We first wrote about Carlos Castaño a couple of years ago, in which we said he sounded like John Mayer – and got an email in return, saying he doesn’t like him except for his Continuum album. (It is a good album.) He’s released several albums and has worked the live circuit all over the region – most notably performing at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2014 – but after taking a year off, he returned a couple of weeks back with his new album Scratch. Today, he picks the five songs he can’t live without, and yes, they’re completely different from the music he performs – but, in his words, “a lot of our songs start with grooves and I almost always pull from hip-hop to get it with master drummer boy Michael Gemina.”
Jay-Z | The Black Album (2003)
This song, on this record, is just perfect. It’s got that groove that just makes you do that face like, “uugggggh”. Of course, it helps that it’s produced by Pharrell Williams too and it’s got such great storytelling too.
Mos Def | Black on Both Sides (1999)
For me, one of the most iconic flows – no hook, no chorus, just flow… the entire song. Mos Def is one of my favorite rappers of all time and this song is most definitely (see what I did there) one of the reasons why.
Lauryn Hill | The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Everything on that record is brilliant. Everything. This one, besides the fact that it opens the record, is really the mood-setter of the bunch. It gets you right from the very start. “It’s funny how money change a situation… miscommunication leads to complication…” and that sparse beat with the hits? Forget about it. It’s over before it even started.
“Yaa I Get It”
Shad | TSOL (2010)
Quite probably the best rapper out of Canada (sorry Drake), this is one of those songs that just don’t let it up; it also helps that Shad is lyrically sharp, with “maybe I’m not big because I don’t blog or Twitter… chaaa I’m bitter!” as one of my favorite lines from this track. He’s so good, I’m gonna cheat and sneak in “Stylin”, another song from Shad. So good.
Black Star | Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)
I grew up wanting to be Mos Def but I also grew wanting to rap with Talib Kweli. Mos Def got to do it, so… yeah. This track is just insanely good. Nothing like it. When the album came out I was like, “WHAT?!”
[Carlos Castaño’s new album, Scratch, is now available in all the usual places. Photography by Miguel Amante. Carlos was talking to Niko Batallones.]