUT FUCK THE SENTIMENTAL SHITE/ IM MENTAL AND I GET MORTAL LIKE/ POP A PILL AND SPIKE THIS BITCH AND FUCK HER TILL SHE AINT WALKING RIGHT”


This internal conflict is played out throughout the track as Cas invites the audience to take a glimpse into the troubled minds of the various characters plagued by addiction. Long-time fans of Cas will recognize the character Simon, who has previously faced Cas’ wroth, but this time we see him coming to his aid, once again Cas has brilliantly encapsulated the way ones fortunes can change in an instant when dabbling with drugs.


Cas doesn’t do things in half measures, the same applies for his storytelling. Rather than just be content with his explorations of a fraught and unconventional relationship between the drug dealer and the user, Cas is keen to delve into the myriad of reasons why people turn to substance abuse. In modern society this has become a rather taboo subject, as addicts are often just dismissed and cast aside, Cas however refuses to shy away and brings some of these harrowing realities home to roost.


 But my life’s shit/drugs seem like the quickest fix/temporary escape from the estates and all the fucking bricks/that’s why I’m in such a rush to take the first hit or first sip/ E&J burnt up my throat fucking roach burnt up my lip/then it wears off/and I feel like I’m worse off/looking out on London bridge thinking about throwing myself off/NAH THAT’S SOFT THERE’S BETTER WAYS I COULD FEEL HIS WROTH/I GOT LOADS OF GEAR IN MY LOFT/ I GOT LOADS OF PILLS I COULD SCOFF


In just a few lines Cas has shed light on the dark underbelly of addiction that few care to acknowledge, while simultaneously fleshing out the mental strife that has been caused by the prevalence of stoicism and hyper-masculinity. Considering the fact that male depression has only received widespread attention in the last 12 months or so, and this track was released almost five years ago; it goes to show that good music stands the test of time. One might argue that Cas isn’t unique in speaking on these topics, but what is unique is not the topics per se, but the way in which he delivers it. You’d be hard pressed to find another artist who manages to blend a convincingly gritty persona with deep, insightful and most importantly entertaining social commentary.


“Drugs Don’t Work” is a track with more twists and turns than Nuremberg, and from start to finish Cas has the listener captivated and hanging on his every word, as he unpredictably veers the Tarantino esque multi strand narrative from one harrowing tale to the next. Cas even manages to weave in the tragic story of his friend who passed away after Chemo therapy failed stave off Cancer. Which is simply audacious, who would have thought that a track that begins with Cas reeling from the aftereffects of a drug fuelled night, would culminate in a reflection on the crippling effects of medical grade pharmaceuticals?


This is just the sort of artist that Cas is, he can turn his hand to anything, one need only explore his criminally small discography to see his diverse range of beat selection and his ever present lyrical wizardry. The only problem with the elusive CASisDeaD, is that there is simply not enough product, his intermittent releases can be frustrating for fans but art as they say, cannot be rushed.

  1. Thomas says:

    Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 szsna

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