To begin, Happy World Mental Health Awareness Day. Peace and tranquility to all readers. Whatever you are enduring that is troubling you is simply pushing you toward being stronger. Be patient with yourself, and understand you are capable of far more than you could ever imagine. Now on to Kai Ca$h.
There’s no “right time” to do anything unless it is right for you. The paths that artists have taken can certainly be a blueprint for building one’s own career, but the reality is that people find what works for them and hone in on that. 22-year-old artist Kai Ca$h deeply struggled with anxiety in his undergraduate days studying Business Management at Hampton University. This is an experience that millions of college students can surely identify with. Really, people in general.
The difference is that Kai was juggling a budding rap career, clothing business, and trying to turn in those papers on time. Many understandably crack under this pressure and have to take some time off, but he stayed the course. Naturally, not without difficulty.
Yet through patience and coming to understand himself, the CYN Mob co-founder turned his battles with anxiety into a triumphant disposition. He met his issues head-on through the suggestion of his mother and published his first novel Tranquil: Overcoming the experience in 2017. It can be purchased exclusively on Amazon.
“The anxiety was just bad for me. Once I finally figured everything out and got it down to patterns, my mom gave me the idea of writing a book to help people who could relate to me. College students, young black males and artists. I felt like it was something important to do and vital coming from someone my age at the time. So I took the initiative and made it kind of like homework. Whenever I got any free time, I just wrote. It came out quickly but everything was organic and genuine. I had a true experience getting over anxiety so it wasn’t hard and I made it a priority.”
It didn’t stop there. Recently, he began a social media campaign titled #MentalHealthMondays. When asked what influenced the effort, Kai referred back to the novel and added “I felt there weren’t enough artists addressing mental health, so why not? I feel the conversation is growing day-to-day so I just wanted to build a platform where everybody feels free to express themselves and learn from each other.”
He hopes that other rappers, athletes and actors he has interacted with will tap into the movement. A goal of his is to have special guests either every week or every other week.
“Whatever they’re comfortable speaking about or giving facts so people know they’re aware of mental health. This is not something that is rare, but something real that we are attacking. So I’ve been speaking to a lot of my celebrity friends and let them know I do want them to be special guests and talk to the people because this helps them as well.
When you get things like this off your chest and you speak to your fans or peers, it helps relieve everything. It puts you in a better position. If they’re not comfortable doing this, that’s cool, you don’t have to do this and it’s not forced. What better time to speak on it than now?”
A 20-year old having the wherewithal to not only recognize his trauma but articulate it in literature is remarkable. Tapping people to come along can be frightening when it’s such a personal issue, yet his courage is unwavering. Evidently, Kai Ca$h hadn’t considered how special it was until he was asked about it in this talk. “Not really. It was just important to me but that’s a great way to put it. Nobody has ever put it that way so thank you.”
It’s not all bliss for him now as he still runs into trouble with his anxiety. Being aware of it can often make the situation feel worse. “It surprises me. It used to be all the time, and I even had an experience like that recently. I got a chance to learn myself over the years and recognize when anxiety is kicking in. My mind being idle is when it awakens the most, so I tend to snap out of it a lot easier.
It’s not the easiest thing to do but it is easier. I tell myself ‘Kai, this is what you have to do to get that done. You just have to clear your mind sometimes, take a break and regroup’ For the most part I know what needs to be done. I just take my time with it. I work smart with it, not harder”
Of course, there’s an intersection between writing a book and conceiving verses for songs; the act of writing itself. Kai Ca$h specifically focused on how writing the book gave him more substantial topics to rap about. The response was serendipitous as the very next topic pertained to improving musically. “The West” artist cares about his message and being in touch with the people while maintaining a level of authenticity.
“Getting my message out and staying true to myself. Captivating an audience, being more social and grasping their attention. I do it, but I don’t do it enough. I don’t go out there and grab the audience’s attention as much as I can. Sometimes I lose a sense of who I am. I’m kind of introverted. But I’m going out more and doing more things.
#MentalHealthMondays helps me tap into people outside of music because there’s already a message in my music and I’m portraying a story in most of my songs anyway. That’s the easy part. Now I’m getting more personal with the people and I feel that’s what they like the most. Being personal enough to where they feel they have a relationship with you.”
Having a pulse on the people makes everything feel a bit more real. Seeing and feeling the impact you have on others can be one of the most gratifying occurrences in life. A visit to Sway in the Morning yielded that exact experience for the young lyricist. A caller divulged how he was a trainer perceived as macho and tough but in reality, he had been dealing with a lot of things mentally. Kai related that experience to the general misconception about black men in America being seen as macho.
“When I was on Sway a guy called me who was a trainer. He spoke on how people see how fit he is and think he’s a rough person but he explained how he was going through it with his mental health. He was excited to hear someone like myself speak on it on such a large channel. Of course, I’m a young black man and in our culture it kind of seems like ‘Oh, you soft for expressing yourself, being emotional or breaking down.’ In all honesty, you need to do that.
That’s when you are your strongest. When you’re able to express your emotions and break down at times. In real life, not everyone is okay all the time. Usually, it’s the rough and tough people that are angry all the time who are going through the most. That’s the biggest misconception in our culture in general, and we gotta snap out of that. You don’t really have to express it to the world, but talk to somebody. Some things you have to let go and release.”
He added that kids younger than him and more adults began reaching out through Instagram to commend him for what he stands for and having a book out. Being introduced to 22-year old rapper pushing the needle in mental health is refreshing. He admitted to feeling really cool. Though Kai Ca$h advocates for mental health conversations, he doesn’t feel they solely have to take place in a therapy setting. In fact, the practice was not his cup of tea.
“I feel like it didn’t help me at all, but any time I speak on this I tell people that I’m not knocking therapists or people who have them. As long it helps you then so be it. Me personally, I felt like it wasn’t helping me because I’d only see them once a week while I was going through super anxious episodes.
For me to go through that every single day and only see my therapist once a week wasn’t enough for me. I figured everything the therapist was telling me, I could do on my own in my dorm or wherever I was at the time. I did my own research and I learned about myself in the journey of figuring out how to cope with everything. It helped me a lot so I never really felt like therapy was necessary.”
Kai Ca$h emphasizes being aware of all that is happening around him and looking at what he can do better. He is extremely composed and humble for such a young guy being thrown in many different directions and receiving so much recognition.
He described it as “I really just take heed to and learn from everything going on around me. I always look at what I can do better and take full control of it. I make sure I’m not doing too much because it’s easy to be stressed out. Everything on my plate, I ask for. These are things I pray for, so I’m happy with the way things are looking for me now. I wouldn’t say I’m content because I want to do more, but I’m in a great space.”
Of course, it can’t all be done alone. One thing that was beyond evident from the conversation is how much Kai Ca$h values familial bonds. CYN Mob is more than an energetic group made up of King Combs, Niko Brim, K Wales, and Bay Swag. It’s a brotherhood that dates back to their youth.
“We’re all family, just not by blood. All of us met through our families since they knew each other for 20 plus years. They kept us around each other every summer since 2008 or 2009. We’d be in the same household with each other every single summer. We’d grow together, learn from each other and bond.
Around 2011-2012, me and Niko came up with a name. You know, when you have one of those cliques and you feel it’s going to last. We actually really stuck with CYN Mob and the family part gave us a foundation. This is our base for everything we do and now it’s legit. We’re incorporated, a real business now. We plan to keep rising to the top.”
Now, this is easy to say, but much harder to stick with. Not even just making things happen as a clique, but sticking together. Fortunately, they all come from a lineage of industry veterans.
“We were kind of born into the industry so we’ve seen a lot and know how to maneuver certain things more than other people do. The one thing we maintain with each other is to stay unified and not letting anything come between us. We’re cool with each other and even if we do argue, we’re over it the next day because it’s never anything too serious. We have the same respect for each other regardless. We keep everything tight-knit and well organized.”
These statements check out, as Kai Ca$h owns a clothing line called God, Glory & Gold. What began as a desire to not call anyone else his boss while making an income turned into a full-on business. It wasn’t something he could just do without any direction though, even if the idea was born at the end of his junior year of high school.
“I was always big on art. I taught myself how to use photoshop and came up with some symbols that represented God, glory, and gold. I presented it to my parents and they gave me the green light, so I got the show on the road.” The repetition of family involvement and support lead to Kai stating how he only received the co-signs from his parents due to the fact he takes everything seriously and giving his all by any means. Perhaps that’s why his father didn’t hesitate to make a call to Pusha T upon learning Kai was interested in a feature for his latest EP, Birth In The Borough. It didn’t happen overnight, though.
“People know I’ve been doing freestyles on my Instagram and other social media since 2016. Pusha T was always one of those people that tuned in to freestyles I was doing over the years. He would like or comment too. My most recent one around February or March, he commented on it again and I just felt like it was time to take initiative. I wanted to see if I can work with him because I’m a Pusha T fan and I’m a lyricist. That’s his field. So I’m like ‘Might as well see what I can get out of this’ so I hit him up.
He and my dad have a good friendship so my dad hit him up after me, and I think both of us hitting him up had him on it. I was able to link up with him for the first time at Something In The Water festival in Virginia Beach. I said ‘Yo, I really got something I want you to get on.’ And he’s like ‘Send it my way.’ In the next three days, he sent the verse back immediately.”
What a moment. Of course, the thought of hearing a verse from one of the hottest feature artists of the year felt like a milestone, but behind the excitement is the thought one might be upstaged. Kai Ca$h humorously replied to a question of his reaction with “I heard it and I added a third verse ASAP. I had to remind them whose song it is.”
It’s full-steam ahead toward the debut album Born To Win. When asked to sum up the listening experience fans should expect in one word, Kai Ca$h simply said “legendary”. In the meantime, he’s continuing to push #MentalHealthMondays because he truly believes it will be big. The goal is to “open more doors for people to express themselves, be comfortable, cope, and get over it.”
It’s one thing to grow within yourself, and another thing to channel that energy into assisting others. Kai reflects fondly on his process throughout his career, coming up with his initial moniker Kai Dolla at the age of six. Reaching teenage status came with a change of pace and mindset as he transitioned to being who we know today as Kai Ca$h.
“At that time, I felt like I was growing so I changed it from Dolla to Ca$h. This isn’t just a dollar, it’s everything. All currency. Things are lucrative, and I’m accessing a lot more. So that was like a rights of passage thing. To me, it just means growth. Cash has been around forever and it’s going to be for a long time. Whether it’s a cash in hand thing or Cash App. I’m going to appreciate it forever.”