Why have you been sticking to the independent path?
I started it—I was signed to a major label, and when I did the deal—it started like this. I was working with some guys, indie, indie promoters, indie marketing people, all indie people, and I did a deal with Def Jam. One of the indie guy calls me and goes, “Hey man, congratulations on the deal,” and I was like thanks I appreciate it, and he was like, “I’m over here working on your stuff now.” I said you don’t have to work on my stuff anymore, I’m signed now, I signed with the label. He was like, “Yeah motherfucker, you signed with the label, but the label hired me to stay and work on your shit.” So I’m like, huh? Wow. The same people I know, they using the same people I use? So all they’re doing is giving me an advance on my money, money that I’m going to recoup at this royalty rate, pennies on the dollar, that I already have, that I don’t really need from them.
I could see if I was a new artist, somebody that really needed the money, like a starving artist in the game that need the money that just needs a foot in the door. I didn’t need the money. I took the advance, but I didn’t need the money. So immediately a lightbulb went off, like huh? Then I found at that at the major label, most of the people in the office are interns, they subcontract the work out to these indies, the same guys I was working with, and they got indie marketing people from marketing firms and different labels and all kind of stuff. So I was like, for real? Shit, I could do that and keep all the money. [Laughs] You know what I’m saying? So I told L.A. Reid, you know what? This just not working for me, I wanna be independent. At first he wasn’t really trying to let me go and I just told him, I really wanna be independent, I really just wanna do my own thing. He thought I was trying to leave to go somewhere else, but I was just trying to leave to go independent. So he let me go, and shit, I’ve been independent ever since.
It seems like the biggest obstacle for younger artists is not understanding how it all works, and when they do find out they can craft it for themselves.
Exactly, and for me right now I’m just, I stay just trying to reinvent the wheel. Now with all these streams and everything, I’m monetizing all that stuff. You know what I’m saying? All this revenue, and it comes straight to me, whereas if I was signed to a major label it would go straight to them. Everything. So people are like, are you gonna do a deal? And I’m like, man, I don’t care to do a deal. I’m at the top of the charts right now without a deal. All the major executives, the chairmen and chairpeople, they see me and they salute me, talk to me and pick my brain. It went from “Nah, we can’t afford Rocko,” to, “Well, we can talk about it,” to, “Whatever it is, let’s just make it happen!” [Laughs] And that’s how it goes when I see them. Like L.A. Reid—I was over in the Epic building the other day, and he was just like, “Man, you’re so smart. In my generation I never saw anyone doing what you’re doing.” All the way independent. There’s people that are independent that have the independent major labels behind them, major distribution and things like that behind them, but I’m 100 percent independent.
Have you been focusing on building your roster at A1?
Yeah, trying to get it together. Trying to build my star up a bit too, that’s why I said this year I’m gonna focus on putting out more records. Before I was putting out one song a year and just riding the wave, so this year I’m just gonna put out more and more records, hit after hit after hit after hit, I’ma focus on doing more visuals, more interviews, and just see how that work for me.
What are you looking for in new artists?
I’m looking for artists, I’m not just looking for a rapper, not just looking for a singer, I’m looking for artists. When I say artists, it’s like—I didn’t pass the BAR, so I can’t be a judge, so I can’t judge what’s art. I want people that’s comfortable with themselves, and I want them to tell me what’s art. Show me what’s art from their eyes. So those type of artists are what I’m looking for, somebody who’s not afraid to step outside the box and just be an artist rather than try and do what they think is hot at the time. Just do what you feel is right, and go from there.