Don’t get it confused. Tywan’s been in the game. Tywan has history. It’s just not as Tywan. Recently, the MC we’re familiar with as Cashmere decided to switch it up and go with his original name, Tywan. Same deft lyrical skills, same raw delivery, it’s just time for a little rebranding.
In this exclusive interview, Tywan discusses the name change, his scorching new record “New New York,” his Ready to Live project, a trip to Tanzania, and much more.
You recently changed your name from Cashmere to Tywan. What motivated the change?
Not being in the crowd I want to and just reinventing myself. I’m not the person I was before. I’m growing up and learning new things, being a man, just growing up. I figured that I’d change the ame to Tywan, which is my original name and it’s a Godbody name. I wanted to change it up.
What’s the reception been like so far to the change?
It’s still so new. I’ve been getting the reception back that it’s a good look. People listen to “New New York,” the only song I’ve released under my new name, and a lot of people like that. A lot of people recognize that it’s me once they see the picture, but I’ve gotten great feedback from everybody once I switched the name. I’m happy about it.
Your record, “New New York,” has a lot of stuff going on. What motivated the record?
There’s a lot of talk going on in my city, from Trinidad James to Maino. There’s a lot of talk about why New York artist are not getting played and getting their just due. I kept hearing about this and hearing about that. I didn’t know about all of that prior to writing the record, but after I went to the studio and recorded the record, I started hearing about everything. It’s been going on for a couple of years, as far as New York hip-hop, but I was just seeing how everybody was also getting at Kendrick Lamar over the “Control” verse and I was baffled by that because I feel kind of the same way. Why would you come at him for saying he’s the king of New York? I didn’t feel no malice about what he said. He’s just saying he’s the best rapper in the world. I didn’t feel why everybody came at him so hard. I understand New Yorkers are die-hard, but I don’t feel they should have come at him like that.
But mainstream-wise, New York artists do have to step up. Basically I just wanted to give my two cents on my take on everything in New York hip-hop. I am New York hip-hop and I didn’t want to hop on the “Control” beat because I love what Kendrick did. It actually lit a fire under New York City. I felt like saying that as well, but I didn’t say it. I give Kendrick props and it’s so hip-hop in so many ways and he just decided to say it. Some have been saying it and didn’t have the platform as so many people. When you listen to the record, I think the majority of New York City is going to feel what I’m saying. It’s the truth of what I’m saying. It’s probably the rawest record, as far as representing my city, that I’ve heard. I’ve been in this New York rap scene for a minute. I’ve opened up a lot of doors for a lot of rappers in the New York rap scene. I’ve helped the New York rap scene and I just felt I needed to say my take on things.
It sounds like you can also differentiate between what Kendrick said versus what someone like Trinidad James said.
Yeah. I don’t agree with Trinidad James. I support all artists, period, because I’m an artist myself and I know how hard it is to try to come up and do what we do. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. It takes a lot out of you and if you’re true to this hip-hop thing, you gotta love it if you really want to do it. I love hip-hop and hip-hop is who I am. I’m not agreeing totally with Trinidad James but I felt what he was saying, to a certain degree. But at the same token, who is he to come to our city and get on our stages and try to disrespect hip-hop? But freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and if that’s how that man feels, then he has to deal with the consequences. But I half-agree with what he’s saying because I do feel New York artists need to step up their bars and come with a new sound and I’m here to contribute to that new sound.
What kind of response have you gotten to “New New York” so far?
I got a couple of feedbacks from other rappers. A lot of people couldn’t believe everything I was saying. I didn’t think it was too controversial. I really wanted to go against the grain, which is hip-hop. I didn’t think it was too controversial. People were saying, “Are you sure you want to put this out?” We know what it is to make mainstream music and to make underground music and you gotta balance that line. Biggie did it. Jay-Z did it. Nas did it. People have been giving crazy feedback.
I even called Kay Slay on the record and he was like, “Whoa, man, these things you’re saying is crazy. I’m really trying to unite New York hip-hop.” Me being honest and me being myself, and no disrespect to anybody, one love to everybody, but the record is called “New New York.” We just need to destroy and rebuild. A lot of people are trying to be superstars and saying things for shock value and not really concentrating on the craft or the music. There’s a lot of politics going on. People love the record, but the political game, people are scared to touch on it. I guess I’m not Jay-Z and I’m just coming back from finishing my new project, Ready to Live, and The 730 Project. But people love the record and I’ve been getting great feedback. But the political game is crazy.
How’s Ready to Live coming?
Oh, it’s coming along great, man. I got a lot of joints. I’m about half done with the project. It’s coming along real good. It should be dropping probably in the spring or the summer. I’m just getting prepared for it. I’m also working on a mixtape. The 730 Project Part 2 droppoing. We all know who that guy is! (laughs) But yeah, I got a lot of music coming out. Me, I’m a true artist and I do all types of music and all types of genres. I do have a ton of music coming out in 2014. I’m looking forward to it being a very successful year.
What should we expect on Ready to Live?
Ready to Live is going to be a project that I’ll probably do three parts to it. I never really expressed everything I wanted. It’s just about being ready to live and saying what i want to say and being ready to live, doing me, being free. Freedom of speech, freedom to walk, just free. I’m ready to live. No ifs or ands about it, I’m just ready to live. You’re just going to hear the true side of Cashmere and how I view things and what I’ve been through in the game. Everybody knows who I am and everybody heard of me and knows my story. I just have a hell of a story and I just think it’s time to tell it without sugarcoating it or with no added preservatives. It’s straight raw. That’s what the album is about. It’s me ready to open up and to let people know my story from top to bottom.
We came together for The 730 Project. Talk about that project.
You had hit me with some beats and then I was like, “Let’s just do a project.” A lot of people really liked how different it sounded. It was a true project where I didn’t have to worry about pleasing anybody. It was something that I could give to my true fans. They took to it and it was a great process. I recorded the whole album in New York. Big shout outs to Kevin Nottingham and PR Dean. They really supported it. And look out for Part 2. That’s gonna be even doper and crazier. I got a lot of projects coming. A lot of people really want me to work with them and I’m staying in the studio. But The 730 Project had some ill samples and I just fell in love with it. Part 2 will be out soon, before the Ready to Live project.
How does a Tywan song come together?
There’s two ways. My best writing process is when I go outside. I just get a feel and I’ll just walk. I’m in L.A. right now. I’ll walk around the blocks around my crib and just come up with a song in a half an hour. I also might just sit down and come up with a concept and write off the title, and I love doing that also. I can also just hear a beat and hear a catchy hook to it. I call that my commercial process. I might hear a dope beat and a get a catchy hook to it and just go off of that. Those are my three, actually, writing processes of putting together a song.
You were incredibly active during the real Mixtape Era of hip-hop, where DJs were constantly dropping new mixtapes and that was the only way to hear the new music. What was that era like?
Man, that era was hip-hop. It was crazy because I was still getting radio play and I was still with a major management company. I would have to make something for Enuff to play and Kay Slay to play. But Kay Slay was my guy and I was on the majority of his tapes at that time. It was a golden era right there. That’s when DJs actually acme in the hood looking for the new stuff. They’d be looking for the new hottest artist and now the new hottest artist has to look for the DJs, which is kind of messed up, but it’s a transition. I think the internet is more of a gift than a curse, but it’s a little cursey because anybody is there, but you can reach Australia just by pushing a button. But that era was golden because you really had to have talent to get in the game.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your career?
I embrace everything that happened. I got to work with Bun-B. I worked with Big Daddy Kane and actually getting on a track with him. I definitely was ecstatic about that. Big shout out to Joell Ortiz for making that happen. I’ve traveled to places that I thought I would never go, like Singapore, Japan, Tanzania. I’ve met the legends in the game, the people that I saw on TV, and was meeting them in person. It’s a lot of things. I love hip-hop. I was a fan first, but I always loved music and I always did music since the beginning. There’s a lot of things that I embrace. I’ve also been able to take care of myself and my family with this as well.
You took a trip to Tanzania recently. What was that like?
It was amazing. It was for a hip-hop summit. They flew me out and I did shows. One I did for free and one I got paid for. It was just a wonderful experience, man. I went to see the kids in juvenile jail. I traveled around, big shouts out to M.K. Rhymer. I went out to Tanzania and Choice FM and Cloud FM. Everybody was just showing me so much love. Big shouts out to everyone over there. It was just amazing, man. It was crazy performing there and the love I got out there was amazing. There were cameras and so much love. It was amazing. I felt like, wow, I felt very appreciated. There were thousands at the shows. It was a great experience. Whoever I met, they were telling me, “Welcome home.” I performed 30 minute sets at both shows. One was with a live band, one was just me. Big shouts out to Tanzania. I’m looking forward to going back there and doing a big tour.
Culturally, what did you learn?
What was crazy to me was how they listen to hip-hop. A producer out there, Dounga, produced a track on Ready to Live. It’s crazy. He produced that. It’s diverse out there. There’s a lot of Black people, of course, but there’s Whites and they love hip-hop. They worship hip-hop. They knew what was new, they knew what I had out. My dude’s been promoting me heavy out there. It was very, very diverse. I saw Russians, Chinese, and people from all walks of life. It was very diverse.
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