Up & Coming Singer Cris Cab Rocks Miami With Wyclef Jean
Chances are if Wyclef Jean is your stage wingman and Pharrell Williams oversees your performances with the gleeful eye of a mother goose, your musical future is looking damn bright. That seems to be the case for Cris Cab, a 19-year-old clean-cut Miamian, whose mellow sounds mixed with heavier dubstep and reggae influences are blowing up right now.
“It’s about the force of music, and Cris is mixing Bob Dylan and Bob Marley in a totally fresh way,” said Wycelf backstage at the release party for Cris Cab’s new mix-tape Echo Boom, produced by the ex-Fugee. Judging by the groupies out in full force and Pharrell’s rhythmic head bumping to his protégé’s catchy “Good Girls,” the force is strong with Cab.
“I’m just so humbled and honored and happy to have them both in my corner,” Cris reveled slightly horsed from his latest performance. “Wyclef is just so energetic and supportive. And Pharrell is like my big brother.”
What exactly does collaborating with the Grammy winners look like? “We just grab our guitars and jam in studio,” said the teenager matter of factly.
And while most of us can’t phantom the type of good fortune Cab has been graced with (haters hint at his parents’ deep pockets, which helped the artist gain access others can only dream about), there is no denying that this song-writing, guitar-playing kid got skills. Watching Cab cruise through his set marked by vocal stylings reminiscent of Bob Marley, Dave Matthews and Marvin Gaye is like witnessing something great about to happen. He delivers every note effortlessly and commands the stage like a pro.
Thanks to the N.E.R.D. frontman’s mentorship, not only did Cab’s flow get tighter; many doors have swung open. The relationship with Williams brought the young artist a rare degree of resources and music industry attention. He has a high-powered publicist and management company, and last year he played a showcase for top executives of major labels including Universal Motown and Warner Music Group. This month he is appearing with T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes on the Snowstorm Music Tour.
Considering the bigger picture, Cab represents something Miami hasn’t had since the glory days of Gloria Estefan. Their common Cuban heritage aside, this new Miami sound Cab is embracing is a hotchpotch of Caribbean/hip-hop/pop references sung in a surprisingly soulful voice, evocative of John Mayor if he had a thing for Rihanna (which he probably does.)
“I don’t shy away from where I’m from and it’s good to represent Miami,” says Cab, who wrote “Rihanna’s Gun,” the first track on Echo Boom in response to Riri’s “Man Down.” “There are a lot of guitars, percussions and bongos on my record. The sound is different and you can tell right away that I’m influenced by my environment.”
It’s that very fusion, sold by a talented kid wearing a plead shirt from a moneyed background that will most likely appeal to teenage girls without alienating adults who may remember going to a Marley concert.
“His music just feels good,” added Wyclef. “Being from the Caribbean, it’s cool that the music I grew up with will reach a wider audience because of Cris. He is young, he has charisma and he is just one talented dude.”
Although there are many references in Cab’s tunes to old school classics, there is nothing archaic about how he conducts the business of music. He epitomizes the new way of getting it done, outfoxing the conventional machine that changes bar acts into legit stars. Take his guitar skills, for example. Though he had private lessons at the ripe age of eleven, Cab mostly taught himself through videos and online instruction, and thanks to YouTube and Facebook, he built a momentum and an impressive following.
“That’s where it is at today,” Cab admitted. “I did a cover of Wiz Khalifa’s ‘Black and Yellow,’ put it on You Tube, and things just took off from there. Somehow it feels easier to get this thing going with the net.”
Speaking of Khalifa, one glimpse at the Echo Boom’s lineup that includes collaborations with Mavado, Melanie Fiona, Christian Rich, 88-Keys, and it’s clear to see that Cab loves to perform covers. There is not one, not two but three Cab-ifed tunes that also include Kanye West’s All of the the Lights and Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks, which is DOPE. All of these makeovers in spite prolific writing of his own are peculiar, but, as Cab puts it, “everyone is doing it.”
Regardless of his sources of inspiration, one thing is for sure. “Cris is super talented,” said Pharrell, who has been mentoring the reggae loving Miamian, since their first meet some three years ago. “His voice is rich, and as an artist he just conveys such conviction. He is going all the way.”