Casanova Talks ‘Left, Right’ & Leaving the Streets for Rap
In 2016, Brooklyn rapper Casanova had a hit on his hands. “Don’t Run,” a hard-hitting banger that illustrates the ruthlessness of street life, not only racked up 1.8 million viewson YouTube but landed a remix from fellow New York spitters Dave East, Fabolous, Young M.A. and Don Q and led to his eventual deal with Roc Nation.
Not too shabby for a gangster turned MC, who pursued hip-hop once the money started coming in and his family offered the kind of support he didn’t receive during stints behind bars. Before dropping his turn-up anthem “Left, Right” featuring Fabolous and Chris Brown on Friday (October 27), Casanova got candid about his flourishing career and finding peace in rap.
When was the moment you decided to pursue rap professionally?
Probably when I got paid to start doing it. At first, it was just me in the studio playing around, and then I started letting people hear [my music] in the car and they was like, ‘Who’s that?’ And I’m like, ‘You like it?’ And they like, ‘Yeah.’ This is ‘Don’t Run,’ and they like, ‘Yeah, I love it. This is dope.’ Then I started building my confidence. It started working out to my favor ‘cause everybody that didn’t expect me to rap was more happy for me to rap. At the time, I was in the streets and I’m like, ‘These rappers is broke. They ain’t got no money. They fraudin’. I don’t like them. They go to clubs, and they ain’t spend no money.’ So until I started getting paid to do it, I started saying, ‘This is the wave. You gon’ pay me to do what I been doin’ and havin’ fun?’ That’s when I kinda took it serious, when I just left everything that was bad alone and said I have to rap now.
When was the first time you wrote a song?
The first time I wrote a song was probably two years ago, just me in the studio playing around with my friends. Even then, I wouldn’t imagine me being here. I thought I would be so a mobster. That was my dream — to be the biggest gangster in the world. Once I saw [my rap career] was getting serious to where people were re-posting me, I had to make a decision. Should I take this serious or not? And then when the money was coming in, I was like, hell yeah, I’m gonna keep it going.
How did being from Flatbush shape you?
Being from Flatbush shaped me in every way, fashion or form because if you know Flatbush, it’s mixed with every culture. You got Jamaicans, Panamanians, Haitians, Bajans. It kinda made me into a people person ‘cause you know how to deal with everybody, every culture. I used to deal with a lot of hard times back then. It kinda shaped me like if I could deal with shoot-outs, being locked up, going to jail and just not caring, I could deal with somebody not doing what they promised. That’s the hard part about the industry is dealing with a lie, and you know it’s a lie but not being mad about it.
Describe the transitional period. You’re coming from the streets and get used to a certain way of life for a time because that’s all you know. When did you decide that you wanted to change up your lifestyle?
I really just decided that when I brought my daughter to the studio and I saw happy it made her feel. I didn’t want that feeling to go away. I was on the Party tour with Chris Brown, and I brought her on-stage with me. She was 8. [I told her], ‘Be careful. It’s a big stage. You might get nervous.’ And boy, was I fooled. In the midst of me performing, she’s running around on-stage, acting just like me, [doing] everything I do, every part of the song. I was shocked.
Right there, you could just tell I didn’t want to do nothing but do right by my family ‘cause when you dealing with the streets, it only takes any legal corrections officer to get lucky once and then you’re gone for years. I thought I was the best at whatever I did but I wasn’t the best ‘cause I always got locked up. That kind of just made me like, ‘I can’t do it again.’ Going through that process of missing your family or your family actually leaving you ‘cause they’re like, ‘I can’t do this jail stuff.’ I just did a documentary also and my mother even said [she] couldn’t do it. You gotta go through it to understand why they can’t do it. You have to go through corrections to go in [to the jail as a visitor] and they treat you like an inmate, like [make you] take off your bra [and ask] can you put your hands around your vagina, move it around, like little crazy stuff. At the time, I used to complain like nobody came to see me. But then, you get it. Nobody wants to deal with that, and now I get the good support and I love it.
What’s the goal with your music? What kind of story do you want to tell your fans?
I’m trying to be the biggest boss I could possibly be. I’m trying to rap, I’m trying to have my own record label, I want to change everybody’s perspective on life ‘cause you got a lot of people with talent but are afraid to take those risks. Like they don’t know if they want to quit this because they don’t know if rap’s going to make money. I just want to make sure I see or show that you can risk it all to follow your dream because I think that’s what I did. I was living in a big house, big car and I was like, ‘I don’t care about that street money. I’ma rap and I’m okay with it. ‘It may not be the same money I used to get but I’m okay now, I’m in a better space. I don’t wake up at night like who’s that? Did you hear that noise? I don’t have to circle the block before I park, worried about police. There’s no longer that [paranoia]. I’m out of the streets, and I’m out of the politics and drama that comes with it. Everywhere I’m at, I don’t expect to see somebody from my neighborhood. I’m just at peace.
What specific life experience inspired “Don’t Run”?
Being almost robbed. It comes with the game, especially when you in the streets. I wanted to give everybody that heart because in the club when [the song] come on, you could be white, you could be black, you could be a square, I just see [people repeating the hook], ‘They ain’t know I had the glock.’ I was just trying to give everybody that movie. You might have worked hard for something and somebody thinks they could just come and take it. That song meant so much to me because that was my everyday life. People trying to take stuff from me they felt I didn’t deserve. I used to take stuff from people, too, I thought they didn’t deserve and it happens. “Don’t Run” is just a stand. This is mine’s. Try to take it.
“Left, Right” is more of a party record. Where did that come from?
From the Party tour. Me, Chris Brown and Fabolous, O.T. Genasis were having fun and what I noticed was anybody that came out to perform on the tour, the fun records got the most love. So I was in the studio with Chris Brown and Fabolous, and we was just talking about how the Party tour was a vibe. That was the thing to do — go backstage, take a shot and hopefully you hit ‘em with the ‘Left, Right.’ I heard the beat from Scott Storch, and I’m like, ‘It needs this in it, it needs more fun.’ So I started making examples of what I wanted the beat to sound like. And when we got in the studio, we were just drinking. It was a lot of people there and everybody like, ‘You a thot.’ [Ed. Note: ‘Thot’ is an acronym that stands for ‘That ho over there.’] Your friend might call you a thot, knowing you’re not a thot. And what do you say after that? ‘You a thot, too.’ That was the vibe from the beginning.
On the tour, every day was turn-up day. I just wanted to show people I have a fun side. I’m tough but I have fun. They usually see me not knowing how to dance on my Instagram, and I just wanted to let them know you could have fun and be tough and serious. You don’t have to be mean and shoot up everything every time.
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