[Photos by Ethan Pickett]
by Anthony Salupo |
Recently, two of Funkadelphia’s absolute favorites, lyrical wizard Cas One (Jacob Snider) and drumstep mastermind Figure (Josh Gard), released their collaborative hip-hop album, So Our Egos Don’t Kill Us: a record which perfectly encapsulates the aggrandizement of their artistic drive and their truly unique friendship that thrives on the constant belittling of each other. Gard’s complex drum patterns and bone-crushing basslines, which echo the signature style that he has developed over the years, accompanied with Snider’s articulate flow and stylistic diversity create one of the most unique and original hip-hop albums you willl ever hear.
Since it is impossible to ignore the raw emotional foundation and pure artistic innovation of this album when you listen to it, we wanted to focus on bringing you the inspiration for it: a story that is just as raw and powerful. Simply stated, the seed was planted with a friendship that began in the arcade during some Mortal Kombat and the roots grew and spread over the years through artistic ambition and trivializing each other. Then, the fruit that is this album flowered after the darkest rainstorms of heartbreak, when two friends decided to support each other through that darkness- not with trips to the bar or cheesy pep talks, but with music. Gard’s own advice regarding the termination of a serious relationship is to “run towards any light you can.” The light for these two artists was a change in routine and, ultimately, that change in routine was the creation of a sensationally remarkable album.
Real people with true hearts are usually deeply affected by the ending of a serious relationship. They are trapped, locked in the dungeon of continuing to live the same life they lived back when that life was not missing someone. Both Snider and Gard expressed that- in order to climb out of this figurative rut, they had to change something, anything, to alter the routine of “living in the same house as before and sleeping in the same bed with the same smells…” For Gard, that change was making music that made him feel youthful again. Since his primary focus was on dubstep at the time, he switched over to creating hip-hop beats, which he used to dabble with when he was younger. The transition was not hard, as it was more of a choice to create this album as opposed to an obligation.
“I didn’t need to make this album, I wanted to make this album. So I made the album, for the sake of making the fucking album. That was that. I’m not worried about the money, I’m not worried about the sales or the shows. I wanted to make a fucking album with Jake, so that was it.”
-Josh Gard (Figure)
After a while, the album was put on pause as Gard felt the expression he put into it improved his mental state; so he put his focus back on his electronic career. Meanwhile, Snider had his focus on his family: his wife and kids, and was unsure on whether or not he would ever put out another album. However, when his divorce happened Snider needed the same type of change in routine that had helped his friend. So, he clawed out of his rut of work, exercise, and self-help books and put his pen to his journal and proceeded to bleed lyrics all over the pages.
The duo was eager to exprees how much signing with Strange Famous meant to them. Label founder, Sage Francis, was interested in Snider’s first album, The Monster in the Wishing Well; but the timing just was not right for the release. This time around, Sage is featured on the album, along with fellow label member B. Dolan; longtime friends Bitter Stephens and Sean Little; and the legendary Del the Funky Homosapien. When Snider showed Sage some of the tracks he was working on with Gard, he had only one response, “we want it.”
Sage is someone these two both look up to and he is more than just their label owner; he is someone whom they have admired for years, and now he has become a friend to them, being one of the first people outside of Jacob’s inner circle to reach out after his divorce. There is more than just a business relationship here, when the say Strange Famous Family… they mean it.
“The whole thing with Sage is insane with me because I grew up on hip-hop, he’s one of our heroes. It was insane to me when he started following me on twitter… then it got to the point where he’s like this record is fucking great…”
-Josh Gard (Figure)
Snider’s repertoire of story-telling, poetic density, creative metaphors, and societal criticism is exactly the type of hip-hop for which Strange Famous is known. He expressed that he wanted to bring the full spectrum of his personality through on this album, for he is someone who values humor and is a rather lively person. This side to his artistry is a perfectly balanced counterweight to his powerfully dark tracks. Good art comes from love; great art comes from pain; but the best art comes from both.
“I think there’s value in empathy, I think empathy is the most important thing in the world, otherwise it’s just people not giving a shit about each other, they don’t know how to figure other people out unless they can put their self in someone else’s shoes.”
-Jacob Snider (Cas One)
We had the tremendous opportunity to travel to Evansville, Indiana for the Cas One vs. Figure Hometown Throw Down. It is always nice to leave a big city atmosphere and discover the lifestyle’s of some of the country’s different urban settings. While Evansville is not a big town, it is certainly not the smallest and it definitely does not lack culture and life. The quaint town of Evansville is home to many Museums, Science Centers, and Music Venues. Main St includes many humble local businesses, including Wired, a coffee shop near where Josh beat up his first bully. He claims the kid was bigger than he was… sure. The Ford Center downtown to the University of Evansville to Lamascos is all within a 15 minute drive.
Lamascos, where all the magic would happen, is a traditioned bar and music venue that has been an Evansville staple since 1934. It is the type of place where the bartenders know your name as soon as you walk in; and, if they do not, they are sure to befriend you while they are pouring your first drink. According to patrons, it is the “best bar in Evansville.” The intimate setting of this local gem was the perfect atmosphere for the unbelievable performance that would eventually take place. The walls are covered with framed posters of the many acts Lamascos has hosted over the years- with live musical performances about 250 nights out of the year- as well as game that was shot by the owner, Amy, herself.
The sold-out show was exactly what Snider & Gard had hoped for in their hometown; but, a sold-out show on a Thursday night during finals week is all the more impressive. The room was packed to the brim and the line for the bar was to the door even before freestyle extraordinaire Dope Knife took the stage. He performed tracks from his new album NineteenEightyFour as well as a freestyle completely based off of audience suggestions- which happened to be Joe Rogan in a nursing home stealing drugs. The legendary DJ Abilities was next to follow along with and Strange Famous elder B. Dolan. Each act was shown tremendous love in anticipation of the night’s honorary headliners.
When it was finally time for Cas One vs. Figure, the energy in the room was so powerful it was impossible to ignore. In the performer’s own words, it was “the best show because of the energy and the amount of people,” something that they could really feel. Snider brought friends Bitter Stephens and Sean Little to perform their contributions to the album and Gard’s mom was in the crowd along with a herd of both their friends and fans. There was not a still body in the entire crowd as the two friends began their performance which, in regards to this new album, consists of them ripping their hearts from their chests and showing them to us.
After the show is when we were granted the privilege of listening to Snider and Gard playfully degrade one another while also demonstrating the powerful bond they share. These two certainly are not nice to each other, but they do not have to be because they are real friends, whether they would have you believe that or not. We were told by Bitter Stephens, who considers these two his closest friends, that this project could not have been more appropriately named. By sticking a “vs.” in between their solo project names, they created a moniker that successfully embodies the friendly conflict that feeds their friendship and emphasizes the duality that surrounds their personalities and their artistry. So Our Egos Don’t Kill Us demonstrates, not that they are egotistical (which they are), but that they are their own worst enemy and, in order to survive, the only person they had to conquer was themselves.
Musically, this album is innovative, unique, poetic, and powerful. But, when you view this entire project as a message, or rather, an accumulation of experiences and emotions presented in a precise work of art, you begin to see the TRUE influence of it. Between life-long friendship, familial emphasis, emotional hardship conquered through sheer perseverance and spirit, tears, laughter, and empathy through artistic creation… So Our Egos Don’t Kill Us transcends from being a phenomenal hip-hop album to becoming an icon for what it means to be alive.
Be sure to check out some of the funniest and most influential moments from the interview below, along with the the album So Our Egos Don’t Kill Us available for purchase here.
Do not miss The Four Horseman Tour tomorrow, May 6th, at Kung Fu Necktie!! Get your tickets here.