How GASHI is a Grounding Force in the Industry and What He Plans to do Next
Interview by Zara Rawoof
GASHI is a force to be reckoned with. The rapper’s energy may have been the byproduct of recently coming off his European tour, where he hit 21 different cities in just under a month. But even when GASHI is home- whether that’s his place in L.A. or his native NYC roots- the artist attracts millions of monthly listeners on Spotify alone. Racking up a combined total of 3.4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram, GASHI’s online persona is just as enticing as his music. Aside from aesthetically pleasing cover photos and the sleek concert flicks that adorn his feed, it’s the artist’s fan interactions that draw in such a massive audience. GASHI brought his Uber driver on stage this November, rallying a festival crowd together to cheer on Ted, aka Uber Ted. The viral video on GASHI’s TikTok highlights Ted’s own reaction to the wholesome moment, “You treated me like a king when I’m just an Uber driver,” he says to a beaming GASHI, “You made me feel like I was the most important person at that whole event.” GASHI dedicates a large portion of his feed to moments of genuine gratitude. Fans gush over his authenticity and what he has done for them through his music. Every now and then, your jaw may drop at the tattoo reveals dedicated to the young visionary.
GASHI accredits his kind personality to his parents, saying, “Whether it’s my Uber driver or whoever it is, that’s somebody’s father. That’s somebody’s brother, sister, mother, and I would want someone to treat my family with love.” Born in Libya as Labinot Gashi, he and his Albanian parents were refugees prior to their arrival in Brooklyn when the rapper was 10. GASHI will never forget his roots, but he’s comfortable enough to acknowledge his own accolades. “I put in time and I put in work. I’ve seen a lot of money in my career and I’ve worked so hard. But I can’t forget when I was working a regular job. I did do retail, I did the garbage. That lifestyle - I can’t forget that.” Noticed early on in his career, GASHI’s 2011 debut mixtape featured Don Cannon, DJ Drama and Nipsey Hussle. Collaborations with Migos, Travis Scott, Sting, G-Eazy, Chris Brown, and DJ Snake (who GASHI refers to as his “big brother”) would have been enough reason for many to lose sight of their roots. But GASHI insists that the guest lists to his show’s aren’t star studded. “It’s the lady at the cupcake shop. It’s the dude at the pizzeria…These are the people that change the world,” he says.
Fellow native New Yorkers would likely credit GASHI’s nature to the culture of the city. The artist himself not only thanks Brooklyn for his attitude, but he reflects on the music that filled his childhood as part of his creative influence. From the cultural melting pot zip code of his early days to GASHI’s lifelong affinity for traveling, the rapper says, “I pick up things that I love and take it with me. That influence is why I’m able to do an Afrobeat song, a dance song, R&B… I grew up with nothing but Jamaicans, Haitians, Africans and listening to reggae has influenced my music. A lot of it has changed me. Even being in Arabic countries, if you listen to my melodies and a lot of the notes I sing, that’s all Arabic culture.”
With his own mind as his muse, GASHI creates with an authenticity hard to find on today’s musical charts. It’s no surprise the young rapper was the first on the East Coast to feature Nipsey Hussle twelve years ago. The connections he has made throughout his career with artists of a similar creative caliber stemmed from his own relationship building skills. “I never had an A&R, I’ve never had anyone do anything for me when it came to features,” GASHI revealed, “Every artist that you see me work with I wrote for or became friends with before the label. These are all relationships that I build by people respecting me and my craft and reaching out to me.”
GASHI’s disappointment with his label is a story known well by many artists in the music industry. From Megan Thee Stallion, Zayn Malik, and the recent drama regarding SZA and her restrictive contract, many talented singers and rappers find themselves being held back by the resources they thought would propel them into lucrative success. “The biggest letdown was me thinking that I signed to someone and they would make a big difference in my career when they did not,” GASHI said, “All they did was make you wait months…six months to release a record.” Appreciating the artistry in the music making process, GASHI knows that waiting this long makes the music less exciting and harder to promote.
He also knows how the industry has evolved. “To become an incredible artist nowadays, all you need is marketing money. Anyone could become anything in this world.” Regardless of the inauthenticity that infiltrates his business, GASHI keeps true to his message. “I’m not an easy person to mold. You can’t influence me. I have always done what I wanted to do.” The 33 year-old has always used his confidence as a weapon. From sustaining his individuality to walking away from business meetings unphased by the pressures many others succumb to, GASHI knows that, “People don’t like you when they’re not allowed to use you.” With both the creative means and business knowledge to become the mentor he wanted, GASHI’s newest pursuit is Stairs Music, his own record label. Already signing a promising young artist, ALEXSUCKS, the entrepreneur’s authenticity has the potential to change the industry at the top.
The injustices imprinted on artists due to manipulation and abuse of power has tainted the music industry. But no matter how frustrating it can all seem, GASHI reminds himself of the most important part of what he does. “They make up bullshit and assassinate your character. But when you have real fans, that’s all that matters,” He emphasizes, “I’ve always had an independent artist mindset. I’ve always depended on my fans. I’ve always spoken to my fans.”
From the 63 year old women who make their own merch for GASHI’s shows to the kids and families wearing Christmas sweaters, there are no boundaries to who the artist’s supporters are. The love is mutual, with GASHI saying, “The most important thing I knew was that as long as I focus on them, then that’s all that matters.”
The combination of his fan-base along with his dedication to his personal style became an opportunity to step into the world of fashion for GASHI. “I can look at someone and I can understand them based on how they dress.” Beyond appearances, GASHI’s philosophy regarding the manifestation of someone’s personality based off of their style influences the art and aesthetics within his home. From plants to paintings, GASHI’s lifestyle is a true representation of who he is.
Designing his merch with a friend, Cole Poska, GASHI represents his Albanian roots just as much as his New York City street style. “It has to be me,” he insists. GASHI’s creative restlessness and business mindset ensures that he will find opportunity for himself in whatever market he finds interesting. Getting into fragrance next, GASHI believes, “When you’re a star, you should hug somebody and they should smell you for a week.” The rapper divulged that Frédéric Malle, Le Labo, and Byredo are the brands he uses to curate his own signature scent, but kept the specifics under wraps. When his own scent drops, GASHI promises to feed a refugee family with each bottle sold.
He may be keeping his cocktail of fragrances a secret, but GASHI’s blend of unwavering confidence and genuine kindness reveals his journey to success. He will connect with music’s most talented people on the same intimate level as he would a fan. Like many others in the spotlight, GASHI is vocal about the trivial culture of celebrity status. Uniquely, his actions align with the grounded man he presents himself as. The artist radiates an honesty that draws millions to his music for a reason. Unafraid to be vulnerable, GASHI will also recognize his own suave persona and creative talent.
“My style is as if Ralph Lauren and Biggie Smalls had a baby while listening to Frank Sinatra…That’s who I am.”