While the other kids watched Saturday morning cartoons, Contradash was watching music videos on VH1. An only child in mythical Southern California, he dreamed big and worked practical from the confines of his bedroom. His budding interest in graphic design and music blossomed with the help of YouTube how-to videos. “YouTube tutorials have always been my best friend,” he says with a laugh, but not really joking either. Designing album and single artwork introduced him to the recording industry—now he’s 22 years old and signed to Interscope Records. Contradash is on the verge of global stardom because of his facility with hooks and carefree treatment of genre. Pop, hip-hop, R&B, alt rock—Dash absorbed it all to make hits of his own. He records as Contradash, and you’ll be hearing him everywhere.
Growing up, Dash’s bedroom wasn’t a fixed point, geographically speaking. His separated parents moved around often, meaning he shuttled between their spaces too. With a periodically incarcerated father, single mother, restraining orders & school transfers—it was a hectic period. Although Contradash recalls being alone for much of it, he claims he never felt lonely. “You only feel lonely when you're used to people,” he says. “I would go to school, come back home, and record music—through high school at least, that’s what I did. My homies were into different shit. I wasn’t trying to end up like the majority of my hometown. I saw what happened to most of my friends. some are in prison, some are dead. I used music as an excuse to stay away from that, while also tryna get through the day. But I’ve been attached to this music dream since an early age. I just never acknowledged how real it was.”
He remembers getting an iPod Shuffle as a kid and uploading music downloaded from the internet: Lil Romeo, the Jonas Brothers, etc. “It looked like a Juul,” he recalls. “I would listen to it in the car because I didn't like what my mom was playing.” He built his own musical world, never caring about genre and how that can slot a young person into certain social circles or adolescent archetypes.
When he first started making songs of his own, at 14, he mimicked the flow of rappers he admired, like Tyler, the Creator, Lucki Eck$ and Smino. Borrowing cadences and melodies, he’d come up with his own lyrics, writing a song about “math class or something stupid.” Then he moved to GarageBand, writing rambling three-minute-long raps without structure. Sonically it didn’t sound right, leading him down YouTube rabbit holes about recording and engineering. He was on his way to becoming a one-man hit machine.
After much practice and revision, he reached the pivotal moment where he began enjoying his own music as much professional pop music. It’s a feeling he struggles to put into words. “When you reach that point, it’s so liberating. Better than sex for sure.”
By this time, he was nearing the end of high school and spending more time making friends online. Through his work in graphic design, he got to know Florida-born group Backhouse, home of pop star Dominic Fike. With Dom’s guidance, he learned how to produce in Logic and push his songwriting further, provoking him with ideas about structure and subject matter. “He still be teaching me shit to this day I swear to god.” and in 2018, Dash flew to Naples FL to reset from what he knew and work on music. Never having been to Florida at all, Dash moved couch to couch, staying at multiple friends’ houses. “They looked out for me for deadass no reason. I could never repay them for that.” Dash had lived with artist Nate Traveller, along with Alamo Records’ artists ALX & RIPMattBlack, all separately, in the midst of the two reaching their own record deals.
Roughly 2 years later, when major labels became interested in Dash, he was well prepared. “I knew exactly what I was looking at. I saw Dom’s entire signing unfold. He was the only friend who related this situation, and I’m grateful to have had seen this before.” he says. By then, Dash had released just two songs, “yo-yo” and “blocked.”
Everything changed with “yo-yo,” produced by friend (and neighbor) Sage Roberge. Slurred and catchy, his first single is all about its slinky melody. The lyrics describe the up and down motion of a will-they-won’t-they relationship, where power is perpetually shifting and each person is eyeing the other with skepticism and desire. It’s a contemporary R&B song with an X-factor: Dash’s unique delivery. “I felt like I’d created a monster with that song,” he says. “cause I fasho wasn’t stopping after that,”
“blocked,” a bright, almost whimsical description of that peculiar contemporary social media dilemma—getting blocked by an ex—followed soon after “yo-yo.” With over 1.5 million streams on Spotify, “blocked” marked another breakthrough. “I truly believe timing and taste can take you further than skill and talent ever could,” Dash says, but with this pair of songs, he revealed himself to possess all four qualities.
His latest single, “white lie,” is a guitar-driven revision of early 2000s pop-punk, with a massive hook. Produced with Russ Chell, known for his work with Lil Nas X and Cardi B, “white lie” is more proof that Dash can’t be boxed in sonically. Like Dom, Dash met Russ in Florida and was blown away by his musicianship. Russ taught Dash to play guitar so that he can add that element to his live show when he finally tours. “My main artistic goal right now is to put together a great show,” he says. “I want to be able to compete with your favorite rapper and your favorite rock star.”
His upcoming singles “diva” and “petal pickin’” are more proof of the depth and variety of his forthcoming debut project, all-star. “diva” opens with delicate guitar, but before long a bass line comes in that wouldn’t be out of place on a club banger. Harkening back to his days practicing flows in his bedroom, “petal pickin’” crams a serious number of words into its hook and verses, but never sacrifices its pop appeal. Contradash loves moving between extremes. “‘petal pickin’’ is a catchy, rappy song and then ‘white lie’ is just Russ letting me shred my face off,” he says. “That’s very fire to me.”
He acknowledges that this sort of movement between genre is risky but it’s true to his taste and his life. “It might look like I’m half pregnant on a bunch of different things,” he says. “Jack of all trades, master of none. But I’m trying to be a master at all that shit.”
He’s on his way, diligently working on a debut project that will have that intangible quality to make you download it to your iPod and play it for hours on loop in the backseat of your mom’s car—or better yet, in your bedroom.