An Interview with Finnish artist Casok
Written by: Amari Newman
A foundational quality of the internet's thorough fusion with Hip-Hop is the instant connection artists can make with one another, regardless of distance. Countless classics, both underground and mainstream, were made by rappers and producers who were located in separate cities, countries, and continents.
One artist who embodies the current international network of rap music is Casok, a musician from Finland who came into the game as a 16-year-old uploading "type beats” to YouTube. Over the course of his extensive career (2016-Now), he's grown a truly tapped-in following of rappers, producers, and music fans alike. He also established a longstanding relationship with ATL underground legend Slimesito, producing early classics "Foreign Shooter" and "Britical" and appearing on a third of the tracks from last year's Vida Brazy. His frostbitten melodies and cranium-thumping 808s have grown into a signature sound associated with the grimier street artists in Atlanta's expansive underground.
In March, I had a Discord audio convo with Casok about Finland, his early "type beat" producer days, the genres he created called Trail and Bloodboil, and his deep discography. Read our full conversation below:
Amari: What’s good man. How are you doing today?
Casok: A normal day, nothing special. Today was the first day of real Spring. It’s normally cold and a lot of snow here, but it was sunny today, which was really nice.
Facts. You’re in Finland right? What was it like growing up there?
Yeah, I'm In Helsinki. Living in Finland, you have maybe three months of warmth in the summer, and then it's dark. It's cold, but it has different sides to it, and you learn to appreciate the summer more because you have to be inside for months after.
So when did you start producing?
I started playing guitar when I was 7 years old. I grew up listening to mainly rock music like The Cure, Alice In Chains, Korn & Nine Inch Nails. In middle school, I would listen to artists like Eevil Stöö & DJ Kridlokk, and some other Finnish underground acts. When I was around 14, I started listening to Trap, like Future and 808 Mafia. I liked the beats a lot, so I tried it myself, and played around with it for a few years. I didn't take it that seriously, but when I was around 15-16, I started to make beats frequently, and I got better at it.
Were you always doing darker production when you started making beats?
The first and second year, I was making beats nearly everyday. I just made everything. I would go on FL Studio and make music. I was also doing “type beats” at the time. I deleted my old type beats, but I was pretty big on YouTube back then. At first, I had all kinds of beats, but around 2017, since Fredo Santana was one of my favorite artists, I started doing a lot of Fredo type beats.
RIP Fredo man. So when did you start landing placements? Was that happening through YouTube?
When I was uploading to YouTube, getting more subscribers, and getting to know other producers that were the same size as me on there, I got to know YRS808. I liked his beats a lot. We collabed, and he was a part of this group called Sytrus Gang, it's a producer group. I went on twitter, started following people and doing a bit of networking, and connected with YRS808. I asked if I could join Sytrus Gang, and they liked my beats, so I joined. We used to share emails with each other, and there were these rapper email-lists floating around too.
Is that how that Soulja Boy placement came about?
So how did you connect with Slimesito? You and him have a pretty deep discography, and I feel like you helped establish the dark sound that's attributed to Sito, RSG and their affiliates.
It was late 2017. I think I found Sito through twitter at first. The KUT THROAT EP had just dropped. Then at the start of 2018, I got his email. Around that time I started finding my own sound too. I sent him a bunch of stuff and he liked it, then we kept working. One of the first beats I sent him ended up being “Foreign Shooter” and also the beat for “Britical” was made a day before the album Scarface Sito was released.
Word! Foreign Shooter is one of my favorite SlimeSito songs. Is there anyone out there that you haven't worked with that you would want to?
Chief Keef of course, and Black Kray.
All time greats. But, yeah, how did the Lil Uzi Vert track come about? And how did it leak?
That beat was from 2017. I had gotten [Uzi’s] email from Akachi, and I never knew he used it. [The beat] was sped up too because the original is a lot slower. You can probably hear it in the beat because I had a pitch shifter on the 808, so when you speed it up it sounds a bit weird. It was leaked by some hacker back in 2018. There was a bunch of Uzi songs that were leaked, and they were doing some group Gofundme to raise money to buy the leaks. *laughs* It was something like that, and [that track] was in the first bulk they released. I had it on my SoundCloud for probably two years then out of the blue it was removed because it was a leak.
So, What is Trail?
It’s the overall lifestyle surrounding my music and aesthetics, just like everything combined.
When did you come up with a name for the concept?
I was thinking about it for many years because I realized I had my own sound, and I was trying to figure out what I should call it. I was thinking of something like sinister trap. That's what it is to me. With my earlier stuff, I had my own style but it's still like Trap. But the stuff that I've been doing for the last two years, and my own albums, have a real Casok sound to it. When I started working on Trail of Decay, my latest project, last summer, I started coming up with Trail and Bloodboil. The more aggressive and rough stuff is Bloodboil, and the more melodic dark stuff is Trail.
That's a cool way to categorize it. You do a lot of world-building through your music. Do you feel like you’ve made your own type of world?
Yeah it all comes from my head. It's like the world in my head that I put into music form. I like to make worlds with music, so that you can detach from your own reality.
When I listen to your instrumental projects, I really get consumed by all the sounds, and its dark aura.
Yeah [the beats] are based really strongly from the environment I've been in for my life. It being dark and cold outside, and walking through forests. Although I live in a city, there are still lots of forests near that you can walk in, and no one is there at night so you can wander in peace.
How often do you produce these days?
At least once or twice a week depending on the amount of time and mental capacity I have for making music. Years ago, I used to knock out beats all the time, and I think that output wasn’t always good. I was just making whatever, but nowadays I try to make everything complete and fully done. I don't like half-made beats so it takes some time. And then I might just do one beat instead of three. I think when you’re starting, and learning a lot, it's best to just practice as much as you can because you'll always learn new stuff.
Nah for sure. Do you sample at all or do you build your melodies?
I do everything from scratch. Years ago, I did sample, but it was pretty rare. I remember I sampled Hellraiser for Sito in 2019, and he used the beat, but it’s somewhere in the vault. It was pretty hard.
You also design the cover arts for all your albums right?
Yeah, most of them. These days, I'm not just making beats anymore, I’m trying to create a whole world, and make it all myself. So I capture the footage, and do all the editing [for my music videos].
Would you ever want to get into anything other than what you’re doing right now? Whether it's visual art, or scoring a film, or something along those lines?
Yeah for sure. One of my dreams is making a soundtrack for a video-game.
Word that sounds like it’d be an insane game. What should we expect from you in the future?
More Trail-music, and I have a project in the works with Bloodline Genesis... My style for dropping music is quite spontaneous, but I'll be dropping throughout the year.