If you’re not hip to CMDWN, “Roxanne” featuring Chief Keef is a good place to start. Representing the 6 and all its glory, the Toronto-based collective is here to create their own lane in this new age of rap. Catching up with 23-year-old FIJI and 21-year-old Ca$tro in their few short days in Los Angeles, it was immediately apparent these were just two kids living out their dreams of making music. Read more…
Outside of their own free spirits and inside jokes, CMDWN is essentially a vibe. Combining a Southern trap influence with modern day trap and melodic rap, the two feed off each other and create a synergy that is not overlooked. In fact, their most recent project, Atlanada 2, has accumulated over 2 million streams in the first week alone.
On top of that, Drake is a fan.
For those who don’t know, who is CMDWN?
FIJI: CMDWN is me, FIJI.
Ca$tro: And me, Ca$tro Guapo, and my DJ, Teo Nio. We’re a collective of three individuals. One’s a DJ, we’re musicians.
FIJI: I do more melodic hooks, and vibey singing and rapping.
Ca$tro: I do more of the punchline for punchline, like spitting bars. More of the MC shit.
Where do you fit in the realm of hip-hop and R&B?
Ca$tro: We are starting to create our own genre, kind of like high fashion trap music. I feel like it’s not as scary as what hip-hop used to be. It’s like the culture can be shared more among the people now, with the new generation of hip-hop. Now, it can’t just be called hip-hop or R&B, there’s a blend somewhere. We like to believe it’s somewhat like high fashion trap music.
You’re from Toronto, how does that play into your life and career?
FIJI: Just the environment. We have this stigma behind our city that we’re the Screwface capital. It is somewhat true, but now I think the city has formed together and shown support more than ever. There’s a lot of influences from Toronto that definitely affects our careers. Just the spotlight they put on our city has helped with us breaking out of the city.
Seeing how everyone always relates Toronto with Drake, are you guys friends?
FIJI: Not really friends but recently, he followed us on our Instagram page. We sent him a message like, “Yo, thanks for the follow.” He showed recognition for repping the city. That was a dope moment in our career. Obviously, we grew up listening to Drake.
Being a duo in the game, how do you see yourselves stand out?
Ca$tro: We’re individual as well. We like to say we’re not just a duo, but a collective. It’s not just FIJI and me. It’s FIJI, Teo, and me. We have other people that rock with us.
FIJI: For example, on Atlanada 2, the latest project that we released, it’s not just a song between Ca$tro and me. It’ll be like Ca$tro and Chief Keef, so it’s more of a collective than a duo. As a duo though, the reason I think people fuck with us the way they do is because of the dynamic.
Ca$tro: You get a little bit of both of what you like. If you’re from Toronto, you like this. But also, you like something that feels too far away to actually celebrate, as far as culture wise. When you combine the 2 and when it’s within your own city, you feel like you have a little bit of that to add to your own culture.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
FIJI: Just the vibe out here is dope. Wherever it is that you’re from, especially us being from Toronto. You can’t just stay in your city and expect to just gain inspiration from that.
Ca$tro: Super important. In LA, there’s so many people and so many different ways you should actually connect. There’s different outlets out here that you would never, ever, ever come across elsewhere.
FIJI: The first time I ever came to LA, I felt really little. I felt really small and unknown. Because we’re so used to doing shows, being in different cities and having girls. First time in LA was 2 years ago with Ca$tro, and I remember I had no girls for a whole week. I was like “yo, this is crazy.” Then I realized our clout doesn’t reach this far. It was motivation. I had to go back to work in Toronto.
Ca$tro: Facts. I was like, “Our clout doesn’t extend this far? That’s retarded.” Like I got no bars on my clout meter here, what’s going on?
Who are some artists that you fuck with out here?
FIJI: Out here, no one personally. At least not anyone I can name off the top.
Ca$tro: I fuck with YG 400!
What was the inspiration behind your name?
FIJI: Literally what it stands for. Coming down off whatever.
Ca$tro: It can be anything. Whatever it is. [laughs]
FIJI: I came up with the name one day. It was my 18th birthday, and it was my first time on molly and getting fucked up on different shit. The next day, I tweeted, “Fiji water for the comedown.” That’s how I got the nickname FIJI. Then I changed my Instagram handle to Fiji water for the comedown. So everyone started recognizing me as FIJI, this was before the music. When we started making music, we were like, “What should we call ourselves?” CMDWN just fit our lifestyle at the time.
In light of the recent Mac Miller passing, are you guys worried about the drug culture?
FIJI: For sure. Like I said, that whole lifestyle of partying and doing heavy drugs was definitely a big part of our early stages as artists. Now, it’s not even necessarily about what’s going on with artists passing, or influencers passing, it’s more for just our own sake.
Ca$tro: With that being said, I always say this shit isn’t made for everybody. You have to know yourself at the end of the day. We’re not trying to dictate what people should do, and we’re aware people will follow what we do. But people should know that just like this music shit, it’s not for everybody. Just like the genre of music you listen to, it’s not for everybody. The better you grab that grasp on that perception, the better it is you will live your life knowing, “Okay, I understand what these guys are trying to do. I can see the message.”
What is the message behind the music?
Ca$tro: It’s a carefree kind of feeling. It’s like a “you don’t have to care about what everybody else thinks” type of feeling. Just be on your own shit.
FIJI: When we first started making music, we would rap all the shit we would see, all the shit we were doing. Then we realized we actually are influencers.
Ca$tro: We see people copying our thing. Just rap about what the fuck you like, then guess what? It turns out people will like it, because you like it. They’ll be like, “Wow, he was so forthcoming about how he likes Pokemon, that I feel I can wear this Pokemon shirt to school now.” It’s one of those. We’re just trying to teach everyone to be themselves. The position that we’re in where we get blessed with opportunity, anybody and anyone of our fans can be in this position. We’re just trying to make that more and more possible each step of the way.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
FIJI: It was definitely a couple key points in our career. One of them is just being on the radio, and my mother hearing that.
I heard radio didn’t exist in Toronto? Or that it wasn’t poppin’.
Ca$tro: It wasn’t poppin’. But now we’re on that bitch, so it’s poppin’.
FIJI: There’s a station, 93.5. Shout to them.
Ca$tro: It wasn’t poppin’ until The Move came on that bitch. The Move made it pop, it’s always played classics.
FIJI: There’s that, and we’ve been working with Nike for a little while. There was a whole Nike + NBA campaign. There’s a huge billboard of Ca$tro and I in downtown Toronto, so I brought my mom to show. Her seeing that was definitely special.
How is your fanbase there compared to here?
FIJI: It depends on where and the time. I wouldn’t be walking around Main St. or by the big malls. Well, we don’t shop in the malls anyways, but it’s certain places. Like I go out to the club.
Ca$tro: That is weird. We don’t shop at the mall. Is that normal?
Have you guys shopped in LA yet?
FIJI: I hit up Round Two, and obviously Supreme.
Ca$tro: We went to Ripndip. I like that store.
I wanna drop acid in there.
Ca$tro: I love that. I would definitely drop acid in there.
FIJI: LA is definitely a vibe. A lot of selection to go shopping, compared to Toronto.
What’s your favorite part of the City?
Ca$tro: I’d say the vibe. When you’re out here, you kind of feel like you’re not running out of time. It’s a good feeling, compared to always feeling like you’re behind. That’s how most people feel in their lives. They come to LA and that’s why they get that stigma.
FIJI: For me, it’s the weather. I have seasonal depression so the winter time in Toronto is terrible for me. Seeing this, the palm trees and the sun… just warm weather.
“Roxanne” is a slap. Can you talk about linking with Chief Keef, the legend?
Ca$tro: That was more of our labels, because we have the same distribution. We had sent the first draft of Atlanada over to eOne for distribution. They heard “Roxanne,” and said that his manager heard it and liked it. They were like, “his manager said he would play it for Chief Keef, and if he liked it, maybe we would be able to get vocals.”
FIJI: We thought it was all cap.
Ca$tro: We thought it was all bullshit. Crazy enough, when we were finishing and polishing these other songs, we finally hear word and get back the vocals. It was literally sorted in 50 different files. We had to sort through it. I remember we heard the first stem, it was like “bang bang.” That’s how we knew it was the real Sosa. We got so giddy just off the first two, we weren’t ready for the rest of it.
We had our in house producer, DNNYPHNTM, start throwing the stems together, making it what it is today. When we finally got it all together and played the song through, we were going crazy. We were running it backwards like “oh my god, that’s Sosa.” You kind of just remember listening to him in your car ride, going to high school. You remember that and it’s just like wow, he seemed so far away at one point.
It’s crazy because I actually got arrested in a Free Chief Keef shirt. That was when I shot the “Hellalujah” video. Now, we’re actually in LA, and we’re with him. It’s not like when cameras are rolling, and after they are rolling, [snaps] he’s to himself. He’s actually a chill dude. He’s mad bool. We would be smoking and kicking it. He’s down to earth, and he’s intelligent. He’s cool to talk to, and can actually hold a conversation.
Castro, can you talk about fleeing to Toronto?
Ca$tro: I left because they weren’t trying to let me graduate or some bullshit. I was like “alright, I’m finna take my ass right back to Atlanta.” Basically when I got back, I finished and graduated. I had asked my mom for 3 weeks vacation because I was like “bruh, I’ve been literally in school for 12 years, busting my ass.” I never stopped, so I asked my mom for 3 weeks. She said alright, and I bought my ticket to go to Toronto. I went there for 3 weeks, and I remember how fun it was just in the first couple days. I was like “oh this is fire, damn.”
At the same time, my mom is texting me like, “Remember you have to go to Georgia State when you get back. Remember you have to come in a little earlier so you can apply.” I’m like mmmm. Slowly but surely, I met FIJI and Teo, and we started making moves around the city. Before I knew it, we had a little wave, and I had to start ducking my moms phone calls. So 3 weeks turned into 3 months, and then 3 months turn into 3 years. But before the third month was over, my mom actually flew out. Basically, I had blocked her number.
That’s so sad.
It’s not sad, because she terrified the shit out of me. I knew if I let her get in my head, I already know I’m going to be terrified. When she finally got here, she was freaking out like, “Where are you? What are you doing?” I’m like, “Oh shit, I completely forgot. Shit, I just fucked around and changed my number, and here you are” I told her what we’d been up to and that we were making music. We had a wave, and we had fans. I told her to look us up, Google us so she could see what we’ve been doing. She wasn’t as mad, and was more lenient towards my dreams. She was just like, “Do you really want to do this? Don’t forget, school is still there.” I was like, “I know it’s still there, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Can you talk about linking with Waka?
Ca$tro: We rocked with each other because we’re both from Clayco, straight up. Because Waka was the first savior to pop out from Clayco and really represent that bitch heavy. I would watch his shit. Even the way I flip my braids and shit, that came from a young Ca$tro watching Waka Flocka. There’s a lot of inspiration there. Finally, I made the song and got word he liked it. Before I knew it, he had posted it on his story. He was like, “Ay, I fuck with this!” A bunch of my fans were tagging me and shit. Eventually, he was like “DM me.” I’m like huh? So I did, and he dropped his number. Like he didn’t say anything. I remember when he said DM me, I was like, “Ay Flock! Ay bro! Man, I’ve been listening to you, whoopty woop.” He just dropped his line. After I texted him “this Ca$tro,” he instantly FaceTimed me. I remember looking at my phone like damn, that’s Flockavelli forreal.
You just dropped ATLANADA 2. How has the fan reception been?
FIJI: It’s been dope. It’s definitely going crazy. Fans are fucking with it. We don’t drop music too often, so when we do drop, we make sure it’s special for our fans. That’s all really that matters, as long as they’re fucking with it. It’s been doing well streaming numbers.
Ca$tro: It’s been amazing.
What are some goals for yourselves as an artist, at this point?
Ca$tro: Keep on furthering the envelope. Keep on pushing the bar. Keep surprising our haters, and fans and supporters as well. Keep the wave going forever and always. Branding it and making it more of something that lasts forever.
FIJI: Keep going. Every day is like a blessing, to be able to do what we love and actually make a living out of it. Make our people proud, between our friends, family, mothers. The fact that we’re doing what we love and it’s actually taking us places. We’re travelling and seeing the world, and to have fans off it, it’s a rewarding feeling. We want to continue doing that, but on a bigger scale.
Ca$tro: Until we’ve successfully done that around the entire world. Then we’ll take our next step from there.
3 things you need in the studio?
Ca$tro: I definitely need loud. Weed, Backwoods, and just my phone really. I be in the that bitch.
FIJI: For me, it’s definitely Belmont cigarettes. Hennessy. Honestly, either a) my homies, or b) shortys. Preferably both, so it’s a vibe.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
FIJI: Right now, it’s Gunna.
Ca$tro: I’d say Eminem, or Lil Wayne.
FIJI: For me, I’d say Beyonce. That would be legendary.