Gashi was in L.A. when he first heard Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” He instantly related to it. “I’m a very emotional guy, and I’m very dark,” the Albanian rapper said on Spotify’s Under Cover podcast. “And I tend to hide that because I don’t want people to see me in that light. But when I’m alone, Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ is always the music I’m listening to.”
Gashi recited a quote from Rick Rubin, who produced the Cash cover. “He said, ‘Artists are, artists cry, and artists have no control of the emotions. And sometimes, they don’t understand why they feel the way they feel, but they’re artists.” The words resonated with the rapper, causing him to realize it’s why he’s drawn to the song.
“I feel like that is why sometimes I cry and I feel super down, I feel super emotional and I can’t control how I’m feeling,” he admits. “It just bursts out, I’m in tears. It all makes sense why ‘Hurt’ is such an amazing record and why it’s such an emotional record and you can feel the pain in that.”
Gashi recorded the song at Spotify studios in New York alongside guitarist Logan Hyde. He found it hard to sing in such a low key. “The difficult thing to do was sing like Johnny Cash and actually make it feel like that record mixed with me,” he said. “So it was a mixture of Johnny and Gashi. So I had to bring them together and make them Johnny Gash.”
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The rapper felt he was better at covering “Hurt” than his own hit, “Creep on Me.” “In a weird way, it felt like it was easier for me to do other people’s songs over mine,” he said. “I guess I just don’t listen to my music enough.” The rapper describes the character he got into in order to perform “Hurt” and that it’s how Cash would sing the song in the present day. “I felt like we did a great job,” he said. “I would love for this song to play at my funeral in the future.”