Having experienced life in two of the United States' music capitols, New York and Atlanta, Diego Cash has created a style that combines the best of both regions, their sounds and influences which he calls his "language arts." This is also the name of Diego's upcoming album, to be released later this year on brother-in-law Carmelo Anthony's Krossover Entertainment.This year, he is ready to let the world hear, not just an album's worth of new material, but a star-studded mixtape that will precede it as well.
AllHipHop.com spoke to Diego while he was in the studio working on new music about his love for Hip-Hop, the almost fatal 2003 shooting, his relationships both personally and professionally with sister LaLa and her husband Carmelo, and what fans can expect when he releases his debut album, Language Arts, later this year:
AllHipHop.com: How you feeling, Diego?
Diego Cash: Good, man.
AllHipHop.com: So first things first, tell me a little about your background and the incident that we could say gave you a new lease on life.
Diego Cash: Well, I’m originally from Brooklyn, New York, and I’ve been in Atlanta about half of my life. Back in like ‘03 I was hustling and some n*ggas tried to rob me, and the whole situation just escalated to me getting shot and having a colostomy bag. I spent about 17 days in the hospital, had three surgeries, and had like three months of recovery. It was just a whole long, drawn out thing.
"My Birthday" - Diego Cash
AllHipHop.com: How did your sister deal with what had happened to you?
Diego Cash: Well, after that, my sister LaLa was up in New York doing her thing on TV, and I called her and just told her, “I’m in a rut.” It’s a real vicious cycle when you get involved in certain things, and there was still the same sh*t going on. I was still making the same movements and still doing the same thing, so I talked to my sister and knew I had to make a change. So I spoke to her, and she told me to come out to N.Y. and I moved up and lived with her for a couple of months and just refocused and worked on music and got my sh*t rolling. I put everything together to how it needed to be.
AllHipHop.com: What was the reason for the original relocation from Brooklyn to Atlanta?
Diego Cash: I mean, I was a kid when I moved out there. My mom and stepdad had broke up, and we had a little family out here so we just relocated closer to the family that was here.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, I understand. Since you did get to experience both an East Coast and Southern Hip-Hop scene, tell me a little about the differences in music in your opinion?
Diego Cash: I think personally in Atlanta and just the South period, there’s more unity when it comes to the music. People are quicker to do a record with you and sh*t. I feel like New York is real cliquey, but it’s starting to change now, especially in the last year or two. I think for the most part, for years, people in New York would only do songs with people in their clique, and in the South you don’t really see that; you can reach out to anybody.
AllHipHop.com: So can you specifically pinpoint the time in your life when you knew you wanted to be a rapper?
Diego Cash: It probably started when I heard Nas’ Illmatic. I couldn’t get enough of that. I was listening to that sh*t everyday, man, everyday.
AllHipHop.com: I guess it’s safe to say then that Nas is one of your favorite rappers, but who were some of your musical influences growing up?
Diego Cash: Well, right now I like to listen to a lot of young guys, like I listen to A$AP Rocky and love what they doing. I like Fred the Godson. I like to listen to the new blood and that new sounding music, but growing up, it was all Nas, UGK, old Master P, the whole No Limit. For me, it was different growing up, because like I said before, I spent a lot of time in New York and a lot of time down South, so my influences is strong from both regions.
AllHipHop.com: I hear you. Since you’ve been back and forth between the two regions and listened to all the different types of Hip-Hop growing up, how would you describe your specific Rap style?
Diego Cash: I think it’s different. I always said I think it’s different because I feel like my flow and my topics and my lyrics and my bars is more of a northern, East Coast rapper. But to a lot of people, I sound like I’m from the South. It’s just a funny blend; you know what I’m saying?
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, well that’s a good way to go when you want to appeal to more than one specific fan base or sound.
Diego Cash: Yeah, and I feel like with me, it’s genuine and it’s who I really am. A lot of people try to force a certain sound ‘cause of where they’re from, but it doesn’t really sound genuine.
"Made N*gga" - Diego Cash featuring Rick Ross
AllHipHop.com: Well, more specifically, since we’re talking about the music, tell me about signing a deal with Carmelo Anthony’s company, Krossover Entertainment.
Diego Cash: Well, I had been doing music for years and Melo my partner, like that’s my homeboy. We were just always cool when I was doing my own sh*t, and somebody had approached him with an artist and talked to him about starting a label and wanted him to join with them and this and that. He called me and told me that these guys wanted to do this and that, so I flew out to Denver and we all met and chopped it up. As time progressed, the deal just wasn’t working with the other people and artists, so me and Melo just stepped down and kept doing it by ourselves and that’s where we at right now.
AllHipHop.com: What role does he play in your career?
Diego Cash: He plays a big role. We talk all the time, and anytime I’m in the studio, I send him songs and we edit the videos together and go over the things we want changed, and who we want for features, we do it all together. It’s all hand in hand.
AllHipHop.com: I hear you. Now, tell me about the album, Language Arts.
Diego Cash: I just feel like my language is my art because music is art. I don’t play an instrument - my instrument is my voice, and my language, and the way I speak things and put it out there. So that’s how I got the title, Language Arts.
AllHipHop.com: I know that you’ve got some pretty big features on that album as well. Can you tell me a little bit about the collaborations and how you hooked up with some of these people?
Diego Cash: I mean, a lot of people I did work with was people that I genuinely had relationships with, that we hang out with, and I can call them on the phone when I’m in their city and what not. It’s good because the guests are different, the sound comes out different, the energy is just different then when you just send someone a song and ask them to do a verse for you. It’s always a different vibe when you’re actually with them.
AllHipHop.com: I assume you’re talking about people like Rick Ross, Cassidy, and Macy Gray. Of the collaborative records that you did do for the album, which would you say has the most “wow” factor to it?
Diego Cash: “Wow” as in “where did that come from?”
Diego Cash: That Macy Gray record is definitely the one. My man out in Cali, Caviar, is a producer that was working with her out there and he’s a big fan and supporter of my music so he hit me and was telling me he wanted to get me and her together to work on something. Next thing you know, I went out there to chop it up, and we did the song together; it came out crazy. It’s called “That Thang,” and she’s damn near rapping on her verse.
AllHipHop.com: Oh really? That sounds very interesting.
Diego Cash: Yeah, man, it’s crazy.
AllHipHop.com: When does the world get to hear the album? Is there a tentative date for it to come out right now?
Diego Cash: Right now, no. I’m going to drop a mixtape probably in like the middle of March first.
AllHipHop.com: What can you tell me about that?
Diego Cash: It’s me and my man Hot Sauce; he’s a crazy producer. We did the whole mixtape together. I got [Rick] Ross on there again, I got Y.G. from Cali, I got Diamond from Crime Mob, Gorilla Zoe. That’s a lot more of me playing around with a couple of different styles so it’s just a fun tape with some different stuff. I just got the first cut of the first video we’re going to drop off of it called “My Birthday”; I had Aristotle and By Any Means do that for me in New York. I just finished watching it, that sh*t is crazy.
AllHipHop.com: Based on how the mixtape turns out, is there a chance that some of the music from there could end up on Language Arts if the response is strong enough?
Diego Cash: Oh yeah, definitely, definitely. My whole thing is that I would never say, “This is for that and that is for that,” I just feel like you have to wait and see how people react to it and see what they gravitate to.
AllHipHop.com: I get it; let the people decide.
Diego Cash: Exactly.
AllHipHop.com: Now to transition outside of music, I know you’ve made appearances on show’s like LaLa’s Full Court Wedding and The Deal. Are there any plans for you to return to television, whether it be reality or something scripted?
Diego Cash: I mean I feel like music is the greatest platform in the world, and once you do that you can do anything. So I would never rule it out. I’m not in any acting classes or anything, but whatever will happen will happen. We’re filming the third season of the show as we speak, so that’s the next thing coming.
AllHipHop.com: I have to ask, are you your sister’s favorite rapper?
Diego Cash: [laughter] I hope so! She tells me I am.
AllHipHop.com: I would assume that you two are very close. Does she play a specific role in your career or is she more of a support system?
Diego Cash: Yeah for sure. As far as the music goes, she doesn’t do too much. I really just come to her because I like a woman’s opinion on different songs and my different music. So she’s like an independent consultant [laughter].
AllHipHop.com: [laughter] I like that. Alright, Diego, thanks for your time.
Diego Cash: Thank you, man.
For more information visit www.ThisIsDiegoCash.com
Follow Diego Cash On Twitter: @DiegoCash