rockie fresh signing
Early yesterday, it was announced that Rockie Fresh had inked a deal to become the newest member of Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group. It came as a surprise to some, who either weren't totally familiar with the Chicago MC, or were expecting MMG's next acquisition to be rumored rappers like Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, or Emilio Rojas. But Rockie didn't just pop up out of nowhere. The early-twenties rhymer has been selling out shows in his home city for some time now, steadily building an independent following while weighing offers from major labels. His most recent mixtape, January's Driving 88, helped bring his sound to a wider audience. One of those audience members was Rick Ross, who was impressed enough to sign Rockie to his crew. Here, the laid-back rhymer takes XXL through the steps leading up to his signing with MMG. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)
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I dropped the video for the intro to Driving 88, “Into the Future.” Spiff, one of Ross’ right hand men—he do all his videos and shit—he had saw the video, and he had hit me up on DM. We got to talking back and forth, and he asked me was I signed. At that time, I was taking meetings from a couple of the majors, but it wasn’t anything I was too comfortable with, so I informed him of that. The next day he hit me up like, "Man, I played it for Ross and he really wants to meet up with you."
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They flew me out the following Monday, and that was during the “Take It To The Head” shoot. I hadn’t talked to Ross on the phone or anything like that, I was just in contact with Spiff. So when I got there, they took me to his hotel room and me and him just sat down and we had a real dope conversation and he really explained to me the records that he really like off of Driving 88. Why he likes certain records, how he respects my sound, and things like that. Also, it was such a chill meeting that I really wasn’t catching a vibe that he was tryin’ to get me a record deal. I knew that he may have been interested, but I just thought it was gonna be an, “I’m your big homie, hit me up when you need something” type of thing.
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In that meeting, he showed appreciation for my sound. When I thought about doing a record deal, the reason why I wasn’t too gung-ho on signing anytime soon was because I’m a young dude, I’m building my independent fanbase at a decent rate. It wasn’t the quickest rate, but it was something I was comfortable with and I could pay my rent off of. At the same time, there are certain opportunities that you just can’t pass up on. A lot of the other labels were opportunities that I could pass up on. This one wasn’t, and it’s mainly because Ross respects my vision, and he wants to be moreso a part of it than to change me into something different [of who] I really am. That’s what the meeting was really about. Him saying to continue to focus on your own sound, because he really feels like it’s something that’s gonna win with the people. And I feel the same way.
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We was in his hotel room. The environment, every time that we’ve met or hung out, it’s always been at a friend level. It hasn’t been anything too uncomfortable or too businessy. He just made it an environment where we could get to know each other. Looking back at it, that was the purpose of those meetings, to become comfortable.
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It was crazy, too, because the day that I got my ticket to fly out with Ross was the day that Diddy hit me up and let me know that he was interested in meeting up with me that same week. When I first met Ross, I was in this rock and a hard place. Like, “Damn, Diddy and Ross want to meet me!” It was crazy. Ross, we had a real big brother to little brother type of relationship when we kicked it. When I met with Diddy, it was more straight to the point business.
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Spiff hit me up a couple days later like, “We really want to fuck with you and get you down with the team.” But I didn’t hear that from Ross himself, so I didn’t really know. Then Ross called me one day, before one of my shows, he was like, “I want you to know that I’m really serious about getting this done. I need your lawyer’s contact so we can start working on everything.” It just started from there. We’ve been working out the deal for a couple of weeks now. We came to a common ground and a real comfortable place, and we got it done Wednesday night. I’m real excited about the future.
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He’s a fan of the record “Twenty” off Driving 88. That touched me a lot, because it was one of my favorite records. That summed up how I want to live the next nine years of my life—really going hard in my twenties. For him to listen to that and respect my hunger and how I put the record together, it’s something that shocked me. Just to see his overall appreciation for Driving 88 is something I didn’t expect. It was an honor.
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My mom, I talked to her about the situation, and she really advised me to go with Maybach. She really likes Rick Ross a lot and she’s a fan of his word and the Maybach Music tag and all that stuff. So that’s a huge play in it, as well.
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I’ve been seeing a lot of people say that they don’t know if I fit in and things like that. It’s already been proven. When I toured with Wale, he was signed to MMG at the time, and it wasn’t like fans was booing me. I actually gained fans off of his tour. Because he has a strong fanbase, and they took a liking to the music. Same thing with Meek. I’ve done shows with him before.
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I toured with Wale earlier this year. Watching him and Meek’s career, and the way that it’s progressed since they’ve been with MMG, and not necessarily that they weren’t always dope, but it gave them the platform to take it to the next level. Watching them, it motivated me in a different kind of way to help make the decision I made. One thing that Ross and I are both in agreement is that Driving 88 is a classic mixtape. It may have gone unnoticed because of lack of promotion, and he really wants to give me the avenue to take it to where he feels like people should respect it.
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I really wanted to keep it close to the Driving 88 type of theme. Driving 88, that was the speed I was moving at, and I really felt like that mixtape was going to put me in position to get a deal or expand my fanbase. But I still gotta continue moving, that’s why I wanted to call it Electric Highway. It symbolizes that I’m still progressing and I’m still moving forward.