Cash Cobain’s Slizzy Fest

April 2, 2024
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Cash Cobain is leading a procession of young New Yorkers down Irving Place towards Union Square Park in Manhattan. It’s a sea of weed smoke and Hellstar hoodies, a few hundred deep, marching along like it was a parade. Cash, the 26-year-old musician producer for the increasingly inescapable hits “Fisherrr,” and “Dunk Contest,” ushers the scene calmly, even as NYPD sirens sputter and whale in the background. His hand extends towards the sky as he live streams the whole thing on his Instagram. A homing beacon for the crowd, which initially formed as a line outside Irving Plaza for Slizzyfest, a concert hosted by Cash Cobain partially in celebration of his birthday. Of course, rap show logistics in New York City are never straightforward, and those plans quickly changed. So we marched on.

The crowd outside New York’s Irving Plaza grew larger as the night went on, as concertgoers waited hours without ever being let into the venue.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Dysfunctional rap shows are kind of part of New York City’s lore. Drake’s debut in the city, back in 2010, had the entire seaport shut down before ultimately being canceled. But in a modern spin on the time-honored tradition, Cash decided to march the crowd to Union Square for a few minutes of what amounted to Bluetooth Karaoke. He rapped along to fan favorites “Fisherrr,” “Wavy Lady,” “J Holiday,” and “Dunk Contest,” before jetting off in a sprinter van to the show’s afterparty. Somehow even just that was enough. The crowd’s energy was dialed-in to the same frequency, unbothered that the officially sanctioned show was shut down, content to just vibe in the park. It’s hard to remember the last time an artist could summon this kind of adoration in the city, and yet Cash still feels like a decidedly ground-level star, even as he links with superstars like Drake.

Before the show eventually got shut down, a woman handed out roses to people in line, and even with the NYPD’s presence, the vibe was jittery with excitement and genuinely positive. A fight did break out, but even that seemed isolated to a few people. Everyone had come to see the city’s buzziest crew up close, to be a part of Cobain’s Slizzy — a perhaps more sophisticated take on ‘sleazy’ — movement. I heard plenty of chatter early on, before the crowd even reached its peak, doubting whether or not there would be a concert at all. By the time Cash reached the park, with the NYPD closely following, everyone seemed to know exactly what to do. This would be a kickback in the city with Cash Cobain, but at a scale only possible for a few minutes. That became the implicit pact between Cash and the crowd.

Cash Cobain leads a pack of fans down the street to Union Square park.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Earlier in the night, the line for general admission had extended around the block, and to the credit of Cash’s fans, everyone was mostly patient as they waited for something to happen. By 8 pm, when a few openers were scheduled to perform, there’d been no movement in line, and the mass of people outside simply grew larger. It surely didn’t help that rumors of a Drake appearance quickly spread across the city, exacerbating the crowd size. Still, no one seemed to have an explanation for why hundreds of ticketholders couldn’t even begin entering the venue. At one point, a manager for one of the artists slated to perform found herself unable to get in for soundcheck. As the hours went on, frustrations rose, and eventually, close to 9 pm, a confrontation broke out, and a rush of people went for the doors hoping to take matters into their own hands. At some point, it became clear the show would not go on, and the crowd outside lingered for a few moments before Cash emerged.

Perched above his fans at the park, Cash played songs from a Bluetooth speaker and sang along with the crowd.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Heralded as the progenitor of so-called “Sample Drill,” Cash is known for turning low-fidelity YouTube rips of tracks from everyone from Whitney Houston to Stone Temple Pilots into oozing club hits that traffic in a sly sense of humor and horniness. “And no I’m not eating no pussy/I just came in here to look,” Vontee The Singer croons on the Cash-produced single “For Us.” Sampling has always been at the core of hip-hop, and the charts have recently been awash with nostalgia-wrangling hits—the number one song in the country this week, Metro Boomin and Future’s “Like That,” leans heavily on the iconic opening riff of Rodney O and Joe Cooley’s “Everlasting Bass.” Sexxy Red’s latest earworm, “Get it Sexxy” flips a sample of Hurricane Chris’s ’09 club banger “Halle Berry (She Fine).” But Cash’s music has always felt like it was in a universe of its own. Even when he’s sampling Jai Paul, like on “Rump,” the reference is sublimated, consumed by the Slizzy aura, like bodies on a dimly lit dancefloor.

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Fans gathered for the impromptu performance before Cash ultimately exited to head to his afterparty.

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Sampling might also explain how Cash’s rise has appeared to happen somewhat under the radar. His modest streaming numbers belie the swell of unclearable underground hits and viral snippets he’s supplied over the past few years. Cash’s buzz has so far happened just out of view of the mainstream, and yet he’s arguably responsible for the Jersey club sound taking over the pop charts. “I always try to push my sound forward,” he told Rolling Stone last year. “My sound always be changing. I always be coming up with different sauces, trying to come up with different swag, trying to sound different from everybody else type shit.”

For all of our modern anxiety about algorithms’ supposed distortion of culture, there’s been a rise of artists subverting the platforms made available to them and shaking things up in the process. Last night at Union Square, like Kai Cenat’s takeover of the park last year (though with none of the property damage), felt like the next generation beginning to reshape the world around them.



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