2006/01-02/snp.ray_cash/main.jpgRay Cash ain’t your average rapper. The 26-year-old Cleveland native looks more like a tech-support guy than a game-spittin’ pimp. However, Cash’s Steve Urkel–like first impression immediately disappears the second he begins flowing. With a voice resembling one of Fred Sanford’s old-ass friends, Cash’s deep baritone and slick wordplay are as commanding as they are infectious. But it was Cash’s mirage of an appearance that caught the attention of Sony Urban’s executive VP/head of A&R Kawan “KP” Prather, who signed Cash to his very own Ghet-O-Vision imprint. “The first thing I noticed was [that Ray] didn’t look like nobody else in the game,” confirms Prather. “He looks so different. He actually stands out more. But he can also rhyme. He got for-real skills.”

Born Wardell Raymond Cheeks, Ray Cash grew up in Cleveland with a bird’s-eye view of the typical antics in Ghetto U.S.A. He was first introduced to hip-hop by his older sister, but rappin’ wasn’t an early focus for him. “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a rapper,” says Cash. “People always told me I had skills, but I never took them seriously.” Now Cash, who got serious about rap in 2001, finds himself in a position to reignite the spark once started by hometown heroes Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. “Everywhere I go people always asking me, ‘What’s up with Bone?’” he begins. “That just goes to show you how much of an impact they’ve had on Cleveland. You expect that when niggas is hot, but goddamn after awhile.”

Cash is actually the polar opposite of the quick-rapping quartet. His delivery, though lyrical, is slow and deliberate, allowing his Ohio drawl to breathe. After orienting himself with last year’s pimp-tight single “Sex Appeal,” Ray is now ready to reintroduce hip-hop to Cleveland with his debut, C.O.D.: Cash on Delivery, a swagger, skill-filled opus reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden era. “I look at myself as a throwback rapper,” says Cash. “Rappers ain’t telling stories no more. They just rappin’ you to death. My main goal is to captivate you from start to finish.”