VICE sends their reporters to all parts of the world. Rolling Stone writers? They get to spend weeks traveling next to some of the biggest stars in the world, profiling their every move. Here at the DJBooth, we go to Chipotle with rappers.
While a select few of the chart toppers have a gagillion dollars, for the most part, your average rapper is just that, average. Not average in terms of their music, but rather average, everyday sort of people. Only a select few get to eat like Action Bronson. The rest go to Chipotle and McDonlads' just like you or me. Which is why in a brand new series, I'll be taking a rapper to Chipotle to talk about burritos, life, and of course, the occasional rap song, because everybody, from bloggers to rappers, loves Chipotle. First up, Case Arnold.
Arnold was the perfect artist to begin our series with because he's brand new to Chipotle. That's right! While here in D.C. you can't throw a rock without hitting a Chipotle, but Case's hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee just got their first franchise. He may not know all the secret hacks, like if you get a veggie burrito it's free guac and salad dressing, but he instantly understood the essence of why Chipotle is such a staple in my life. "It's good for the buck," he declared, with his gravely, southern inflection voice. "You are paying like eight dollars for it, but you get every bit."
I could talk Chipotle for eight hours, but if this was all about beans and quac, then Nathan would probably lose his shit. So we talked about the music, too. You may have caught any one (or all) of Case's three DJBooth features. A month ago, he made his debut with the aptly titled single, "Break Through" and has followed it with "Thermia" and "Hopes and Dreams," all earning favorable reviews from Booth readers. What stood out to me is how personable and honest he is with his music. Fronting rappers seems to be an epidemic, but Case really embraces where he is at, and it made him the perfect person to kick off the Chipotle series. He's just like you or me, his Mom called him right before the interview (parents always call at the worst times). If you had heard the call you would have guessed it was his best friend, because of all the f-bombs and slang. So, naturally, I asked case about his relationship with his family and music.
"I was blessed to grow up around music. My mom married a musician and my grandma played piano with Ray Charles. She got offered to play with Elvis Presley, but she didn't because she's Southern Baptist as fuck. You know that Nas song with his dad? Imma do that one day. Music is in the blood."
Maybe that's why he's so comfortable playing his music for his grandma. Thank goodness my grandma doesn't use the internet, because the thought of her reading some of the stuff I write makes me cringe. With Case, though, he is who he is whether he is with me or his grandma. I asked him about how it feels to not only put himself out there to his family, but to the rest of the world.
"That's Case Arnold. I want to give them what I am, who I've become, and what I want to be. I just want to pass passion on. Music's an escape and people respond to that. That's why I do it"
With three featured records in a short span, I got the sense that Case was building momentum. The title of the first feature, "Breakthrough," was no accident. Case feels now, after about five-to-six years of making music, and off-and-on pizza flippin', everything is starting to fall into place.
"I got this Mac, back in 2010. Dropped my first solo joint--I don't even know if it's still on the internet anymore--called the Bed Head Diaries. I was just recording myself, headphones, backpack in the homies kitchen...now we got gear and a studio. Bed Head Diaries was in April of 2011, and this last April, three years after, I got to do my first stadium show. That brought back a lot of energy. I wrote Breakthrough for that show; I got the call when I was listening to the Doors, so that's how I got the name. After that the energy has just been there; I feel like I just started."
So, with the momentum building and building, "like a snowball" as Case puts it, what's it building too? Lucky for us, Case announced the title of his new mixtape, So(u)l Theory, which will be released later this year exclusively via DJBooth. What's the story behind the title?
"If you take the 'u' out of 'soul' you're shit out of luck"
It's fitting that soul would be in the name of the title, because Case definitely has plenty of it. Not soul in a James Brown kind of way, but passion and heart. For the next few hours we sat around shooting the shit and sharing music. To see someone get as excited I do about a beat, a verse or a singer shows me he really, genuinely loves this rap stuff.
As an independent artist, you have to make people care immediately. With so much music being released, how many followers or listens you get depends on how well your music connects and sticks with people; you have to engage the listener and give them someone to root for. With Case, who you hear in the music is who you get in real life; his passion, ambition, and humility shine through. In the end, that's what separates those who stick around with those who falter. Get to know Case (it's not hard) because I have a feeling he isn't going anywhere...but up.
Keep an ear on Case and his plans for So(u)l Theory, here at DJBooth, and follow him on Twitter.
P.S.- In case you were wondering, Case ordered a chicken burrito with fajitas, brown rice, pinto beans, corn, cheese, and pico de gallo. The more you know.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]