It would be easy to be envious of Cris Cab. Baby boy is only just 19, comes from a well-to-do Miami family, is way cute, and now! He’s got an album coming out in August or September on Island/Def Jam, produced by Wyclef. Pharrell has been his music industry godfather. Soon he’ll head out on tour with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes.
And he’s no pretty boy no-talent concocted by producers and executives. Cris Cab writes his own songs, and sings them really, really well. His music is a seductive blend of pop hook, hiphop verbal agility, and sweet reggae/Caribbean/Cuban lilt and melody, with a really individual, only-in-Miami sound. Hear for yourself on Thursday Feb. 2nd, when Cris plays a party at The Stage in the Design District, celebrating a new mixtape that previews his debut album, Echo Boom. Wyclef will be joining him onstage.
“He’s a very cool guy, like a big kid,” Cris said about Wycleff from the streets of NYC, where he’s been recording with the ex-Fugee and ex-Haitian presidential candidate at Harlem recording studio Stadium Red. Which pretty much makes up for him being in New York in January (not to mention they’ve been having an exceptionally warm winter). “He’s very chill, very energetic, very easy to be around. It’s a very natural collaboration. Our styles are very similar, we meet in the middle of me and him, and it’s very much a new sound.”
Not confident, is he? Cris describes the album as “very urban, but it’s still got the reggae influence, world music sounds, 12 string guitars and mandolin, very international. The messages and positivity that the music portrays has a world-wide message that speaks to the younger generation.” The album is named after that generation, his own – Echo Boom. “It’s this young generation of kids who are so musically inclined, whose musical taste is all over the map,” Cris says. “They know more about Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan than older people do.”
I wrote about Cris last summer, and he presents an interesting conundrum for me. Talent is intrinsically unfair and elitest – a few have it, most don’t. Good training can help a lot, but all the piano lessons or dance classes in the world won’t make up for a lack of the basic goods. We love it when someone bursts out of a poor background or some other kind of situation that don’t do anything to support their becoming an artist – it seems like a kind of miracle.
That’s not Cris’ situation – his parents were able to buy him a guitar, lessons, and, when he got serious about music, build him a recording studio (in a warehouse his dad owns). Via a family friend, Cris was introduced to Pharrell, who gave Cris songwriting tips, took him under his wing, and helped get him the attention that landed him his record deal (as well as top NYC management and PR companies).
But… the kid is good. I heard him freestyle, rhyming and playing on the guitar, riffing as easy as could be. He’s confident, but he should be. And he’ll need to be sure of himself on that tour with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes, playing mellow acoustic music in front of audiences there for pop/hiphop headliners. They won’t care about Wyclef or Pharrell or who his parents are. All they’ll care about is whether they like Cris’ music, and whether they like him. Talent is unfair. Cris has some. At the end, that’ll be what counts.