Curly Castro is one of my favorite people to interview. We can be chatting about his music and then wind up on a long tangent about Cold War history, or the character dynamics of Wu-Tang Clan, or mass media consolidation. He’s a super insightful character, in addition to being a thought provoking Philadelphia rapper. His new album Fidel is out this week on Man Bites Dog Records, and he celebrates with a show tonight in his native Brooklyn at The Legion. Last week, we sat down talked about the progression the new record took from Castro’s 2011 debut Winston’s Appeal, a certain storied laundromat at 6th and Girard and how his outlook parallels both Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash. Read more below.
The Key: One thing I like a lot about Fidel is the move from a first person narrative to more satirical, theatrical elements. Like “Starch” and “Colored Water Fountain” – they feel like sketches set to music, with an underlying message. How did this element come to be?
Curly Castro: Well, most of the songs especially on this one were dictated by the beat. I don’t know if its an epiphany or anything but certain things come to mind when I’m listening to a beat. So with “Colored Water Fountain,” that came about because I wanted to sing on my record. I don’t write many songs, I mostly write raps, but I wanted to try it. And so I don’t know what came about, but I started doing the Louis Armstrong voice – that’s me doing that! And once I started doing that voice, the words came for the song. I said allright, what’s the most, like you said, satirical way to get my point across? To symbolize how there are some white extremeists that have very staunch racial views, but they love black culture somehow. So it’s like, okay, come on down to my restaurant, you can have all the black food you want, you can dive in all you want, and then at the end I pull the rug out.
TK: “You’ve all been poisoned…”
CC: Yeah. The song made me think of a juke joint, the song made me think of the Cotton Club. And the dichotomy of the Cotton Club is that some of us were the main performers, but we had to come in through the back door. You could talk to people, they could be fans and come see you on stage, but if they want to see you after, you got to leave out the back and they leave out the front. So I was also thinking of a restaurant like that, but turning Jim Crow and segregation in its tail – making it the Colored Water Fountain. Like Tavern on the Green, there’s the opulunce to it.
TK: And what about “Starch”?
CC: Well, there’s this infamous laundromat at 6th and Girard. It seems like its open all the time, there’s this weird light emanating, there’s not many attendants after 10:00, and there’s all types of seedy activity that goes on there. They sell DVDs there, behind the glass. So I thought what if I was at laundromat one night, what could happen. But then I thought I want it to be a story, I want it to be circular. So I got Boogie Mandela on there, who’s doing really nice things in the city these days. And I got the legendary Has-Lo on there. When people hear it, hopefully they get its not too deep. But I think that those stories would be told best in that vein. And also, there’s the underlying issues – even with “Starch,” it’s about gentrification, enablers being all jacked up. And people in personal space. And people with germophobia. Continue reading →