The indie hip hop artist premieres his new album, Loss Leader Vol. 1, as a BitTorrent Bundle. Listen up.
You might not have heard of Cassius. But you’ve heard him. He’s the GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter behind Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are”; a single that’s sold over 12.5 million copies around the world. “I never tried to go for a pop home run,” the artist says. Three years later, we still can’t get his song out of our heads.
We’re listening. Because today marks the release of Cassius’ debut solo project, Loss Leader Vol. 1. It’s melancholy and hip hop and stripped down electronic sound: duality, and proof that musicians can move beyond easy labels. It’s out today, as a BitTorrent Bundle.
Download the Bundle. Unlock the 11-track album, art, and lyric sheets. Get the app (iTunes or Android, your call). And listen. We caught up with Cassius on life before — and after — Loss Leader. Full interview below.
Cassius: Loss Leader Vol. 1/h2>
01. White Piano [Audio]
02. Pretty Lights [Audio]
03. All Falls Down, prod. by Needlz [Audio]
04. Hey Beautiful Girl [Audio]
05. Homerun!, prod. by Noize Beatz & Flocko [Audio]
06. Pastorius [Audio]
07. What Lonely People Do, with Pop Pop [Audio]
08. Fall in Love remix, with Phantogram [Audio]
09. Think They Know
10. Freezin’, prod. by Blaq Smurph [Audio]
11. Jordan’s Starr, prod. by Phonix Beats [Audio]
Words with Cassius: On the Road to Loss Leader, And Beyond
BitTorrent: We’ve been listening to you for about three years now, since Bruno Mars. But this is your first full-length album. What inspired you to make this, now? Can you talk to us about the process?
Cassius: In 2011, after the success of the Bruno Mars “Just The Way You Are” record, I was approached by a number of A&Rs. The majority of them were trying to figure out which direction would be best for me, but the thing was: I didn’t yet have a catalog. There was one A&R in particular. I shared an intimate song about my mother; I played it from the piano. I remember he cried after I finished playing, and said that music hadn’t given him that feeling in a long time.
Fast forward two years. In 2013, I was hosting a TV show. I was introducing new hip hop talent to the world, and one of the artists that A&R signed happened to be on the show. We grabbed drinks after that night’s show, and he re-told the story of when we first met. He wanted to know what I was doing with the song, because the record label he was with would be happy to have it.
My journey started with just making records for my family and friends, until I realized what I had to say was big enough to share with the rest of the world. And here we are today.
“Pop is usually about who sings it. With my own music, I think the world will hear something that they see in themselves.”
BitTorrent: This album is about loss. And it feels that way. What’s behind the melancholy that permeates the record?
Cassius: I’m not certain the album is about loss, as much as I think the album is fueled by the losses I’ve endured in my life. I lost my mom when I was 8 months old, and I don’t have much memory of her except for a pillow she made with one of her favorite quotes: “A child is God’s way of saying the World should continue.” I kinda grew up with that in my mind. I’ve learned that as much as I’ve lost a lot, I’ve also gained a lot, too. So the melancholy mood in the music is so that people can reflect and appreciate the things that they’ve gained from what they’ve lost.
BitTorrent: You talk about your music in terms of duality. The influence of the East Coast, and the sound of the South. Raised by the projects, and raised by piano. You defy quick categorization. Does that make it easier, or harder, for you as an artist?
Cassius: Anyone who knows a Gemini, knows that we have multiple sides. I don’t think that I’m an extreme Gemini, but I have had many clear examples of duality in my life.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the projects with part of my family. I also spent time around high society, because of my classical background. As an artist, it’s initially difficult to live in both worlds. I think in the long run it’s going to be easier for me to resonate with all types of people.
When you think about it, Biggie, 2Pac, Kanye, Kendrick, Andre 3000, and Cee-Lo are all Geminis. To me, those are some of best artists in any genre, because they’ve been able to take you to the club as much as they can take you to church.
BitTorrent: Who do you count as your influences? What artists, sounds, and songs inspire you?
Cassius: There are so many. Classically, there are composers like Brahms and Handel. I was influenced by a lot of jazz music growing up as well. From a hip hop standpoint I really like Nas, Andre 3000 and Biggie; songwriters like Irving Berlin, and Jeff Barry. As much as I’m influenced by recorded art, I am also influenced and inspired by visual art, which I think you can hear in the way I paint pictures and tell stories.
BitTorrent: This is an amazing, and strange, time for hip hop. On the one hand, we’re seeing the genre split into countless small, beautiful movements (like: dream rap is A Thing). And on the other: we’re seeing sound engineering into boxes, the idea of auto tune everything. How do you see hip hop changing?
Cassius: Hip hop is a reflection of the world, and I see the world changing. For a long time, hip hop artists were only listening to hip hop. Now you have hip hop artists listening to, and being influenced by, different genres. It’s an interesting time for hip hop, but I do think one of the biggest thing that is missing in the hip hop culture is the art of storytelling. I want to bring that back.
From a sound perspective, we’re in a digital era. I want to reintroduce the use of live instrumentation. I want to inspire young producers to create their own samples: to play them, or construct them from the beginning.
BitTorrent: Loss Leader pushes up against the old rules of record releases. It’s a visual experience (a new app). It’s music. It’s something bigger than an album. Why was this important to you? What type of experience are you trying to create?
Cassius: What I’ve recognized is artists today are ok with being niche. So they end up being a “visual artist”, a “fashion artist”, or a “hipster artist.” I want people to understand that innovation comes from the project; how its made, and how its released.
Cassius’ BitTorrent Bundle is a perfect example of how direct-to-fan engagement should work. It’s not just a download. It’s more than music. It’s a way of telling a story, across media formats. Cassius uses sound, video, and art to bring to life something bigger than an album: something designed to break through; something designed to connect.
Porfirio Landeros, Spokesperson, BitTorrent Bundle
The idea behind Loss Leader is to give something away under its value to gain awareness, and push something of greater value in the future. My name is on the project but my entire team played a significant role in the Bundle process. The Vinyl Crown brand is based on Music, Art and Lifestyle branding, and I believe I’m able to show this through the Bundle platform.
About BitTorrent Bundle
BitTorrent Bundle is an Alpha project, made with and for the web’s creative community. Our mission is to help artists connect directly with fans, inside the content they share.
Each BitTorrent Bundle, like this one, created in partnership with Cassius, allows artists to distribute content directly to the Internet. And each Bundle comes with a key. Fans can unlock artist content with an email address. The idea is to make each song a storefront, and each file more valuable, each time it’s shared. Got ideas for the next BitTorrent Bundle? Hit us up.