Over the past few years, Chicago's Rockie Fresh has been carving a niche for himself as one of hip-hop's most sonically eclectic up-and-comers. The 22-year-old rapper has released five mixtapes in his four-year career, with his most recent project Electric Highway garnering near-universal acclaim. Perhaps most interesting, however, is Fresh's penchant for blending rock and hip-hop. Even though he counts himself as the youngest member of Rick Ross' ever-expanding rap imprint Maybach Music Group, Fresh has aligned himself with rock acts like Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte, and even sampled indie noise rockers Explosions in the Sky on his aformentioned Electric Highway.

XXL recently sat down with the budding MC to discuss his place in Rozay's MMG empire, his work on the Vans Warped Tour and why his music reflects his natic Chi-Town's snowier seasons.

What I think is really interesting and especially with you being with MMG, everyone has a unique sound when it comes to the label. Wale has his sound, Meek Mill has his Philly sound, and you have a completely different sound that I think is different from anybody in hip hop. With that in mind, how would you describe your sound as not only as a solo artist but within the group aspect of MMG?

As a solo artist, I’m really futuristic with it. I want to take people to a totally different place. I feel like a lot of the music that’s being made sound wise is just really current with what’s going on right now and it’s also becoming really similar. I want to take people to a different place and really give them some different vibes. So musically that’s where I’m trying to go with it.

As far as with MMG, I’m the youngest member on the team and I’m also the only Chicago member, so the way that I see the world is just different, coming from where I come from. Even my age group - the fact that I’ve had different experiences than other guys on the team just allows for my content to relate to a different audience. I think that’s the good part about being on a team. You look at a basketball team—everybody plays their position. When you have people that are doing that well, then you win championships. With MMG, I’m just focused on really representing for my age group and making that different sound that can fit into a bigger puzzle—you know? We’re gonna take over the game now.

The signing came about late last year—how has your career changed since then?

I mean it’s just more work, and that’s what I wanted.  Before signing with MMG—I wouldn’t say there were doubts about the career path—but it was just like, ‘Man.’ There were other things that I had to focus on—paying my bills and paying rent and things like that, and now this is my full time job. But also, I’m a competitive artist and when I came into this, I really wanted to be number one, and for me to be around the artists that I am and to be the team that I’m on--. Right now, my focus is really on maintaining and reaching that goal, versus just getting in the door—you know what I’m saying? So that’s really what’s changed.

Your most recent project was Electric Highway, and like I was saying, it has a completely unique sound as far as what people are doing in hip hop these days. You spoke to Complex about it and you said it was a really risky approach that you took in making this album. Were you at all nervous about the way people would receive it?

When I first started working on it I was nervous, just having gotten my deal and the expectations and all of that. But I’m also young, and the older I grow the more comfortable I’m becoming with myself and the stuff that I’m doing and the decisions that I’ve chosen to make. By the end of the project, I didn’t really care what people were going to think about it, because I was content with what I was saying with it, the beat selection, and just all of the work I put into it. By the end, I was really happy with it, and I felt like the fans that really got me to the point that I was at were going to appreciate it. So just knowing that it made for a really smooth release, where at first it was kind of nerve-wracking.

Also, referring to another interview you did with interview magazine. You said you have a different take on hip hop than what a lot of people think. No ones ever really referred to it in that language—what is that take? What’s your take on hip hop?

I feel like people really don’t understand how big on lyrics I am. That’s what got me into hip-hop. The artists that I first started listening to, Jay-Z, Kanye, Twista, Lupe - their content really related to me beyond the instrumentation. The older I got, I got an appreciation for beats and stuff like that but for me it was always about lyrics and the way that they connected with people. Even me growing up, at church it had me paying attention to the way that different words were put together to relate to people. I just feel like the older I get, the more people will see the maturity in my content, and I think that’s a major part about hip hop that’s kind of losing focus. Certain people like Kendrick and Joey Bada$$ and Schoolboy Q, they’re bringing that back into the room. Even Drake. There’s other artists that are really just rapping about their day to day stuff and I don’t think they’re taking into consideration what the people are really going through and what they need to go forward.