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If you’re a fan of Waka Flocka Flame, you know all about Clayton County. The Atlanta suburb was shouted out often by the trap trailblazer on his rise to the top, but it may see a new representative soon in Toronto transplant Ca$tro Guapo. Most rappers wouldn’t think to leave Atlanta to pursue a music career anywhere else, let alone Toronto. But that’s exactly where 18-year-old rapper Ca$tro Guapo finds himself after he came to The North for an acting gig at 16 and never left. “I like it. It’s that blend of a bunch of different people from a bunch of different places,” says Ca$tro of Toronto. “The city blends all that shit together and just finds a common ground.”
Born in 1996 as Miguel Tyndale, the young actor-turned-rapper carries a sunny disposition wherever he goes. Maybe it’s the puka shells hanging from his hair twists or the fact that he seems to perpetually be checking his fingernails for dirt, but the young artist never seems like he cares too much about anything. But that all changes when he takes the stage alongside his CMDWN Collective, who have been in the local spotlight recently after crashing stages at NXNE and opening for Father and Keith Ape. This shift in energy comes easily for Ca$tro, who sees his level of “turned up” as being the norm in his American hometown. “The energy level that you guys have over here in your clubs is nowhere near as high as the ones in Atlanta, there’s no way.”
Ca$tro learned how to rap by watching his cousin in Atlanta, who would make music in his spare time while the two were in school. He didn’t start releasing songs until he arrived in Toronto, feeding on the scene’s admiration for outsiders. He describes Toronto as unique because of feeder towns and high fashion. “You could have a party and have people coming out from Barrie, Woodbridge, Mississauga, all parts of this bitch that do different things. You’d have a group of people that farm, you’ve got your group from school and they just do school shit, this is their one night out, you’ve got people who are into high fashion that wear Rick Owens and shit and everyone looks up to them. You guys all get together in one place and you guys just get fucking lit.”
In addition to this culture shock, Ca$tro also notices a difference in the way artists from Atlanta and Toronto work in the studio when it’s time to record. “I’m used to a high energy level when I go to record, and the system that I use to make music goes off of a feeling, like I know that this will be a hit when I make it.” Coming into the scene with a salvo of hits, including “What’s Her Name” and “We Are Not,” Ca$tro says he never takes more than a day to record a song. ”You play me the beat, and I’m in there—and you’ve got me and Pope, Teo, and FIJI just kicking it—and we forget that we’re in the studio.” This devil-may-care attitude stands in stark contrast to Toronto’s scene, which Ca$tro believes suffers from over-thinking at times. “[In Toronto] they polish it to the point where it’s like ‘oh I’m afraid to sound like this.’ The thing is that an artist should want imperfection. When I make music and something’s off, it doesn’t matter if it’s off because that may add to the song.”
Similar to Waka Flocka Flame, Ca$tro isn’t fighting to be seen in a serious light. His raps toe the line between comedy and threatening, and often times when he threatens you, you’re not sure if he’s being hyperbolic or serious. Atlanta rappers have been funny since the days of Ludacris, which is a tradition Ca$tro wants to continue. “Over here especially, I don’t hear comedy too much. If it’s funny like RamRiddlz, you would instantly think it’s adopted from another culture. When he says ‘she can’t handle my wiener’ it’s hilarious to me! So the fact that he wasn’t afraid to go in there, he’s not like ‘this bar has to be like this, everything has to go strategically.’ No! Don’t make music homework, it doesn’t have to be homework. It’s music and it’s for your enjoyment.”
We spoke to the young rapper about the differences between his adopted hometown and Atlanta in preparation for CMDWN’s opening set at Keith Ape’s concert.
Noisey: When did you decide that you wanted to go into music?
Ca$tro Guapo: I have a cousin that I lived with when I was in Atlanta—his name is Casey—but we’ve basically been together all our lives. I’ve always been around him, and he used to be like “Miguel, freestyle with me,” and I’d probably just say some dumb shit because we were having some fun and cooling. He had built a studio into our house in Atlanta, so I would be trying to sleep at three in the morning, and you’d hear him mixing his own shit, and I was thinking that this was dope as hell.
What was Atlanta’s rap scene like?
All I’d see were rappers. Everyone wanted to be a rapper. It’s just like, why the fuck would you go through all of this just so you could do what everybody else is doing? Like I was really thinking, what chance do you have? I’m like ‘yo this shit looks hard as fuck,’ but the end result was so great. When you hear the finished product and you know that you had no sleep, nothing but just energy drinks, some blunts, and that’s it, you created something that was great, something that could shift someone’s mood from being unhappy to happy.
Did Casey have a lot of fans?
He had a lot of fans, but he was rapping and also doing school, right. And the way it was in our house, that school shit comes first. His mom did not give a fuck about music. If you want the music to come first, you wanna rap and do all that stuff, make sure the grades are there. Casey didn’t exactly have the formula, but he had the music background. His dad was a musician, his brother was a producer, his sister was a singer, and these were the people that I was always around.
What was your cousin’s influence like in your life?
Anything he did, I’d be like ‘yo that’s fucking cool as hell.’ That’s just where it all came from, he had friends with him and they’d perform. One time they had a music video at a house party I was at, and I was in it, and I was like ‘look at the energy in this room.’ That was my first time ever seeing some shit like that. This was at an Atlanta house party, and it’s not like Gucci Mane or Waka, it’s my cousin that’s got everybody like this. I was like, ‘now I see why you’re putting in all this work.’
And how is Toronto different?
It’s like, this high fashion thing about downtown with Rick Owens and Raf Simons stuff, but in Atlanta it’s not like that. In Atlanta it’s like True Religion, Gucci, Giuseppes, that shit that Soulja Boy raps about, that shit you hear about in songs. That’s the shit that I knew about. So when you drop yourself in a completely different circle, you’re seeing shit in a different light. I remember saying like ‘yo I don’t know if I could ever rock some shit like that, I don’t really understand it.’ And then you start to understand it, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be cool just because everybody else likes the shit, it’s just like that fact that this is y’all culture, this is quality, that’s why you buy these Rick Owens for $700 or $900.
What’s the Atlanta mentality?
I wasn’t rapping in Atlanta. I never had to go to the studio, the only time I went to the studio was a studio at my house and my cousin’s studio, and it was more or less hard work. But it’s crazy because the energy level that I’ve seen when my cousin was in the studio, it’s almost like a concert in the studio. You can really channel people’s emotions with your music because you’re really in here, you’re in the studio, and you guys are in the studio and you guys are going nuts, and you haven’t even made nothing yet. But you know the potential it has, it’s a crazy feeling. The difference in the two cultures is, Toronto culture, you guys thirst for that same ignorance, but it’s more expensive, it’s of a higher value. You guys are gonna pay $20 to get into the club, but that club is gonna be lit. You go to Atlanta, I could pay $3 and get into a house party, but that shit gonna be fucking lit. That’s just really what it is, you guys pay more for it, it's hard to explain. When I first came out here and I went to the club and I seen the energy, I couldn’t really believe it.
What’s missing in Toronto?
You guys have a rich culture, but I feel like it really lacks that unity. It’s the “screw face” capital or whatever you call it. People hate for no fucking reason, people just hate on people that are trying to make moves and shit. You guys just hate because… shit I still don’t know why these motherfuckers hate. Like if I could really boil it down, it’s really just a jealousy thing. You feel like ‘how’s this guy any different than me?’ and for me it’s slightly easier, because I’m not from here, so hate on me all you want. What are you gonna hate on? I’m not like you. Everyone says ‘you’re from America, it’s different.’ When you guys are from the same place, you guys look at it like ‘he’s no better than I am because we both can’t make it.' The thing about Atlanta that people don’t realize is that we’re welcoming. If you’re a cool nigga and you from somewhere else, you’ll get love and they’ll accept you like you’re one of their brothers. That’s that unity where it doesn’t matter.
What things that are happening in Toronto that people from Toronto should be proud of?
Toronto is so weird but it’s so cool. You got people that are tatted the fuck up, you’ve got hipster-type people. It’s just so crazy, so unique. The American culture, you can find that shit all over America. Your culture can’t be found anywhere else but here. So that’s why for me, the first time I ever hit the club, I still have an ignorance to me where I like to get lit and some people could look at me and think that I’m obnoxious, but I’m just trying to get lit, so I don’t care what you think. Stop caring what other people think and just try to enjoy yourself. When you start doing shit like that, it goes from ‘oh he’s so obnoxious’ to ‘oh he looks like he’s having a fucking blast!’ That’s where it comes from on stage too, like I change into a completely different person. That energy has to be there. I don’t look at it like I’m singing to a crowd, I look at it like I’m a part of the crowd, I’m gonna get lit with everybody and get everybody on my same level of energy. I’m just going to rap to my fans. I want you guys to feel like you’re at a fucking house party in Atlanta with the same ignorance, only difference is I got a fucking mic.
So what does your future look like?
I mean I’m gonna continue making music, and I’m gonna continue to try to do exactly what I’m doing now. But if anything I’m gonna take this shit to a completely global aspect where it’s like… it’s sick to be hot in your city, but you don’t wanna just be hot in your city, you wanna be hot everywhere. You’ve gotta bring the music to the people, so you bring the music to the people in other places. I want to appeal to that Japanese culture because they love hip-hop, trap, and all that shit. The type of music that I make is high fashion trap music. So in Japan that they love shit like that. I’m gonna make a song, and instead of me just being one-sided and like just having them bump my shit, I’m gonna spit some bars in Japanese. And people are gonna be, like, ‘What? How’s a nigga from Atlanta doing crazy shit in Toronto rapping bars in Japanese?’ It’s all about creativity because I’ve always been a creative dude, you feel me, it’s just like how far are you willing to let your creativity take you? I’m willing to let it take me as far as I can go. But other than that it’s just the reception that I get from the city is great. You cannot make music and shove it down people’s throats.
Slava Pastuk is the Editor of Noisey Canada. Follow him on Twitter.