Rich The Kid Focuses on Making Good Music: “I’m Not Trying to Be Lyrical”
Rich The Kid is the hip-hop hustler taking it all the way to the top.
Words: Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Rich The Kid is hungry. Not in the existential, grind-’til-you-die way, but quite literally. “I’m starving! I ain’t even ate today. I ain’t eat breakfast. I ain’t eat lunch!” he exclaims. His voice rises, putting melodic emphasis on his hunger pangs. “Let’s goooooo!” It’s almost 6 o’clock in the evening. We’re on our way to Hot 97 but stop to make a detour at Joe’s Pizza. The pizzeria on Carmine Street has been a Greenwich Village establishment since 1975, known for its classic New York-style slices. Rich is unimpressed. His slender frame curls up inside his down jacket. “Pizza? Alright. Just pizza me to death. Let’s do it.”
He can be pretty funny, whether intentional or not. It’s one of his more endearing qualities and it keeps the mood inside the Sprinter Passenger Van light. The rapper’s entourage—Ralph the DJ and others—are palpably exhausted. It’s been three days of promo and they’re ready to head back home to Los Angeles. “I can’t wait until I get in my bed,” Rich says. Hooking up with DJ Funkmaster Flex at the radio station and doing this interview, which happens en route between Hot 97 and LaGuardia Airport, are the last things to do before it’s wheels up. He’s excited to return home. “I’m going to lay in the bed,” he says. “Have my girl cook for me and watch the Super Bowl.” He scarfs down two big and floppy slices—one pepperoni and one plain cheese. His team has deftly absconded with the Parmesan shaker so that he can season his slice. His hand is bandaged up after suffering an ATV accident in December 2018, so everything—eating, getting around—is more labored than usual. “I was turning and then the fucking shit flipped,” he says. “Bow! Boom! My hand split open! Blood gushing. The ambulance came and they took me awayyyyy. I was screaming like a little, bitty biiiiitch.”
Injury aside, life is looking up for Rich The Kid. The 26-year-old is priming for a big 2019, both personally and professionally. His new album, The World Is Yours 2, is slated to drop in March as of press time. It’s the sequel to his successful 2018 debut of the same name, which sold more than 600,000 units, spawning the singles “New Freezer” featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Dead Friends” and “Plug Walk.” The latter proved to be the rapper’s breakout. A catchy ode to the connect, “Plug Walk” was initially supposed to feature Drake. Rich announced (in a now-deleted tweet) in January 2018 that he was sending the song to the Toronto superstar for a guest feature. Things didn’t align, but he won in the end. “Plug Walk” is his biggest single to date. The double-platinum track amassed over 201 million views on YouTube and 327 million streams on Spotify, establishing him as a viable solo force.
His album isn’t the only thing dropping. In April, Rich is set to welcome a child with girlfriend Tori Hughes a.k.a. Tori Brixx. It’s been a somewhat public relationship and pregnancy that’s oft spilled onto social media; Hughes has 3 million Instagram followers of her own. Still, he’s keeping details of the romance close to the vest. He doesn’t have a name picked out for the new baby, his fourth child and first with Brixx. He jokes that maybe he’ll name the baby Adonis, a nod to Drake’s son. Rich clearly loves being a dad. “It makes me so happy,” he says. “It’s what I live for. It’s the best thing in the fucking world.”
If there’s one thing hip-hop loves, it’s shiny things. Despite the fact that streaming platforms have completely changed the game for album and song certifications—arguably, to the point that they’re less relevant than in the past—the custom of artists getting (and gifting) physical plaques lives on. It’s near 7 o’clock when he pulls up to Hot 97 to hand Funkmaster Flex, the station’s marquee personality and DJ, his plaque for “Plug Walk.” But Rich has something special—and with more bling—for the veteran. He hands him a green box with the word “Rolex” emblazoned on the top. Inside, there’s a watch dripping in diamonds.
“It’s time,” Flex says. “This is hot. Thank you, my brother.” Flex, a man who is likely adorned with gifts from rappers on a daily basis, appears touched. “I remember the day, first time [you came to the station],” Funkmaster Flex tells the rapper. “You said, ‘This is what I’m gonna do.’ I remember, my brother.” For Rich, a kid who grew up listening to Flex on Hot 97, it’s praise from Caesar, indeed.
Rich a.k.a. Dimitri Roger was born in Queens’ Mercy Hospital in 1992. He grew up in the New York City borough and then moved to Atlanta—the place most akin to his sound and style—at the age of 13. But that didn’t stop him from coming back up North to see his old friends and to do some of what he describes as “finessin’.” “I love New York,” he tells. “I love to come back and raise hell.” At 15, he was caught with drug paraphernalia—dime bags without narcotics, according to him—at a high school. He was locked in the principal’s office until the cops showed up. Despite his age, he got a slap on the wrist. “Slap on the wrist…with a cuff,” he tells. He was locked up for a week. When it came time to be sprung, the rapper says that his cousin’s girlfriend left him in because she wanted to teach him a lesson. “She’s like, ‘You know what? You’re just, you’re just not good. You don’t deserve to get out.’ Her name is Sarah. Stupid bitch,” he remembers. The teenager spent an additional week in lockdown at a different facility. “I was transferred to some crazy shit. They had me in the hole. They locked me in a cell 12 hours a day. They were feeding me Frosted Flakes but they tasted like…horrible.” The whole experience—being locked up, being abandoned by the adults who were supposed to have his back—left a lasting mark on Rich. “It prepared me for the fucked up world I was about to be in.”
That didn’t stop him from getting into trouble again. Rich returned to Atlanta and says that he was incarcerated multiple times. He claims he hit a lick and his longest bid was six months for breaking and entering. “It was snowing like this,” he says, motioning to the window. “I thought no cars was going to be able to be on the street. Somebody probably saw me in the car.”
Music became a part of the narrative at 16, when Rich met a girl named Sandy. Sandy was White and her parents disapproved of him. So, he would drive to Alabama and the star-crossed lovers would meet in secret. She encouraged him to listen to eclectic shit like David Bowie and The Beatles. Sandy’s male friends, who Rich describes as older “crackhead dudes,” were budding artists. Rich caught the bug. He recorded his very first song, “Sniper,” which you can still find online on 2010’s Next Batter Up mixtape, released under his first nom de guerre, Black Da Kid.
He began recording under his current stage name with 2013’s Been About the Benjamins. A slew of releases followed, released in conjunction with his Rich Forever Music label and Quality Control Music. Looking back, the mixtapes feature a who’s who of the top of the charts today: Migos, Kodak Black, Metro Boomin, Murda Beatz.
Rich has a reputation for being well-liked in hip-hop. He can hang with different sets and isn’t bound by regionalism—perhaps a reflection of growing up both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line. More than one veteran can attest to how Rich spent years investing in his industry relationships, calling folks personally and serving as a one-man promo machine when he was still on the come up.
It’s this chutzpah that scored him his record deal. Back in 2016, Manny Smith, an A&R at Interscope Records, had never met Rich The Kid. But, that didn’t stop the rapper from finding his number and hitting him up like they were old buddies. “Rich randomly hit me up a couple of times. He texted me like we were friends already,” Smith remembers. The rapper pulled up to politick—only to realize that Manny wasn’t in the office. So what does Rich do? Hop on a cross-country flight the next day to Los Angeles. “He’s such a hustler,” says Smith. “He’s not gonna take ‘no’ for an answer. Just based off his hustle, I didn’t have to hear the music to know that he would win.”
In 2017, Rich The Kid signed with Interscope Records. He’s subsequently scored streaming hits with his Rich Forever signees: Famous Dex (“Pick It Up” and “Japan”) and Jay Critch (“Fashion”). A self-described CEO, Rich says that he closely watches the stats of how he and his roster are doing. “Every week. All of them.”
Despite the wins, the last year hasn’t been without adversity for Rich The Kid. He was entangled in a highly-publicized skirmish with Lil Uzi Vert beginning in January 2018: The two exchanged words on Twitter, culminating with accusations by Uzi that Rich tried to sign him for only $20,000. Rich, taking a page from Death Row Records honcho Suge Knight, stoked the flames: “Hey man, if your boss and CEO ain’t treating you right, come over to Rich Forever Music, ya dig!” Jabs between the two persisted, including Uzi tagging a photo of a crab with Rich’s name to which Rich claimed Uzi jacked his style. In June 2018, things got physical between the two rappers in a Philadelphia Starbucks.
That same month, Rich was the victim of a home invasion that left him hospitalized. The incident also left Hughes reportedly bruised and beaten up. In February 2019, Rich was among the victims of a robbery and assault outside of a recording studio in West Hollywood. He was not seriously injured, according to news reports, nor was Usher, who was recording in a separate session inside.
Rich The Kid has been doing this shit for a long time, especially within the context of hip-hop’s ephemeral landscape. Somewhere on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, on his way to the airport, he’s asked what inspires him. What motivates the guy who has been recording for nearly a decade? He has the platinum hits, the pretty girl and a record label. In between our conversations, he fields a phone call about a big movie role. New York Fashion Week wants him for his drip and he’ll be attending shows in a few weeks. So, what’s left on his bucket list? It’s surprisingly simple: Putting numbers on the board. “I want to go diamond,” he says, signifying 10 million albums sold. It’s a rarified feat, usually relegated to double albums like The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death or OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Rich is relying on his proven blueprint of bangers this next go-around. “I make hit records,” he affirms. “I’m not trying to be lyrical or that bullshit. I’m just making good music.”
Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2019 issue including our Dreamville cover story featuring interviews with J. Cole, J.I.D, Bas, Cozz, EarthGang, Lute, Omen and Ari Lennox; Show & Prove interviews with Flipp Dinero and Blueface, a look into how Hot 97's Ebro Darden went from fish mascot to hip-hop gatekeeper, Maury Povich in Hip-Hop Junkie and more.
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