One artist, who later became a friend and label mate, I knew I wanted to interview for this segment for a long ass time was Curly Castro. Matter of fact, he was the first person asking me to be interviewed for this segment! It appeared that my basic cable level of “artist-read internet blog” celebrity had preceeded itself (finally!).
This is how I met Castro: freestyling next to him on a Thursday night in a club that was one floor below a massage parlor. True story.
His delivery, confidence, and the jumprope length of his dreads reminded me of Saukrates. He was not only well versed in my project at the time, but a fan (not the bullshit dap and nod–I mean SHOUTING LYRICS!) of other acts on the bill that night. My Spidey Sense told me that this guy was different: secure enough to root for other artists he received no direct gains from, a true rarity in this field.
And from that point on, Curly Castro has been everywhere! Castro has indoctrined himself so wholly to the music scene of Philadelphia that I assume every show in the tri-state area, from poetry slams to Shakespeare in the park, will feature him doing something on stage with somebody. It’s like when you buy a car — you don’t realize how many other cars are on the road that are the similar make, model, year, and color as yours until you’re whipping it around on the daily. To say that he is a tireless, selfless contributor to hip hop is like saying The Clipse might’ve dabbled in a lil’ powder during their days in Virginia.
A year and change later, Castro is a Beat Garden artist, the first cat to drop a release with us that does not feature myself in any capacity (which is good because we needed time to cope with the Dodgers’ and Red Sox’s October failures). His first release, coupled with longtime collaborator and Philly gatekeeper DJ Ambush, is our first joint release with RockTheDub.com: Phatman & Likklebwoy. It’s time for Curly Castro to learn you something!
1. At what point did you realize music is what you wanted to do?
I guess as soon as i could hear the sounds around me. I am a tried and true product of the Hip-Hop generation. i was born in the Mecca of this thing we call Hip-Hop, New York, Brooklyn to be exact. And Hip-Hop was in the atmosphere during my upbringing. It was on the trains, on the walls, in the Bodegas, and on the radio consistently. So i guess my sub-conscious programmed hip-Hop into me real early. Or as they say in the illadelph- ERR’ ly!!!
2. How has New York/Philly shaped your sound and molded you as an MC?
New York is where my Handstyle, my Voice, and my Grit come from. Philadelphia is where my resilience, My creativity, and my competative nature come from, wrap that up in a nice leaf, and you got yourself an eMCee as malleable as Smoke. I took my hits in Philly as far as the business aspect goes, and i had my genesis in Medina. Split the difference, carry the 1ne Mic, and you get Castro, Curly that is.
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I first and foremost look up to my peers: Larry Guevara (my engineer who puts up with my shit), Beat Garden familia, JawnZap7, Triple Nickels, Al Mighty, Vixion, Jimmy Giambrone, 5 O’ Clock Shadowboxers , Public Axis, Dj Ambush, Ethel Cee, Flake Jones, Rokbottom, Writtenhouse, Akilles & the Oddicy (Rick Friedrich, Rah M. SunGee, Joe Balducci, El Smooth, & dj Dunson), Perry Lassin, Unless, John F.,Nickel Network, Bee Eater Records ( the afformentioned Ethel Cee, Fel Sweetenburg, Hustle Simmons) Douglas Martin, Doc Martin, C-Rock, Lastword, Eshon Burgundy, Slim DSM, the One Sun Lion Ra, Jay Grady, THOR Takeover Records, Verso, the list is quite massive (and can go on for a while longer).
Second and Secondary I look up to a select group of artists : De La Soul, Aesop Rock, Biggie Smalls, DOOM, El-Producto, Madlib, Flying Lotus, The Gas Lamp Killer, Cage, Cannibal Ox (first album), WU- TANG, Nasir Jones, Hova, Def Jux, Stones Throw, Rhymesayers, Weightless Records, this is a few but this list to can go the way of the neverending….
4. With everything you’ve learned so far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
I would have solidified the Curly Castro brand a lot sooner. I am so grateful for all my Hip-Hop experiences but i always sacrificed self for the greater good of the group. What i did not realize till now is that i had a voice that was in demand. I always let the fame fall to my current group at those times, but i should of simultaneously been carving out my own niche. Then i would not have to perform four times a week for folks to recognize! Lmao!!
I struggle with in this current day….”Complain-Rap” I can’t stand anything that doesn’t count towards activism. Key word ACTIVE. If you don’t like this or you don’t like that, in the music business, and all you do is complain and not do anything about it….KICK ROCKS SUN!!! I have a real hard time sympathizing with that type of mind and that lack of work ethic. Anybody that knows Castro, knows I don’t rest on my laurels or my past accomplishments, I WORK. Word to Daddy Kane!
6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major record label. What are the first three things you do as boss?
Get Distribution worldwide for Beat Garden. Get DOOM and Madlib to produce a record for me and do guest vocals as all 25 of their persona’s. Fire Myself and collect unemployment.
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
Illmatic, Bazooka Tooth, 1988 (Blueprint-look it up), The Shining, All of Coldplay’s albums, the entire Wu-Tang Catalog, Born Like This, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, The Slow Twilight, Dinner is Served, Small Metal Objects, Audio Visuals, We the People…, All the Clipse records, Uptown Saturday Night, Madlib’s entire Discography, Life After Death, None Shall Pass, Depart From Me, ……….
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
My main inspiration is My So-Called Life, Nah J/k. I take from a lot of sources, Film, Sports, Concrete Jungles, sprawling Metropolises, Gotham Cities, illadelphians, the Angst that floats within us all, the return of the Boom Bap, oh and Flying Lotus, Koushik, and Gas Lamp Killer beats.
9. What advice would you give someone getting into the music business at this time?
Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, Do it Yourself, and DO IT Yourself!
10. Any words to live by?
My Mama always told me “You Get What You Pay For….” Basically you get out what you put in. While I always say “bang. BANG Beat Garden!! Public AX(is)!
Curly Castro Primer
“The Rapping Simpsons” DJ Ambush & Curly Castro
DJ Ambush & Curly Castro “Keychains” MP3
DJ Ambush & Curly Castro “Summer of ‘77″MP3
*All tracks taken from the new mixtape Phatman & Likkle Bwoy via RockTheDub and Beat Garden.
This month has Castro rocking three shows. Check the mother site, BeatGardenSite.com, for all upcoming dates!