Who is Casisdead, and why should you be listening to him?
Casisdead is an oxymoron. He’s a music artist from Tottenham who’s largely recognised for being unrecognisable. No one knows what Casisdead looks like. No one knows who he is. Casisdead has gained a strong, underground reputation for spitting ridiculous bars, but it’s a spit that flecks the inside of a rubber mask.
When Casisdead appeared in 2012, he did so in a red and black skull mask. Since then he’s emerged in a rubber, muscle-tissue disguise, which then gave way to a hyper-realistic faux-face. His appearance can evolve, and his masks have varied, but there is one consistent message: Casisdead doesn’t want to be seen – he wants to be heard.
So what is he saying? Casisdead’s lyrics cover a lot of topics we’ve come to expect from the Grime scene. He depicts himself as a man prone to violence; he deals drugs, is brutal to his clients, and has scrapes with the law. But unlike a lot of artists, these aren’t a series of vague boasts; Casidead sets himself apart with his use of specific narrative:
I rise at 5 o’clock,
Drive right down to the dock,
To see a man about a dog.
But this might come as quite a shock,
But I’m selling rock.
There are conventional rappers like Jay-Z who speak about the necessary crimes in their past, but Casisdead speaks with seeming delight about the crimes he continues to commit. Casisdead is having fun with it; still pushing drugs, still breaking the law. And this probably explains the mask.
When I was about eight-years-old my older brother gave me a single he no longer wanted; it was Slipknot’s ‘Wait and Bleed’. I smiled reluctantly and placed it beside my one other CD at the time – the Disney rendition of ‘Hey Mickey!’ – undoubtedly a traumatic experience for the mouse. Eventually I said Goodbye Mickey and began listening to the heavier stuff. For the TV show ‘Artsnight’, Corey Taylor, lead singer of Slipknot, said that the mask was a “physical representation of the person inside of me who just never had a voice”. For Corey Taylor it was a way to keep himself free artistically. For Casidead, there seems to be more to it – it seems he’s trying to keep himself free, literally. His mask isn’t a gimmick; it’s a necessary prop for sincerity. It keeps us in the loop, and him out of prison.
Or does it? How do we know Casidead is the real deal, and not some imposter trying to con us all? Since we don’t know his name, how can we verify the details of his life?
Again, the specificity of his lyrics seems to validate his persona. Casisdead describes a ferocious lifestyle of drugs and violence, whilst maintaining a normalcy, and it’s this depth and duality that helps sell his actions:
Here’s an insight into my life,
Constant arguing with the wife,
Cos I keep cutting the leng with her bread knife.
This juxtaposition between the masked actions of the violent drug dealer, and the description of a day-to-day domestic life, help legitimise Casisdead as an authentic person. This isn’t glamorous stuff attempting to impress, this seems to be his reality. Rap and Grime are over-flowing with self-congratulation; there are plenty of artists who seem overly keen to state their worth, but Casidead’s attention to the seemingly trivial highlights him as someone who doesn’t care what you think. In fact, he actively dislikes those who do crave validation:
I don’t care for those who floss,
Big fake watch: Tom & Cross.
Blud my clothes ain’t even washed,
Vans so old they’re growing moss.
Not that Casisdead isn’t guilty of the odd brag. But just when you think he’s adhering to one of those typical, boastful clichés, like scoring women:
I got this young chick waiting for me at home,
And she knows to only answer to me alone,
You’ll hear Casisdead will laugh on the track:
And it’s not because I’m handsome no,
It’s ‘cos her parents aren’t responding to the ransom note.
Casisdead is always brilliant at maintaining opposites; he’s villainous, but he’s funny. He’s disguised, yet transparent. And he’s authoritative, but has the capacity to be vulnerable.
It seems that the mask provides Casidead with an opportunity to be unguarded, something that’s difficult to achieve if you also want to maintain an atmosphere of intimidation. Casidead is one of the rare few who can achieve both. Similar to an anonymous confessional booth, Casisdead’s persona allows him to release personal details, without undermining the authority he needs to maintain his misdeeds. In his tracks he has spoken of relationship and addiction problems, sometimes simultaneously:
My bird left me,
Cos I’m a bastard.
It was love but,
It never lasted.
I’m getting past it.
When the energy drops like this, and the language becomes harder and forms a harsh reality, Casidead appears particularly authentic.
It’s obvious that a lot of artists act up, or have entirely cultivated their image. Ironically, those who display their face are far more likely to pull a fake expression. The benefit of a mask is that the features remain unchanged – it’s harder to project falsehood through plastic and rubber. Casisdead doesn’t mean-mug the camera – he doesn’t need his audience to believe his life or buy into his antics – the impression he gives, is that he will continue them regardless.
Within a music culture that boasts a lot of, well, boasting, Casisdead’s anonymity is refreshing. He’s clearly not in it for the fame. He doesn’t even want you looking at his face. But if you pay attention to his timeline of disguises – from the basic skull, to the muscle tissue, to the rubber face – you’ll notice that Casisdead seems to be adding an extra layer of flesh each time. Maybe the final face will be his own, and he will eventually reveal all. But, yeah, that’s probably unlikely – aside from anything else, it just seems like he’s having far too much fun to give it up. Still joking, still kidding.