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24 May, 2007@12:00 am

    Shady Records has been pretty quiet as of late. With Eminem pretty much out of the spotlight for the time being, and the loss of Proof, it seemed that Shady had been in much of a rehabilitation mode for the past year or so (with the exception of The Re-Up mixtape). It seems the next artist to rise from the rubble is an emcee by the name of Cashis. An Orange County, CA resident by way of Chicago has been dubbed “Roy Jones in his prime” by Eminem, and has basically been bred to be the next in line. With that comes The County Hound EP, which is a formal introduction to Cashis and everything he has to bring to the table.

    The question that surrounds Cashis happens to be “Is he really the next in line?? We’ve heard about these artists that quality emcees dub as the “next”, but don’t live up to the expectations. Jay-Z said the same thing about Memphis Bleek, remember? But maybe Cashis is Eminem’s Royce Da 5’9″. He would have to at least be Obie Trice for this Roy Jones analogy to make sense, right?

    What Cashis does with this EP is attempt to bring the “gangsta” back to hip hop and he sets the tone with a really west coast cali slang intro that leads into “That Nigga A Gangster”. The result is a really dry and cliched track that really does nothing to uphold Em’s claims. Laced with tough guy talk, “That Nigga A Gangster” is the type of territory that 50 Cent has covered for years with much more panache. “Gun Rule” is yet another chest thumping track that doesn’t contain enough personality to allow Cashis to be distinguished from the pack of tough guys who have tried before him.

    The lifting of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on “Ms. Jenkins” doesn’t do much to help the track, but it is Cashis’ most interesting song by far. Interesting because of its tale of a violent end to a foe by the hands of Cashis, who then writes an apology to the deceased’s mother.  With a hook that speaks almost unapologetically (“Dear Ms. Jenkins/I send you my love/Hi, I’m Cashis/I murdered your son”) we find Cashis at a crossroads trying to make sense of the blood spilled for the sake of gang violence. While it doesn’t exactly glorify the life of a gang member, it doesn’t condemn it either.  These are things that Cashis has to do in order to become tangible to listeners. There’s something in “Ms. Jenkins” that makes it all his own. Unfortunately, aside from this moment, the EP heads back to all too familiar territory.

    When an artist lacks creativity, as Cashis does,  must be made up with wit, personality and wordplay in order to stand out in today’s mess of rappers.  But Cashis doesn’t deliver enough of the goods to make you think he’s a force to be reckoned with. The EP tails off with lazy production and uninspiring concepts and songwriting. To make matters worse, Eminem drops in for “Pistol Poppin” and gives one of the more lackluster performances ever heard from Slim Shady. While he does take a serious tone with his verse about losing Proof and nearly losing Obie, there’s no “wow” factor that we have come to expect. Actually, the fact that it was a lackluster verse is a “wow” in itself. Cashis does salvage the EP with the bonus cut “Lac Motion” with its slow, brooding production that just feels West Coast without trying too hard.

    So what made Eminem say Cashis is like “Roy Jones in his prime”, we may never know. Apparently for the very same reasons that Jay-Z saw a superstar in Memphis Bleek. Something that Cashis has done in the past in Em’s presence must be impressive, so there may be hope in Cashis’ future. Hopefully the Shady camp will find a way to project that on record and Cashis won’t be remembered only as the overhyped emcee that Memphis Bleek came to be.

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