Live @ Actual Cafe (Oh No & Workin’)

Video by Rich A. D.

“When Oakland rapper/producer Fantastical Carpé compares himself to Cassius Clay, this isn’t your standard M.C. bragging. It’s a clever, sly, self-aware statement of intent. Like Cassius (Muhammad Ali) in his prime was never afraid to take rounds of punches, pinned back against the ropes; he knew he’d come back late in the 8th with a knockout. Carpé raps about his struggles, about growing up in the East Bay and about striving to make it as a rapper, about body blows and more than a few cheap shots. But he is prepared, and the hits just glance off him. “Carpé is the name, that means I’ma have to take it,” he explains in his track “Well on the Way” (with Max!mus Pr!me). Carpé diem means seize the day, but F. Carpé knows you don’t get to just seize whatever it is you want. You have to wait for it, and you have to hustle for it. He tells his own story already knowing the end: he will make it. This is rap that knows how to rope-a-dope.

Some of his beats have a chilled out vibe, the trippy audio-distillation of a lazy afternoon in the East Bay. But don’t let the effect fool you: these beats are meticulous crafted with Mad Scientist levels of precision. Other samples from soul and funk greats (Al Green, Eddie Kendricks, James Brown), and this makes sense: onstage he’s a dynamic showman in the tradition of the soul singer, sliding around as if he had the entire brass band behind him. His flow is fierce but controlled, never getting too comfortable in an easy rhythm. And so an hour into his spitfire set at Actual Café, Carpé’s energy has lured a group up to the front to dance. Carpé himself pauses to catch his breath like Ali between rounds. He’s still dancing, shuffling. If this actually were the early 70s, Mr. Brown might think twice before calling himself the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

-Kyle Booten