Arriving on the scene as a brazen teenager, Cashtastic is a name familiar to fans of both first and second generation UK Rap. Sitting somewhere in between the crossover, his musical journey began at the tender age of 15; powered by raw talent and an unmatched drive, he quickly earned the respect of his musical peers. Unafraid to open up and express his emotions, his real-life storytelling approach became a pivotal part of his musical DNA connecting with an ever-growing audience on the way.
It wasn’t long until Cashtastic reverted back to his original artist name Cashh and as most teenagers in Britain were finishing off their studies, he became one of the most promising young musicians in the country. Unfortunately, in 2014 his career was brought to a halt when he was deported back to Jamaican after spending the majority of his years growing up in Peckham. Not only was this a massive culture shock but it also put a hold on a propitious future in music.
Clearly an optimist, Cashh spent five long years sharpening his tools before coming back to the UK in October, 2019. His return brought excitement to friends, family and fans who had been anticipating the moment for a long time. Leaving the UK as a teenager and returning as a man meant Cashh was hungry to pick up where he left off. The new project Return Of The Immigrant best reflects his growth in character as well as his strengthened creative capacity.
We were fortunate enough to have an in-depth conversation with Cashh over Zoom, in which we spoke about his story so far, including his early career, time in Jamaica, the new project and more.
How have you been? How was the pandemic for you as an artist?
“Being sent back to Jamaica was like training for this moment. I’ve already been in the isolation situation, I’ve had difficulties not doing shows where my main core fanbase is. Really it felt like an extended version of what I was going through in Jamaica but just in England now.”
Has the pandemic affected your rollout plans since your return back to England?
“Majorly bro! Remember, I announced that I was back in October 2019 with my return Daily Duppy. That was going off everywhere so everything we had planned for after that was supposed to drop in 2020. And then 2020 happened to everyone, so I don’t feel any way because everyone has been experiencing the same thing. In 2021 it’s still affecting the rollout a little bit, but we are just trying to do as much as we can to work around it.”
With 10+ years of solid work under your belt what were your earliest motivations to put in so much work at a time where being a UK rapper wasn’t as glamorous as it is now?
“My driving force was to get out of the streets, cause I was really in the streets. There were a lot of things that were taking place and I was at a crossroads. There were countless times where music became so prominent for me, my Champion Feestyle was based on a conversation as I was about to go OT. The person I was in conversation with told me not to go and see what happens if I put my efforts into music for the next month. It wasn’t something I wanted to do solely for myself but more so for me and my people to live a lot easier. I was driven by securing a comfortable, risk-free lifestyle without being on edge.”
At the time you were clearly cementing your foundation for a future as a musician, but at what point did you decide it would be a viable career?
“In the back of my mind, it was while I was still in secondary school. At the time I was still very much in the streets but I knew music would be my way out. My business plan revolved around taking the music route. I wasn’t living and breathing music in my day-to-day, and because my routine didn’t necessarily prioritise music I couldn’t give 24/7 of my time to music.
“Everything kicked in and around my Fire In The Booth. I just knew that this was what I am here to do. And even though I lived and grew up amongst the streets, I always knew that I served a greater purpose. My story wasn’t supposed to be about some bad boy that died in the end, it also wasn’t supposed to be about some boy that got nicked in O for trapping.
“I had to do these things to survive in the environment I grew up in, but ultimately I knew that’s not where my story was going to end. If that makes sense. I knew from early on.”
Reflecting on how much UK Rap was a pioneering sound during this era, was being a storytelling artist who also fused dancehall and rap to create your aesthetic more accepted now, or back then?
“I think its actually the opposite. Being versatile and playing a role so early in terms of having different sounds I.E. rapping over dancehall beats and being one of the pioneers of that. It was more accepted back then as dancehall was the prominent driving force for international sounds.
“I would say that the internationally prominent sound right now is afro-beats. It’s almost like if you’re rapping on dancehall beats now it’s still accepted but if it’s an afro-beats type of swing it’s even more accepted now than ever.
“There are songs on the project that grab both of those worlds and merge them together. We still listen to Vybz, Popcaan, Koffee, and their songs that still ring so I know people will accept it! I’m here to play a role that reignites that fire where Jamaican culture within the UK and dancehall music worldwide is concerned.”
Considering your music is based around real-life truths of the life you have lived so far. Would you say you have used music as therapy for everything that has occurred?
“Yeah for sure, I recently started therapy sessions since I returned from Jamaica. I didn’t know what to expect from doing therapy, within my community, it’s almost like a taboo in a sense. I’ve matured and managed to rub shoulders with people who have had therapy and through being around me they’ve suggested that it could help me.
“Honestly, it’s something that I would recommend. I think it’s definitely needed for a lot of the youths male and female, who grew up in these hostile situations because there are a lot of things that we suppress and we’re desensitised to. A lot of things that we think are normal but they are actually not.
“Doing therapy sessions made me realise that through music, I’ve already had therapy. I didn’t realise! But really and truly I’ve been telling all of you lot about my business, spilling the beans as much as I can on these instrumentals. I’ve always taken pride in being honest about every single scenario I’ve ever been in. I’ve mentioned being robbed, I’ve mentioned being evicted before, just like I’ve mentioned robbing people and having houses before.
“Most rappers adjust to the ideology of what this “rapper” should be. Like a robot that lives one type of life when in reality that’s not how it is. When you’re with the mandem in a hostile situation it’s not how you act when you are playing with your daughter. For me, I have to be able to portray that whenever I can, my music has to reflect who I am.”
Some of your early freestyles and tunes from this era take your audience down memory lane. Have you found it difficult to stay relevant while trying please the original fanbase as your sound has evolved?
“I wouldn’t say difficult is the word. I know that I can give them that style consistently, but the versatility in me won’t allow me to do that. Even sometimes when I listen back to some of the old stuff it reminds me that if I stayed in that box I would never do some of the things I went on to do.
“For example “Absolute Mazzaleen”, I would never have recorded that chorus if I stuck to 2010/2011 Cashh. In that track in particular you get a bit of both, so I’m excited to see everyone’s reaction to that tune in particular. Look, I’m not the end product right now. Every time I release a song I want the community to give me signs of what they like. I don’t call them fans, because it’s a community of people who come together and help us to constantly evolve and get this sound how we need it to sound. It took a lot of sounds and experiments to get this one.”
Back then Social media wasn’t accessible as much as it is now, can you tell me about how you linked up with the likes of Steel Banglez and Kenny Allstar
“Everything was in real-time, real life. For example meeting Banglez – there was no social media involvement at all. In South London there was a legendary studio called Unit 10. A lot of the early Giggs tunes were recorded there “Talking The Hardest” etc. It really and truly is a jungle, not anybody and everybody could be in a place like Unit 10. So whilst I was recording there, Yung Meth who was Youngsta at the time, came to do a song with Giggs and they were recording etc whilst I was in the next room with my people. Youngsta walked past our room and heard us freestyling and just gravitated to me immediately. I was only 15 at the time. From then on we began working on music but he was also recording in Banglez studio too – which he invited me to.
“These times I never really left my living boundaries but from there on, me and Banglez got to work. Me and Youngsta ended up doing more than just one song, we actually put a tape together. But on the project was Blade Brown and a lot of other names from that era. I was also working on two other projects at the time which featured FixDotM, Fem Felon, Giggs and it was hosted by DJ Big Ryde, super early stuff, I was still in secondary school. The networking was really like that, Banglez was basically the hub.
“Kenny actually began filming my freestyles! A lot of people don’t know that but he was the cameraman first. They gotta put some respect on his name, he was filming hella freestyles in risky situations! Haha. He was really pulling up and linking the mandem, then went to Brixton and these times everything in the streets was kicking off.
“Eventually, he turned into my DJ, anytime I went to shows, that’s who would DJ for me. Once we started taking this seriously we’d spend hours rehearsing, going through what could make our shows stand out. Performing is something that has always been my favourite part of all of this. And Kenny was the same. We never had the budget to make the show look crazy so we thought about what we could bring to make it look crazy.”
As an artist from the first generation of UK Rap what are your thoughts on the scene as it is now?
“I personally feel like I’m more second generation because there were artists before me that had been doing their thing, I’ve just come in so young I’ve almost merged. Almost like Chip, who is in a funny place where he was here so long ago in terms of Grime MCs they would put him in one of the earlier generations. Which he should be but because he was so young he’s crossed over into our generation.
“I love it though, ill be honest with you. This is where I’ve always wanted it to go. I’ve got peers who are millionaires who can take care of their families, that gives me joy to know that it’s down to the current state of the game. I think what’s happened is the structuring of songs have improved a lot, it’s not even so much the songwriting. But the structuring is why our music and our scene has made it across the water now.
“A lot of the first generation of UK rappers was really in the streets so they were just barrin’ for twenty minutes non-stop, haha. Going in, but it’s tiring. My generation came through and built on that, I tried to do stuff like “Gassed In The Rave” with choruses and try and catch people that way. Sneakbo, “Touch Ah Button“, Giggs “Talkin The Hardest” no chorus. These songs did not travel the distance that some of these newer songs are because of that.
“As much as they are classics within our scene, they may travel now but back then they didn’t. For how much Sneakbo’s’ tune was going off it should have been ringing in Jamaica, but I don’t think it did because it didn’t have a chorus. The song is a cover to a Vybz Kartel tune, the original has an additional chorus in. People are beginning to understand music a little bit better and I respect the state it’s in. I’ve been here long enough to see that there is a cycle, things change and move. I’m here with my versatile hat ready to put on whatever I need to put on whenever I need to put it on.”
During your time in Jamaica you were consistently releasing content, varying from songs, freestyles, videos, short films and also documentaries. How easy or difficult was it for you to stay motivated to sharpen your tools for those 5 years away?
“It was easy because that was the only way I would survive. It would have been difficult if I had distractions; I couldn’t afford to not be on the ball. It would have been easy to slip off track, and a few times I did, slipping off track in Jamaica you might not get back on track. I knew that I would be back in the UK eventually, and I wanted to return as a better artist. It was something that I was conscious of, I wanted to be a much better artist than I was in 2014. Just as I was getting better as an artist I was sent out there. The project Alarm Clock didn’t get the light that it needed, so when people feel nostalgic about Cashtastic they are stuck at my project before Alarm Clock. Once I got to Jamaica the traction died out. Staying focused was an everyday goal and I wanted to make sure I was ready for anything that was thrown at me when I returned.”
I watched the Sankofa documentary and it showed how much you are respected out there when you connected with friends, family and other creative individuals. I’m sure it was a culture shock to begin with so can you tell us how you adapted to the change of environment?
“What helped me adapt was the way I was brought up. I’ve always been a sponge wherever I go. That’s why I tend to not go everywhere because without me wanting too I’ll soak up the environment. When I got out there I had to soak the environment up as quickly as possible. Mentally I was locked in a UK prison, the main thing was getting back to the UK. but physically I had to get it out of my system that I wasn’t in England. I had to be very vigilant and analyse every situation. It was almost like a crash course.”
How did the time away from the UK shape you as a human being?
“I’ve returned as a man, not the teenager I was when I left. I was able to appreciate the little things that I missed out on whilst music first started to go off for me back in the UK. As a human being, it’s definitely put me in a place where I don’t expect anything or feel entitled to anything. Anything can happen at any moment. I had hella plans, and then I got sent back to Jamaica!
“Being out there made me a lot more self-sufficient and helped me to be consistent with releases etc. The first thing we did was ship the studio equipment out here. Musically it’s enhanced me as a human being in terms of my process of music-making itself too.”
Why did you feel like this was the right time to release this project?
“Firstly, I wanted to release the project upon my return. The initial plan was to drop the project with the announcement of me returning. I understood that before sharing the music I’m capable of doing now, I had to drop something that people originally fell in love with me for before anything. Then of course 2020 happened. But it’s go-time now! It’s important to me so I’m not going to force it, I wanted to make sure that the content besides the project is ready as it makes the music way more palatable.”
You’ve always had a keen eye for film, an early video called “In My Zone” is one in particular, and you’ve directed a short film before. But, “Double Tap / Mexican Wave” – can you explain more about your role as the director?
“I’ve always co-directed without taking credit. With “Double Tap / Mexican Wave“, I made the decision that I wanted to have a crack at being the director. It was my first time directing on that scale with the type of budget as well. It was a huge learning curve but such a fun experience. And long. Doing everything from video treatment to the shot list, hiring the crew thinking about if it fits the style and aligns with the budget we had. Everyone involved did an awesome job. The transition in the track, I wanted to match it in the visual in a simple way. Visually I feel like we can push a little bit more creatively within our scene, but I know it takes one step to do it.”
Were there any themes or topics that you wanted to explore in particular?
“Yeah, I wanted to explore the fact that a lot of people applaud me for how I handled being removed from the UK and staying strong whilst I was out there. I didn’t do it alone, I had bredrins who supported my journey so I wanted to do a song dedicated to my g’s. “Mi G Dem”. To embody it even more, that’s one of the dancehall songs on the project, and I’m not rapping at all. That could easily be a Popcaan song.
“I also wanted to touch on the vulnerability of how it felt to be kicked out of the country. On “Miggle Of The Night” I say “Getting kicked out of this country it’s scorched and burnt me/This shit made me hungry this shit made me thirsty”. I wanted to say that in music outside of just interviews. In 10 years when I listen back to that, I want it to remind me of how it felt.”
The tune “Special” is a particularly uplifting track which is a message you’ve always incorporated into your songwriting. Why are you such a positive person?
“I think if I wasn’t, then I wouldn’t be myself. Even in my negative times, I’m still the most positive one in the room. Even back in the day, I would always remind everyone that the stuff we were doing wasn’t going to last forever. It’s beyond me, it’s God. I can’t even say that’s my parents because it’s beyond them. The drive within me is from my Mum, she just doesn’t stop.”
I’d love to touch on “Life of An Immigrant” could you tell us about the writing process for a song like this that has so much depth?
“The crazy thing is, that’s the last song that made the project. It was a weird one because I felt like the project definitely needed a song like this. I always knew I was going to do a song like that, but I wasn’t going to force myself to sit down and write it.
“When I heard the instrumental I was sitting and speaking to my cousin, and the piano has a classic Cashh type of vibe and I felt I could go many places on it. I asked myself where I hadn’t been on the project yet? We sat at the table and I wrote it right there and then. Line for line, my cousin was suggesting ideas and I had already written another 4 bars and just continued to develop the track. That was the songwriting process.
Recording that was a process! It felt like the end credits when you finish watching a film. Certain lines that I’m saying I don’t know if people would understand. I’ve lived on both sides now of what an illegal immigrant goes through and a legal immigrant goes through.”
After listening back to Return Of The Immigrant it gives off movie sequel vibes, was that something you intended to do?
“Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah. We intended on doing that but we were doing it half-heartedly. The transition between “Wash Clothes” and “Trench Baby”. That was a definite intention. And when we listened back we were like, we might as well do this throughout.”
What is your favourite song from the project?
“It changes depending on my mood and my vibe. Right now, “Miggle Of The Night”, currently right now.
Any reason in particular?
“It feels like a Cashh record in terms of the piano and the fact I’m barrin’. Also, paying homage to the people I connected with whilst I was in Jamaica. The track reminds me of myself during the middle of the night when I was in Jamaica. Deep reflecting, pep-talking to myself and it takes me back.”
What can we expect from Cashh for 2021 and beyond?
“Every good movie should have a sequel. But only if the sequel is going to be better than the first. That’s all I’ll say.”
Be sure to check out our round up of the most definitive Cashh tunes to date right here.