The musical story of Benjamin Griffey aka CASPER is one of struggle, success and hard work – and it’s a quite fascinating one, no matter if you are capable of understanding the German language or not. It’s no secret that NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION follows the path of the rap sensation for a while now. Two years after his album XOXO cracked the market in his home country, he finally returns with Hinterland (“back country”) which marks the next step in his musical evolution. With this record CASPER ultimately tears down the genre boundaries between rap, pop, indie and even folk. Hinterland is everything. Life and loss, the highest highs and the hardest low-pints. As Griffey recently pointed out in our interview with him – he made an uplifting sounding album with dark lyrical content.
If you’re not familiar with the German language – which might not be a few of you – than it’s quite difficult to understand our fascination about this young lad with the rasping voice. Of course – and this might be the hard part for you – it’s about the lyrics. Highly emotional, close to life and personal experience. It’s much about the end of adolescence, the struggle of growing up and finding a place in society. CASPER is struggling to find his way, he’s driven by his own insecurity. And he’s willing to share it with us all in form of his music. And the good part if German’s not your native language – with Hinterland Griffey reaches a level of musicality which might even make this record interesting for you to experience.
The main responsibility comes from producers Markus Ganter (the man who was responsible for SIZARR‘s debut Psycho Boy Happy) and Konstantin Gropper aka GET WELL SOON. These two experienced musicians gave Hinterland a more organic twist and a certain epic appeal, filled with instruments and ideas you won’t usually find on a rap record. In 2013 CASPER is closer to ARCADE FIRE as to A$AP ROCKY. The epic opener Im Ascheregen (“In a shower of ash”) already hints the direction. Big brass section, big choir, full instrumentation. CASPER paints the intensity of life in all musical colours. And this includes all highs like the pumping Alles endet (aber nie die Musik) (“Everything ends but never the music”) or the joyful Ganz schön okay (“Pretty much okay”), a collaboration with his German rock-rap buddies KRAFTKLUB. Songs that celebrate the good moments within the past two years. A time in which he went from nothing to big national success after – like he named it in our interview – has lived through “ten years of eating shit.”
And it looks like the national top of the charts is not the final frontier for Griffey. Seriously, nobody expected EDITORS frontman Tom Smith as featured guest on this record. But he’s here, caressing the melancholic Lux Lisbon with his sinister baritone. Big emotional gestures are his thing and Hinterland is the place to live them. Producer Konstantin Gropper sees CASPER in the tradition of TOM WAITSs and you can’t really argue with this. And when the piano intro of La Rue Morgue unfolds even Bertolt Brecht would be proud of his fellow countryman. Griffey even invites the dirty funk to be part of his musical vision – in form of the sexy Jambalya before ultimately ending the record with the epic Endlich angekommen (“Finally arrived”). What better conclusion could there be?
You can sense the intensity, the positive energy within the dark undertones, no matter if you understand a word or not. Griffey’s voice is nasty and distinctive, his musical ideas are more than ambitious. A record that’s worth to be discovered. And hey, did we already mention that he’s half-American? An English speaking album might be only a matter of time. His topics are universal, his spirit is brave – at the end, your personal Hinterland can be wherever you want it to be.