Rick Rock: Rick the Ruler

W

hen San Francisco and Oakland’s Hip-Hop communities went into hibernation, at least on the national scale, one producer had no problem bringing food home. Whether he was producing hits for Jay-Z, Xzibit, or Busta Rhymes, Rick Rock stayed on the charts with his various sounds. The Alabama and Bay representative keeps sounds on file that refuse to be labeled, and he says that’s why the labels kept calling.

After a disappointing deal with Virgin, Rick Rock brought his Federation group to Warner. Late this summer, the trio and Rock will attempt to get the charts to agree with what seemed to be the critical consensus in ’05. For now though, Rick Rock reflects on the breaks of his career, working with Tupac Shakur, and why the Planets are dig-able.<br<

AllHipHop.com: The Federation’s debut got a real good critical response over at Virgin. What was your decision to pull the group over to Warner?

Rick Rock: I hate to say it was bad blood with Virgin. It’s very early, but I’d like to say that Warner is that nice Bentley thang and Virgin, at the time, was like a [Ford] Pinto. They both drive, but one just has a little bit more to offer – a little faster. I think a lot of it had to do with timing, and this is the right time for us. That’s all I’m gonna say on that one.

AllHipHop.com: Did the major publicity and career revival E-40 received with My Ghetto Report Card influence this decision at all?

Rick Rock: Nah. It was actually after that. There was a month of a bidding-war going on at Universal, J Records, and Warner. I actually prayed on it, and decided to go with Warner. It was right here in California, and I liked what they did with the 40 thing. I felt it would be a nice shift.

AllHipHop.com: “Yay Area” was the jump-off intro for that record. Tell me about how you decided to freak Digable Planets over a Bay record…

Rick Rock: Really, nothin’. It was just a beat I had. I always try to think of somethin’ different, that people haven’t used. I really don’t samples, but I remembered that s**t like, “I gotta f**k with that!” I used another one too from that same album, that’s gonna come out soon. But [this one] is from Butterfly, the girl. It was just somethin’ I was on. 40 got it and was like, “I’m f**kin’ with that!”

AllHipHop.com: The scratches sound like they were done on a CDJ…

Rick Rock: The CDJ, yupp!

AllHipHop.com: With all the success that’s going on, how do you think that The Federation album would have been received differently had it dropped this year?

Rick Rock: I think very differently. You never know with this s**t, but I really feel like it should have at least went Gold. I think it’s a cool Gold, not all the way Platinum album. This [coming] album, I feel is a multi-Platinum album, but the thing is, you never know. I don’t know what the f**k is gonna happen. We was before our time though. It was Hyphy s**t. We had the song, “Go Dumb” and all that two years ago. Now somebody does it, it’s received, they get it. I couldn’t even get my own label to try and get it.

AllHipHop.com: Every artist from E-40, to Balance, to San Quinn, is talking about how it’s the end of the darkness in the Bay. As a producer, you never had any problems while Hip-Hop wasn’t checking for the Bay. How was that possible?

Rick Rock: I have no idea, man. I think it’s always the music, and maybe the situation I was in, being signed to EMI Publishing. The music just speaks for itself. Ultimately, I’m really a Southwest n***a. It’s like, I’m from the South and the West Coast. At the time, the Bay area had a sound – mob music. But my sound was developed from living in Alabama and trying to do East Coast music, and comin’ back to the West Coast. I’m just blessed. S**t.

AllHipHop.com: In every career, there’s always at least one thing that serves as a break to all future successes. In your career, could you find one such break?

Rick Rock: I’d really like to say RBL Posse, who was an underground group, they still around though two of the members passed. They gave me my shot. They gave me five records [on An Eye for an Eye]. They were on Atlantic Records at the time. It wasn’t a fast thing…oh, and Jay-Z. Those two times right there.

AllHipHop.com: Back with the RBL Posse, how did a producer “get put on” as compared to today?

Rick Rock: Back then, when I placed those songs, I was livin’ in a studio. They’d come through for another producer. But when the producer was takin’ his time, I just hustled onto the project, and just hurried up and did a few beats while they was waitin’. That’s how I got on RBL. The thing with that was, they had a major deal, and ended up shootin’ a video to one of my records. He paid me for all five songs. That was really the first time I had gotten a check. I had did two Tupac records before that, and I eventually got paid, but not until years down.

AllHipHop.com: The two records [“Tradin’ War Stories” and “Ain’t Hard to Find”] on All Eyez On Me?

Rick Rock: Yeah. I had done those before RBL. I eventually got paid. But [getting paid] was big to me, ‘cause I didn’t have nothin’. Just getting a check and being in a major label system, it was big for me just to feel like I’m around and doin’ some s**t.

AllHipHop.com: Those ‘Pac records were credited to you and Mike Mosely. Was that a production partner? I’ve noticed that while your early work was together, I haven’t seen his name around…

Rick Rock: That was an experience. He’s around, I seen him the other day in LA. That was a learning thing. He taught me a lot as far as being a producer, how to stack my sounds, work with the artists in the studio, all that, but he also taught me a lot about the business work in a bad way. I’d do the beats and he’d put his name on it type s**t. That’s a part of the game though, or at least it was for me. I’m cool with him though. I don’t know what he’s doing, but he’s doing his thing. Mike Mosely always gonna find a way.

AllHipHop.com: One day, you’re placing a record for independent dudes like C-Bo. They next, you’re doing “Change the Game” for Jay-Z. Also, you’ve got mixtape joints like “My Apology” for Ras Kass. How do you know what to charge various people?

Rick Rock: It just be a relationship thing and a politic thing. I know some stupid ass producers that charge theyself out the game. They charge more than what it’s worth. I’m a get-down type n***a, I’m gonna always want somethin’. I get down with this cat ‘cause I know he raw. Talent gotta be there. Sometimes we just swap out. I might swap out a verse and here’s a beat. Ras Kass had just out the pen. He’s one of the world renowned MCs, I gotta f**k wit’ ‘cha. We just put it down like that. I know when to charge, and I know when not to. You just gotta know how to gauge it.

AllHipHop.com: “Change the Game” was such a hit. Did you submit tracks for The Black Album?

Rick Rock: Umm, nah, not really. Actually… I did submit one. He f**ked with it for a minute, but then he had f**ked with it. He just be in different zones. If he’s on this page, then he’s on that page. The producers that were around were the ones he was workin’ with. He just works so fast that you just damn near miss out if you not around. I wanted to be on the s**t, fo’ sho’, but it wasn’t meant to be.

AllHipHop.com: If the rumors are true, maybe you’ll get another chance…

Rick Rock: Yeah, hopefully not. I want to be part of that history, and he’s gettin’ ready to sit down and do that last record he do.

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