For Rocko—the Atlanta rapper behind one of the year’s catchiest (and most controversial) tracks “U.O.E.N.O.”—the major label music industry is more than a bit passé. After building buzz through his Rocky Road management company for others, Rocko dropped a series of mixtapes which led to a record deal with then-Def Jam chief L.A. Reid in 2006 and a major label-backed debut Self Made in 2008. But the Def Jam deal didn’t stick, and Rocko went back out on his own under a new umbrella, his newly-formed A1 Recordings, eschewing the major label factory line in favor of his own DIY model. And well, to make a long story short, it’s working—he not only grabbed his first Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts with “U.O.E.N.O.,” but his A1 artist Future has been popping on the top of the charts on tracks like “Tapout” with Lil Wayne, Birdman and Nicki Minaj and “Bugatti” with Ace Hood and Rick Ross, and he’s looking to expand his label’s roster in the coming months.
But now, Rocko’s back on the grind, hitting the studio and prepping two albums—Seeing Is Believing, previously slated to be a mixtape but upgraded to album status due to “anticipation” and the followup One of One, which he says “takes you into a whole other side of me”—and a mixtape, as well as more projects with Future, whose upcoming album Future Hendrix Rock describes as “global.” “[Future] and I, we probably got three albums worth of stuff done,” Rocko told XXL last week. “It’s not a thing about me and him working together—we already got so much music together. Now it’s just about me putting together a good body of work from my eyes, or what I feel I want my stuff to sound like, then I can go back and pick a song or two that we did, the ones that fit the format.”
Rocko also addressed the recent series of apologies from rappers such as Lil Wayne, Drake, J. Cole and Ross, the latter whom had to apologize for a lyric on his verse on “U.O.E.N.O.” that was perceived as condoning rape, an incident which eventually lost Rozay his lucrative endorsement deal with Reebok. “[Those incidents] make me more conscious of what I say on a record, ’cause I don’t want to apologize,” Rocko said. “But at the end of the day, I understand why they did that…you always gotta stand up on what you say and your actions, you gotta be accountable for them.”
Rocko swung throught the XXL offices and broke down the secrets to his independent success, the explosion of “U.O.E.N.O.” and his recent forays into acting alongside Gucci Mane.—Dan Rys (@danrys)