Don’t count the young guys out. If anyone is breathing new life into the game, it’s them. Case in point – Rockie Fresh. The 20-year-old Chicago native has had, by many standards, two wildly successful years and has no intention of slowing down for 2012. Rockie has used his “newness” to soak in, absorb, and adapt to the sounds and influences around him, all while catering to the fans that have supported him during his rapid rise to the top.
AllHipHop.com spoke to the one of the hottest young artists on the eve of the release for his new mixtape, Driving 88. Rockie discusses the honor of being an XXL Freshman nominee, the recording process for his new project, his rapid rise to success via the independent route, and where he sees himself in five years.
AllHipHop.com: First things first, did you get to keep the DeLorean?
Rockie Fresh: Nah, man, I didn’t get to keep it. That’s my homies DeLorean. He lets me use it whenever I want to.
AllHipHop.com: Lucky him. I want to congratulate you on your nomination for XXL’s 2012 Freshman Class.
Rockie Fresh: Thank you very much, man. I appreciate that.
AllHipHop.com: So, how did it feel when you found out you were nominated, especially to be alongside a number of your friends within the industry?
Rockie Fresh: It felt crazy, and it was cool because there was a fake list that came out a couple of weeks before they did that, and I was on that fake list, but a lot of people didn’t take it seriously, and it had got some people in my city talking about the possibility of me actually being a XXL Freshman. So for them to then come out with their own list and confirm that I had gotten to that point is dope and real cool. And then to have some of my homies on there with me, it just made it the more the merrier so it was cool.
AllHipHop.com: If you could create your own short list for who should be on that cover this year who would you pick?
Rockie Fresh: Outside of myself, it would be Casey Veggies, Phil Ade, and probably my homie Action Bronson. I really respect their grind, and they’ve all built a lot of stuff from the ground up, so definitely those three.
AllHipHop.com: Well, I hope you make it on there, for sure. Last time we talked, you had just released your last project, The Otherside Redux, and now you’re gearing up for the release of Driving 88. How did the recording process of the two mixtapes differ?
Rockie Fresh: Well, the last project, The Otherside Redux, I had recorded a few songs in L.A., but most of the project was done in Chicago. With the new mixtape, I started recording it while I was on tour with Patrick Stump, and so I recorded it in a bunch of different cities and had a bunch of different inspirations. I’m also getting older as an individual – not that I’m not young anymore – but I’m just experiencing a lot more things, and over the course of 2011, I saw some things that I never saw before in my life, so I was able to just broaden my horizon and broaden the things that I could talk about. So that’s what kind of changed with the recording process for this project.
AllHipHop.com: For those that don’t know, can you briefly explain the significance of the title, Driving 88?
Rockie Fresh: Yeah, the title came from the movie, Back To The Future, and basically the DeLorean had to reach 88 miles per hour for them to reach their destination, and so this project is kind of my pace and my speed of me just getting to the places that I want to go. That’s why I called it that.
AllHipHop.com: What can the fans expect on the project, and did you get to work with anyone this time around that you haven’t been able to work with in the past?
Rockie Fresh: Yeah, I was actually able to get a track from Good Charlotte that’s on there. It’s going to be a bonus track for the tape since they had it on their mixtape, but Casey Veggies and Phil Ade are both on the project, and they were on my last project so it’s cool to bring it back.
As far as the music, people can expect a real original sound. I really wanted to tailor my own style of music and my own type of beats, so that fans will always know a Rockie track when they hear it. And so, we really defined that with this project, so I’m excited to see what the fans think about it.
AllHipHop.com: I did actually get a chance to hear that track with the Madden Brothers from their mixtape, and it’s dope. In the past year alone, you’ve already worked with Asher Roth, the Maddens, Kidz In the Hall, Chamillionaire, and a ton more names. How important is it to you to as a fairly new artist to be recognized and respected by your peers in the industry?
Rockie Fresh: That means a lot to me, because it was real natural how I got a relationship with all of those guys, which is why I guess people say that I do a lot of random features, but it’s really always organic. Like I met Lil’ B when I was at SXSW last year, and his style of music is way different then mine. We represent two different things, but because he was a cool dude and he respected me, we were able to link up and do a record. Same thing with Asher and the Madden brothers; it was just a real organic thing, and for those guys to like what I do and respect what I do, it was a blessing for me, and it was super cool. It meant a lot.
AllHipHop.com: Other than the material that you have coming out on Driving 88, are there any collaborations that you’ve done recently for someone else’s project that you’re can’t wait for the fans to hear?
Rockie Fresh: Man, actually I’ve been working with a lot of Chicago artists, ‘cause we don’t really have a history of being big on the blogs or sites. And I’m one of the first people that really has been posted in a bunch of places, and I really want to lend a hand to other people in my city. There’s this guy named King Louie who’s on Driving 88, he’s a new artist out of Chicago. I’m just really trying to build the city of Chicago and bring some people up while I’m coming up as well.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have aspirations to sign with a major label, or are you more comfortable and confident in the independent lane which you’ve been so successful with, as have many other artists, specifically in the past year?
Rockie Fresh: I mean, it really just depends on what makes sense. As far as right now, I’m able to make the music that I want to make without having to use a major label, but at the same time, I’ve always had big dreams of releasing a number one album and things like that. I know that those are certain things that labels can be instrumental in helping with as far as promotion when the time is right. So, right now I’m just going to ride out this independent wave, and if me and some labels can come to an agreement on something and with certain things, then I definitely would sign a deal.
AllHipHop.com: With that in mind, what goals and “resolutions” did you set for yourself for 2012?
Rockie Fresh: For me, more than anything is getting, because I’ve got a lot of stuff on the table now as far as with the XXL Freshman thing, and there’s some other opportunities that I really can’t speak on right now, but for me I realized that I do have a broad fan base and it’s growing naturally. I just want to keep supplying them with better music and keep impressing them, so outside of anything, it’s just really to make sure I record everyday, try to get a song done a day, and make sure that I’m supplying the fans with what they support me for.
AllHipHop.com: And how has the “song-a-day” mentality been going?
Rockie Fresh: It’s been going good. I’m not perfect, so I’ve had some misses, but it’s definitely making me a better artist, making me become more creative and search for more inspiration and different content. So yeah, it’s definitely working.
AllHipHop.com: Where do yo see Rockie Fresh five years from now?
Rockie Fresh: Man, probably one of the top five rappers in the game, obviously.
AllHipHop.com: Great answer. Is there anything else you want the fans and readers to know about?
Rockie Fresh: Just download Driving 88.
AllHipHop.com: Thanks again for your time, Rockie. Can’t wait to hear the project.
Rockie Fresh: For sure, man. Thank you very much.
Download “Rockie Fresh – Driving 88” Now!
Follow Rockie Fresh On Twitter: @RockieFresh