Casual has been working as an emcee for over 18 years, as a member of Bay Area group Hieroglyphics and as a solo artist. He released his last solo album in 2005, but one listen to The Hierophant and it won’t feel like much time has passed. He keeps it largely in the Hieroglyphics family, entrusting the production to Toure, and features Pep Love and Tajai. That’s not to say that he doesn’t bring a few other Bay Area artists as well. Moon Shyne, Mike Frost, Silk E, Emakulate, Nate’ and drummer Thomas Pridgen contribute too.

Casual is more than a capable wordsmith, and when he works a nice laid back West Coast groove, it doesn’t get much better. He’s got a steady, deliberate flow, but on occasion he’ll trip you up with some quicker rhymes and throw down a fast, short rhyme scheme, as he does on “You Like That”. There are a few times on The Hierophant where he boasts about landing women, like on “Man wit Hustle”, where he says, “I’m a boss - no that’s my actual position/With chicks, I take my pick, like I just got my natural conditioned.” It’s not especially misogynistic, but it’s still unfortunate, because the majority of the album is intelligent and doesn’t fall into these trappings. “Fiend for Hip Hop” features some great battle rhymes, where Casual proclaims “You wanna battle? What you talking ‘bout ‘You go first’? If I go first, archeologists gonna have to find your verse down in the Hielo earth.” That’s right, he’ll bury his challengers so deep, you’ll need a crew to excavate your career. So don’t step. If this album makes anything clear about Casual, it’s that he’s found a pretty good balance in his career between battle rapper and a positive, cerebral emcee. A song like “Take the Time” is a plea to his audience for different people to make an effort to understand each other. “Where Do I Go” puzzles through life’s struggles. It’s these emotional connections that really elevate the album.

The Hierophant is a solid album from a veteran emcee. Aside from a couple of trite lines about how many women he can pull in, there is a lot to like here. From the production to the wordplay to the subject matter he takes on, Casual shows us why he’s lasted so long and garnered so much respect over the years. It took us a while to get this album, but it was worth the wait.