If you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, you frequently get the same answer: ‘famous’. Fame looks great from afar, but in this day and age we often see the end product and tend to admire the success without acknowledging the struggle. It’s been a long and hard road to fame for Gashi, one of Hip-Hop’s fastest rising stars. Born to Albanian parents in Kosovo, he spent his childhood as a refugee in several African and European countries. He and his family ultimately settled in Brooklyn, NY where Gashi worked as a garbage man before his music career took off. Having released his self-titled major label debut album last year, Gashi is a prime example of earning everything he has achieved so far.

You lacked stability during your childhood as you moved around a lot before you came to Brooklyn. What impact do you think that had on your mentality?
At first it had me uneasy, I wasn’t used to being in one place for a long amount of time when we got there. I finally had freedom. My parents were my only friends, so I was like ‘damn I need to make new friends now’.

Sometimes in music, people try and put artists in a box. Do you feel more empowered to go against the grain, seeing as you’ve lived in so many different countries and were exposed to so many cultures and sounds?
I definitely feel more empowered to go against the grain. They try to box me in and say I’m Albanian, they try to box me in and say I’m a rapper, but whenever I drop a song I prove those people wrong.

The music industry can be very cutthroat. How do you feel about the nature of this industry and how do you battle it’s pressures and the dark sides?
I just feel like everybody is a demon. The music industry is full of demons who treat everyone like a number; it’s transaction land. When an artist is cold or hot, they get treated completely different. The idea is to start your own wave and to not depend on anyone or anything.

I see you have ‘Never Quit’ tattooed on your neck, what inspired that?
This shit took so long. So many times I felt like quitting when circumstances weren’t good.

In interviews, many creatives tend to mention protocols or rules they must follow or conform to so they can achieve their goals. Do you feel like that’s just part of the game, or should people be less afraid of going against the grain?
The only way to fail is to not try.  People should look at artists as human beings. Everyone should be looked at as equal. Every single human being has a special power, it’s their job to discover what that is. To me, my power is to make people feel good and be happy.

It feels like the music industry is very fast-moving these days. New artists and trends pop up out of nowhere and often times vanish as quickly as they came. Do you feel like these developments make it harder to influence people with your work?
No, because I don’t want anyone listening to me that follows trends. I was just on tour in Europe and had people travel country to country following every show even though I didn’t have a big production. I’m not a trend, I’m here to stay forever.

In life, we can all go through some incredible highs, but also some terrifying lows. What do you feel like it takes to keep fighting and take yourself out of a dark mindset?
Trying to see the positive in every single situation you get put in. You also need great friends. Amazing friends and family who actually look out for you and make sure you’re good no matter what. That’s why I’m so thankful for my managers, every time I’m not feeling good, they take care of me.
Your personal brand is obviously important to you, and in the past you’ve mentioned that you don’t want to be super mainstream. Why are you so opposed to being mainstream?
Because being mainstream doesn’t last. All it does is. When you become mainstream you don’t own anything yourself, the people own you. Being mainstream devours your brand, and when they’re done with you, you’re done. One of the few artists that was able to do it was Drake because he was able to maintain his brand. Frank Ocean is another example.

Photography: Niklas Haze, Art Direction: Constantin Gust & Juan Jose Mouko Nsue, Styling: Kirubel Belay, Make Up: Zoe Moore, Interview: Reece Stewart, Photo Assistant: Alex Kim