Underground Los Angeles rapper Co$$ has built up quite a bit of momentum, collaborating with folks like Blu and Freddie Gibbs. Ahead of his second full-length album with producer Numonics, Genesis, out on May 22nd, we spoke with Co$$ about the origins of his name, his weed habit and other subjects.
What's the story behind your name?
Well, my real alias is Cashus King, but “Co$$” came from “Holocaust,” which is the name I used when I used to do “Textcee battles.” Those “battles” were rap battles on messageboards online where people would post lyrics against each other. It's where I feel I honed my skills and found an identity as a lyricist. In high school I began recording as “Holocaust,” but friends were quick to tell me no Jews or Armenians would buy my records. I never picked the name to disrespect them, it was in reference to how I would “burn MCs to the ground.” So I dropped the “Holo” and kept “Co$$,” which Blu gave me. I was going to just be Cashus King from the beginning, but Ca$his had just signed to Shady and I didn't want to seem like I was biting. Plus, I like all the ways to flip what “Co$$” means.
Have the dollar signs in your moniker gotten you any extra attention or affected your career?
I'd say it's had a negative effect. People will search for it and it won't pop up. I tried to drop it, but others had already spelled it with the signs, so I kept it. Also, on a personal tip, I think people have made assumptions on me just based on my name. They'll make comments like “I already know what he's about, we don't need another rapper who only has songs about materialism” when I don't have one song about materialism.
You and Numonics released Revelations in 2010. Has the recording process for Genesis been any different?
I was disappointed with my work on Revelations. While I thought Numonics did a great job and I was happy with how the project was received, in terms of my writing I didn't really have much clarity that summer. I was in a dark place. I gave it my all, but didn't get the best that I was capable of. On Genesis, I feel where my lyricism is now is where I want to be. It's the first project we've done together at a studio, making me more focused as there's less leisure time to get it right.
Your music fits well in the strong family tree of L.A. rap artists. With Numonics' Florida background, has finding a middle ground ever proven a challenge?
No, each one of my projects has had a different flavor. I love the West Coast, but I'm not a slave to a West Coast style. When people send me beats, I tell them “don't just send me your best Dre impression.” I like Numonics' beats because I like how his is a minimalist approach. It works with what I do.
You've also collaborated with Freddie Gibbs from Indiana, J57 from New York's Brown Bag All Stars and, of course, fellow Los Angelian Blu. What's important to you about cross-country collaborations?
I just always wanted to be an MC with no boundaries and no limits. I love listening to Meek Mill as much as I love Sean Price. I love hip-hop because there's not just space for one type of MC. I have a desire to do everything and conquer it all. When I hear Kendrick, it makes me want to do a double-time flow. When I hear K.R.I.T., it makes me want to do something high concept. When I hear Chuuwe, it makes me want to go in. I have no beef with anyone right now, so I feel it's the perfect time to branch out. I'm socially awkward, so I don't always reach out to everyone, but I really have tried to branch out recently.
How did you and Numonics decide on “Chief” for the first single?
It happened just because he wanted to leak something. I wanted to wait and come out with the dopest song we were going to make. On 4/19, I realized what the next day was. I thought we should leak “Chief” then. This isn't a gimmick for me. I does this marijuana shit for real. Bring Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y and I'll smoke both of them under the table.
You've mentioned a heavy jazz influence in your work. How do you feel it's impacted your sound?
I think it's more the rawness of a lot of jazz recordings. With most music production sounding so plastic, I've always liked the warmth of jazz. My neighbor heard me writing to some music recently and said,”I didn't know you made jazz too,” and I told him, “No, those are beats.” I like that raw Dilla, Kanye feel. “Otis” was such a raw beat for a first single. That's just kind of what I like.