Brain Gang, Dallas' premier rap collective, has received a lot of press for their rowdy presence, charisma and ambition. Boasting eight members, its ranks were loaded with talent and the drive to make a real impact in the music world. 2014 has been a banner year for members of the collective at the solo level. Enough has already been written about Blue, the Misfit and his rise to prominence both locally and nationally. While Blue came away with two Dallas Observer Music Awards trophies last night, one of his Brain Gang compatriots received his first DOMA nomination and may well make 2015 his year.
23-year-old Cashmir is ready to step out into his own. Despite not having an official release out until recently, he was up for the Best New Act at the DOMAs on Tuesday night. I say until "recently" because Cashmir just celebrated the release of his debut mixtape, Prodigy, on November 24. On Prodigy, Cashmir has carved out his own identity on no uncertain terms.
Heavily influenced by Southern rap, Prodigy is a testament to where Cashmir comes from, but also displays an aptitude for the climate of the rap game today. All too often, rappers who try to "tell you where they're from" fall short of telling you who they are and end up giving listeners a glorified history lesson. If listeners want to listen to the classics, they'll listen to the classics. The reason they tune in to a new rapper is to hear something else, to hear someone else.
Cashmir does well in his effort to tell you who he is on Prodigy. The mixtape features a heavy Southern influence ala Big K.R.I.T. while also featuring subtle elements of West Coast rap (think L.A.'s TDE outfit, which Cashmir says is one of his biggest influences) as well as some East Coast rap. In the new Internet age, artists are no longer limited by their locale. "I keep my eye on what's going on everywhere, man," Cashmir says regarding how he stays plugged into the national rap scene.
One of the biggest problems for modern Texas rap in recent years has been that it lives in the shadow of its heroes. A person in New York knows about DJ Screw, Pimp C and Big Moe. The problem is that rap didn't stop then. It has continued on. This has been a problem for the entire state, not just limited to Houston. In this new generation of Dallas rappers, led by the likes of Blue, the Misfit and A.Dd+, with Cashmir hoping to join them soon, the method has changed: This group wears a chip on their shoulder and is armed with resources and a knowledge that their predecessors never had.
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Cashmir's goal for 2015 is to do everything bigger and better. "Just to make a name for ourselves, we knew we had to do everything two times, three times better or harder to get noticed. Going forward that's the mentality," he says.
But more than just the music, Cashmir also wants to make a name for himself in the fashion industry. "I'm very into fashion and that aspect of the rap game. I've always been interested in establishing a machine that encompasses everything, not just music." If Blue, the Misfit has the production side of a Kanye covered, Cashmir hopes to stake claim to the fashion side. The end game for Cashmir is to establish a fashion brand connected to his rap.
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Cashmir's design isn't anything new in the rap world, and truthfully in the 21st century it is the only way to go now. This goes back to the fact that this new wave of Dallas rappers understand the big picture and recognize what it takes to get your name out there these days. It is no longer good enough just to write a good song. It is a string of savvy constructs that lead to a conglomerate.
The rap game truly has changed and, as far as Dallas is concerned, the new generation is no longer a group of doe-eyed kids, they're ready-for-battle soldiers. "I pride myself off actions. To me there's literally nothing more I pride myself on than 'doing it,'" Cashmir insists. "I think Dallas has kind of gotten into an overly showboat, competition [heavy] scene. Some people are a little too into the hype, without the machine behind it. I like really working through my actions."
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