Cush Wallace is here to put on for his city of Los Angeles, breaking through the norm of what’s expected when you hear West Coast hip-hop. Thanks to his father’s musical background as an A&R for Atlantic Records and DJ for KJLH 102.3, the recording artist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist loves music at the core, even classically-trained as a guitarist and cellist.
Real name Matt Wallace shares the same last name as one of the greatest lyricists of all time: Biggie Smalls, Christopher Wallace. Describing himself as “an ambitious, self-starter, self-motivated, entrepreneurial man from Central Los Angeles,” Cush carries that same exact energy into his music. With his undeniable talents and versatility in both singing and rapping, along with his unwavering love for strings, the rising star continues to pave his own lane in the rap game.
Following the success of his 4-track EP titled DRICO, Cush returns with his newest single titled “Loss for Words.” The record sees him serenading the lyrics with a hypnotizing melody, over a trapped out beat that he produced himself. Flaunt caught up with Cush Wallace to discuss his upbringing in barrios of Los Angeles, learning the guitar and cello, inspo behind “Loss For Words,” the independent grind, studio essentials, and his forthcoming album titled Wish the Worst for Me.
What was the household like growing up in Central Los Angeles?
My dad’s from Harlem, New York and my mom’s from El Salvador, so I spent time between New York City and Los Angeles. My childhood was definitely interesting because in New York, you get to be outside more. We were always on the block whereas when we came to LA, it’s the complete opposite. It’s more laidback, we’re in the house more. [laughs] I have a lot of brothers and sisters, I’m the 4th of 6 children. Being Black and Salvi is definitely a privilege because I got to see the best of both worlds. Being exposed to Salvi cuisine then having soul food on Thanksgiving, I got exposed to all that. It was cool.
Talk about being classically-trained in guitar and cello.
The acoustic guitar was my first instrument ever. My dad got it for me when I was a little kid, about 4 or 5 years old. I was so fascinated by the different melodies you could play and the strings. It was my first time being able to put my emotions and incorporate them with music. I could feel happy, I could feel sad, then turn to my guitar and play different moods, whether it’s upbeat or slow. That’s when I got really into classical music. I said “what are all the other instruments I could play with strings?” My dad really wanted me to get into bass guitar. I was like, alright before I do that, I’ma try the cello. I loved playing pizzicato, being able to pluck the strings and get it going that way. I used to play “In Da Club” on my cello and incorporate hip-hop with it. [laughs] I used to think that was so dope. It’s always been deep rooted in my music.
At what point did you realize you could do music for a living?
I always knew I could do music for a living. When I was 6 years old, I used to go perform for my god-mom and god-cousins. Every Easter, I’d perform Michael Jackson and they’d love it. They still tell me to this day how they got videos of me doing that. How I made them feel, they’re like “this dude’s a performer!” The time when I knew I could pursue it full-time was going into my freshman year in college. I‘d been recording a mixtape. I used to play basketball for CSUN—we ended up winning the conference championship that year. We punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament. In my mind, I’d checked off something I always wanted to do on my bucket list as far as playing ball. I was 18 at the time. I felt that was God’s way of telling me it’s time to pursue music.
“Loss for Words” out now. How does this fit into your album, Wish the Worst for Me?
Another song on the album called “Why It Didn’t Last” lets me really explain what I couldn’t explain in “Loss for Words.” “Loss for Words” is that breaking point in a relationship where I’m like, damn, I’m speechless! What happened to us? We used to think we’re going to go forever, to be a couple forever. To see it end and to know that now we’re living totally separate lives, it’s left me at this point where damn, I don’t really know how to explain this and I really am at a loss for words. A song like “Why It Didn’t Last” touches more on me being able to pinpoint the actual demise in the relationship and where it went wrong. These are the things I can recall, this is why we weren’t able to stay together. The album is essentially me going through the roller coaster of emotions when the love of your life walks out on you suddenly.
What’s the reality of the independent grind?
Being independent comes natural to me because I’ve always been self-motivated and a self-starter. It’s something that I grew into. I’ve always had a strong sense of self. A lot of artists may look at that as a burden, may want to just focus on the music or just on themselves and being creative. For me, I like doing my marketing. I have a business acumen, I like to look at the projections and the numbers. It’s all encompassing. I like engineering my own music, it’s part of the whole process.
I’ve gone through the cycles of “oh I can do this,” then you come to the point where you think “oh, well, maybe I can’t do this.” They call that the moment of despair, when you want to quit and give up. I’ve already gotten through that to where I am now; these are all the things that need to happen. It’s all about managing it now. It’s been a blessing for me because I like talking to people and networking. If someone were to reject me and tell me no, I look at that as a yes because they’re letting you know what they don’t like or won’t accept. That allows me to rework my strategy and avoid pitfalls. I love being independent, it’s dope.
3 things you need in the studio?
I need some water, a solid Wi-Fi connection, and my thoughts. Let’s go! [laughs]
What can we expect from your forthcoming album?
A more vulnerable side. Every track touches on that in some way or fashion. My music is moody and gritty, there’s highs and lows. It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. There’s good times and bad times, it’s life. It’s been cathartic for me to make it so I hope that shines through. I want people to see that realness. I’m also singing on there too. [laughs]
How was it singing?
It was great! When I first got into making music, I was so focused on the bars. Now, I’m able to incorporate the production, the melodies, the songwriting, and using my real story—I’m always speaking from a real place in every track. For Wish The Worst For Me, I’m more so narrating the relationships I’ve been through and the heartbreak. I’ve had so many different heartbreak situations that I never really took the time to slow down and say “okay, I’ma write this out.” For this album, I did and it came natural to have singing on there. There’s crooning on there, it’s crazy. [laughs]
Anything else you want to let us know?
Keep an eye out for more music, videos, visuals, and merch. We’re coming with all that. Let everybody know that I’m not from South Central, I’m from the barrios in Central LA, Pico Union district. In hip-hop, there hasn’t ever been any artists to come out from there so I want to really showcase that. That’s where I tie in my Afro-Latino side, to show everyone this is my upbringing. In West Coast hip-hop so far, we’ve only heard from 2 areas in LA—Compton and South Central. We don’t really hear from the other parts of the city. So being over on the East side of town in Pico Union, I want to shed light on that.