The Standout: Chase N. Cashe
Upon meeting Jesse Woodard, known to many by his stage moniker Chase N Cashe, the ease in his presence is striking. There is something that seems to be hidden behind his eyes, a secret that not even time alone with him would tell. He commands the attention of everyone sitting inside his Beverly Hills Hotel room without ever looking away from his breakfast. He is superbly captivating.
Perhaps it is this allure that has made him one half of the biggest up and coming hit making duo along with his partner, Hitboy. From humble beginnings and devastation following the loss of all he knew due to Hurricane Katrina, Chase’s resilience is now documented in his rise to success. But unlike most, his road to musicianship started off by chance…almost. “I was really a sports feign but I would go to Mississippi and my cousins had this karaoke machine”, he says between bites, “he knew how to loop the beats that he liked over it and we’d just start rapping about the corniest s***, you know whatever kids were liking back then, I had no idea what I was doing”. But the fuse was lit. Though being academically inclined (he scored a 21 on his ACTs the first time around), Chase admits education was never his thing. It was his desire for sough out knowledge and independent discovery that made music a more appealing life path than his first love, basketball or a career that meant spending years in an institution.
“My mom will tell you, I wasn’t a bad kid. I would get into some s*** though and I was a class clown. I would just start talking out of nowhere or making a beat on the desk. People would always ask me to drop a beat so they could rhyme and I started realizing I was pretty nice with it”. But it wasn’t just his knack for entertaining that kept him glued to music, it was also the natural competitor that had been bred through his time as an athlete. Having played basketball in a place where many played the sport, music was a lane left wide open, a lane in which Chase could be number one. “When I got into beats it was some s*** that I knew my boys couldn’t f*** with me on. It was my thing. I knew some dudes who could ball better than me and some dudes who couldn’t but I didn’t know no one who was producing. They weren’t even thinking about that. Rapping wasn’t even popular at the time”, he explains. Being number one came at a price for Chase who began to skip school to stay home and perfect his newfound passion. He details the “fake out” he’d pull on his mother (who he says still doesn’t know he skipped school for the better part of his last high school days…hi, Mom) for us, his audience, that included driving to McDonald’s grabbing breakfast and wait for her to leave for work after which he’d go home and make music for the entire day. For Chase, his level of dedication now meant there was no turning back but nothing could have prepared him for August 28,2005.
Just two months after his high school graduation, Hurricane Katrina ripped through his hometown leaving his he and his family displaced and in a severe state of despair. “That just f***ed everything up. It made me look at things so differently. I couldn’t reach my friends and my family left to go down to Mississippi and at the same time my grandmother had gotten really sick with a form of liver cancer, so I was watching her die”, the change that comes over home fills the room with a loud silence, “there were a lot of mature thoughts going through my mind at that time. Other people may have been thinking about college or how to pay tuition, I was worrying about where I was going to live or if my parents would even have jobs to go back to. It was crazy”. Determined to make things right Chase travelled back to New Orleans with his father to help rebuild his home but shortly after he made a final decision to pack his bags and move to Los Angeles. “It was March 26th and I just bought a ticket, my mom and dad came home from work, I sat them down in the living room and told them I was moving to LA to chase this music dream”, he recalls, “neither of them told me I could make it and neither of them told me I couldn’t make it and that’s exactly what I needed, I was left alone to just do the s***.”
A then 17year old Chase N. Cashe was introduced to a budding young singer named, Sean Kingston with whom he got his start. It was his relationship with Kingston that would ultimately lead him to his now partner, Hitboy. “When I first heard Hitboy I said he is the coldest ni**a I’ve heard since myself”, he says without cracking a smile, “me and Hitboy did the deal with Polow (Da Don) and moved to Atlanta when we were about 18 or 19, we got hooked up with Cannon who helped me so much and from there things just really took off”. Now immersed full force into the industry, he and Hitboy began what has now grown into a sound made distinct by some of the biggest names in music. The maturation in his music has also sparked maturation in himself. No longer struggling for an opportunity to have his music heard he is now striving to carve out a piece of music history. “I want people to always hear what I think is the next level. I don’t want to be the kind of person who’s just whoring my music, I want to have something that’s untouchable and timeless”.
As we close out our time together, Chase opens up about his desire to expand the brand of hip hop like the veterans of the game have done before him citing LL Cool J, Sean Combs and the like. “With Chase N Cashe I always want to give off a vibe that you could be me too, it’s like James Bond, everybody wants to be him, they can change the person who plays him over and over but it’s what he stands for that people like, that’s brand integrity. I always want to have that whether it’s with my beats or with my rhymes and artistry. I’m all about keeping me and my team organic, there’s really no path except the one that you pave for yourself. I just want to be a figure in music and be great, you feel me”, he asks before checking his watch. Our time is cut short by his pressing schedule but before it’s over he makes sure to tell me that he wants his message to be clear, “I’ve got foresight and goals, I have my mission all mapped out…and I’ll always be honest”
Who can’t respect that?
Written by: iman milner
Photos by: Ashley Nguyen
Video by: Erica Hernandez