“That would be some life-changing shit.”
That’s New York City producer and rapper Cash Cobain, contemplating what would happen if he collaborated with Drake. On this particular July afternoon, posted up at the Off Record studio in Midtown Manhattan, Cash is a few weeks out from releasing his sixth album, Pretty Girls Love Slizzy, and lowers his already soft voice when breaching the subject. The two making music together seems likely (Drake has, after all, already asked Cash for beats) but for the most part, Cash remains pretty tight-lipped about it all; when probed, he merely offers cryptic suggestions through body language (as if to mime, “Who’s to say?”).
In any case, it’s time for Cash to start thinking on that level. In just a few years, he’s become one of the most in-demand and influential producers in New York City. It’s no exaggeration to say the 25-year-old now-legend has reinvigorated the local scene, at the intersection of club music and drill. His signature sound, which consists mainly of immensely hard, tiny drums, R&B samples, and movement-inspiring bass, has also been prolifically ripped off. He says his hit “My Everything” with B-Lovee was the first NY drill song to go gold—it’s the song that basically invented “sexy drill,” which Bronx superstar Ice Spice is currently riding at the top of the charts. Cash’s style reaches outside the boundaries of his city, too, with him now collaborating with artists like Lil Yachty and Pinkpantheress. His goal is to make it inescapable (“I want people to get tired of me”).
Pretty Girls features more of what we love from Cash and none of what we don’t: nonstop sex raps (Cash’s commitment to sex as subject material is, in fact, remarkable), the hardest kick drum in the game, rhythmic variety, spacious minimalism, and droning samples (“The sample be talking to me”). Each song is crafted without overthinking, at random late hours in his home studio in Queens.
At the rate he’s going, he could probably make another one in his sleep, but as it stands Cash is sitting on one of the albums of the year. Over the span of our 30-minute conversation, it becomes clear that he knows it. Cash spoke to BRICK about Pretty Girls, his career hopes and dreams, his speaker-puncturing, yet miniscule drums (he explains that you have to leave space for the sample and for the rap), the inherent irony of people copying other people’s styles, and the debate about sample snitching.
Pretty Girls Like Slizzy — what’s the story of this album? How did it come together?
I been working on this album for quite a while now. Just putting music together basically. Living my life, and experiences, and putting it into songs. Sometimes I may wake up at five in the morning and make a song, sometimes I might come home from the club, make a song. You know, I be in my house making these songs. Just my life experiences.
And you’re making it as you live.
And made mostly at home. On your own time, nobody telling you what to do.
On my own time, I could go back and edit it right now if I wanted to. Not on nobody’s else’s time.
“Show My Love.” Great song. When you layer in those kicks are you playing it live on a machine?
Nah I’m programming it on FL studio, I’m clicking it into the piano roll. I don’t have a drum machine. I just have a laptop. But I can do it from the laptop, just pressing keys.
Is that what you did for those kicks?
Nah, I didn’t do it for those. I’m a beat bully. I like to exaggerate on the kick drum.
Yeah the kick is famous. I feel like your beats have these really clearly separated parts. The bass, the drum, and the sample.
Do you think about it that way? Keeping things distinct?
I think so. I think I think about it that way. Is that simple? I like keeping it simple. I don’t like doing too much. Bass, drum, sample, hi hat.
And you use very little snare, maybe a snap or some small sound.
Sometimes I don’t even use a snare. I just use a hi hat sometimes. I’m trying to be different, too. I’m trying to be simple, but different.
A lot of NY hip-hop from before your time has a big snare.
That’s why your shit sounds so new to me, because it’s not on the down beat it’s on the up beat. That’s why when “Slizzy Like” came out, it hit me in the face. I was like, “This is a whole new thing.”
Yes. I feel like it’s a new era, it’s a new day and age, us kids—or whatever you want to call us—we’re trying new things. Trying new sounds. I like to carve my own lane, with different elements.
How do you get your kick drum to hit so hard? Is it because you put distortion on it?
I turn it all the way up. I turn the velocity all the way up. And it hit! It might destroy your speaker. I done messed up a couple speakers.
Your drums are mad tiny, but mad heavy.
It’s like a stab, almost.
You feel me? Because you still gotta have space for the sample to talk to you. I feel like the sample be talking to me. You gotta have space for that. Then you gotta have space to rap.
Do you think of producing as sort of like managing the space?
Um, not necessarily, but it’s making everything come together. And making sure that it’s sexy, and that it goes. I don’t know how to explain it.
Do you have any general philosophies as a producer? Always do this, never do that?
There’s no “never do” nothing. If you feel like you want to do anything, or try anything new that nobody does, or you’ve never done, always do that. Don’t “never not do” anything, because you never know. Don’t be afraid to be outside the box. Don’t try to fit in. Why are you trying to make a beat like someone else? You’re not the only person that’s going to be making a beat like someone else. There’s a reason you’re trying to make a beat like someone else: because they were different than what you heard before. It’s your job as a producer to be different, be yourself.
That’s true that the ones who get imitated are the ones who change the game. Where did you get your style from? Like who are your OGs, whether they know it or not?
New era? Metro Boomin is my favorite producer of all time. Zaytoven, Southside, Jahlil Beats, TM88, Pi’erre Bourne, Lex Luger, Young Chop…but definitely Kanye, Pharrell, Timbaland, Swizz Beats, Puffy…I’m inspired by everybody.
Super producers basically. Who’s your dream collab vocalist?
Future. Young Thug. Travis Scott. Kanye West.
That’s cool, that you’re thinking at that level. You produced for everyone in New York already, so it’s natural for you to be thinking about what’s next.
Top of the line.
Can you remember all the NY rappers you’ve produced for? It’s a long list.
B-Lovee, Tata, Chow Lee, who else…
What about 2219?
He’s from Jersey. Shout out to my brother 2219. A Boogie hopped on my shit so I’m counting that, there’s more, there’s more, but…
What’s your most classic song you produced for someone else?
“My Everything” for B-Lovee. It went viral on TikTok, the first drill song to go viral on TikTok, first drill song to go gold. And it’s not even that traditional Bronx drill. It’s sexy drill meets Bronx drill. Classic to me.
What’s your most classic song you produced for yourself?
“JHOLIDAY.” Just the way we came off on that shit, and the way I made the beat, the drum, the kick, the way I used the sample…people still trying to make beats like that. That was just be being different. Trying to figure out what to do with this sound. Because I can’t just add the regular kicks. And lo and behold, I came up with something that changed the game.
What was your childhood like in New York?
Lit, fun, amazing, dangerous. Exciting. Wouldn’t change it for the world. I love where I grew up, I love how I grew up, things were way better back then. 163rd and Trinity Ave. Being young, not having no worries, no responsibilities. Being young was like a fairy tale, before life hits you. You don’t know nothing but like, a good time.
What are some of your earliest musical memories?
Back in the day, my grandpa had this big ass TV, that’s like a box, that’s huge, and standing in front of that TV and watching the Michael Jackson HIStory DVDs and dancing. That’s my earliest music memories. That was my grandma’s DVD, my grandpa’s TV. I was at my grandparents’ house a lot. They were into everything, Luther Vandross, Steve Wonder. My parents, my aunts, cousins, we were all into music. But what I got into was Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, and Biggie Smalls. Those are like my earliest favorites.
All incredible artists.
How do you want people to feel listening to your music?
Extra slizzy, extra sexy. I want them to get loose no matter where they’re at. Feel the vibe and dance to it, and enjoy it. I want them to enjoy the music.
When did you first become aware of drill?
Chief Keef. Shout out Chief Keef. I thought I was Chief Keef when I was 14 and he came out. He was like 16, I don’t know. That was the first drill I ever heard. It’s totally different now. The sound, the delivery, everything. That was 10 years ago. Now you have UK drill, New York drill, Bronx drill, sexy drill, Jersey club drill, there’s so many drills.
Are you a fan of all the drills?
What’s your favorite drill?
Favorite drill is the sexy drill. It’s the sexiest one!
When did you first become aware of club music?
Jersey club? I used to be in Jersey like ‘09, 2010, 2011, 2012, with my boy Mathew Ali. I’m aware of their whole culture. I’m aware of their whole Jersey club culture. Being in parties, Baltimore club music was the music that started it all, for me. But then being in Jersey, I was just around it a lot.
Who are your favorite club producers?
For sure my favorite producer is Mcvertt. He got it, for sure.
Can we talk about the track “Slizzy Dialogue”? Is there any story to that?
I was just listening to some Drake. I don’t remember ever hearing it before, what’s the name of it? “Lay You Down”? “Shut It Down.” I guess on the end of the song, he changed it to lay you down, which is what I sampled. I was like, this is sexy, I have to sample it. So I go to sample it, and the words just started coming to me. “Hey babe, what it do / I’m slizzy, how bout you?” And then she started talking back. So you got that dialogue. Back and forth.
It’s good. It made me realize you’re leveling up with raps and concepts, too. Not just beats.
Trying my best.
Do you think you’re as good a rapper as you are a producer?
I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about that. I don’t go in there thinking I’m the best rapper, or the best producer, I just want to make stuff that sounds good. Don’t get me wrong, if I say some fly shit, I’ll be proud about it. But my mindset is not on that.
“Not No Xanax” has that hard kick again, that crazy sound that sounds like “JHOLIDAY.” Great song. Same kick. Famous kick. Nobody can steal your kick.
Oh, no. They stole that shit. If it wasn’t for me, this whole New York, Bronx drill, I don’t know what it would sound like. But yeah, shout out to me. [laughs]
Do you care about sample snitching?
I don’t care about no sample snitching.
My homie wrote in Pitchfork that you’re the horniest rapper in New York. You’re cool with that status?
For sure. Rocking with it. Living up to my name.
What would success in the music industry look like to you?
Everybody listening to my music. Can’t go nowhere without my music on. Can’t turn on the radio without hearing “This beat came from Cash, not from YouTube.” Can’t watch a basketball game without hearing my song in the background. Being everywhere. I want to be everywhere, undeniable. I want people to get tired of me.