Ray Cash Biography
"I'm from the Eastside of Cleveland," Cash muses. "Grew up in this spot called 'The Hill,' directly across from the projects. I was a young cat, seeing everything that was going on. My mama would tell me, 'Don't take your ass across the street.' But I was a kid, you know, so I was fascinated. Back then it was real heavy with the crack and the guns and everything. Cleveland ain't nothing but a big ghetto anyway, man."
For young Ray, the street offered the same cocoon of acceptance, inspiration and lure that it dangles in front of young men all across America. "I didn't have any older brothers," Ray confesses. "So as me and my people got older we started hanging out around them older cats. Even after my mom finally got stuff together for us to move, I'd always be back there, fucking with them cats."
But that environment also provided the groundwork for Ray Cash the MC. "I got into hip-hop from hanging around the older dudes," he remembers. "Listening to Scarface. Listening to NWA. The shit they were talking about, the guys I hung around with were actually doing. When I got to high school, I would dib and dabble with it. My man would beat on the table and I'd bust a freestyle. People would say, 'Man, you can really rap.' But I'd say 'Get the fuck outta here.' But when Jay-Z came through Cleveland for the Hard Knock Life tour, that made me wanna rap for real. I was always a Jay fan, but seeing him be himself on stage, so cool, so laid back. He was just doing him. To see somebody do him and see people respond to it. That's power right there. It just clicked with me."
Cleveland's geographic centrality fed Ray's development and the music he makes today. Growing up in the Midwest the influences come from everywhere. Ray's mental mixtape was packed with the NWA's, Jay Z's, Eightball and MJG's, and UGK's, a cross-regional menu that's certainly influenced Ray's mic steelo, a silky baritone that flits from topic to topic with a natural, almost old school comfort. "When I came up people just cared about putting out good music. Didn't seem like they were hung up on whether they sold a million the first week. You don't get that kind of feel no more. The other day I was watching videos with three of my dudes when 'Big Poppa' came on. And everybody just stared like they were in a daze. You miss it. A cat telling you some real honest shit. You don't hear that no more. And that's part of why my approach is the way it is. A lot of people only know what's on the radio, and they accept it. I don't wanna just accept it."
He certainly doesn't accept it on C.O.D.: Cash On Delivery, a triumphant debut propelled by beat-smiths like Rockwilder, Rick Rock and Knoxxxx. From the rambunctious "The Bomb" and the playfully humorous "Sex Appeal" to the poignant hometown statement "Payback," Ray Cash hits the worn out rap scene with a mainline hit of reality. Then there's the incendiary "Fuck AmeriKKKa," a record that recalls rap history at its middle-fingered best, combining the defiance of Ice Cube with the street prophet's poetic lens of young Nas.
"Niggas don't let they nuts hang no more," Cash says. "It's rap: say what the fuck you wanna say. Luke said it. Cube said it. Man, I'm from Cleveland, one of the worst cities to live in. We're at the bottom of the barrel. The budget's fucked up. Can't nobody get a job. And I'm talking about cats in high school who just wanna work at Footlocker. So cats resort to doing whatever they gotta do. 'Fuck AmeriKKKa' was just my way of saying that what you, the system, thinks is priority, ain't the priority. We the priority. We the ones hurting. I ain't no big political cat, but I watch the news. I see what's going on. I walk the streets. I can see what's fucked up. I can see what's real."
For his album, and career, Ray Cash, fittingly, holds some straight-up, clear-eyed ambitions. "I want to be respected. Look, everybody wanna hit some numbers. And don't get me wrong; I wanna hit some numbers too. But I want to be respected. For where I'm from and for what I'm saying. And every time I come out I want got get my point across. Man, I never wanted to be a rapper from the time I was 13 or something. It just came on me when I hadn't even been thinking about. I'm here for a reason."
Ray Cash is talking the truth from the booth, just spitting the facts.