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Gashi on ‘Genre-Bending’ Music, Rap-Country Crossovers and Bringing Cowboy Culture to New York (Exclusive)

Gashi is one of the latest musicians diving headfirst into the world of country music, but the Brooklyn native tells Us Weekly that genre-bending is nothing new for him.

“My father was a janitor at the Warner building, and he would clean all the floors and they would throw the CDs out and he’d bring the CDs home six months before they came out,” Gashi, 34 — whose real name is Labinot “Larry” Gashi — told Us exclusively at CMA Fest. “I would listen to every genre I could listen to. No Doubt, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg, I would listen to everybody.”

Gashi continued: “Keep in mind I was a refugee. I ain’t speak English. All I had was the radio. … I was always a genre-bending artist.”

Born to Albanian parents in Libya, Gashi spent his childhood traveling across the world before settling in Brooklyn at 10 years old. After getting his start in the music industry as a rapper, Gashi realized he had more to give the music industry.

Gashi on ‘Genre-Bending’ Music, Rap-Country Crossovers and Bringing Cowboy Culture to New York
Gashi. Us Weekly

In 2019, he covered Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” sparking a huge reaction online, including from Cash’s family, who reposted the cover. Thus, Gashi’s “Brooklyn Cowboy” era was born.

“I am having such a great time,” Gashi told Us of his time in country music so far. “People that know me go, ‘I can’t believe you changed genres. I love it. It feels so authentically you.’”

He continued: “I’ve worked so hard to be here and to do this. I just feel like the hospitality, the love I’m getting from Nashville right now has been the best love I’ve ever gotten since I’ve walked into the music [industry].”

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Gashi isn’t the only artist making the move to country music. He praised his peers who are doing the same, including Shaboozey and Post Malone.

“I’m proud of [Shaboozey] because what he’s doing is he’s opening up doors for everyone ‘cause he’s doing it in a different style. He’s doing it his way,” Gashi told Us. “Post Malone is a pop artist who came in as a rapper and now he’s doing country, too. He’s opening up doors for everyone too.”

The “Cold” singer also gushed over the love and acceptance he’s felt from some of the biggest stars in country, including Chris Stapleton (“one of the reasons why I started doing this”), Noah Kahan and Lainey Wilson.

Gashi on ‘Genre-Bending’ Music, Rap-Country Crossovers and Bringing Cowboy Culture to New York
Gashi. Monica Schipper/Getty Images

In fact, Gashi told Us that Kahan, 27, asked him to “style him” when they met up at a CMA event. Gashi has always been known for his fashion, but embracing “Brooklyn Cowboy” — which is also the title of his forthcoming album — has taken his style to a whole new level.

“Everybody’s been stopping me talking about the hats that I designed, which is the Brooklyn Cowboy hat,” Gashi told Us, referring to the cowboy hat he was wearing adorned with the New York Yankees logo. “I’ve always had this thing about me where I always love fashion. I love it just as much as I love music, just as I love film and video. So it’s always been that way. It just feels good to mix it up all together now.”

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While he loved his time in Nashville, Gashi is determined to bring the genre to his home city.

“Country’s coming to New York,” he told Us. “I feel really, really good to be the first artist that’s doing country music in New York that’s at my caliber, at my status, and being brave and being forward with fashion and music and who I am and doing these Yankee cowboy hats.”

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