By Renee Pinckney
4:48 PM CDT, July 12, 2012
Fresh off of his announcement that he's signed with Rick Ross's Maybach Music Group, Chicago-rapper Rockie Fresh has no time to celebrate, as he's planning to hit the studio right away to work on his first album. The past few months have been a whirlwind for the 21-year-old Chicago-native, who went from meeting Rick Ross to being signed to his label in the span of two months. He did take the time to talk to RedEye about his plans for his first project, a new tour, whether he'll collaborate with any of his MMG label mates and his relationship with other emerging Chicago rap artists.
How does it feel to officially be apart of the Maybach Music Group?
Rockie Fresh: I feel awesome. I feel like this will be a big move in my life and my career. I have a great relationship with Rick Ross so this is something I feel good about, and I'm ready to prove myself to the world and make it into something really big.
How did this deal come about? You told XXL magazine that Rick Ross flew you out to Los Angeles for the 'Take It To The Head' video shoot a couple of months ago. Was that the start of this partnership?
I put out a video for my song "Into the Future" and one of his friends saw it and he passed it on to Ross. He flew me out and it was such an organic, laid-back environment. I didn't even think he was interested in signing me because we were just chilling and I saw him as a big brother because of the conversations that we had. A month later, he said he was interested in putting in an offer. At that time, I was in talks with other labels but, it was just something special about that situation, and that's where my heart led me to go.
What are you most looking forward musically when working with the Maybach Music Group? Can we expect any collabos with your label mates such as Wale, Meek Mill, French Montana or Rick Ross himself?
I want to take my sound to another level. What made me want to go with MBM is because Ross has such a great respect for the sound I already have and it went under the radar in that people didn't know about it. You'll see potential remixes for songs on Drive 88 and having Ross and the other guys blessing that project because they believe it's a classic. For my new music, they want to collaborate on that type of sound versus changing me as an artist or putting me on songs that wouldn't necessarily fit me and if that does happen, that's going to be my choice versus me being forced to do so.
How does it feel to go from a local, virtually unknown, artist in Chicago to the national stage? What does that say about Chicago's talent now that you join the likes of Kanye, Common and Lupe Fiasco?
I'm happy about having the ability to be appear next to those list of dudes, because not only are they great artists, but they stood for something and they brought positive vibes to the community and that's what I want to add to Maybach Music and represent the city well. We're going through a lot of killing, just real messed up times right now and I want my music to be a release from that. The guys who came before me did that and they were who I listened to when I was younger so I just want to be that same type of voice for the young people.
What's the camaraderie like between you and other Chicago up-and-coming Chicago rappers like King Louie, Chief Keef and L.E.P who are all gaining heavy buzz? Have they sent you any well wishes on your new deal?
L.E.P and King Louie both reached out and sent me congrats. I've known them both for a long time since coming up. King Louie and I are still working together and have a lot of work to do. L.E.P. is one of my big homies who has always showed love since my very first show. I've never met Chief Keep, but I have respect for what he's doing and I love to see artists out of Chicago progress.
The 'Electric Highway' mixtape will be a follow-up to 'Drive 88'. What can we expect from this project, will there be any collaborations and is there a release date?
The project is due to come out this fall, some time around late August or early September. I'm working on it now. Now that I've made this move, I feel like a lot of opportunity to make better music will arise with this and I want to give my fans the best. I'm collaborating with Cassie Veggies on the project and he's actually just signed with Roc Nation so we're both experiencing all this at the same time. I want to add some MGM players, but the direction and sound will be same but it will be emotional and in more mature way and more lyrically respected.
You've announced the Electric Highway tour. What can fans expect and do you anything special planned for your stop at the House of Blues in Chicago on Aug. 17?
Fans can expect a different type of setup. I'm going all in as far as my set, lighting and it'll be well organized. It's definitely going to be something different and fresh. I'm definitely going to work on planning something real crazy for the Chicago show and take it to the next level. It's going to be my first homecoming show off of my first tour and I'm going to make it special for those in attendance as well as for my own memories.
You've been quoted saying that it's tough being an independent artist. Now that you're signed to a mainstream label, do you feel less pressure or will the grind be just as tough?
The grind will definitely be just as tough. The one tough thing about being an independent artist is trying to convince people to take your music serious. Being on a major label help creates a serious picture. But the real grind comes with the instrumentals and me putting in work so that the producers can see my vision, so I'm going to go in there everyday like it's day one.
You're only 21 and you've now accomplished a huge milestone. Does it feel like a long journey or more like overnight success?
It definitely feel like it's been a long journey, but looking back on the things I went through, it's been a blessing that I'm able to experience something such as this at a young age. It feels like a long climb because we put in a lot of groundwork. I worked hard on the mixtapes and put a lot of time into touring. I felt it went unnoticed at the time, but looking back God had it planned out at a different time for me and I appreciate the pace at which everything has happened.
What's your advice to someone who wants to accomplish what you've done?
I would tell them to find comfort in yourself and create that type of mindset. I'm a fan of all different type of rap music, but originality makes people respect you as an individual and want to do business with you instead of you trying to be just like them. Young artists will find success if they remain true to who they are.
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