Why not hip-hop?

By Ethan McAlpin | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Walking the streets of St. Augustine, hip-hop isn’t the first thing you’d hear.

But local hip-hop artist and community activist Cash Williams is ready to change that.

Beginning the writing process with poetry in school, then making hip-hop songs nearly five years ago, it wasn’t until a year ago when Williams decided she was going to make a name for herself in music.

Once she began taking music seriously, her efforts showed, getting more publicity, performing paid shows, and receiving paid promotions.  However, hip-hop’s current state in St. Augustine is not good enough for Williams.

“St. Augustine is very stereotypical, it’s very judgmental.  As soon as you say the word hip-hop, they think ‘thug,’ ‘gang banger,’ etcetera.  This is 2017 […] those kind of things don’t happen around here … like we don’t have gangs and all that, just some kids trying to make it,” Williams said. “I had [a gig at] Johnny’s for a while but the owner was telling me that the neighborhood around it wrote a lot of statements [regarding] the loud music and that they didn’t really want us [performing] there.”

Nearly every Friday and Saturday night, music coming from rooftop bars and St. George Street restaurants in St. Augustine can be heard from six to ten blocks away.  Williams thinks that the complaints say more about the neighbors taste in music rather than the music’s volume.

Discussing current songs in pop culture, “This S**t Comes in Waves” by Felly spawned a reaction from Williams, who was quick to point out that, “That song isn’t hip-hop, but it definitely takes a lot of parts from hip-hop music.  Even Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, they’re all [releasing] songs that draw influence from hip-hop.”  And they’re cashing out in doing so.

Many venues avoid booking hip-hop acts in St. Augustine.Williams says the issue could reside in that hip-hop isn’t the appropriate genre to match the mood of many St. Augustine venues.  Similarly to how there wouldn’t be a chess tournament being played on TV in a bar.

If compatibility is the issue, then why aren’t there enough venues to support the hip-hop talent and growing audience in the area? It’s puzzling, that’s for sure, especially considering Williams’ fanbase.

“Every time I have an event, by the Grace of God, [the fans] really come out and they support.  Sometimes my crowd gets up to like 500 people [depending on the venue].  Like the first time I performed at Johnny’s, the liquor sold out,” said Williams.  “All I need is a venue.  If I could make Nobby’s just a little bit bigger, it’d be perfect, because we can’t get to the capacity level or else we have to tell people they can’t come in and I don’t want it to be like that.  And the places that are big enough to host hip-hop nights aren’t with it.”

“Helping me is going to help them,” Williams said.

As an artist, Cash Williams says that she just wants to make it and be successful.

“I don’t want to put in work without a reward,” Williams said.  “The stuff I do for my community isn’t a monetary reward, but it’s still a moral reward.  I want to get paid for something that I love to do.  And that’s the best job in the world.”

“I’ve only been taking [music] seriously for a year now,” she said.  “I know people that have been doing it for much longer than me and their following isn’t as strong [as mine is], so by the Grace of God I try to stay humble while doing it.  I try to treat people how I want to be treated.  I think that’s really why they follow me so much.  I don’t even have a full CD out or a mixtape yet.  It’s crazy, I’ve had people download my music on their ring tones and everything.”

When asked where she thinks hip-hop will be in St. Augustine in ten to 15 years, Williams said she’s not sure.

“It’s hard to say at this time in America, but I want to be a part of all genres.  I want to start having shows at Nobby’s with all genres [of acts] coming out, and I want all different races to come out too.  I’m never leaving Nobby’s, they’ve been wonderful to me.”


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