Bad Words

Nick Cashaw’s not afraid of a little shock and awe to turn heads

Bad Words
Young Kwak
Nick Cashaw, aka Concept, has reveled in the spotlight in the last few weeks.
Nick Cashaw is one hundred percent 18 years old.

He’s 18 in the way his eyes focus on his cell phone, fingers clicking out text messages as he’s being interviewed; 18 in the way he crams a plastic spoonful of purple-tinged frozen yogurt in his mouth as he talks.

He’s 18 in the way he stares — long, curling eyelashes wide — confidently ahead when he says that, of course, he has no regrets whatsoever about what he said in front of the entire student body and administration of Lewis & Clark High School in early June.

It was just a word after all.

Cashaw is even a little cocky when he says he doesn’t care if the school didn’t let him walk with his class at graduation. When you’re 18, do you really care about walking at graduation?

But though he is only 18, fresh out of high school, living on his own with his friends, more than just a little optimistic about his career as a hip-hop artist, he’s a kid with age beyond his years. And he’s got talent that most 18-year-olds can’t boast about.

Now he just hopes that people heard what he was saying.

He stepped up to the podium with a sheet of paper.

“I have something to say,” Cashaw said, and unzipped his sweatshirt.

Cashaw had just performed his song “The Lotus” at Lewis & Clark’s June 8 Move-Up Con assembly and asked to give a short speech afterward.

For the next four minutes, over a chorus of giggles and whispers, Cashaw — in the dreamy, optimistic words of a kid more drawn to, say, Aesop Rock than Ludacris — told his peers to stop listening to what people told them to do. To walk their own path. To realize their place on this Earth.

He told them — these teenagers and their teachers — to realize that they will die. To think hard about that.

“Many among you will die chasing green slips of paper. Many of you will die alone constantly the seeking the comforting approval of others while others of you will die while your name and your gift to the world die along with you. Your eyes are open but you do not see,” he said. “Many of you will die disconnected from a beautiful paradise that lies within your conscience...”

And then, he ended his message:

“F--- this establishment,” he said, and walked back to his seat in the bleachers.

A lot of the students broke out into wild applause and cheers. Others laughed.

Cashaw says he did it to get people to pay attention to his message.

“It was a shock value thing,” he says, today. “It obviously worked because the video went viral. A lot of people probably wouldn’t have gone back and put meaning into the speech unless it was there.”

In the last year — since performing in the LC courtyard for the first time and having a deep revelation that he was put on this planet to make music — he says he’s felt himself reach deep into his mind for meaning like he was pushing in his speech.

“I have crazy intricate thoughts, and I had express them somehow,” he says. Music was an outlet for that.

Cashaw’s music isn’t just an 18-year-old kid talking about getting blowjobs (he did do one song about that, though: see “No More”) and smoking weed (he did one of those, too: see “Ashes on the Floor”) but, instead, about spiritual discovery.

“[My music is] just a man searching for himself. Or his soul. Because that’s what it is. It’s me looking for answers. By myself and all around me,” Cashaw says.

In a year, he’s tackled soul searching — and though his lyrics are fraught with mixed metaphors and a few too many clichés — there’s something promising there. He’s pulling from his idols: Lupe Fiasco, Earl Sweatshirt, Kid Cudi.

But also, completely without knowing it, his sound mimics a few more underground Spokane artists that he’s never even heard of. There’s the youthful pissed-off lyricism of p.Wrecks and the detached delivery of K. Clifton in his voice. And he’s attracted toward beats that Guttahface or Xrin Arms might use.

With time, Cashaw might be among them. While he carries himself — onstage and in person — with an 18-year-old’s swagger, he says that he’s so eager to learn. Because music is all he wants to do. Right now, it’s just him firing thoughts at a notepad — and occasionally at an audience.

“If I show you my notebook it’s wild. Lines everywhere. It’s wild how I write shit down,” he pauses, looking around wide-eyed to see if anyone heard him.

“Excuse my language.”

Concept with MuthaHen and Purpose • Sat, July 7, at 8 pm • Knitting Factory • $10 • All-ages • • 244-3279

The Nutcracker Ballet @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...