Casanova 2X elbowed his way into rap’s competitive coliseum. Armed with the infectious warning shot “Don’t Run,” the Brooklyn rhyme rookie simultaneously made a name for himself and scored early success at radio and streaming platforms. His robust energy and primal charisma consumed the entire New York City tri-state area, convincing hip-hop heads to adopt his signature salute, “Boom Boom Boom!” Certified by the years he spent incarcerated, the 32-year-old’s 2018 debut EP ​Commissary​—​featuring guest appearances from Chris Brown, Fabolous, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, and G-Eazy—established him as one of hip-hop’s hottest rising stars. Off parole and ready to see the world, Casanova let his artistry fly first class with the recent release of his aptly titled ​Free At Last​ EP.

For Casanova, liberation began with the delivery of the early 2019 hit, “2AM,” which has since earned more than 26 million streams worldwide. The spicy smoker featured red hot Tory Lanez and Nigerian-American Afropop star Davido over a sultry Afrobeat rhythm. As 2X leaned into a pretty young thing’s ear and placed all of his cards on the table, Tory and Davido’s smooth vocals transported listeners from the streets of Flatbush into the heart of Lagos, where the stunning music video was shot by Nigerian director Meji Alabi. “I love it because it just takes you back to the roots,” said Cas. “That beat is so mother Africa.”

That the sleek, sexy track for “2AM” was produced by 30 Roc––hitman for stars like Travis Scott, Cardi B and Rae Sremmurd––supported why Cas entrusted him to produce the entire EP. The two made a mighty duo. 30 Roc pulled from such a deeply inspired reservoir that all six tracks sounded as though they were each conceived by different composers, allowing Cas an opportunity to stretch beyond his felonious persona and flex new muscles. The pugilistic drums and sinister keys of “Steppin’ Out,” for instance, brought out his inner b-boy fresh hooligan. But with his darkest days behind him, Casanova was clearly more interested in having a good time and living up to his namesake in the lighthearted, brutally honest tracks such as “Like Me” and “Block Me,” where his witty humor was in full bloom: “I post a picture with my BM / You send middle fingers to my DM / I got a girl, you got a man / Bitch, we both cheatin.” Pop culture must now get acquainted with a charming, playfully profane East Flatbush felon endowed with a sparkling Colgate smile and enough slick talk to make a Queen blush.

Free At Last ​was the first project Cas recorded outside of New York and the music reflected the newfound personal and creative freedom he relished while making it in Atlanta. Comprised of testosterone-fueled hardcore street bangers and hedonistic party jams, the EP was a provocative snapshot of his life after ​Commissary​. “They not gonna box me in,” he said. “I’m not trying to be the tough guy anymore. I ain’t trying to be no hero. All heroes die and you can’t just fight anymore. All I want to do is feed my family.”

Casanova is here to remind young rap fans that authentic artists are rare, but not extinct, and you don’t have to be a criminal to be respected by the streets. In fact, he’s positioned himself as one of the few gangsta rappers steering their base away from gang activity. “I try to tell my youngins, ‘Be easy,’” he said in the EP’s confessional opener “Relapse,” while explaining, “They don’t know the pain / They can’t see the tears / Locked up in that cell / Stressed for all them years.” Now that Casanova is free at last, he no longer desires to be the biggest goon in the room. His

Herculean delivery and rich sound are powerful enough to ignite a bashment, fuel a cardio workout, and scare impressionable listeners straight. It just doesn’t get any realer than that.

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