Cashh, the 27-year-old rapper from South London, appears to have lived so much more than the number of years his age would suggest. Although he grew up in the UK, he was actually born in the Park Lane area of Kingston, Jamaica, and his musical journey probably started there – right in the home of reggae and dancehall music.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News via Zoom, Cashh said he grew up around parties. Some of his earliest musical memories are that he lay in bed at night and heard the music playing from a distance, but that he was too young to be there. However, it wasn’t long before he went to those dances himself: By his own estimate, the first time he attended a party was somewhere between the ages of 3 and 4 years old.
That’s partly why it seems like he’s lived so much: he’s been confident and has been navigating the world from a young age, surrounding himself with people older than him. These experiences have even been documented by one of those elders who took him to the dances on the intro to his 2020 song “Trench Baby.”
As with many people, Cashh said his favorite older brother inspired him to get into music — he told BuzzFeed News that he was “that kid who was always with him in the studio or in the house.” Finally, his brother offered him the chance to put a verse on a song.
His brother is not his only musical source of inspiration. What inspired him was the ability to entertain and teach at the same time. With that, he strives to drop gems – even if only a few. “Being able to put together stories — especially from real life experiences — is one of my favorite things about making music,” he said.
But his life wasn’t all fun and games, and he had to face one of the most difficult experiences anyone could go through at the worst time it could have happened. After living in the UK for most of his young life – and building a buzz around his music under the moniker Cashtastic – the Home Office deported him to Jamaica in 2014.
Speaking of the deportation, Cashh acknowledged that it gave him life experience. “It humbled me,” he told BuzzFeed News. “It made me a lot more vigilant and militant. It made me a lot more vulnerable.”
“It was a crazy experience, but it’s one that I know – to get ahead in my life – that I needed.”
He returned to the UK five years later and changed his stage name from Cashtastic to simply Cashh.
“The change from Cashtastic to Cashh was really a change back,” he said. “I started the game as Cashh. My real name is Cashief, so if you take the ‘ief’ off, that’s where Cashh comes from.”
However, there was another element to the change – one of growth and a sense that he was no longer aligned with the Cashtastic name.
Cashh said he felt much more in tune with himself after the experience of returning to Jamaica and had time to understand himself better, and in doing so, when he returned to the UK, he wanted to stay as true to himself as possible.
Cashh’s latest project – the aptly titled mixtape The Return of the Immigrant, which comes out in August – has been five years in the making. Due to his nature as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, Cashh has been recording and adapting the music for this project since he was in Jamaica.
When we asked about the Jamaican version of the project – and how it changed – our discussion turned towards Afro swing, how it shares its core with Dancehall, and from there to introducing Drill as a dominant sound in the UK.
This new sound made Cashh feel like he had to strike a balance between the more melodic music he’d made in Jamaica, and this rougher, grittier sound that he knew his music would be next to.
With new music on the way, we talked about his recording process. It’s quite unorthodox: Cashh prefers to be in the studio with the producer while the beat is being made. But even if that’s not possible, he likes to be in the studio when he hears a beat for the first time. Nor does he write – at least not in the typical sense of sitting down and putting pen to paper. Instead, he does it all in his head based on his instinctive response to everything he hears.
“It could be melodies that come, it could be flow patterns, it could be a few things that come to my mind,” Cashh said. “But I have to say that when I hear the music for the first time.”
From there he fills in the gaps with the lyrics – and he prefers to do all this in the dark. It’s for the focus. When he’s recording, he doesn’t want to be distracted by anything.
Apart from music, Cashh has a lot to offer. There’s a documentary in the works, he’s launching a clothing line called ‘The Proud Immigrant’ and much more. But despite being fully booked and busy, he still has his focus on the music – and that’s what he wants other people to focus on too.
“Anyone who’s ever been a big fan of mine and knows what I’ve been through… You don’t really get a second chance,” Cashh said. “But I feel like I’m getting a second chance.”
Added to this is a grace and desire to deliver to all those people who still support him – and in that respect the music speaks for itself.
Cashh’s single “Return of the Man” is out now.