It’s not exactly a good time to be a gangsta rapper. Oprah’s leading a mob bent on cleaning up hip-hop, CNN has decided that Camron is the source of all evil, and the airwaves are dominated by dance-friendly joints. Into the fray steps a defiantly unapologetic Cashis, the pistol packin future of Shady Records. Armed with his new release, County Hound EP, Cashis is set on bridging the gap between gang banging and the hip-hop mainstream. With ten children depending on him you know he means business. Everyone and their mother has a mixtape out …
DJBooth Album Review
Everyone and their mother has a mixtape out now (my mom’s selling hers out the trunk of her Honda Accord), so Shady Records figured that dropping a limited EP instead would make some noise in preparation for Cashis’ upcoming full length album, Loose Cannon. With limited space to make a big impression, Cashis devotes all 30 minutes of the EP to spitting as hard as the automatic weapons firing in the background of nearly every track.
County Hound makes its intentions known early on with the tracks That Nigga A Gangsta and Gun Rule. The term “gangsta” has become as watered down as “pimp,” you know it’s a problem when frats at Yale are having gangsta themed parties, but both are sparse tracks that have slamming beats and violently concentrated lyrics. If the only Cashis track you ever heard was That Nigga A Gangsta you’d think he was just another MC (“I got a bigger dick, plus I’m fly as shit, you see me with your bitch,”), and Gun Rule doesn’t do much more, but just a couple track later he proves he’s got real ability.
The cut Ms. Jenkins is a letter to the mother of a man Cashis killed while gang banging, and he demonstrates he can be unceasingly hard and enormously intelligent at the same time, an impossible task for most MCs. Similarly Like Me has Cashis reflecting on the example he set for his children, he’s simultaneously proud of their toughness but doesn’t want them banging like he did. Complexity like that is rare, and it’s realer than most money and gun talk out there (I’m looking at you Jim Jones). Cashis has a distinct voice, dynamic delivery, and verbal skills; he may just be able to bring true gangsta rap back to the mainstream after all.
The shadow of Eminem looms large over this album and the Shady One’s presence is a blessing and a curse for Cashis. On the plus side Em’ brings some serious connections guaranteed to put a relatively unknown Chicago rapper in the national spotlight. On the flip side Eminem produces four tracks and does solid work, even if the majority of his beats feature the same military-marching percussion and spare sampling, but it’s his lyrical legacy that gets in the way. It’s the central problem for any established star; how do you back someone without making them known solely as a member of your crew?
Eminem has to be included in any best rapper of all time conversation, so while the spotlight should be solely on Cashis when he lays down a shattering flow on Thoughts of Suicide, it’s hard not to think that Shady did it better on When I’m Gone. It can be almost impossible for a new artist to establish an independent identity, just ask Murphy Lee or Lloyd Banks, and Cashis still has a way to go until he’s known as more than just Em’s protégé. Think of County Hound as a preview, something to get your attention while you wait for the feature. Cashis has some muscle, but is he strong enough to break away from Shady’s gravitational pull? Stay tuned.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 05/24/07
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