Pretty Flaco and the Saga of Casa Forte

Mos Def - Casa Bey

Mos Def is about to bust us all upside our collective nuggets with this new record. Quiet Dog is already banoodles. Now there’s this joint:

As soon as the first stanktastic bar kicked in, I bugged, and not just because Dante was rhyming like Ali hitting the speed bag in his prime. This bamma pulled a Ghostface and straight rhymed over a whole existing song! One of my favorite songs by a group I first got hip to on my trip to Brazil last year. Vinyl heads on the internets were already on the case, digging up the original Banda Black Rio joint for comparison.

I would have known about this if I actually went to Mos Def shows because he’s been rocking this joint live for like the past five months. At this point, I wouldn’t be mad if he did a whole album rhyming over funky, contrapuntal jazz fusion classics. Some Return to Forever maybe? Weather Report? Head Hunters! Let’s go!

But before I get carried away, let’s take a moment to trace the origins of a tune that Mos also discovered (and kirked out over) on a trip to Brazil.


“Casa Forte” was originally written and recorded by Edú Lobo for his North American debut Sergio Mendes Presents Edú Lobo. Lobo was already pushing the development of Musica Popular Brasileira after building on the work of Jobim and Gilberto but despite his important contributions to bossa nova, his acoustic rendering of “Casa Forte” takes a back seat to the many cover versions of what is now a standard.

A few of my favorites:


Sergio Mendes gives it a pretty straight interpretation, but with the trademark vocal style of Brasil ’66. (listen / buy)


Legendary vocalist Flora Purim‘s take is less pretty and a bit psychedelic. She gives the tune a wild edge. (listen / buy)


Ellis Regina lends a slightly mournful feel to her version and her rhythm section sounds like they’d also been playing some bop over the course of the recording session. (listen / buy)


Madlib teamed up with original Azymuth drummer Ivan “Mamão” Conti for the Jackson Conti project. Their rendition of “Casa Forte” puts the samba percussion up front and features what sounds like a melodica running through a wah pedal carrying the main melody of the tune. Probably Madlib’s idea. While he was high. Loving the keyboard work on this. (listen / buy)

And finally, DMV beat scientist Nick Tha 1da snuck in a version of “Casa Forte” on his Bossa Bang! mixtape last year. Since it’s a seamless combination of vinyl finds and re-worked productions, I’ve had the damnedest time ID’ing the origin*. Maybe I’ll ask him next time I see him. I ain’t too proud to train-spot. Click the cover above to download the whole project.

*Nick came through! Crate-diggers never reveal their secrets, but I guess he was feeling generous that day. Dig up a copy of this record and you’ll find another unique Casa Forte to add to your collection.


4 Replies to “Pretty Flaco and the Saga of Casa Forte”

  1. Man, folks just don’t understand “Casa Bey”. Dynamic record, in my opinion. I guess the flood gates for Brazilian samples for major label artists will open soon. I’ve only heard a few so far (Luda’s recent album has an Arthur Verocai sample).

  2. I don’t get folks that don’t get it. Is it that much of a stretch from when he rhymed over the Roy Ayers joint? Or Umi Says? (even though that’s singing) Is it that jarring compared to the million times cats have rocked Nautilus? I think this album is going to give me exactly what I need from Mos this year.

  3. This post was informative and musically orgasmic.

    And did you just posit Mos Def rhyming over Weather Report???

    Do NOT even get me started…

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