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Famous Last Words confirms CASISDEAD's individualistic legacy is untouchable

"Famous Last Words"

Release date: 27 October 2023
CASISDEAD Famous Last Words cover
01 November 2023, 09:00 Written by Steven Loftin

The future is bleak, and CASISDEAD knows this.

Painting an apathetic-rich vision, the Tottenham MC is gunning for full-bodied immersion for his debut album. Famous Last Words is Cas examining life’s crevices and dark corners, sleekly exposing humanity's flaws and greed.

A long time coming, the mysterious – but incredibly compelling – Cas has been an enigma for decades. Since first rising to underground prominence as Castro Saint before undergoing a mythos makeover as Cas, and now CASISDEAD, mixtapes and freestyles sporadically appeared – culminating in 2013's The Number 23. The throughline on every step has been the masked voice consistently remaining beyond parameters followed by many of his peers, instead choosing the path less beaten – jazz samples instead of pop dominance, and gang land relishing with actual lyrical prowess. After disappearing in 2017, his reemergence proper with Famous Last Words is a solid reminder of Cas' talent in bringing concept and musical ambition together, undoubtedly hitting his mark.

As beats bleed into each other – often shapeshifting from luxurious to curb-hardened – with neon-soaked synths, the future CASISDEAD posits is one rooted in his reality – or as far as is determinable. With production by Stranger Things composer Kyle Dixon, and Italians Do It Better founder Johnny Jewel, the 80s are in gruesomely beautiful abundance.

Interspersed cinematic scenes featuring Ed Skrein and Emma Rigby as Alpha and Omega – thickened out by the accompanying short-film reaching music videos – perform the bulk of the conceptual work. Unveiling the overarching story of a dystopian society in the grasp of an apathy-inducing drug (Aghast 6), they wrap around Cas' offerings bolstering them with a fourth dimension, including an Ant-laden analogy monologue by Rigby.

Various singles from the last six years are peppered throughout – including his surprise 2017 Christmas day drop "Pat Earrings" – establishing a hefty timeline for Famous Last Words. Finally getting the light of day, with many rumoured reasons for the delay – from Cas’ health to the pandemic – this all plays into the mystique of this clandestine icon, but setting the foundations over such a period allows for a realised fleshing out where every moment feels a prerequisite on top of the familiar sounds.

Multiple vignettes of speeding, drug trafficking, and everything that colours the underworld play out with full-throttle focus. While these motifs may feel repetitive, Cas’ lyrical style gives each new encounter a fresh feeling, soaking you in his world till you're checking the review mirror for blue lights. The real craft comes when spinning numerous yarns of dangerous liaisons (“Acting Up”), more public affairs (“Boys Will Be Boys”), and a dalliance with a bipolar love ("Venom" a part played with honeyed innocence by Dora Jar), all with an empathetic tone. He's ready to admit his part in the game, or at the very least ready to give everyone their moment in court. It’s in this aspect that Famous Last Words shines through its grimy night – but redemption is a fickle game.

Tracing the lines of excess to consequences – the excellently pop-laden sultry hook of “Pineapple Juice”, alongside “Loosin’”, and “Steptronic” lead the front half's indulgences – Cas hammers home with his authoritative tone, emptying personality and experience into his bars the reality of this twisted playground. It’s a maturation that never abandons his whip-smart wordplay ("Psychopath on the cycle path") as he still savours in the darkness with a feverish delight. But, it embraces them alongside the brutal knowledge that time brings. The Connie Constance featuring “Marilyn” deals with the pressures of fame, while "Traction Control" embellishes the cold winter that excess can bring, solidified in its final hook: "I don't wanna live forever / I just wish I could decompose." What’s fact or fiction is up for debate but when the results are this impressive, it doesn’t matter.

The album's final act – tear-jerker “Skydive”, featuring Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant – finds the posturing-heavy cuts catching up to Cas as he alludes to an eventual fatal attraction while aiming at the musical legacy being diluted around him. Cas' is the kind of futuristic rooted in the past (think Back To The Future 2), where the classics reigned supreme and innocence was sweeter, but, as the scene plays out, acceptance is all that's left: “I used to think I played the game / Now I have to take the blame”

There’s no doubt there are traces of the real Cas rooted in the album's framework. Multiple nods to health issues, whether reality or fiction are unignorable. But the only real blueprint we see are his cultural references; Terminator ("Sarah Connor"), Bowie (“Traction Control“), Prince (“Before This“), Californication’s Hank Moody ("Sugar Free"), Eastenders’ Pat Butcher ("Pat Earrings”), to recall a few. Each holds its own in this futuristic, obscene, and dramatic 80s soundtrack, providing a glimpse of the man behind the mask (the eagle-eyed may have even noticed a Kate Bush poster in his bunker for the "Matte Grey Wrap" video).

Truly, this is a fascinating glimpse into the creative mind of one of the UK’s most clandestine yet unstoppable forces. Famous Last Words confirms that CASISDEAD's individualistic legacy is untouchable.

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