Gino DePinto, AOL Music
Maybach Music Group rookie Rockie Fresh dropped his new mixtape, Electric Highway, last Monday (Jan. 21). On it, the 21-year-old Chicago native blends hip-hop with alt-rock, electro, funk and jazz. He's a man of many influences.
Rockie credits his diverse background growing up in Chicago for the mixture of sounds in his music and has collaborated with artists as diverse as Sasha Go Hard, Curren$y and Lunice of TNGHT.
He stopped by to talk to The BoomBox about advice from label boss Rick Ross and what inspired the title for his new tape. He also sounded off on the issue of gun control in America. Read the interview after the jump and download his mixtape for free at Datpiff.
It's been few months since you signed with Maybach Music Group, how has your life changed since then?
I moved. I stayed in Chicago but I just moved closer to downtown. I was able to get a bigger spot. But most importantly I am able to record a lot more music. Now I'm able to be in the studio a lot more because it's my full time job now. With that, I've been making better records.
There was some potential drama between you and Chief Keef back in October. He was questioning whether or not you were from Chicago.
Yeah I think it was just a misunderstanding or something like that, because after he tweeted -- before I could even respond -- he tweeted about where I was from in the city, where somebody had told him I was from. He followed me [on Twitter] and I followed him back, end of story.
Is there any relationship between you and Chief Keef? Have you ever thought about collaborating?
No. I've never met him but he's another Chicago artist, so I want to see him win, just like everybody else. I would collaborate with him. If the situation presents itself correctly that's something I would look into.
Talk to me about the meaning behind the title Electric Highway.
My last project was titled Driving 88. It was specifically off the movie "Back to the Future." The car had to go 88 miles per hour for them to be able to reach their destination in the future, and that one was more about the pace that I choose to do music. The style that I choose is something signature to my career. So Electric Highway is more the road that I'm on now that I'm signed and I have an opportunity. I'm a lot closer to achieving a lot of the things that I dreamed about when this first started. It's still futuristic. I'm still really focused on the stuff I plan on doing in the future, and Electric Highway was just a good way to sum that up.
How do you think this tape compares to your other projects? What's different about it?
A lot of my past work was really about me rapping and getting recognition, kind of with the fear that I wasn't going to even be accepted. But now with me growing up in Chicago and living there, and seeing all the stuff that's going on in the city, I think my voice could be powerful with the set up that I have. My concept now is more to motivate and be an example for other people that are watching.
How do you choose who you collaborate with? Sasha Go Hard is on the project. Are you friends?
Sasha Go Hard is definitely a friend of mine. She's somebody that showed a lot of respect for my music and when I found out about her music I was really impressed. Like, lyrically she's insane. They did some type of Chicago day on MTV and our videos were both on the countdown and she was just going HAM telling people about my video. I've always got somebody else from Chicago that's featured on [one of my] projecst and she was one of my favorite Chicago artists at the time -- and still is -- so we had to do that.
What's up with the Curren$y song "Roll Up Right Now?"
I went out to New Orleans when I was doing the Electric Highway tour and he was supposed to come through the show, but he ended up taking a little tree nap and so I went to his body shop. He fixes cars out there, that's one of his passions. I went out there and we just smoked and chilled and went out to the car and he was like, "Let me hear some new stuff." So I played him the record that he's on and he was like, "Yeah I need a verse on that," so we ended up working.
How was working with Lunice from TNGHT on "Superman OG" different from working with other producers?
The thing about Lunice is that me and him went on tour together. We rode in the same vehicle. Some nights we stayed in the same hotel room and he kind of grew into being a real close friend, like a brother. So then when he started playing me these beats it was a mindset of one, these beats are pretty tight but then two, I want to see this dude win with me.
What kind of lessons has Rick Ross been giving you?
Being comfortable with yourself and being in tune with all sides of you so that you can make universal music. And then also to always be recording. You'd be surprised at how many songs Ross records in a week.
Your style is a mix between a bunch of different things. You incorporate a lot of different elements. What do you attribute that to?
Being from Chicago. Because even when I went to school in the suburbs there was a situation where a lot of the projects were getting torn down, and a lot of the kids were able to come and stay out in the suburbs. So we were all going to school together, and they were going to school with races they had never even seen before in their lives outside of walking on the street. So just seeing the different influences, and people that got along with each other, reasons why people didn't get along, and me being in the middle of that. Because I was this kind of short kid who dressed different and people never really picked on me. So I just got to be kind of be a fly on the wall for a lot of things.
What are your plans for the next few months?
I definitely plan to drop a lot more singles so the people constantly have music from me. And we're setting up a tour as well. I went on an Electric Highway tour before the tape came out and we're putting together some things from Electric Highway part two. Until then I'll just be popping up in different cities doing a few one off shows and releasing more music.