It’s like Yelawolf said: don’t be so easily impressed, in ’93 you had to rap. So my endorsement of Curly Castro came with reservations. I’ve watched the Philly via Bucktown rhymer go berserk live, seen him match Scribble Jam champ Nocando in a cipher, and enjoyed both of his mixtapes — but to use an odious cliche, his music rarely transcended. Listening to his songs, you sensed great potential: a singular identity, smarts without sophistry, and raw rhyme skill. Amounted together it was worth keeping tabs on, a luxury car with a broken transmission being sold at a police auction.
The auteur theory not only dogs film criticism, but all forms of artistic analysis. Too often we give credit to the monomaniacal vision, the unshakable determination of one artist forging gems in isolation. But whether it’s Max Perkins guiding Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or the other Wolff, or a film crew of gifted talents, or the special alchemy yielded from a particular producer/rapper combination, most great art is collaborative. So it’s difficult to disassociate Castro’s hot streak from Zilla Rocca’s recent run. I’ve watched both evolve drastically in the last 18 months, to the point where Sach is sending me e-mails saying, “fuck nepotism, this is too good not to proselytize for.” And as this week’s profile in the Philadelphia City Paper noted: you never get tired of hearing Castro rap.
Zilla and Castro’s partnership is symbiotic. It’s afforded the former a fluidity and tough-mindedness that his music had formerly lacked. While Zilla’s terse poetics and funereal tones have allowed Castro to find his own voice. Less sidekick than twin gunman. The off-kilter dreadlocked prophet spewing weird sayings and wild prophecies. But in my mind, it didn’t fully cohere until I heard “Minefield,” the lead single off Castro’s forthcoming Fidel. Over a psychedelic Spaghetti Western platter reminiscent of “High Noon,” Castro “emerges from a black hole singed by the sunlight/umbilical cut by a stray from a gun fight.” I demanded that they let me post it. So I am. Sergio Leone meets Sliders meets the warped mind of Kinte McDaniel. Highly explosive material. Who knew that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?