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You Can't Mention Memphis Rap Without Co Cash

By Dylan Green on

Co Cash has been bubbling within the Tennessee rap scene for years. The 24-year-old South Memphis rapper’s career began in the early 2010s when he recorded over a Tay Keith beat he found on YouTube. After the song was made, the duo established a bond over social media before strengthening it while attending the same high school and college. Cash first gained traction under the name Rico Dinero in 2014, his breakneck flows and knack for punchlines and metaphors helping him stand out from the crowd.

As his career progressed, dependability became Co Cash’s ethos. His music is sturdy, propelled by the hard-hitting beats and terminal velocity that have powered Memphis rap for the last three decades. Cash’s latest project, HIM, Not Them, slots neatly into his discography. It’s easy to catch a contact headrush from songs like “Take III” or the Tay Keith-produced “Hard”; Cash’s booming voice makes stories of jewelry sound like proclamations over the skittering synthetic drums.

Cash has been a bona fide star in his hometown since at least 2019 when he released his Interscope debut F.A.C.T.S., executive produced by Tay Keith. He’s ready to take his sound to the next level like kindred spirits Key Glock and Moneybagg Yo have. If HIM, Not Them is any indication, his talent is bound to meet his ambition halfway: “I feel like I’m one of the building blocks for this new generation. You can’t mention Memphis rap without me.”

Being a Memphis native, you naturally grew up listening to a lot of Tennessee rap music. How has your home state influenced your love for music?

I only feel like the old Memphis music had an impact on my career. Not so much the new music but Three 6 [Mafia] and Project Pat and stuff like that. They influenced the roots of my sound and the type of beats I choose.

I can tell. A lot of the beats you gravitate toward have a Mystic Stylez sound to them. What was your first experience with Three 6?

Project Pat was one of the first people to reach out to me after I started making music. He hit me up in 2017. He was just talking to me on some music stuff. This was way before I was even buzzing for real. He was asking whether I write my music and whether or not I’ve written music for other people and just wanted to talk to me about creating and telling me I had a future and stuff like that.

One new Memphis artist you have a long history with is producer Tay Keith. When did the two of you first meet?

We met on the internet first. Everyone on the internet used to look up “type beats” on YouTube. That’s how I first found Tay Keith. We didn’t even know we was in the same city at first. It must’ve been a Chief Keef-sounding beat or something because that was the wave at that time. We wound up following each other on social media and then we wound up going to the same high school and college [Middle Tennessee State University]. It just kinda happened organically.

What’s your favorite aspect of working on music with Tay?

We don’t work all the time no more, but if I hit him, I know I can always count on him. If I need a certain kind of song, I know we can put our minds together and do it and come up with the song. Our creativity just match. We’re always in sync.

You can’t fake that chemistry. You either get it or you don’t.

I don’t even have to be in the studio with him for us to come up with a song.

You work punchlines into your raps so effortlessly. What, to you, is the essence of a good punchline?

I don’t really be knowing how the thoughts come into my head but I know what need to be said. Sometimes, my punchlines don’t even really be punchlines. A lot of times, I use words that a lot of other rappers don’t use in they raps. It be words people aren’t used to hearing in songs.

When I’m coming up with metaphors, if I’m saying one bar and thinking about what to say in the next bar, I’ll come up with the end word, and then the rest just be popping into my head. I don’t even think about it that often.

Your music has a spontaneity that makes it unpredictable in the best way. Walk me through the process of how you record songs.

When I record, I just punch in. Usually, I’ll pull up a beat I like and start off with one line and keep building off that. For [HIM, Not Them], we did it kinda differently. We had an idea board where we put together a long list of different topics; [we’d] eliminate some of them and make the list shorter and shorter.

Usually, on my mixtapes, I don’t be picking through songs. I could just record a bunch of songs and use every song. On this one, we wanted to make sure everything made sense. I feel like it always makes sense but I wanted to try it a little differently this time.

Do you feel like this process worked out better for you? Would you do this again?

I’d say I’ll probably do it moving forward on albums, but not necessarily for mixtapes. We used the album process for this project.

There’s a line on “Hard” that sticks out to me: “Tried to make a killing, made a living off of words.” How does it feel to be in a position where you’re providing for you and yours and representing Memphis in the same breath?

It’s a good feeling but it took a long time and continues to take a long time. I’m still not where I wanna be and not doing everything I wanna do. I don’t get too comfortable or too excited about being in one position in life until I get to where I’m really trying to be. I like being in this position but I’m focused on a higher position.

Artists from Juicy J and Yo Gotti to Moneybagg Yo and Key Glock have been putting on for Memphis over the course of the last decade. Where do you feel you fit within this lineage?

I feel like I’m one of the building blocks for this new generation. You can’t mention Memphis rap without me. All these new artists that are getting signed already know me because I’ve been doing it. They was all already listening to my music. I’m already solidified as one of Memphis’ top artists. They say I’m a lyricist but I don’t think I’m a lyricist.

What would you call yourself other than a lyricist?

I don’t feel like I’m a lyricist but I’m not a mumble rapper or nothing like that. I don’t know what to call it. I just do me. Even when I start off on my songs, I just go and it ends up how it ends up. I be like, “Damn, how’d I make this go with that?”

That’s interesting to me because the word “lyricist” comes with a certain lyrical miracle expectation for most. But to me, being a lyricist can be as simple as putting words together in a way that sounds fly.

So you consider me a lyricist?

I do.

That’s crazy. I guess my definition is different. I look at people like Meek Mill or JAY-Z as lyricists.

I do, too. But I also see people like [Young Thug], who can stretch out cadences and mess with ad-libs, or Megan Thee Stallion, who gets off crazy flows, as lyricists. It’s just somebody who can bend language in a way that sounds dope. And you definitely do that.

When I see somebody who can do that, I just consider them a real artist. You know what? That’s what I would consider myself: an artist. I agree with what you’re saying, but I think my word for it would be “artist.”

Photos by Diwang Valdez.

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