Nashville nickname evolves from lifestyle to brand

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Inside the cultural arts retail space of The PSV Store near downtown Nashville, Carlos Partee sits alongside longtime Nashville DJ, C-Wiz.

Partee is the owner of local fashion brand Cashville Etc. He sells a collection of shorts, shirts and hats. Some of the clothing draws inspiration from life in Nashville during the '90s and early 2000s — like watching the city's now defunct Nashville Kats arena football team.

"The Kat was a football player," says Partee. "So, what I did is put a bankroll inside the Kat's hand."

Partee is from North Nashville. He says he built the brand so Nashville natives could show pride in the city that they grew up in. He started with a single hat. But he's now getting ready to open a brick-and-mortar shop.

"I want you to be able to say, 'I'm from Cashville,'" he says, "when you're in New York or Texas or whatever state you may be in."

There are all sorts of popular nicknames for U.S. cities. There's "Sin City" for Las Vegas, "The City of Brotherly Love" for Philadelphia and "Music City" for Nashville.

The Music City moniker doesn't necessarily represent Nashville's Black community. One alias that does is Cashville. Over the years, it's gone from a lifestyle to a community brand.

Many people who identify with the culture of Cashville have their own way of speaking, including the way they describe the geographical landscape of Nashville: Out East, Out West, Out North and Out South.

But there are also other words, says Partee, as he rises from his seat.

"Aight, aight a good one. That part. On me."

These are terms that are also used in other communities across the country. There is one, however, that sticks out locally.

"The other word, instead of saying, 'We gone do it like that,''' says C-Wiz, "we always say, 'We gone do it like Kat.' It sounds like K-A-T."

C-Wiz says he remembers the name Cashville going back as far as the '90s.

"The streets financed a lot of what was going on. So, hence the term 'cash,' 'Cashville,'" he continues. "Now, there are some other Nashville historians who may feel different, but I think that's how it came out."

The name stuck. It eventually became a part of Nashville's hip-hop scene. The lyrical content was also similar to what was being released by other rappers across the South.

"Like the slang from 'Tennessee to Texas,'" says C-Wiz. "Atlanta was great — all these other places were great — but we really connected with Texas and Louisiana."

Those ties spanned from Cash Money Records in New Orleans to UGK rappers Bun B and Pimp C. The duo was popular in Houston. C-Wiz went on to put together a mixtape for the group, "Trill Azz Mixez." The tape included a remix of the song "Pocket Full of Stones."

Still, like with its lingo, Cashville also has its own flavor of music — spanning from both old and new school rappers. Those artists include Kool Daddy Fresh, Pistol, Quanie Cash and Trapperman Dale.

There are also longtime artists like Starlito, who grew up Out East. Starlito says the moniker Cashville has changed over the years. In today's era, Cashville is Nashville, and Nashville is Cashville.

"I don't think there's a difference, per se," he explains. "I do think the moniker Cashville, for namesake purposes, is more of an urban thing."

But it hasn't always been that way. Cashville used to be a word that was mainly shared among people who were in the know about things happening in the streets. It was a reference to hustling. It was used around the same time Nashville started to emerge.

"It was always something to aspire to be. It was something aspirational about it," Starlito says. "In the sense of Cashville, you wanted to get some money. You wanted to show that."

But those times have changed. Cashville isn't just popular in small circles. Check cashing places have even started using it. Many people came to know the name after the release of "Straight Outta Cashville" in 2004. It was rapper Young Buck's album debut.

"That put that namesake or nickname for our city into like a mainstream light," Starlito says.

Today, Cashville is something that represents people no matter where you live in the city. But that also raises the question: Is that a good thing?

Nashville natives who grew up in town have moved further away from the city. Outsiders are moving in, and big development is changing old neighborhoods. He predicts the next artist that blows up will be in tune with the mainstream brand of Cashville instead of the lifestyle.

"It has, I don't want to say dulled down," Starlito adds, "but it's become more of a namesake thing, than a cultural thing."