“I Like It More When the Samples Come to Me”: An Interview With Cash Cobain

'2 Slizzy 2 Sexy' is a manifestation of Cash Cobain's alter ego, an unmercifully horny, straight-shooting lothario wrapping lyrical gems within eight-bar loops, Staley Sharples writes.
By    January 13, 2023

Image via ShotsbyArian/Instagram

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“Suffocate” was the third single off the debut album from the next big thing of 2007, J. Holiday. With its syrupy lyrics and Tricky Stewart’s catchy groove, it peaked at Number 18 on the Billboard chart, but failed to launch J. Holiday into the stratosphere of male R&B vocalists – many of whom lacked the talent that the young upstart from DC showed on that first record (looking at you, Trey Songz)

My initial encounter with “Suffocate” came from a MySpace page, a digital relic of music-discovery that can only be passed down like a fable to Gen Z kids who’ve had access to iPads since near-infancy. Surprisingly, NYC’s hottest Zoomer Cash Cobain remembers this song too, as exemplified by his monster hit “JHOLIDAY”, which transforms an offhand lyrical phrase from “Suffocate” into an infectious hook crafted by the outright king of sample drill. The single from Cobain’s breakout mixtape 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy has launched the New York producer, rapper, and songwriter into a greater stratosphere of celebrity outside of his home city’s loving audience.

Having played across Europe and at Rolling Loud Miami and NYC, Cobain’s instantly recognizable sampling was heard throughout 2022 via Drake’s OVO Sound Radio, Frank Ocean’s Homer cock ring ad, and as I recently experienced, the speakers of a chicken spot in Fairfax. Born in the South Bronx, Cash Cobain grew up surrounded by music, with his family inadvertently exposing him to a variety of influences through the radio. His interest in production stems from childhood; Cash laughs that his mom told him his earliest beats were made with a Leappad learning toy. Cash now calls Queens his home, with his adoptive sector of the city linking him to fellow drill stars like Big Yaya (who came up with Cash’s unmistakable tag), Shawtybinladen, B-Lovee, Bandmanrill, and Chow Lee. The artists connected over the pandemic through the now-forgotten app Clubhouse, ciphering and talking shit then turning it into gold over Cash’s singularly reworked samples.

Drawn from the music of his past, sampling is the core of Cash Cobain’s workflow. Shaped by the swath of 50 Cent beats and questionable Fergie songs that defined the mid-to-late aughts, Cobain pulls these references into tracks on his full-length collaboration with Chow Lee, 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy. The album (and its subsequent deluxe release) is a manifestation of Cash’s alter ego Slizzy, an unmercifully horny, straight-shooting lothario wrapping lyrical gems within eight-bar loops of transformed snippets from forgotten hits like the aforementioned “Suffocate”. The 24-year-old’s affable demeanor belies his sudden success, and he maintains that humbleness despite the fact 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy most recently scored a nod on the New York Times’ best albums of 2022.

Our conversation touched on the roots of Cash Cobain’s musical inspiration and the joy he derives from creating music. This is his passion. As we stare down the mysteries of a new year, Cobain has his intentions already set. “I just want to make music and turn up the best way I could, make this thing blow up, make it go crazy. Have more fun.” Staley Sharples

I want to dig into where it all began. You first started making beats in like 2013, is that right?

Cash Cobain: No, no. Before that.

Give me the whole history.

Cash Cobain: My mom says when I was a little kid, I had a Leap Pad. You know the little Leap Pad toys?


Cash Cobain: She said that I used to click all the letters to make a beat out of it, so I guess that’s where it all started. Growing up around her, my grandmother, and my family… they all loved music, so I grew a love for music naturally every day. I always liked the bass part of the song so that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to sing or rap. Growing up, you dibble and dabble in a lot of things. When it was time, I found my program, FL Studio. It was hard for me too, had to download a lot of viruses to our computers, you know? [Laughs] ‘09 is when I found FL Studio. I would say 2009 is when I really started to get the hang of it. Because by 2012, I got it. 2013 is when I started rapping.

Gotcha. So how does one go from the LeapPad to FL Studio? Were there other artists that you listened to growing up that you wanted to emulate?

Cash Cobain: I mean, I didn’t want to emulate nobody. I love 50 Cent, Jay-Z, I loved all the artists growing up but those two were like, the main ones. I didn’t want to emulate. I just wanted to make beats. Growing up, I never thought that any of this would be possible. As you get older, you start to see that this stuff is actually possible, but when you’re young you’re not thinking of anything, you just want to just create.

You have to keep that passion alive.

Cash Cobain: For real. It’s like, I got a craving to make music.

There’s never a day you get writer’s block?

Cash Cobain: Of course!

How do you combat it?

Cash Cobain: I don’t like to force things, I like them to come naturally. If I’m really not feeling right making a song or a beat, I just don’t do it. I’m gonna chill, go outside, and find inspiration. That’s how it goes. You can find inspiration anywhere, right? I could be getting inspiration from this interview. I can go off and make a beat. I like everything natural. not forced. I don’t force shit.

I think your style is so unique. When did you start experimenting with using samples in your beats? Was that always a thing?

Cash Cobain: Always. Always. I can send you some of my first beats, they had samples. I’ve been sampling since I started making beats. I was messing with a program called Virtual DJ. I used to rip samples from there. I was making beats over the songs I was listening to growing up.

You said your family is really into music, so what kind of artists were you listening to?

Cash Cobain: Everybody. R&B, pop music, hip hop, rock and roll. I liked Elvis growing up. Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, 50 Cent, and Biggie are who I like the most. But being around my family, it was no telling what you were listening to. I was listening to everything. Radio was a big thing growing up. We didn’t have Apple Music or all these streaming networks. Radio, MTV, BET—those were the big outlets. They were playing whatever they wanted to play, and we listened to it all day.

Is that how you keep your music playful, by going back to those memories of hearing things for the first time?

Cash Cobain: Personally, I just like these songs. As I listen to it, of course, I go back to the times when those songs did come out, like 2008. That era was different. That’s when we were kids. Now, it’s full circle with the sampling.

How do you go about finding samples now?

Cash Cobain: I either hear it on the radio, my mom’s playing it, or my grandma playing it, or I’m outside at a restaurant or an elevator and I hear something I like, I put out the Shazaam and get the sample. I could be watching a movie and I hear something in the background of a movie, I’m gonna Shazaam it. The samples come to me. I like it more when the samples come to me, rather than me going sample-hunting. The idea just comes to me, which makes the song better. Even like on Instagram. On Instagram and TikTok, they’re taking the older songs… I like what they do.

Is there a specific movie that interested you in terms of sampling?

Cash Cobain: You know the movie Click, with Adam Sandler? I think I was sleeping when that movie was playing. I just heard the sample, and woke up. I get a boost of energy when I hear something I like. I really want to go do it.

OK, so you started rapping in 2013, But you didn’t originally set out to be a rapper, so why go down that path?

Cash Cobain: I think I was just bored. [Laughs] I made my mom buy me a microphone, I wanted to try it. Then I tried it, and it was cool and new to me. Back in those times, I was making music for me and my friends, and my family. I was just making music for us, I wasn’t making music on a larger scale. I was focused on fun. I was making stuff that only we understand, you know what I’m saying?

Do you play your family everything you make before it goes out?

Cash Cobain: No.

Well, I was gonna ask because I read an article that called you one of the horniest rappers currently making music. I’m curious about your rap persona. Do you feel you have a character?

Cash Cobain: I feel like that’s me. I feel like my alter ego is Slizzy, and he just took over. They calling me the horniest rapper, I gotta live up to that name.

Many people have said to write what you know, so that makes sense.

Cash Cobain: That’s just a shell of me. It can get deeper. It’s gonna get deeper.

What’s your lyric process? Do you go off the cuff or write lyrics?

Cash Cobain: I do both. People act like they too cool to write stuff. I’m not too cool to write. But I also don’t say whatever comes to mind. I think I think more people should write.

Let’s talk about how 2 Slizzy 2 Sexy and the Deluxe release came together. What was the development like?

Cash Cobain: Me and Chow, we be making songs like it was yesterday. Initially, we weren’t going to make a mixtape, we were just making songs. Next thing you know, we got 30 songs, so the first installment came out. The first installment was so perfect. But it had to blow up. The first one did so well, you know we had to do the Deluxe [release]. It was the same process, you know, we just doin’ songs. Nothing was forced. That’s definitely my friend.

Do you record at home?

Cash Cobain: Yeah, I be recording at home. My friends that make music, they all got their equipment. Chow’s got his own equipment. So we don’t have to go to the studio. I can do it from Chow’s crib, I can do it from here. I can do it from the comfort of my own home.

That makes it easier sometimes to work with people you know, especially friends.

Cash Cobain: Yes.

How did you meet Chow? Like, how did you guys get linked up?

Cash Cobain: I like to say my friend Zay-Slim, he introduced us to each other. He was like, [you’re] musical, do music. I tapped in. I listened to Chow Lee. Oh my god, like, he hard. He nice. I didn’t know him, I just knew his music. So he had a song called F My Cousin. And I was like, that’s fire. I took a liking to that. And then, like you were saying earlier, the world ended. So you know how everybody was on Clubhouse, right?

Clubhouse is where me, Chow, Lonnie, and Willie hung out. It was an exciting time. I believe we had Clubhouse to the frizzy like, everybody wanted to talk like us. We would go that crazy on Clubhouse, and we made an album. We were on Clubhouse every day. Then we finally met up with each other and everybody was cool as hell. After that we just keep making [music]. Those relationships grow. Those my guys, like those my brothers, you heard? You know I love Chow Lee, everybody over there. Jimmy, everybody over there. We locked in for sure.

That’s so wild. If you told yourself, you’re going meet some of your best friends over an app, and then you’re going to make a song with them that’s going to be featured in Frank Ocean’s cock ring commercial, how would you have processed that information 10 years ago?

Cash Cobain: If somebody was to tell me that, I would look at them like they sound so stupid. Like, what? I could’ve never imagined that, for real.

How did you find out about the Homer stuff?

Cash Cobain: My biggest moments on social media, I just be sleep. I wake up, everybody going crazy, I’m like what the hell is going on? They’re tagging me in posts, Frank Ocean and stuff, that’s crazy. It was on his brand page and the Homer page. He must really like that song to pick—you know, out of every song in the world, that song, you know what I’m saying? That song’s got like, profanity in it, all that. He ain’t even care. He crazy. He gonna put the cock ring next to that. I enjoyed that because growing up we bumped Frank Ocean heavy. I never would’ve imagined Frank Ocean would fuck with me. I still can’t believe it.

I mean you got that. You got Drake, you’re playing in Europe. You’re a busy guy.

Cash Cobain: I want to know how they really feel about me. I know Frank Ocean must really like the music because he used it in his commercial. I know they keep listening to me because OVO Sound Radio is playing my song, and tagging me in posts. So I wonder, do they feel how I first felt about them when they were coming up?

You’re doing something really unique and different, and people are resonating with that. Fans and artists, too. How did you infuse crossover elements of pop and R&B into drill music?

Cash Cobain: That’s the sexiness. You gotta make the beat sexy. If I dance to it, I know everybody else will dance to it. I want to say something that’s gonna catch them. I can’t just rap on any beat, it gotta feel good and fresh. Once you get that feel-good fresh feeling, you’re gonna want to dance. That’s pretty much it.

When did you first feel your music could be big?

Cash Cobain: When my family was going off on it. I knew this could big because they don’t just listen to anybody. That’s like a spark in me. It’s crazy, it’s changed our lives. I just want to make music and turn up the best way I could, make this thing blow up, make it go crazy. Have more fun. Get the Cash Cobain brand more out there. I like the direction. So I want to continue and keep moving forward.

Your tag (“and this beat’s from Cash, not from YouTube”) is so iconic. What’s the story behind it?

Cash Cobain: This rapper named Big Yaya, I sent him a beat. I was in the studio with him. We were about to leave the session and they want to hear the song again. We playing this song and he was going crazy. Then he said “and this beat from Cash, not from YouTube.” I thought hold on, what, go back? Send me that. He’s like, send it to you dry? I say, send it to me dry, wet, I don’t care. In that first night, I made a beat from it. We made a song called “And this beat from Cash not from YouTube.” Ever since then, I been using that tag. That tag is the best in the world right now. Once you got a legendary tag, you solidified, you good. Moving Slizzy is the way of life, you know. It’s so much better to move Slizzy. We just be having fun, living our best lives the best way we know how. Staying out the way, staying out of trouble. You know? Trying to stay out of trouble, we don’t mean any harm. Stay out of jail. We just want to grow and make it to the top, and we want to have fun while doing it. Have fun, live free.

I think that’s a pretty solid way to live. Especially going back to the pandemic and everything. It definitely made me feel like life is too short to feel miserable or not have fun. So why not do what makes you happy?

Cash Cobain: Yes. Do what makes you happy and be free.

It’s like a Slizzosophy. It’s like philosophy, but slizzy.

Cash Cobain: That’s awesome. I love that. That’s a fact.

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