Casual & Saafir Go From Legendary Battle Opponents To Key Collaborators (Audio Premiere)
Almost 22 years ago, Casual and Saafir went off the rails (and reels) in a 1994 Wake Up Show (Sway & King Tech) syndicated radio battle. At the time, Casual had just released his Jive Records debut, Fear Itself, which featured “the Saucee Nomad” on one particular track. Saafir, who had come up through Digital Underground and a memorable Menace II Society appearance, was prepping his own debut, The Boxcar Sessions, at Quincy Jones’ Qwest imprint.
Although things were cool in 1993 during the recording of Cas’ LP, the egos of a crowded Bay Area Hip-Hop scene seemingly shifted the tides. As legend has it, there were grumblings of tension between the Hieroglyphics (Casual’s crew) and Hobo Junction (Saafir’s clique). As purists do, the two entities went to the Bay’s KMEL radio (which also broadcast on Los Angeles, California’s 92.3 The Beat), and hashed it out the old fashioned way—battling. Casual struck first, adamant that he was coming off the top and the raspy voiced Saafir was using written’s. Saafir would not only question Casual’s cool and masculinity, he would fire verbal shots at Souls Of Mischief (Tajai, Pep Love, and Opio would grab mics and respond in the battle). There are 12 back-and-forth rounds in total, making this a marathon of mic marauders. What also makes the 1994 battle so special, is that there has never been an unanimous winner.
While the folklore of this battle may live forever, the tensions between Casual and Saafir have not. This week, Casual and Detroit, Michigan veteran MC Phat Kat are releasing Neaux Mursi (February 19), the debut project of their Ron Jon Bovi group. Included in the Elevated Nation project is a reunion between Casual, and Saafir in the form of “Mistakes”:
Premiered on Ambrosia For Heads, the song begins with a trademark aggressive Phat Kat verse on the horn-tinged beat by Unjust. Casual comes in next, with a series of bars about stepping up his independent rhyme operation. In the second half, “Smash Rockwell” brings out the compound rhymes. Then enters Saafir, with his rich vocal tone waxing a multi-time flow. The Nomad spits a cold verse about weakness in the streets, and him taking his.
Notably, Opio—also in the battle, is on his Hiero mate’s latest project.
#BonusBeat: Listen to the whole 45-minute crew-wide 1994 battle, which also features a 4-on-4 Hiero and Hobo session: