Five years is a lifetime between albums, especially in the Internet age. Yet in the case of former Shady Records artist Cashis, those five years brought about plenty of much-needed life change and insight. Once a hard-partying gangsta rapper addicted to pills, Cashis has since come clean and found himself liberated from his former addiction. He's also starting fresh musically, having recently been let go of his Shady contract. The focus is no longer on being a great artist, he admitted; it's now about being his own boss.
October 30 will see the release of his debut full-length, The Art of Dying, an album that was originally set to drop in 2009 but was held up for a variety of reasons. Even then, he understood the major label game, but he now admits he was frustrated with the hold up. However, he was quick to point out that there is no animosity toward Shady Records or Eminem. As he told me, “I still got big Shady tattoos on me. They ain't going nowhere. That's forever.”
I caught Cashis by phone while he was down in Austin, Texas last week, and during our conversation he relived the moment Eminem offered to help him go to rehab, explained that breaking ties with Shady helped him grow as a business man and artist, and admitted that delaying his album until 2012 has set him up better for sustained success.
Cashis Discusses The Patient Creation Of The Art Of Dying
HipHopDX: I wanted to start off with The Art Of Dying, which is set to drop October 30.
Cashis: Yeah, that's my baby right there.
DX: Yeah, man. It's been a long time coming. What can the people expect from this upcoming album?
Cashis: I think they can expect a definite well-rounded, more universal approach. With The County Hound, I was a kid. I was just angry at everything, and that's what you got. [With The Art Of Dying], I've been really on my money, so that's what it's about. Like I did with The County Hound, I talked about my kids. I talked about my battles with depression and thoughts of suicide and all of that. If I was to get killed or something right now, I would be proud that the world could listen to and know who I really was with this album. There's a different approach to each record but they all go together. I get to showcase all the stuff that [Eminem] was proud of me doing that I didn't get to do because I only dropped an EP.
DX: How has that transition felt for you? County Hound dropped back in '07 and you're now getting a chance to drop your first full-length five years later. What's it been like trying to let fans know you're at a different place since you last dropped a project? Has it been hard to bridge that gap?
Cashis: Yeah, a little bit. Certain people, they wanna just hear my style in the same vein the whole time. It took a while for people to just understand and even view me and hear my style different. I used to record and do like seven, eight stacks on every vocal. I don't even record the same way now, so people have to adapt to my new sound and my new approach. Now, people actually know that I got bars. Before, everybody thought I was a gangsta rapper. I'm definitely from the street and have a street vibe to me, but I'm a rapper. I listen to lyrics and punch lines and all that stuff just like everybody else.
I think people got to hear that more from me leaking records, but on this project, The Art Of Dying, it's a whole new world. I'm more than just a new artist off the block now. You can definitely know that I was taking my time, [that] I know what I'm doing musically. I'm impressed with it from beginning to the end – the intros, the outros, the skits. Everything is 100% authentic and it goes together and dictates the story of my life.
DX: I did want to talk for a second about the title, because The Art Of Dying was originally titled Loose Cannon. Why the transition to the new name and why stick with it?
Cashis: I'm still gonna do Loose Cannon. I live out my album titles, so when it was Loose Cannon, I was really out wildin'. You couldn't predict what I was gonna do, and now, I'm more just stuck in bringing my life to art. I just feel like every day, we're dying. Every day, I'm putting myself at risk, and every day, all of us are putting ourselves at risk, so how you live is your art.
My follow-up album to this, which I'm about 65% done with, which we're gonna drop in May around the six-year anniversary of the County Hound EP, [is] Euthanasia. That's my project that I've been waiting to do for a minute. After that I'm gonna come back with Loose Cannon.
DX: With Euthanasia set to drop in the coming months, how is that project shaping up compared to the way that Art Of Dying finished?
Cashis: The Art Of Dying to me would be like Makaveli [Tupac's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory]. It don't sound like Makaveli, but the Makaveli album, that was a different approach. It was similar to what was going on but it was different in its views and its thoughts. I think that The Art Of Dying fits in with today's programming, but the lyrics and the songs are deep. It's not just songs of no substance – they all carry a meaning.
Euthanasia [is] like my celebratory album. That's my party album. The Art Of Dying is my chance to go how I want to go, and with [Euthanasia], it's just crazy, man. I've been reaching back to stories from when I was a kid. I'm bringing everything full circle. I feel I had to come with The Art Of Dying, something that's hard, and just let people know where I am, then re-establish myself back into their vision – into their minds and ears. With Euthanasia, I can go ahead and just wild out all the way.
DX: I wanted to get into a few tracks I had seen floating around to confirm whether they made the cut on the album. You had posted “You Think That I'm Crazy,” which is produced by Eminem. Is that gonna be making the final cut?
Cashis: Yeah, that's one of the bonus tracks on The Art Of Dying. That's on the deluxe edition. It's 17 tracks on the regular and then we got three [more] on the deluxe edition.
DX: I also wanted to check in on “Do It All,” which has features from Rick Ross and Game. I had heard there's a possibility that it was just gonna end up on a Joe Young project so I wanted to clarify that.
Cashis: No, that's on the album for sure. Joe – that's my big bro, man. We hold it down, so no, that's on the project.
DX: Lastly, does Jake One make an appearance? I know I had seen the name floating around.
Cashis: Nah, Jake One didn't make one on this album. By the time I got to reach out to him, we already had the album picked up, but Jake will definitely be on Euthanasia. Me and Jake One go way back.
Cashis Explains His Time At Shady Records, Reasons His Debut Was Shelved
DX: I did want to get into delays a little bit, because for people who have been following your Art Of Dying Project, the album has been pushed back a few times. I wanted to revisit a quote of yours that you had told Da Shady Spot back in '09. You had said, “By the end of September at the latest, I will have CDs in the marketplace. At least, that’s what I’m told from the bosses. And if they lie to me, they lie to the public, and we don’t tolerate liars round here, at this label.”
You had also mentioned in that interview that you were waiting to get the right set up because Eminem and 50 Cent were dropping projects around that time. Can you walk me through what the hold up was at the time and why it wasn't necessarily the right look back in '09?
Cashis: Man, it was. My A&R picked a monster album. Em had mixed down like half my album already. It wasn't anything over at Shady [Records]. It was just over at Interscope [Records]. They were like “We can get Cashis and he can do a few hundred thousand,” but Em and 50, they was doing 10 million at the time, so it just made more sense for them to come with [their] albums.
It's the politics of the game. Sometimes at a label, you spend too much and you gotta bring back something into your parent company, and they have to go with the top acts at that time. Obie [Trice Second Round's On Me] had come out and they didn't really push his album as they should've. [It wasn't] Shady. I don't know who it would be. That started a downfall for us as a company at that point, so Em had to come out and do the most with our albums to make that money back. Obie's album was slammin', but it don't matter how dope your project is. You see what happened with some of 50 [Cent's] last projects. It don't matter how good it is. If you're not getting the right promotion, you can only do so much. You need that machine to be behind you.
Like I told Em in '09 after that, “I'll stay for whenever. I'll sit for however long you want as long as you get to put out stuff and put out projects.” I wouldn't want to step on nobody's toes because I'm like “It doesn't matter. My time will come,” and that was the truth. My album was supposed to come out in '09 for real. All that was the truth, man. They tried. We had it set, but then things happen and it's just business moves. It was just political business moves that led to that, and then after that, that led to me getting my own situation. It took me about a good year or so to be able to get released from my contract.
DX: People see dates get pushed fairly frequently, but it sounds like yours was a real chain reaction, that you needed the right set up, and without that in place, you didn't want to make the move until it sounded like your camp was sure.
Cashis: Exactly. I don't want to walk the plank and I can't swim. If I see it's all sharks right there, I'm not trying to jump in, and that's how I felt. At that time, I was switching over management. I had a lot of personal turmoil with the old life hazards catching up to me, police and drama and just not living right. Then I was stuck on them Xanaxes like crazy, so there was no way for me to really do anything. I knew I could look inside myself and be honest that I wasn't ready, and at that point, that was my move.
I was supposed to step up and carry the torch. That's what Em had grown me for. That's what he wanted me for, and I wasn't mentally prepared, nor physically prepared, nor was my team during that time.
Now, I ain't gonna front. I was frustrated when it wasn't happening, but I look at it now as a blessing because it would've came out, and even if I would've came out with that push and been successful, it wouldn't have been sustained because I guarantee that I would've been dead, or I would've shot somebody. I wouldn't be as humble as I am today. [At the time] I was really arrogant, because you're young with money and you high all the time. It messes with your brain, and I'm already an up-and-down person, I'm extremely high or extremely low. I was exacerbating a bad situation and I'm glad that things didn't work out like that.
DX: So it does sound like while you may have had frustrations, in hindsight, for you it doesn't feel like you have any misgivings or any bad blood there.
Cashis: Oh man, I love Shady! They're my peoples! That's why Em on the album. Em got beats on Euthanasia too. Everybody over at Shady, they know what time it is. I'm still the capo, man. I'm always part of the Shady family. I'm still part of the writing and publishing over there. It definitely ain't no beef whatsoever. I just needed a chance to stand out on my own, which I'd been asking for behind closed doors for a few years. Ever since the beginning of 2009, I'd been asking for a way to be able to put a project out on my own to test the waters and see if I can get my label started. They finally just helped me out with that and that was what was needed.
DX: So is this a case where, if The Art of Dying really raises some buzz, there's a chance of re-aligning back with Shady like that, or is your direction to do your own thing and raise buzz through your own label?
Cashis: Stranger things have happened for sure and we're all family, so that wouldn't be a problem, but for me financially, it makes more sense for me to do what I'm doing this way because I have more control over the material. I don't want to give that up again. I kind of like competing from this standpoint because I don't have to go do any type of records that I don't feel just because that's the level that I'm competing at. Where I'm at now, I can do the music that I want to come straight out of my heart at any time and put it out there and have a platform and let the people gravitate to it. I kind of like it better like that, plus I get paid way more, man. It's not an artist deal. It's a business deal.
After this, I'm already in talks for Euthanasia on a bigger level, and that could work, but I definitely want to get this Art Of Dying out first.
DX: With you touching right there on being able to get your product out without having to go through a bunch of execs for approval, when you were dealing with The Art Of Dying and its series of setbacks, did you feel like at certain points you started to overthink the project? It sounded like you were ready for this to go back in '09. Do you just start thinking too much about it?
Cashis: Honestly, I kind of just tapered off and was like “Okay, this is what I have.” I didn't have anything finished or mixed besides the records I had from Em. Around the summer of 2010, I started noticing the music culture changing in general, and I started noticing that the sound I had then wouldn't work in this marketplace production-wise. At that point, I had to revamp my whole project and my whole scene. It just took me a minute to get a team full of producers again and get the right management team and to have my engineers on point and everything like that. Once I did that, I went in there and did The Art Of Dying in like a month.
I had the record with [Joe Young, Game and [Rick] Ross, and we were gonna put that on our project entitled M.O.N.E. - “Music Over Negative Energy.” We were looking at doing an EP deal, but I was just waiting until I was really out of my paperwork. I didn't get out of my contract with Shady until the end of April of this year, and I already signed like my next deal. I had three offers. I signed my deal like May 23 or something. As soon as I was out of my contract, I was in another one. It was pretty quick, and then I just went in and recorded the album.
Cashis Talks Drug Addiction, Kicking Painkillers
DX: Earlier in our interview, you had mentioned your addiction to pills, Xanax in particular. How has your approach changed since kicking that addiction?
Cashis: For me to be able to just deal with life without being in a brain fog has been amazing. It was scary at first, because I didn't go to no doctor and I was taking like the yellow double-dipped bars. I was taking like 18 to 20 of them a day, because I would get like 100 and I would run out within three or four days. I like Rosé. I used to drink Hennessy and Rosé. That was my thing. I'd take six of the Xanie bars, drop them in there, let them dissolve, and just drink the whole bottle. When I finished the whole bottle, I'm in there rapping. It was crazy, and I didn't know how dangerous it was. I can't say that I would've cared neither. Like I said, I was just being young and dumb with it.
Now, there's times in my life I don't remember. From 2007 to 2010, there's so much I don't remember. Honestly, I really just don't remember a big chunk. I see pictures of shows. I see all kinds of stuff and I'm like “Man, I had no clue I had even been there.” I didn't even know I knew certain people. I was doing too much because that's what I do. I'm an over-doer. Now it's just my music. That's the only thing that cause problems in my household now, because I'm always in the studio or doing a show or doing a feature for somebody, but I figure that's much better than being pilled out somewhere.
DX: In an interview with Baller Status, you had also mentioned that in the studio, Eminem had reached out to help, and this was around the time he was dealing with his much-publicized addiction. Can you talk me back through that day and what it was like for you? At the time, you had said no, but what was it like having your mentor really open up like that to you?
Cashis: Like I said, I was real arrogant at this time, so when he said it, I was like “Man, I ain't weak. What do I look like going into some rehab?” And he's like “Man, little dude, I'm watching you. You be going crazy.” I had some Valiums sent to me to the studio we was at, and literally, I took 75 Valiums in the first two days and was just smoking, smoking, smoking. That's one thing I do is smoke a lot of weed. I've always done that. I'm not gonna stop that. I don't think that's a problem. I think that can help America. Honestly.
Cashis: For real, man. But I was going hard at it, and he just noticed. He knew what his problem was, and he had never seen anyone do it like how I was doing it. I'm from Chicago, and then I moved to Orange County, so I know about every pill that you can think of. I'm rapping about all these new pills and all these new drugs. He's like “Well, what's this like?” and I'm telling him and all that, and he was like “Wait a minute, man. You gonna need some help. If you ever feel like you wanna just talk, just come talk. I'll have it done discreetly. Won't nobody know. I know you're gonna think 'How the homies gonna look at me?' but you can't care about that.” And I'm like “Nah, I'm straight, man.”
I walked away from that knowing that was my homeboy. He really cared about me. Most people are always like “Oh, he poppin' off!” or “Oh, he crazy!” and they either too scared or really don't care, so the fact of him to pull me aside and let me know this wasn't just a record deal, a music contract – [execs] wouldn't really care, they wanna keep feeding you whatever it is to make you make that music and work and not think about your money – [showed] he really cared about me as a person. He never really called me Cashis. He always called me Ramone. He saw me as a person, and I thought that was cool.
DX: Were you aware of what he was going through at the time? Had he mentioned it, or did he just say “I know people that can help”? Did he admit his own problems?
Cashis: Yeah, he was telling me about it later on, but I wasn't gonna say nothing. He was telling me about it, and then it came to where I felt people were trying to keep us away from each other because I was a bad influence because we would just talk all the time on the phone. Not on no gay shit. Just like “What up, man?” He'd call and talk to my kids. I'd talk to him just about life problems, just everything, and all the material that I'm sending back is just drug-infested, so I'm sure that that wasn't good for him and what he was trying to do, trying to get over that problem. I kind of do that for people. I'm just an infectious person when it comes to who I am. I was bringing the wrong energy, but his music was crackin'. I wish y'all could've heard the King Mathers album. It was so incredible, man.
DX: I can definitely understand your allegiance to Eminem and Shady after hearing all that. It sounds like that's definitely why there's always gonna be love there for you.
Cashis: Yeah. Em was just tight, man. I could be like “Yo, Marshall, what's up? I'm in trouble. Somebody put some assault charges on me” or something, and next thing you know, I had a FedEx'd $10,000 check showing up. Or I could kick some verses in the studio, kick something crazy, and I got a check for $20,000 outta nowhere, and he's like “It's a birthday gift.” Em and Paul [Rosenberg], man, they show me love. They still show me love. I can still call on the homies if I needed it, but luckily I don't. Basically, I'm self-sufficient as a businessman now and I ain't be blowing through my money like before, so everything is good. That's why I'm saying it's no bad blood. I still got big Shady tattoos on me. They ain't going nowhere. That's forever. I'm always reppin'. They just watching me blow. They watching me do my thing so I can become a step up from the artist level to become an actual business person. Like they said, I got a smart brain. I just gotta use it.
Cashis Talks About 2012 Violence Amongst Teens In Chicago
DX: With the rise of Chief Keef and Chicago Drill music really getting some shine, along with you admittedly seeing so many close friends slain by violence in your home town, how have you been taking in the latest news about Chicago's homicides and violent crime being on the rise again?
Cashis: I just think it's normal, man. In the city, that's how it go down. In Chicago, I done lost a lot of family. I feel sad always for them kids that's getting hit and for the generation of kids that's gonna have to grow up without daddies or missing they brothers and mothers and all that. I wish there would be something we could do to change it for sure because it's scary. It is living in that lifestyle, because you gotta put that front on like you don't care and you have to really get to the point where you don't care about your life or the next person's life around you. I wish it could be addressed and changed.
I got a lot of family still out there. I still go back out to the city. I'm going back out like October 15 for a few weeks to do some promo for my album. When I go, I don't stay in no fancy neighborhood. I go right where my family and everyone else post up. I thought when I was growing up [that] the city was bad. I definitely see how Lupe [Fiasco] was right in how he was coming across, how all his homies in pictures were dead. From my block, me and [one of my homies] are the only ones that ain't dead or doing life somewhere, locked up. It's sad.
DX: I did want to touch upon your group The Renegadez, which originally had been a four person group that went down to two. One of your members, Monique, was actually gunned down back in '99, and in an interview in '05, you had mentioned that you and the group had really tried to keep her spirit alive in your songs. How much does she come up on wax for you or just in every day life?
Cashis: She come up in every day life because she tattooed on my arm and we had a daughter that's in 9th grade. We had her when we was both in high school, man, so she come up every day. It's hard not to think about her.
In music, I'll bring her up on songs every now and then just to keep her name out there. When I do that so much, it depresses me, so I don't want to over-do it or make it seem like I'm just faking with it, because it's real. It's a struggle sometimes to even have memories, because you remember and they're good, but then you realize that this person isn't here based upon a way of life that you introduced, so that bothers me sometimes.
DX: With you two having been in the same group and being intimately involved, what was it like working musically with someone that you were so close with? Did it lead to a lot of tension or was the chemistry great?
Cashis: It was great because we did everything together anyway. We was like 16, 17, 18. We was 18 when she got killed. I couldn't go to the bathroom without her going, know what I mean? We went everywhere together. We lived together. We dropped out of school together. It was what it was, so we was always around each other. I remember when she was eight months pregnant and my guys got into a scrap. I jumped in with them and she's out there stomping fools with me. That's crazy, but that's how we got down. It was an every day thing.
Doing music, that was just the natural progression. I had people that wanted to get down with me on a record deal then, and I didn't even have my dope voice. They were like “Do this type of record” and “Do this,” and she was like “You better not, you hear me? You better keep it gangsta all the way.” She was hard. When I was riding in the street, she wouldn't let me put out no weak music. She wouldn't let me do nothing that was corny or none of that. She wasn't playing, and I use that as my motivation now when I'm in the studio. She was really on that level where she could talk to me for real, straight up, and it would work. It would get to me, so it was a good progression. We had our ups and downs. We was wild and we argued a lot, but it was fun though.