Rich Boy: Robbin' Hood Theory

So you just bought a Cadillac… what are you going to do? Throw some D’s on it, of course! Alabama native Rich Boy is making some noise with his hood anthem, but don’t let the subject matter fool you – there’s a lot more to him than what meets the eye. After a stint at the prestigious Tuskegee University, Rich Boy elevated his budding production skills into a full blown music career. From Roy Jones Jr. acknowledging his talent, to vet Polow Da Don cosigning and helping him develop his sound, Rich Boy is determined to make his mark.

While being a new artist in the oversaturated Southern market may seem to be a challenge, Rich Boy has been strategically laying the foundation for his debut album with quiet confidence. We chopped it up with Rich Boy at the Vibe Yardfest during FAMU’s Homecoming, one of the many stops on a tireless promotional campaign trail. You were originally in engineering in college...

Rich Boy: Yeah, I [was studying mechanical engineering] at Tuskegee. Just because you come from the streets doesn’t mean you’re a dummy. Have common sense and street sense, you mix both of ‘em and you can survive anywhere. What inspired you originally to go into engineering?

Rich Boy: I wanted to design cars and s**t like that. I always been like that, I ain’t never wanted to do what the average person do. I would have been the first out of my generation in my family to graduate college. How did that transition happen? What is the one thing that happened that made you say, “I’m gonna do this”?

Rich Boy: When Roy Jones Jr. bought four tracks from me, I knew it was possible for me to do something as far as the music industry. So I just pursued it after that day. That’s right, you actually started out producing and making your own beats, and then you decided to go ahead and rap over them.

Rich Boy: Yeah, I said I’m a rap over one, so when they play it on the radio station people could call and be like “Who did that beat?” - but it went the other way around and they was like, “Who that is on the song?” Then Polow Da Don heard it through my boy Nick at Night. Nick at Night gave Polow Da Don my CD, and then me and Polow just kept in touch. I flew out to Atlanta, me Polow and Booga hooked up, they started coaching me on how to rap better. Then it just happened, we put a demo together, shopped it and got a deal. What’s the best advice that Polow has given you in your career?

Rich Boy: The best advice was to work hard, as much as you can - period. Also paperwork is everything. This whole game is paperwork, because that’s where you know who’s getting paid what. At the end of the day your paperwork can have you workin’ for nothing, and your paperwork can have you workin’ for the right amount of what you deserve. Paperwork and work hard, that’s what he tells me. You signed with Interscope now. Some people would be like, “Wow you made it,” but watching Polow and the veterans around him work and knowing the history that they’ve had, what do you take from that personally on the way to monitor how you treat your career?

Rich Boy: I watch everybody, I watch Polow and how he works. It just teaches you a whole different work ethic. At the end of the day you ain’t even gotta be that talented, it could be a guy out there working harder than you, and you got the same amount of talent, but he’ll make it before you just because he’s working harder. He took every opportunity and chance he got. Right now “Throw Some D’s” is picking up steam. What are people going to know about you other than this particular song with the album?

Rich Boy: They’re gonna realize that I’m all original. The way my story came about, it’s just meant for me to do it. That’s how I feel. It’s crazy how I went from trying to make beats to people saying, “Naw, you oughta rap.” It wasn’t like something I was chasing, it came to me. They’ll find originality and find that I represent for the people that’s in the struggle. Not just for the dope boys with the cars and the jewelry - I know about that side - but also we can’t forget about the people that’s locked up or the kids that’s getting abused and stuff like that. It’s time to bring rap back to reality where people can really have a connection with you, because they’re going through the same things that you rappin’ about. Everybody’s not a drug dealer, and everybody doesn’t have money, so you have to rap about stuff on a different level and page sometimes. That’s what a lot of people would say about you. You had your mom and dad, you went to Tuskegee University. They might question how hard your life was, not realizing the poverty levels in Alabama.

Rich Boy: Yeah, Mobile [Alabama] is not rich, we ain’t got skyscrapers and stuff like that. Just about every neighborhood is ghetto in Mobile. I got robbed, shot at, all kind of stuff. You can grow up in a nice neighborhood and something [will] still happen to you. People get killed everyday, the people you least expect to get killed. So everybody’s going through something, it’s not just certain neighborhoods. I went through a struggle most definitely, but some other people’s struggles were harder than mine, so I can’t complain. You worked with some of the biggest hitmaking producers right now, starting with with Polow Da Don…

Rich Boy: Most definitely. I got three tracks from Needlz on the album. Brian Kidd, Aqua, JR [Jonathan Rotem], Mannie Fresh, Timbaland. All the producers I worked with, we all sat in the studio together and just did it. How did you come about working with all the producers? Did you have a wish list?

Rich Boy: No I never had a wish list. My A&R would just bring me some CDs with no names on ‘em. I run through ‘em, pick which beats I like and put the song down. That’s just how simple we kept it - we weren’t searching for certain people. Do you feel that’s a benefit for you to take the names off?

Rich Boy: Yeah it’s a benefit, that gives real credit to the track I pick because it’s hot, and it’s not hot because somebody’s name is on it. Right now in the market the south is the thing, and it seems to be getting convoluted because so many people are coming out with records. What are you going to do to set yourself apart?

Rich Boy: I’m gonna connect with people. Like I said, I’m gonna rap about stuff that they can relate to. I might rap about a Bentley in one song, but I’m also gonna rap about when I rode in an old raggedy car with my daddy when we ain’t have enough money like that. I’m a rap about stuff that you can relate to, which a lot of rappers ain’t doing no more. Everybody wanna be a trapper and the man of the hour or whatever. It’s not about that with me, it’s about sending a message across. If you can send a message across and people connect with you, that’s when people really will always go buy your CD.

Wu-Tang made a connection with their people, Jay-Z and all the people that you see in the game so long. LL Cool J, UGK will always have a fanbase. The Roots… just people that be theyself and be original. They’re really gonna find out that I’m just myself on it, and don’t no song sound alike. I rap different on every track, that’s what’s gonna distinguish me from other rappers. Looking down the road 10 years from now, do you envision yourself doing anything outside of rap that people may not expect?

Rich Boy: I’ma be like a real estate king, and I’m a start a clothing line - you ain’t even gonna know it’s my clothing line. Every rapper starts a clothing line and puts their name on it. I’m a just do a real quality like clothing line. Besides that, producing, real estate, clothing - and I might do a couple of movies if we get to that. So you’re interested in acting too?

Rich Boy: Yeah, most definitely I wanna try it. If you could pick any movie in history and cast yourself in a role, what would it be?

Rich Boy: I know a lot of people would say it but I would say Scarface because he had so much drive just to get to the top. It wasn’t that he was the bad guy or a drug dealer, it was just the drive he had to get to the top. Hip-Hop artists are starting foundations to go back and help their neighborhoods. Do you have anything specific in mind yet you want to get involved with?

Rich Boy: I do. I wanna send a couple of people off to college and start a fund for that. I want to help people get jobs. When I started the whole real estate thing, I hired a lot of people out the hood to work for me and help me out, just to create jobs for people. It’s real important to create jobs - you just don’t wanna give people stuff. That ain’t helpin’ ‘em out, you wanna give ‘em somethin’ to do to get ‘em off the streets. That’s why I wanna give jobs. Do you have a release date for your album at this point?

Rich Boy: The top of next year. We’ll get the official date some time soon. First quarter. What kind of guest appearances do you have featured?

Rich Boy: I got Snoop Dogg, Akon, David Banner, Gangsta Boo out of Three 6 Mafia, Attitude out of Birmingham, 8-Ball and Mannie Fresh. It’s a real album. Have you done any features on other people’s albums?

Rich Boy: I did the Jibbs “Chain Hang Low” remix, and that was it because I was just focused on my album. I worked so hard to get the product right, and it is called The Product Of The Hustle. If you could work with anyone in music that you can’t touch right now, who would it be?

Rich Boy: It would be Dr. Dre. How does it make you feel now that you’re facing true fame? Does it scare you at all?

Rich Boy: Nah, it doesn’t scare me exactly. My job is to entertain people, but actually they entertain me, just the way they act is entertainment. You’ll see some people do some crazy things. Have you had the classic stories of the girls in high school that wouldn’t give you play that now want you?

Rich Boy: [smiles] Oh yeah, I got a couple of girls out of high school calling me now - well trying to call me now, but they ain’t got my number. You know, they lookin’ for me. [laughs]