On Has-Lo’s In Case I Don’t Make It he declared himself “too R-A-W for retail.” For most rappers that’s considered hyperbolic braggadocio, but in the case of Has-Lo it fed into a five year hiatus of solo output. Too raw meant recording emotionally draining music that fueled internal pressure that stiffled his whole process. In effect, too raw for Has-Lo was a Sisyphusian boulder to support on the side of Sugar Hill. Ironically, ain’t shit sweet in that position.
“There was a long time where I didn’t feel like I could deliver my raps well anymore,” he wrote in an email. “Where all my songs turned out like shit.The more I failed to make what I thought were good songs, the more I didn’t feel like myself, the more I began to doubt whether I’d ever feel normal again. The fear that I’ll never freely and confidently create again is stupidly scary for me.
Has-Lo developed the hip hop equivalent of the Steve Blass Disease. There were opportunities to shake the yips. Album plans with Apollo Brown and K-Def. The collaboration album Castle, Live Like You’re Dead, saw a release. Still, Has-Lo said he couldn’t locate the carefree attitude he brought to the studio before making In Case…
“Funny thing is I didn’t have the same issues if I was working on something that wasn’t a Has-Lo follow up,” he said.
In a strange way In Case… was a prophetic record that manifested Has-Lo’s deepest fears, fears cognizant in most artists but purposely absent from their art. Five years later, the Hard Writer EP is the Philly rapper finding his footing. Carefree manifests for Has-Lo as having the first words spoken on Hard Writer be the obscure refrain by Jamie Sommers from Ghostface’s “Wildflowers”. His drawl a tad more subdued than usual, he gets lost in “the mind-shocking, body-rocking, earth-shaking, money-making…” and let’s it be the catalyst to the EP. By “Juggernaut” Has-Lo is bobbing and weaving with comic references over his own production that harkens to RZA circa Wu-Tang Forever.
Has-Lo sees the EP as proving to listeners he’s not purely about “one dark, oppressive thing” and in its brevity the EP finds that respiration. Even in the brooding psychosis of instrumental track “Hatch The Plan”, Has-Lo’s intent to push through his dark phase is tangible. By “Millie”, named after his grandmother Mildred T. Bailey and not De La Soul’s tragic pistol-pulling character, Has-Lo is reflecting on those arduous five years through a letter to his departed grandmother, wishing she could be here to see him overcome.
Has-Lo’ Hard Writer EP is out now on iTunes.