Mario Casalini Enlists a Team of Seattle All-Stars for Goldtooth Squarepants (KEXP Premiere)

Local Music, KEXP Premiere, Album Reviews
Martin Douglas
Photo by West Smith

Bikini Bottom is an ensemble patchwork. The fictional, underwater community is made up of a colorful cast of characters -- octopi and crabs and starfish and a squirrel in a diving suit -- interacting with each other in adventures, misconceptions, and situations they have to solve in tandem. At the center of this town, at least for narrative purposes, is a dish sponge with brown pants and tube socks. Sounds wacky, right? For his newest project, Mario Casalini adopts the persona of Goldtooth Squarepants, Spongebob from an alternate universe, draped in gold, rocking a tilted beanie and custom Nikes.

Goldtooth Squarepants mostly serves as a compilation, with Casalini taking the mic sparingly, including the official introduction to his alter ego on the woozy, trap-leaning "Dollar Sign," as big as a monster truck with what he describes as a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Trill Face." Ceding time on the vocals ultimately works out just as well for Casalini, as he's an incredibly talented producer able to adopt various musical vehicles: Boom-bap drone on "Victory;" staticky, trunk-rattling Cadillac thump on "In Check" (like Run the Jewels riding through a particularly disagreeable electromagnetic field); dead-eyed, sociopathic keyboard bounce on closer "Icy Tower."

A quick survey of guests on the EP serves as a page ripped out of the who's-who of the Seattle rap scene, including but not limited to Wishbaby appearing twice (including on "In Check" with AJ Suede), Joey Kash on "Dollar Sign," and DoNormaal and Raven Hollywood tag-teaming the thunderous "Cornered" ("Breaking rules, call the ref," says Hollywood to end his verse).

The conceptual apotheosis of the EP is clearly opener "Beware," a showcase for veritable Seattle hip-hop legend Fatal Lucciauno, one of the few rappers on Earth who could make Saturday morning cartoon trap sound menacing. Casalini adds skittering hi-hats and rumbling kick drums to the spooky, twinkling sample, managing to make it sounding like an elephant tip-toeing through a china shop. Fatal -- voice unmistakable; conversational with just a twinge of ominious, a twinge of rasp, like a cloud of smoke is still trying to escape his chest -- watches the shots firing, politicians indulging in nose candy, and keeps his eye on the taxman. He weaves through the crevasses in a beat that skips over the surface.

Goldtooth Squarepants does not necessarily serve as Mario Casalini ceding the spotlight so much as highlighting a set of talents for which he is increasingly well-known -- for which he has a great facility and dexterity with. He's quickly becoming one of the top beatmakers in a city bursting at the seams with them.

Here is a quote from Mario Casalini about the making of the EP:

"I approached creating Goldtooth Squarepants in a way that’s new for me. I wanted to treat this album as if it were a movie I was directing and each track was a scene I created for my favorite rappers. It was important for me to bring in stars from different sections of the Seattle rap galaxy into one project. I produced collaborations I wanted to hear and had to make sure existed on the same album. The goofy, cartoonish undertone to something meaningful in my life, that’s Goldtooth Squarepants.”


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