Rockie Fresh: “People Really Don’t Understand How Big On Lyrics I Am”
When I was coming up, Kanye and Jay and people like that, they were speaking on both sides. They were talking about what they did, the mistakes they made, the repercussions, what you need to do to be successful, and with that its just really–, it gave you some guidelines. I really want to do that with my music, so I think the lyrical focus is something that people don’t really understand—just how important I view it as. Throughout the years though, people will see it.
Definitely. I think that’s interesting. That’s definitely where I started out when I started getting into hip-hop. I think it’s also kind of interesting because when you look at certain hip-hop artists, sometimes you can hear the criticism that someone is too lyrical or trying to fit too many words in. So for yourself as an artist, how do you navigate that? Is that something that you ever think about, like, “I don’t want to be too rappity-rap”?
I think with me, it’s just the way that I came up. Me, I’ve been in a lot of setting where I’ve had to relate to all different kinds of people. I grew up in the city and I only went to school with black kids. Then when I went to high school, it was in the most diverse setting that I’ve ever been in. I got to be around a lot more white kids and just people of different races, and with that I really embraced it. It also just taught me how to be a relatable individual. So when I go into making music, thinking about lyrics, I’m moreso taking into consideration all of the different people that I’ve come across in my life and just the different conversations and things that they’ve told me and things that I’ve learned from them, and it makes it so that I don’t have to try to be that deep lyrically. This is still about understanding and helping people out. Sometimes, even with school, if you put the message too deep, it might go over peoples’ heads, and that’s not necessarily helping the game, or helping somebody that’s listening to your music for a specific reason. I always try to keep my content deep enough to where it’s entertaining but at the same time understandable enough that people can actually get something out of it and learn from it. That’s the midset that I go into it with.
Again, in a different interview, you said something about how your music kind of plays more into winter. What is it about your music that you think fits in more with winter?
Well, Chicago is a super wild place when it comes to the weather. We experience a lot of snow, a lot of cold climates. Even this month, we’ve got snow expected to drop next week or whatever. With that, with me recording most of my music there, it just puts me in that mindset. Also, I’m a really chill dude, I don’t really go out too much. I’m in the crib a lot watching a lot of movies and just experiencing the scenery from basically my window. A lot of that is just me seeing snow fall and coming up with ideas in that setting. I think that’s just what my sound reflects, so that’s why I labeled it that.
You were out in L.A.—did that change your sound at all when you made music out there?
It took my sound to the next level. You listen to Driving 88, I spent two months in L.A. recording that, and the title track, “Driving 88” that I did with Casey [Veggies], that was a record that I got from a producer out in L.A. and we recorded the record out in L.A. I actually went to Casey’s house out in Englewood to play on the joint, before I even put my verses on it. It was just the vibe—it allowed me to make a brighter sound of my own. I feel like that’s always good, to have that on projects and switch the scene up and see a few different things. It definitely changed the content or the sounds a little bit, but I always try to keep it signature to me. That’s why I always take records that I do out of town out to Chicago and let me own producers touch them up and give them that feel, because I never really want to lose that because that’s what I appreciate.
You’ve had a lot of connections with a lot of rock acts like Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy. How did that come about? What did that bring to your sound that maybe you didn’t have before?
The connection came really naturally. That’s pretty much anybody that you see me around or working with—its all natural. I never really try to go out of my way to meet other dudes. That’s just not how I am. So I did a show at Bamboozle out in New Jersey and Josh Madden was DJ’ing and he came over to check out my set and when I came off he just showed the most love. For me, I always have respect for other men that come correct, and he just came in a super respectful way. And I also had a great respect for who he was and of course growing up in high school I always was a fan of Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy, just because that was so new to me. That was my first time being introduced to that type of music, when I got to high school, and I really appreciated it.
With that being said, he heard the small rock influenced in my The Otherside mixtape—those were the songs that I was playing—and he was just like, ‘Man—my brothers would really think you’re dope. Let me get your number and I’m gonna pass the contact on.’ When he told me that, I was definitely honored but I didn’t think that it was going to come to life for real. Two days later I was in Chicago Joel Madden called me and flew me out to L.A. to work with him and me and them just had a really good relationship brewing. Now those guys are my big brothers. With that, to my sound, it just gave me a real comfort to be different. I always wanted to be different and then that mixtape that I did before meeting them, I really added a lot of rock inspirations to it. I had a lot of live instrumentation on it that were coming from up and coming rock artists in Chicago. Them cosigning it and jumping onboard to support me just made me a lot more comfortable with going in that direction.
I feel like Joel and Benji are on the low hip hop heads.
Oh, definitely. I don’t even think it’s on the low. Even with Patrick Stump—that’s how they really got in tune with it. Patrick saw my mixtape on a blog and he downloaded it just under the fan act, and when he found out that I was from Chicago, that was something that we related on because he’s from there as well. These dudes have an appreciation for all music, and I think that’s what makes us relate. I listen to more other stuff like R&B and rock than I do rap music. We were just able to relate on stuff that I would’ve never expected. It was dope.
One question to wrap it up—I know you’re preparing your debut. I heard it might be dropping this year—is that true?
Hmm. I don’t know about that. We’ll see.
What can you tell me about it?
I’ve got a lot of crazy stuff in mind, and its just really giving it time for that to play out—you know what I’m saying? I really don’t want to. I’ve been planning to release a debut album since I first started rapping, and the first albums that I heard–When I first heard College Dropout, when I first had my experience with Reasonable Doubt, these dudes were in a mature place where they were able to talk about a lot of key stuff that was relevant. That’s why it was classic. Even the resources that they used, it was really on point with the vision and you could see that. I just really want to give the people that I want to work with and even myself just the correct time for things to play out in the right fashion so that it can have that classic feel. I definitely plan on making one of the best all around albums that anybody has ever heard. And I don’t even want to limit it to saying that it’s going to be “rap”, because there’s so much more appreciation for music that I have and now I actually have the resources to go to those other realms in a correct way. And that takes time—you know what I’m saying? So with that, I just want to give it time. Maybe if it’s ready by the end of this year, we’ll do that. But at the same time I don’t want to rush it. It’s gonna be crazy—I promise.
Are you gonna do a mixtape before it?
Oh, yeah. Totally. You might get a couple of those. I’m in a space right now where I’m working way more than I ever have, and with that a lot of good records are falling out. I feel like my fans deserve to get constant material from me. This year, I really want to give them some stuff just out of appreciation for just getting me this far.