Casanova talks Roc Nation's pre-Grammy brunch, working with 30Roc on "Free At Last," traveling to Nigeria and more.
Casanova has a lot to be happy about these days. The Brooklyn rapper’s life is a complete 180 from where it was before. He’s no longer on parole after spending a good chunk of his life in and out of the justice system. As a result, he’s been traveling more, which included an inaugural trip to Africa, and he’s fresh off the release of his most fun project to date, the aptly titled, Free At Last.
“Sometimes you could be free but your mind’ll be locked up,” he told HNHH about the project’s title. “When I was creating the project, I felt so free. I went to Africa, I came back, finished the songs, did this, and I felt like I’ve been home so long, away from jail and I still didn’t feel free. I got off parole, I was able to travel. [I said] ‘Nah, this is free at last. This music is free at last.’”
Commissary was catered to the streets by the pressure of his fans. Cas delivered exactly what his day-one followers wanted while still showing a more commercial friendly side to himself with tracks like “Left, Right” and “Go BestFriend 2.0” with G-Eazy and Rich The Kid. He explained that the freedom that he felt while creating Free At Last was a product taking the risk to do what he wants to do musically.
“I feel like Free At Last, I was able to do what I wanted to do, you know what I’m sayin? Commissary, I think I was doing it more for the fans instead of me. Everybody was like, ‘I want the gutta Cas,’” he said. “But sometimes, I wanna have fun too and make music. This project, I kind of gave everybody their own song to like.”
Free At Last, a collaborative effort with EarDrummers signee 30Roc, arrived in mid-February. He reiterated that the project was simply him immersing himself in the joys of being liberated, both mentally and physically.
Free At Last opens up with “Relapse” -- an aggressive yet introspective banger that finds Casanova reflecting of the street life from what seems like an intoxicated state. “I’m holdin’ court in these streets/ Keep that thang ‘cause I got beef/ Take your life, I’m a thief/ I’ma practice what I preach,” he raps on the hook. “They don’t know the pain/ They can’t see the tears/ Locked up in a cell/ Stressed for all them years.”
Casanova gets into his bag on his latest record, flexing his melodic delivery a lot more and showing signs of vulnerability. “Like Me,” which he recently released a video for, is the closest thing to a love ballad we’ve heard from Cas.
The project was led by the single, “2 AM” which features Toronto’s Tory Lanez and one of the leading figures in Afrobeat, Davido. Casanova’s relationship with Davido is deeper than music. The Roc Nation signee met with the Nigerian superstar after a show in New York City. From there, they developed a relationship that would later lead Casanova on a life-changing trip to Nigeria.
“When somebody tell you something, it’s different than when you see it with your own eyes,” he said . “I just think I just left Nigeria with a lot of weight off my shoulders. I used to always be ungrateful. That made me grateful, that made me thankful for the position I’m in. I’m signed to the Roc, I’m making money legally -- it just made me humble myself.”
“2 AM” wasn’t necessarily created with Davido in mind. After hailing down Tory Lanez to hop on the Afrobeat-infused track, Cas explained that 30Roc told him that he needed to get an afrobeat artist on the track. He admitted he was initially baffled by the idea of getting in the studio -- not because he wasn’t a fan but because he didn’t know where the lines between hardcore NY hip-hop and afrobeat would cross.
“They always tell me, ‘let’s get in the studio,’ but I was like, ‘what are we gonna record?’” He recalled with a laugh. “I got [2 AM] and I’m swingin’ with this. And he hit me right back.”
The Davido collaboration was another humbling moment for Cas. He admits he didn’t fully comprehend Davido’s celebrity until he landed in Africa.
“I saw blocks of people following him, running after him. I was like, ‘hold on. That’s dope.’ He’s just a real dude. He didn’t have to do that for me. He was good on his end.”
Casanova is an interesting case in the rap game. Hip-hop is undoubtedly a young man’s game, while he emerged in the game in his late 20s. He’s a new artist, technically, but he stands along some of hip-hop’s legendary figures. Signing with Roc Nation is a big move, not only as a rapper but as a Brooklynite.
Cas was among music’s elite at this year’s pre-Grammy Roc Nation brunch with the likes of JAY-Z, Beyonce, Kevin Hart, DJ Khaled, Diddy, and many others. Despite the high-profile celebrity guest list, Casanova definitely stood out. The rapper was the life of the party, busting moves while livening the spirit of the exclusive event -- he even reiterated that JAY-Z needs to give him his own section next year. Meek Mill, who was also in attendance, developed a friendship with Casanova over time -- resulting in his appearance in the Philly rapper’s “Intro” music video.
As Meek Mill campaigns for prison reform across America, Cas is also sharing an important message with the youth. The rapper recently revealed that he spoke at City Hall about the juvenile criminal system, a topic that’s had an impact on his own life. Although he admits that he and Meek never chopped it up about their social activism, he praised the Philly spitter commitment to raise awareness on the matter, especially knowing that there’s a lot at stake.
“I’m proud of him for what he’s doing. That’s great. It takes a lot to do that, it takes a lot of growing to do that,” he said. “Once you put your face on something like that, you really got to stay out of trouble so much more ‘cause there’s gonna be people looking at you as a role model, looking at you to bring you down -- a whole lot of stuff. I’m definitely happy for him.”
It’s undoubtedly been a busy year for Casanova but he’s only getting started. The rapper revealed that his debut album is already complete.
“This year y’all gon’ get that work, definitely,” he concludes, confidently. “And I think I’m just getting better and better and better at my craft, that’s all it is.”