Amir Cash Esmailian
Amir Cash Esmailian

From Tehran To Toronto: The Birth Of Cash Money, XO and The Weeknd

Tehran wasn't a great place to be in 1984. The Iran-Iraq War was in full swing. Saddam Hussein was targeting civilians with chemicals. Children were conscripted to fight back. Both sides were launching missiles at each other's most populous cities. That's when and where Cash was born, the second son of a loving mother and a father who he says was "running all the national banks in Tehran." By 1988, the small family left a spacious home and many close relatives to move to a riverside apartment in the Ottawa projects, where Cash's dad became a taxi driver. Cash saw enough before leaving Iran—like "a house I played at a week before not there no more, just, in the ground," he says—to understand the opportunity that came with their ostensible humbling.

He says growing up in a war zone made him fearless: "There's no situation you could put me in now that's gonna be worse." Plus, he was old enough to grasp his father's sacrifice, "so me and my brother could be in a space where we can make our own decisions, be what we want to be."

There are plenty of places one could conduct an interview in a $4.5 million home on 1.5 acres of land, but Cash and I are sitting in the one room that's bursting with colour.

The walls are a striking harissa-red, same as the Persian rug festooned with blue and green flowers, the gold-spangled sofa cushions, and many of the glasses in the tea set resting on an ornately carved and painted table (another sport a chest, a weed grinder, and promotional Belly wrapping papers). There's a green and gold hookah by the glass doors, which open to the yard, pool, and basketball court.

"This is my dojo, my connection with my roots," says Cash as he pulls his legs under him on the sofa and lights one of eight cigarettes he'll smoke in 80 minutes. He points to a portrait leaning in the corner—a great-great-great-great-great grandfather he says was "king of a state" in Iran. Next to that is a 200-year-old letter in the artful script from a shah thanking his great-great-grandfather architect, for working on a palace. Cash credits his brother, a Hyundai dealership manager with two kids, for passing on the family name, but he's also carrying forth a legacy: clout and wealth...

From Tehran to Toronto: Meet Cash, the man behind the Weeknd and XO

Chris Martins, Complex

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