Chase N. Cashe likes money; in fact, it probably seems a little redundant to point it out. It’s right there in his name, after all, and nowadays what rapper doesn’t? But it’s worth mentioning precisely because Chase has decided to stick it right there in his moniker. Even more so than your average shine blinded rapper, he adopts it as a core aspect of his character. It’s significant because it colors everything he says and does. Also it is more than likely, I’m sure he’d be happy to admit, a defining factor behind many of the choices made on his follow-up to February’s The Heir Up There mixtape.
To be fair to the guy, he probably knows better than most what kind of music is going to make money: he’s produced for Lil Wayne and Eminem along with pop acts like Flo Rida and Pussycat Dolls, plus he’s known to be a homey of Hit-Boy. But as many discerning heads will tell you, embracing bread-stackin’ as your primary musical motivation is a pretty good way to wind up with a bland, faceless rap album, especially when you don’t have much of a particular individual twist to spice things up a little.
This is, unfortunately, the case with Chase N. Cashe. He’s a fun guy to listen to rapping, but when he talks about so little aside from money, it gets tiresome pretty quickly. He isn’t exactly going to win any awards for his wordplay or flow-switching, so he could at least change up his topic a little more often. Musically, too, a lot of the album is given over to glossy, bombastic swag rap patently aimed at recouping some capital. “D.A.M.N.”, the Araabmuzik-produced “Ransom Note”, and single “I Don’t Play” in particular all demonstrate the problem. They’re just unimaginative modern rap tracks, pretty much indistinguishable from the next.
Of course, these are criticisms you could make of seemingly most upper-tier hip-hop releases right now. What makes them all the more damning is that across Charm, from start to finish, there are flashes of something much purer, indications that Chase N. Cashe is capable of things far less plastic and crass. There are signs from the very start, almost. “iRevolutionary”, the album’s second track and one of its finest, is built not out of booming 808s and synths but a gentle flute line and a classic drum loop. And it’s followed immediately by the Jahlil Beats-produced “Line of Fire”, a lilting, mellow two chord jam with a subtly insistent, whining synth melody curled around its middle-eight.
These tracks also see Cashe switching it up a little lyrically too, sprinkling a little political consciousness into “iRevolutionary” (“How you say you a leader if you won’t teach?/You ain’t a real n***a just ‘cus you got one piece”) and some humble, before-the-cash tales on “Line of Fire”. There, he’s making a surprisingly convincing case as a torch-bearer of Kanye’s The College Dropout-era backpacking hustler style.
It’s not long before Cashe reverts to stereotypes. For the remainder of the album, you have to search through the shine to find the murk if you want to reap any rewards. “Beastin’” may not be too far from what I’ve just spent most of the review criticizing but it wins out thanks to its addictive, wheezing brass sounds and a decent A$AP Rocky feature.
Elsewhere, the highlights peek their heads out when Cashe tones things down a bit. Two loved-up, self-produced jams, “Chill” and “O.M.W.”, are a welcome and accomplished respite from the bludgeoning stomp. Also, the excellent Mark Christian production on “STAR 69” is a hazy, stumbling, melodic gem despite the MC’s occasional eye-rolling sex raps. These moments go to show that Cashe N. Cashe actually does have, on occasion, some good instincts. Hopefully he can follow them with a little more conviction next time out.