The World Cash Money Reflected


From Oxford American:

Cash Money grew slowly before it grew quickly. They became fixtures in local clubs, hole-in-the-wall spots with noirish names like Rumors and Detour and Whispers and Ghost Town. They toured Louisiana, following the chitlin’  circuit through Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Lake Charles. And their roster began to fill out. This was the label’s forgotten first generation: Pimp Daddy, U.N.L.V., Lil Slim, Ms. Tee. Kilo was the youngest, but he had seniority. “Kilo G was a big guy,” Slim later remembered. “You wouldn’t dare think he was that young when you was in his presence.”

Cash Money headquarters was an office building on the corner of Rampart and Tulane, an area that had once been New Orleans’s Chinatown. But recording sessions in those years mostly took place at Mannie Fresh’s house on Bartholomew Street in the 9th Ward, with his young daughter wandering in and out of the makeshift studio. Fresh was a brilliant, prolific beatmaker, capable of adapting his approach to any voice or subject—he was as invested in the task of Magnolia Shorty’s “Monkey on tha Dick” as that of any of the more solemn street-rap records. He took his work seriously. He wanted to make “some Johann Bach–type shit,” as he once put it.

Kilo had grown more ambitious, too. By the time of his second album, 1995’s The Bloody City, he found himself reinvigorated by the raw material of his own life. In the years since The Sleepwalker, he had dropped out of school, moved in with his girlfriend, and had a son, his “heir to the throne.” Meanwhile, New Orleans seemed to be deteriorating around them. The year before, the city had famously set a new homicide record, with a total of 421—a figure you could learn from The Bloody City’s title track. Corruption was also rampant; ten local police officers were arrested for drug trafficking that same year. This was the world Cash Money reflected, one in which friends died young and no authority could be trusted.

Even in this context, Kilo could be distinguished for his essential sadness, for the darkness of his vision. Nearly every song on The Bloody City finds him relentlessly predicting the circumstances of his death. For the intro, he chose a clip of Al Pacino’s narration from Carlito’s Way, one of his favorite films: “Somebody’s pulling me close to the ground,” Pacino says. “I can sense, but I can’t see.” (It’s one of those ghostly, posthumous effects—it seems too specific to be accidental.) “Don’t take me to no hospital, please,” Pacino goes on. “Fuckin’ emergency rooms don’t save nobody.”

“The Sleepwalker”, Will Stephenson, Oxford American