Phoenix and Detroit-based artist Ali Cashius Jr. is back with another new single titled “HS Girlfriend.” Released on Valentine’s Day, the Puerto Rican and Yemeni rapper created this song to pay homage to his late friend while raising awareness of the high number of people who have committed suicide. In his newest track, Ali tells the true story of a young man who ended his life because of the overbearing burdens of life, with heartbreak pushing him over the edge.
In 2020, Ali released his song “Love Me,” which can be read about here. In a similar call to action, Ali partnered with West Coast legend Ras Kass to discuss the deeper issues behind the elections and the negligence of impoverished neighborhoods. I think it’s extremely telling to see how dedicated he is to rapping about serious problems, and his passion and care around the matters is constantly depicted with his intricate story-telling. Ali’s mixed upbringing has helped him see the world from different viewpoints, utilizing both perspectives in his music. While others viewed his mixed identity as a weakness, as exhibited by the insults that were thrown his way while battle rapping, he thought of it as a strength, allowing him to experience two beautiful cultures while giving him a unique frame of mind to shape his lyrics.
“It was a cold February morning in Southwest Detroit, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, when Ali was getting ready for school before he was stopped by his half-woken mother. ‘There’s two things you need to know Papi. The first is to always be careful and watch your surroundings, and the second is the pain of love. Remember that there is no pain like heartbreak.’ Ali shrugged his mother off and headed out to the snow-covered streets on the Friday before Valentine’s Day. Fast forward years later, and now that story is being shared in hopes to save lives and hopefully prevent today’s youth from facing a similar faith as that of Ali’s friend.“
To provide a bit of back-story to the song, Ali based the track around the true events of his late friend. The song takes place on the Southside of Detroit, Michigan, when that very friend fell in love for the first time with a girl in his class. As the two of them developed a relationship, becoming further wrapped up in one another, his friend started to neglect his responsibilities. He paid less attention in school, resulting in his grades dropping and his attendance decreasing. As a result, his friend was overwhelmed, both in trying to make his grades up and in trying to keep the love of his life happy. However, the real question revolves around the root of these issues, and if there was a deeper reason as to why Ali’s friend was struggling so much. Unfortunately, he resorted to substance abuse. Adding to one of his biggest concerns, his girlfriend decided that they needed to take a break, causing him to dive deeper into the world of addiction, using drugs and alcohol to cope with his depression and heartbreak. Ali’s friend’s story ends in the worst possible way, unable to mend his heart after having it shattered. He ended up taking his life.
The song takes the perspective of Ali’s friend, starting it off with a youthful and excited energy. The way he captures how nervous his friend is to ask out this beautiful girl shows just how young and naïve he is, portraying his initial innocence in a way that makes your heart hurt so much more when knowing how this story ends. Ali also creates an extremely catchy hook, demonstrating not only his ability to hold a tune, but also to create a hook that encompasses how overpowering falling in love can be, no matter how old you are. It reveals just how dedicated his friend was to his girlfriend, willing to do anything for her. As he’s going through his brother’s closet to find condoms, we see a slow and steady corruption overwhelm his innocence as he finds guns and bullets, a sad reality for generations that grow up exposed to violence. Referring to himself as a virgin puts it back into perspective how young he is, feeling invincible as though this love will last forever. As the song progresses, we learn about her alcoholic and abusive father, which caused her mother to leave them. It foreshadows what happens to this young boy despite his current efforts to console her, and the demise of their relationship.
The line “I became a man in a 5-minute span” marks the turning point for Ali’s friend as he transitions on to new coping mechanisms to deal with his new harsh realities of life. His mom starts to notice his behaviors, recognizing that he’s always late and that his grades are falling. And just like that, that innocence is gone. When his girlfriend tries to reach out to him, his first thoughts are that she’s pregnant. He now has new concerns, but despite his nerves, he wasn’t expecting her to tell him that they need a break. He decides to go back to his brother’s closet where he got the condoms to get the same very gun that we hoped he didn’t notice, and uses it to kill himself.
Ali does an amazingly powerful job at encapsulating how heartbreak can feel, showing that while it can make us feel on top of the world, it can also be our downfall. However, it also raises other concerns as well. This track demonstrates the problems that plague urban neighborhoods due to systematic racism. It exemplifies our failure to treat mental health properly and equally, especially because therapy is so expensive. This song is a very sad, realistic depiction of how our country fails to take care of its people and provide them with the resources they need to tackle things such as depression. And unfortunately, this song is extremely relevant now more than ever as we see how many people have taken their lives because of the ongoing pandemic. This song deserves to be shared.
A big thank you to Ali Cashius Jr. for constantly being a voice for the people and for speaking up on issues that need more awareness. If you would like to connect with the Detroit artist, you can check out his Instagram and Twitter below. And if you haven’t already, go check out my other post about his song, “Love Me,” and stream both of the tracks now!
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Sponsored by Ali Cashius Jr.