Dallas rapper Cardiac the Ghost has been slowly building a cult following upon a foundation of small-venue performances known for their intense, emotional style — more like something you would see at a punk show and not something you would expect from the quiet artist you might run into at Toasted Coffee & Kitchen on a Thursday afternoon.
“I definitely like listening to rock music in general and metal in general too,” Cardiac says. “It’s a part of my influence, especially when I perform. I like to be in the crowd. I want to be next to the people.”
Cardiac says that this kind of performance is an extension of the brand of rap he has been crafting over the last few years. “Freemo,” as Cardiac explains, is something of a mix between the hardcore emotional elements you’d normally find in screamo, together with the hypnotic delivery found in a lot of modern hip-hop, giving his music a more free-flowing style with all the loud of the former and the quiet of the latter.
“Freemo is a genre about free emotion,” the rapper explains, “and it’s pretty much about making the song within that day, what you feel at that moment — like your emotions are free. So, whatever it is, it’s about enhancing that emotion with music.
“I definitely feel like it’s the closest to (jazz) in the way it flows without a structure. I feel like that’s how emotions are too.”
For both his recordings and live performances, Cardiac relies on an element of spontaneity and improvisation that keeps the music in a perpetual state of organized chaos.
“It captures the moment,” Cardiac says of that spontaneity. “It captures the actual energy of what it is you’re trying to talk about or show.
“I would also say that I’m very calculated. Imagining and rehearsing and doing is all very calculated. So, I just try to balance the two out — to have the spontaneity, but also have a plan to stick to.”
Cardiac says his music comes down to him from another dimension — an imaginative creative space, which he says is where his new album’s title Pink Clouds originates.The album’s artwork features a portrait of the artist on his balcony, cave-type drawings of dogs, ancient alien figures and, of course, pink clouds.
“Pink Clouds is like a whole world that I exist in,” Cardiac says. “People are going to figure out their own place. I wouldn’t say that I created it. It just so happens to be what where I came from looks like. It doesn’t look like Earth.”
“I know that I have other places that I can go, but I’m here too,” he says with a laugh.
For Cardiac, the music does not so much come from these pink clouds as much as it bounces around in those clouds before becoming something that he can interpret and formulate into a beat. Working as a kind of visual representation of the world that Cardiac the Ghost’s music lives in, the video for the new single, “Clones,” presents a mesmerizing collage of live performances, wandering ghosts and an army of zombie skeletons.
The song itself is probably the best one-song description of an artist as prolific as Cardiac the Ghost in its roller-coaster ride of emotions, spanning from a screaming frustration to pacified hums of resignation. The album, which drops on June 1, was intended to be a sprawling 32-track album covering the whole spectrum of human emotions, but because some of the samples did not clear, the album will be 21 tracks with the remaining tracks being released only at live shows. Still, 21 tracks is plenty of room to accomplish the lofty goal.
“It takes a lot of songs to make a whole person feel changed,” Cardiac explains about the album's goal. “There’s a lot of emotions, and I was just capturing all the ones I was capturing to give people what they need.”
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The album will include performances from locals Tay-K and Cutty Macc, Jack Frost from Oklahoma and !q (pronounced “ib”) from Chicago.
“Imagination is key to what you hear and what you see, but you have to imagine the right things around it," Cardiac says. "You just can’t be imagining shit for yourself, because that’s not real.”
And with that, Cardiac leaves the café, stopping momentarily to exchange Instagram information with someone listening to the conversation.The hustle is real. The struggle is real. For Cardiac the Ghost, it is clear that a solution is out there, but it’s not so easily captured in sound, video or performance. Like emotions themselves, there is no resolution, only a cycle of ups, downs and the occasional moments of peace.