“This f–king Coco, f–king whatever Corn Puffs are hard as f–k. They stale,” Casanova says as he laughs while downing a heaping spoonful of Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal.
His debut studio album Behind These Scars is out and despite digging into a complimentary cup of stale cereal at the Billboard office in NY, the Brooklyn rapper won't let anything ruin his vibe. As he enters a new chapter in his career with Behind These Scars, Casanova is done being the tough guy.
With tracks like "Don't Run" and "Set Trippin'" Casanova has always been seen as the aggressive, give-no-f–ks type of rapper. Because of his brand of violent, shoot-em-up hip-hop lyrics, critics put the rapper in a box early in his career. Refusing to be pigeonholed, Casanova worked around the misconceptions and stretched his musical ear for more smooth, R&B-tinged songs like "Lie To Me" and the A Boogie-assisted "Down Bitch."
For his latest musical effort, the Brooklyn MC continues to peel back the layers as he brings listeners into a world that's more than just robberies and shootouts. Through 10 tracks, Casanova touches on several subjects like prison reform ("Jail Call"), mental health ("Live"), and love ("Could've Been Somethin'"). "There's not a lot of robbery or gangsta songs on this album," he says. "There's just one gangsta song and everything else is what I'm going through now. I'm just telling you how my scars happened—the physical ones and mental ones."
Regardless of the constant setbacks like getting banned from Rolling Loud NYC earlier this month for his checkered criminal past, Casanova is pushing through with his head held high. "People will always blame you for your past. I'm ok with that; I just have to fight harder. I have to do more to get recognized."
Billboard caught up and spoke to Casanova about Behind These Scars, showing his vulnerability, working with Young Thug and Gunna, the success of “So Brooklyn”, his thoughts on 6ix9ine and more. Check it out below!
Your last project before Behind These Scars came in the form of your Free at Last EP. What’s been going on since then?
I think I was finding myself. I kind of learned what my fans wanted and how I was going to feed them because some fans want gangsta music, some want that R&B, and now how I'm tuning in with the girls. With this project, I kind of like fed my fans instead of just doing what I wanted to do which is everybody getting shot the whole project. I would really study what songs they liked so instead of just putting out one song I put out four so they can get a variety of music instead of me just putting this out and they feel like I should have put out something harder.
Since getting off parole earlier this year, I see your passport is getting marked up. You’re going to Nigeria to link with Davido and then London to chill with Giggs. What is that doing to your artistry?
I ain't going to lie it's making me a little global. It's shocking but when I go out to these different places overseas and they recognize who I am, I'm shocked. Like right now I'm by myself and people can walk right by. But when you're out in London by yourself and they call out your name it's amazing and I love it. I think that's because I'm beginning to travel more and people are getting to know who I am now more than ever.
How is it changing the way you see the world now compared to when you were stuck in that bubble in Brooklyn?
It changed everything for me. That's why 50 Cent said to make sure you get all of your gangsta stuff out now. Write it and put it to the side because now there's not a lot of boom boom booms on Behind These Scars. I think the hooligan s–t was what I was going through then: in the field with the guns and this and that but once you start seeing s–t your music starts getting different. I think that's where I'm at right now.
Is there a genre you won't touch?
Nope. I actually hit up a DJ today asking for an EDM beat. I don't care, man.
Which DJ was that?
DJ Skrillex. I just hit him up today asking for an EDM beat. Again, I just vibe to anything. I'm not scared to try it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but at least I can say I tried it. Trust me I'm not scared to touch any genre.
What made Fab the best Brooklyn MC to collab with on “So Brooklyn”?
Fab is an OG. Musically, I think it goes Biggie, Jay-Z, and Fab. That's how I think it is. It's the way he represents Brooklyn. Everybody knows he's from Brooklyn and he's been carrying Brooklyn on his back for years. So I wouldn't want anybody else on that other than him on that original track. He's also always showed me love from the beginning. He's always embraced me whether I was right or wrong so that's my guy.
Have you reached out to Hov for a verse on the remix?
I did hit him up. But I didn't get anything back yet [laughs]. Hopefully, we can get Hov on there. There won't be no remix to "So Brooklyn" if Hov isn't on it. If Hov doesn't do it, it won't even be the Brooklyn remix that everyone wants. If it doesn't work, I might put the young boys on it or something. But if Hov do it? No one is getting a shot on that beat.
Did you ever think your “So Brooklyn” challenge would be this big to where older guys like DMX and Memphis Bleek hopped on it?
Nah. But again I think people don't rap anymore. So when you see people rapping you want to do it. That's an old-timers sport out rapping somebody. That doesn't come in this era. Who can battle rap in this era right now? I'm talking 25 and under that's actually lit that got f–king hit songs. Nobody can rap — like, go at it bar-for-bar. So I think this challenge brought the OGs and the real spitters that were hiding. Then I was mentioning them and posting them so they were getting followers, clout, and everything. I think everybody thought I was crazy — like, I mention them after they show their talent. They saw that and was like, bet.
Let’s get into this new album Behind These Scars. What was the inspiration behind it?
When you see somebody with scars you want to know how they got them. I'm always rapping and leaving out the pain. So people don't really understand what I went through or what I'm going through but I'm just bringing them into these scars and showing them what I'm going through. I'm showing you guys that I'm dealing with s–t just like you.
Last time we spoke you told me this was going to be your knockout punch after saying Commissary was the jab. Do you feel Behind These Scars is the knockout you want or you have a few more rounds to go?
I think this is going to sting them. It's going to get them dizzy. No one expected me and Gunna on a record. I didn't even expect myself to be talking about being so drippy. I think the more I'm around, I'm stealing. That's what's really going on here. I'm in the studio with Gunna and it gives me the heart to go on a hook and do it the way I did it. I would have done it regularly like talking but being in that studio made me want to try it. I have so much s–t to learn and grow from it's going to be trouble.
How’d you link with Young Thug and Gunna for "So Drippy"?
We went to the club and they go to the studio after the club. I go to the studio, then the club. It was weird. We were in there vibing, and then they're like, "Do you want to go to the studio?" We went to the studio and we made history. Thug and Gunna, they're geniuses. Thug is on a different level, especially with the melodies. He was doing his thing with the voices and I didn't get it. But when you press that playback button… [Laughs.] It's nuts.
You got “Woah” with Jeremih and “Coming Home” with Chris Brown. Do you feel you make better songs with R&B artists or by yourself with songs like “Why You Lie” or “Like Me”?
I don't know. I think jumping into somebody else's world with a verse of your own makes you a better artist period. I like trying things by myself too but again that's outside of my square. I think now it's ok because I'm letting them be them and me be me. Even on the Jeremih or Chris Brown s–t, I'm not changing myself. But if I was doing the Chris Brown part, I would've been more R&B-ish on the verse. It lets me be me when I just jump in and do the verse.
“Jail Call” is an emotional record. How important is it for you to still connect with those locked up in prison? Is that still a priority for you?
I'm always going to remember prison. It doesn't matter what happens, I can't get that out of my head. I'm always going to think about my friends there and what they're going through. That was my life for a long time so I can never forget that. I don't care where I'm at or what I'm doing — I'm always going to think about jail. That's why I'm still here, because I was always thinking about jail and other people werent. [Laughs.]
You’ve had bad blood with 6ix9ine, but patched things up before he went to jail. Do you think he can make a comeback and would you consider working with him?
No, I wouldn't do a song with him anymore. Me, period, not even for what they're accusing him or whatever the case may be, I just don't want any problems. No headache, no nothing, I just want to be in my own world.