Let Cadet’s Life Be An Inspiration To Us All 🌹

Words: Aaron Bishop
Collage images: Serge Malange

On Saturday 9th February, 2019, the UK music scene was shaken by the news that Cadet, the rapper born Blaine Cameron Johnson, had been killed in a car accident on his way to a performance in the West Midlands. Messages came pouring in across social media from fans and peers alike, mourning his passing and also celebrating the man that he was: a warm-spirited and loving person, with an insatiable appetite to grow and be the best version of himself.

I was lucky enough to have had a phone conversation with him around two years ago. He was personally delivering merchandise to my sister, who had bought some stuff from his website, and this was something he would do as a way to personally thank his fans for their support. I was on my way home at the time and he had other deliveries to make, but when we spoke, he told me he was looking forward to us doing an interview together one day when we both make it to the top. He didn’t know me, he didn’t owe me anything, but his generous words and genuine attitude are just one small example of the kind of guy that he was.

Cadet was a shining light of love and positivity and that came through in his music. His relationship with his father was a topic that captured the hearts and minds of anyone who heard his 2015 Behind Barz freestyle. Here, he talked a lot about his journey with religion, but it was his story about waiting by the window for his dad on his sixth or seventh birthday—only to later find out he had sold what was supposed to be his present, for drug money—that was both moving and heartbreaking. It was an open and honest story that thousands of young black men could relate to, but he told it shamelessly and without fear, aware that moments like that had shaped the person he had become up to that point. It’s this same honesty that was a constant and unending theme in Cadet’s music, endearing him to both his fans and his rap peers in equal measure. He went on to talk about how they had managed, over time, to repair their relationship, how his dad had become drug-free, and how much he looked up to him, spitting: “Who knew that that man I’d been rude to, is now the compass I stay true to” and “my friends don’t talk about dads, that ain’t a thing / But me? I’m lucky that my one is a King.” This would later be the starting point for his Take 2 freestyle in 2017, where he revealed his father’s battle with cancer, proudly stating “I’m a daddy’s boy and I love you,” underlining just how far they had come.

Cadet’s father isn’t the only family member he frequently mentioned in his music: in various tracks and freestyles over the years, he spoke about his grandmother and wanting to see her more and make her proud, as well as his relationship with his siblings and his mother—best highlighted on the track “Stereotype”. But the person who comes up the most is his cousin Casyo, better known as Krept, one half of the UK rap duo Krept & Konan. In one of his most iconic tracks entitled “Letter To Krept”, Cadet breaks down their relationship into three chapters: Jealousy, Hunger and Love. In Jealousy, he raps about the lack of trust between them and constantly being referred to as “Krept’s cousin”, before thanking Krept in Hunger for bringing him to Wireless Festival in 2015 and showing him how far music could take him if he just buckled down.

“Then you brought me on-stage / It was me, you and Killer Kone, and I was the last one to come off-stage bro, cos up there, man, it felt like home / And I swear since that moment I took shit serious,” he raps, not only kick-starting his career but also their relationship, which leads to the final chapter of the song: Love. “When I started loving myself, then I could love you like I used to,” he goes on to say, realising the root of whatever negative emotions he had towards his cousin started and ended with the negative emotions he had towards himself. After that, the pair’s relationship was a joy to witness; from bantering with each other on social media to performing their letters to each other live. It served as a lesson to fans about the importance of family and being strong enough to put pride and ego aside for a greater purpose, especially when it comes to your loved ones.

While family has undeniably been an anchor when it comes to attracting people to his music, many people were put on to Cadet through his various freestyles about women. His relationship with women had been a tumultuous one, most notably encapsulated through his brutally candid “Slut” freestyle, from 2015, where he spoke frankly about a range of different scenarios and situations of which we all can relate to—whether personally, or through someone that we know. Woven between punchlines and metaphors, he rapped about not knowing his body count, sending women the same message on the social media site bebo, and not being accepted by his Moroccan girlfriend’s family. It was something we hadn’t witnessed in the rap game before, with the reactions of women in the background only amplifying the poignancy and potency of his words.

Other songs like “Closure” and “Instagram Girls” gave us greater insight into his experiences with women: on the former, he tells the story of a woman lying about her pregnancy, while the latter analyses the behaviour of those who act a certain way because they have followers. But with it all, Cadet was just as adept at observing others as he was at looking at himself. This skill was something that made him relatable, grounded and able to empathise with all he came into contact with, signified by the content of the thousands of messages on social media as well as the hundreds that came out to celebrate his life at Hyde Park on Sunday 10th February—one day after his death—many of whom didn’t know him personally but were touched, helped, and healed by his words in whatever form they had received them.

Ultimately, it won’t just be Cadet’s immense talent that will be missed, or his abundance of potential: his message of hard work, his gratitude, his infectious, playful nature and his self-reflective freestyles simultaneously made us hold up a mirror to ourselves, while in turn becoming one of the most loved and charismatic personalities in music. Everyone wanted him to win. He dreamed of performing at Wireless in his own right, and this was the year he had finally been booked to do just that. With new music planned and prepared for release, this was supposed to his year, before untimely being taken by heaven’s angels. Wireless have since released a statement saying that they will be “keeping his Wireless performance as a time to reflect on the memory of Blaine”, something that will almost certainly prove to be an unforgettable moment in British music.

Blaine Cameron Johnson was someone who wanted his life to mean something, who wanted to inspire others and make an impact, and although it may not be in the way he himself envisaged, the self-proclaimed ‘underrated legend’ and his incredible, inspirational journey has achieved legendary status, immortalised at the heart of UK rap history.

Posted on February 11, 2019