Looking back in retrospect UK rap in the mid-late noughties had a very different landscape to what you see today. While other prominent genres of the time, such as grime, were in what some would describe as their golden era inclusive of mainstream attention; UK rap was arguably in the midst of its structural infancy. One artist who had no issues navigating this unchartered territory was South London rapper Cashh (formerly known as Cashtastic). Praised for his versatility and inarguable sense of maturity it was collectively agreed that he was destined for great things. Unbeknown to fans at the time, the rapper was facing a silent battle that would see him be deported to Jamaica in 2014; at the peak of his come up. Showing great resolve Cashh continued sharing his sound with the world going on to release the “UKBA” project in addition to several other singles before returning to the UK in 2019.
After putting out a selection of well-received tracks including “Incognito” and “Trench Baby”, and his latest single “Trouble” Cashh looks ahead to his next project and sat down with ASBO to reflect on his journey.
Do you consider yourself to be one of the pioneers of the second wave of UK rap?
I prefer when people give me that credit rather than claiming that title. [With that being said], I was one of the first UK artists to rap over a dancehall beat in an authentic way. After that you had Sneakbo’s “Touch Ah Button”, then Chip’s “Every Gyal” and its been a domino effect since then.
A lot of rappers have bars about their teachers not believing in them, but from my understanding, it was quite the opposite situation for you. Tell me a bit more about that.
(laughs) yeah, I actually have regular catchups with my English teacher to this day – shoutout Ms. Fernandez! She helped me quite a lot with my writing and was really invested in our class and helping to push my pen forward.
One producer we all know you for working with is Steel Banglez. How did the two of you meet and what is it about your partnership that produces such great results?
We actually met through another artist called Yung Meth at Unit 10 studios. I was in about year 9 or 10 at the time. He liked one of my freestyles and invited me to his studio in Canning Town. Being from South London, going to East London at that time was like getting on a plane. He caught me in a period of transition, being fresh off the streets. Well, I was still there, but I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. He recognised that I had the drive and determination to take music further.
Your music nowadays has a far more prominent Caribbean feeling to it. Is that something you’re doing intentionally?
100% I think that side of the music is one of my great acknowledgments since coming back from JA. The influence was always there, and I’ve dropped patois on previous tracks before but didn’t have the confidence to do it wholeheartedly or do a whole song in patois. Being out in Jamaica, where music is everywhere, it seeps into your psyche. Before that I would only speak patois to other Jamaicans, now if you catch me in that mood, you’ll hear it.
Is being successful at back in Jamaica as important to you as success in the UK?
100 % – especially now! I want to collab with greats over there and rewrite the narrative. When I go back, I don’t want to be the UK rapper that got deported; a part of my goal is to be known for my art [in Jamaica].
Your latest video “Trouble” features some images from the recent protests. What are your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement?
The statement “Black Lives Matter” is bigger than the movement. To me, the statement carries more weight than any company or organisation. Something could come out about one of the organisations tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the power of the statement. Corporations need to align themselves with anti-racism and we as a people need to hold them accountable.
Having been through a similar situation to what the Windrush generation is experiencing do you think there’s an expectation for you to speak about it?
If there is I don’t feel it.
To be fair when I first came back there were requests from loads of publications to speak about it. I’ve always seen it as yearn to hear me speak rather than pressure. I didn’t speak on it much at the start because people have a tendency to twist your words and I didn’t want what I said to be manipulated. Right now, I am working on portraying what happened in a way that will be well received.
You were back in the UK for a while before announcing it to the world. Why was it important for you to take that time for yourself?
Everything was pretty abrupt when I was removed. There were some family members that I hadn’t seen in years, so I didn’t want the business to get in the way of that family time. It’s funny because when I came back I had so many plans about what I was going to from the music I wanted to release to the way I would step off the plane. One thing I realised is that energy is a thing you have to feel. I had to be here and engulf myself in the UK sound before deciding what to put out and getting back into music.
Does re-entering the music industry as someone who had a great level of success create any pressure to do well?
Not from needing to do well necessarily, destiny is destiny, but I think the people around me feel that pressure more than I do. Views and chart positions, I’m not really worried about. I prioritise direction over speed. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there as long as I know where I am going.
A large portion of your fan base has always been female. Does knowing this impact the sort of music you create at all?
It’s funny you mention that because since coming back I’d say I have more male listeners now. Even back then when I had a larger female fan base I wouldn’t say I created music with the intention of specifically catering to the women but… mi ready fi dem now (translation: I’m ready for them now), as you will see with the follow up to “Trouble.”
Musically what are some of the biggest changes fans will see between “A Lil bit of Cash” and now?
I’ve progressed as a writer, grown as a man, and gained life experience. I think as the changes happen you become more calculated. Making music back then you wouldn’t think of the results you would get by doing something, you would just do it, which is an element of things I am trying to keep.
Can you believe that was almost 10 years ago. How does it feel to know that you have fans that have quite literally grown up with you?
Some of them have finished Uni or had kids now which is crazy. A lot of them are still around so it’s about them gravitating to the new sound. Of course, there are always people who want you to make tracks that sound like songs you’ve made in the past, but I look at it like handwriting. You wouldn’t turn around to an adult and ask them to write the same way that they did when they were three. Music is the same.
You’ve got a new single entitled “Trouble” could you briefly summarise what it’s about?
Growing up it was the advice I was always given. Since moving back to the UK I’ve been taking the train more and there was a day that I bumped into two people from my past, an old school yardman and a guy I knew from secondary school.
The last time I saw the older man was in primary school in year 5/6. I remember coming home from school and playing with one of those plastic bb gun. He saw me with it, took it, smashed it, and said: “You don’t want the police to see with you that”. Not understanding what was going on I remember being so pissed at the time. The last thing he said was “keep out of trouble”.
Then with the other guy, the last time we saw each other he was breaking up a fight in school. On the day that I ran into them, the last thing both of them said to me was “Keep out of trouble” which was actually what inspired the first line of the song.
“Incognito”, “Trench baby”, “Trouble” … am I detecting a militant theme here?
I’m a militant man (laughs).
(laughs) Okay fair enough, I’ll take that. Finally, what is next for you Cashh?
I prefer to show results rather than share plans… (laughs)
I’m sure you can say a little more than that…
(laughs) they’ll be a wave of singles and hopefully a project out by the end of the year. I’ll also be putting some content up on my youtube channel, including a new segment called ‘Once Upon A Song’. It will be similar to what we just did with the “Trouble” where I will break down how a song came about. I have a collaboration coming which will be a feature, so I am excited about that. I recently wrapped up filming something just before lockdown so there will be more acting [too].
Words: Ray Sang