Rittz Explains Why He Plays by His Own Rules on ‘Top of the Line’ Album – Exclusive
Rittz is sticking to what he knows best: being himself. In an era where sing-song rap is prevalent and turn-up anthems are all the rage, the rapper is staying in his lane with his third solo LP, Top of the Line. The newest release from the Gwinnett County MC comes off the heels of his successful 2014 album, Next to Nothing.
Packed with 24 tracks, the LP contains a vintage feel while keeping a more positive, upbeat vibe compared to his previous projects. Guest appearances from the likes of Mike Posner, E-40, Devin The Dude, MJG appear while his Strange Music family Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko also show up on songs like "The Formula." The laid-back, feel-good record “Inside of the Groove” featuring E-40 and Posner sets the tone for the project.
XXL caught up with Rittz during downtime on the Strange Music tour to speak about his latest album Top of the Line, his working chemistry with Mike Posner, his style of rap and what he's learned while being on the road with Tech N9ne and the team.
XXL: How is Top of the Line different from your last solo LP?
Rittz: I would say overall it’s more positive. There’s a little bit more variety and it has its own sound, which most of my albums have a certain sound. This one has that specific type of vintage kind of sound to it, so I think it’s my best work yet. I’m really happy with the project. There are about 24 songs on it and it's a very solid project.
When did you start recording the project and did you take a different approach during the recording process of this LP?
I started recording the album in December and I finished in January. I did take a different approach this time around. First of all, normally for my albums I’ll have all the beats already so I’ll hum around melodies, cadences and notes. On this one, I had more of a sense and feel on how I wanted the beats to sound and how I wanted it to go. I pretty much drove with the song process.
Normally, I’ll have a lot of the hooks and melodies and the way I want to rap on them but this time I didn’t do that. I kind of went in there and let it happen more natural and as far as the recording process, I recorded most of it at Tree Sound. The only thing difference on this one is that I had to go and finish it at Strange Land studios. I usually finish all my albums back home, but they were filming the 2Pac movie at Tree Sound so I just ended up going to Kansas City and finishing the album there.
Who were some of the producers on Top of the Line?
Most of it is done by Seven from Strange who did a lot of work on my last project Next to Nothing. He really nailed the sound that I wanted on this. I initially started working with a guy called Harp Beats from Germany, he did some work on the project. Best Kept Secret did the single with me and Mike Posner I worked with Wonder who produced for T.I., Matic Lee, so I have a few producers on there.
How would you describe your latest album?
You know, it’s me at my best. It’s like me trying to give my fans the personal stories, but it's also a nice, feel-good, smooth rap album that’s top of the line. That’s why it’s called that. I set a standard of type of music I make and I want to be the best at it. I think that I achieve that on this album and I just want it to have this classic feel. Just give a nice classic rap album to fans. This album is to show you what type of music I make and to the best of my ability. It’s a little bit more positive as well.
Who's featured on the album?
I got E-40 and he’s fam with Strange so he just looked out and we know each other too. But it was cool that he did it. Travis and Tech looked out. I got Mike Posner of course. Me and him work very well together. Mike’s got a really hot song right now, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” so we didn’t know the likelihood of getting the rights to the song and we got it and we did it and so we have a nice little record on there.
I have MJG as well and Devin The Dude and having them both on the album was real big for me because I grew up listening to them. I didn’t get a chance to meet MJG in person. We just worked through email, but I met Devin The Dude and he’s a cool ass motherfucker. I always try to get the OGs I grew up listening to my albums. It's important for me. I also have Tech, Krizz Kaliko and Strange Music on there -- gotta have my Strange family.
Were there any artists that you couldn't get for this project?
Yeah, I was trying to get T.I., Big Boi and Snoop Dogg. Every album I try to get Big Boi, but this album worked out well for me anyways. I feel like it didn't happen for a reason, but I'm sure one day I'll collab with those guys.
Do you ever feel the need to change your style of rap with today's type of hip-hop that's being made?
For so many years coming up in the game and especially in Atlanta, I try to follow the trends of rap from way back -- from crunk to snap to whatever was being done. I done did every hood club, strip club and try to get in and it was just not authentic and they can tell it’s not authentic and then I can tell it wasn’t authentic for me either. It felt weird. I’m lucky enough to be an artist to be able to do what the fuck I want to do, so I never feel the type of need to make a certain type of record for the radio. I've been able to build a strong fan base that supports me and the music I create.
I know you're currently on the road with Strange Music, but do you have any more tours lined up?
This year we have a few tours lined up. We do Canada in July and then we go back home. Then we’re off to do Australia and New Zealand. Come back I’m getting married and after I’m done getting married I go on a two-month headlining tour. I’m only home June and September.
What have you learned from being on the road with Tech N9ne and Strange Music?
Performance-wise only, Tech can do what Tech does and he does it the best I ever seen. His sets are incredible and like none other, but I've learned the organization part of tours while being on the road with Strange Music. It's incredible to see how they function.
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