Rapper and producer Don Cash takes listeners for a strange ride on his new album.
City, the latest effort from Torontonian rapper and producer Don Cash, is a weird and largely wonderful chunk of new-wavey electro space-rap that channels equal parts Beans, Kool Keith, Gary Numan, and Cash’s best-known supporter, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Don Cash is a producer first and foremost. As a rapper, he’s interesting but inconsistent. Things don’t always rhyme, and he gets off-beat sometimes, but somehow he’s managed to turn those negatives into positives. His rambling, tumbling flow winds up complementing his avant garde beats. It shouldn’t really work, but somehow it does.
In terms of content, City is oddly ironic. When Cash brags about his ballin’ lifestyle on songs like “Models & Cars,” “We Got This” and “$ Rules,” we know he’s screwing with us. I’m sure Cash gets invited to lots of fancy parties, and probably isn’t doing too badly for himself, but his stories of jet-setting and flossin’ are obviously works of pure fantasy and send-ups of the genre’s superstars. When he claims to have Hollywood starlets sending him nude photos and blisters on his hands from counting money, his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek.
Production-wise, City is brilliantly strange. Less traditional hip-hop and more robot sex music, the album sounds like the ’80s new wave and the good parts of early ’00s electroclash looked at through the lens of hip-hop. “Check 1-2” is sparse and spooky, but still manages to be head-nodding headphone music. “Models & Cars” has Cash pushing out beats that are oddly reminiscent of ’80s electro-funk legends Zapp, while “Bumper Sticker” is so infectious that it could be a major dance-floor banger with the right promotion. The closest Cash gets to traditional boom-bap hip-hop is on the instrumental interlude “Raise Yo Hand,” and even that’s more Avalanches than DJ Premier.
On first listen, it’s hard to figure out what Cash is doing on City. Is this a joke? Is he being serious? The answer is both. Sure, he’s having some fun with us, but some serious craftsmanship has gone into this album. Mostly, though, he’s just weirding out.