When you put a microscope on the music scene in Chicago, you’ll find a treasure chest of talented emcees. I’m not biased because I’m coming from the Chicagoland area. I’m clearly speaking facts—case in point, Cassius Tae.
He’s not the typical style you would expect coming from the birthplace of “Drill” music. Honestly, trying to describe his style can be a bit complex, according to Cassius Tae. “I don’t consider myself a lyricist. Or even a conscious rapper. I just tell my emotions through my raps,” says Tae. “Rap is just a medium. If I could sing, I would sing my emotions.”
I had the privilege to converse with Tae to discuss his music. And what I found out about Cassius; he’s an evolution of self.
Ali: What’s good big dog?
Cassius: I’m good. How are you?
I’m chilling, just taking it day by day. So you’re coming off a dope collaboration with another Chicago artist, LaJé. What was the vibe like working with her?
Cassius: We got really good creative chemistry. When we linked for “Blind,” she had played me other songs she wanted me to feature on. She ended up scraping them, but it was cool for her to even see me on them. When it came down to the video and the songwriting process, it was elevated. It wasn’t us just selling a song; we were selling a look. We were selling a feel.
No doubt. So getting into your music. You’ve recently released a single titled “Self.” One of the things I’d want to ask you about is Reinvented Pictures. I notice that on all your videos, which are pretty dope. They directed the. IS Revented Pictures something you created? Or are they another team of creatives that you enjoy working with?
Cassius: Honestly, people ask me all the time, like how do you know them? Can you get me in contact with them? I never tell them this, but that’s my brother. He’ll ask if I have a song because he has an idea. Then I’ll go through my catalog. Or I tell him I have an idea for a video. We grew watching the same stuff and liking the same stuff. So the creative process is easy.
Describe your creative process? Do you think of dope lines throughout the day and then em’ write it down once you get to your lab? Or are you freestyling?
Cassius: It’s pretty much that. I think, too, I have premeditated concepts. I’ll have premeditated things I want to talk about. So I’ll jot them down on my note pad. My producer will have a beat. And, with me putting my emotions down in my notes, when it’s time to hear the beat, it really shines. Sometimes I do write down one-liners. I do have notes of one-liners. But that’s for when I’m in the studio with someone, and they want a feature. Then I’ll just exercise that, instead of coming up with something right then and there. It’s like yeah, I got stuff, we can do this.
Do you ever go into the studio and freestyle?
Cassius: I ain’t going to lie; that’s how “Self” was made. I actually freestyle a lot of songs. I’ll know for a fact it’s about to be a song. When I go in there, hit record and don’t stop it. I’ll listen to it and be like yeah, it sounds good to me. I’ll ask if it sounds good to my producer. They’ll be like yeah, and I’ll be like, cool, let’s roll it wit it. I do freestyle a lot of music, but not for words—more for the flow.
Can you talk about “Self.” What’s the concept behind it?
Cassius: At the time, I focused on being a better person for the people around me. Like if you did something wrong to me. I’ll react to in a way that I feel I have to do you worst than you did me. I’m just trying to do something meaningful with the amount of time we have. Time stops differently for other people. You never when it’s your time. So it’s like while we’re here, let’s work on bettering ourselves.
From your first single “Maybe Maybe,” to “Self,” how do you feel you evolved as an artist?
Cassius: When I made “Maybe Maybe,” it was super important in Chicago to act like your the best rapper. It gotta be bar heavy. If you’re not saying you’re the best rapper, then you might as well say you’re wack in your songs. I was in a go mode with “Maybe Maybe.” I don’t care who it is; I was really on that. I went super crazy to get people’s approval. “Self” was more like, I’m comfortable and happy within myself and the music I make. I make music, so people don’t feel alone emotionally. That’s my goal. So I try to be as vivid and honest as possible. With “Maybe Maybe,” it was less about that and more like, yooo you niggas better know.
Where do you want to be five years from now?
It would be great to be at a J Cole’s “Born Sinner” level or at Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same” level. I want people to be able to connect with me. Like yeah, he makes good music, but he feels like he’s the homie.
Tell me something people don’t know about you? Like a fun fact. I know something, but I wanna see what you say first.
Cassius: I think I know what you’re going say. I’ma try to say the one you’re going to say. A fun fact about me is I was a huge Michael Jordan fan and as a kid, nobody knew my real name because I had everybody calling me Mike.
So, I didn’t even know that. Thanks for sharing. What I was going to say is before you got into rapping, you were into making comics books. You were an illustrator.
Cassius: Wooow! I don’t even know how you found that out. But yeah, that’s true.
I’m a journalist. I’m supposed to dig and find things out. Do you still dabble in that?
Cassius: Yeah, I can still draw. I don’t really make comics anymore. But yeah, I use to draw comics from 5th to the 8th grade. I had a comic series. Every Friday at the end of the month, I would put out a monthly issue, and the teachers would allow students to read it. I had a Science teacher that always mean. I would sometimes draw in class, and she would be like, “I don’t why you’re drawing that. Artist never make any money.” So that kind of ended it for me, but that was before I knew to go after what you know. But, yeah, I use to draw comics. I thought I was going to work for Marvel. That was my dream, but then I started rapping.
If you can leave the fans with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be at peace with yourself instead of trying to make the world at peace with you. People are going to like you if you just accept yourself. The goal isn’t to get everyone to like you. The people who will like you, suppose too. Because God will put them in your corner.
Connect with Cassius Tae | Instagram
Ali Bouldin is a freelance writer within the Black and Hip-Hop culture. With featured articles in multiple publications.