Rites-of-passage filled with both rights and wrongs, Jonny “Rittz” Valiant, uses Hip-Hop to share his story. Although the towering, wavy-haired Ginger-kid, is easy to spot amid his melanin-enriched contemporaries, his lyricism never pales in comparison. The Atlanta native’s talent, work-ethic, and luck is ushering Rittz to the masses. Although, his journey to the spotlight has been an arduous one, many blessings have been delivered through life’s challenges.
The critically acclaimed mixtapes, White Jesus and White Jesus: Revival, are a couple of the reasons why Rittz is now signed to Strange Music. “They wanted me to really do me. That’s one of the great things about Strange,” attests the organic wordsmith.
On opening night of Rittz’ first ever Strange Music tour, AllHipHop.com is granted exclusive access:
AllHipHop.com: Last year, you were on Yelawolf’s Slumerican tour. Then you signed with Strange Music. Currently you’re on Tech N9ne’s Independent Powerhouse tour. Plus, your Strange début, The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant, drops on the 16th of April. How are you really doing?
Rittz: I’m good; I’ve been a little stressed. For a long time I’ve just been rapping. When it finally gets to this point, to where I got my first album coming out—just being on a new tour with a new label, for the first time—it’s been a little stressful. Just under [the] pressure of coming off the Slumerican tour, having to write the album, and not wanting to be wack either, and take my time on it. But I managed it. It’s done; it’s dope. I’m on the bus. Today’s the first day. So, as of this morning a lot of my stress is gone. The anticipation is almost worst than just doing it.
AllHipHop.com: First off, how did you get your moniker?
Rittz: As a kid in high school, when I started rapping I went through different names. I had a homeboy named Shortcut, who was just like, ‘What about Rittz?’ And I just stuck with it. It meant cracker.
AllHipHop.com: I didn’t want to bring it up; because, if you twist your mouth to say n****r, I’m going to feel a way.
Rittz: No, no; it stands for cracker. Now looking back it when people say, ‘Does Rittz mean cracker?’ It’s a little cheesy. It’s like every white rapper has got a name that’s got some kind of white s*it to it. But, you know, it is what it is. That’s definitely where it came from. So, I’m a f**king cracker!
AllHipHop.com: (chuckles) Wow. How are you learning to reinforce your morality when you’re submerged within a profession that celebrates hedonism?
Rittz: It’s hard. On the relationship aspect, I’ve been in a relationship for a long time. I’ve been playing the balancing act trying to be a rapper and trying to live a home life. It’s capable of being done. It’s just really hard. It’s rough to be with anybody and leave for a long time. At the same time it’s hard out here. I’ve had a lot of experiences with drugs; I drink like hell anyway. So, it’s kinda hard to not allow that to take over you. When I came home after the last tour I wasn’t making complete sentences. I went too hard.
It’s like trying to balance out the road life, and turn it into a healthy lifestyle, to where it doesn’t kill you. On this tour I’ll be playing a nice balancing act. I’m going in with a different attitude; I’m not going to party as much. As far as the relationship sh*t it’s a challenge. When the girl’s at home looking at online [posts] the [impact of the] internet makes it hard. I’ve been balancing my morale and keeping standards to what I do; whether, it’s that or the partying aspect, or even getting affected by the negative sh*t you read, or fans, or anything like that.
AllHipHop.com: It takes strength to challenge the status-quo. Who or what circumstances motivated you to fully embrace your dreams?
Rittz: It’s crazy because it’s really luck, honestly. I’ve always considered myself a good worker. I dropped out of high school. I never really focused on a real job. I always thought I’m going to be a rapper. Then one day, reality finally started sinking in like, ‘Wow, I might not make it. I’m f#####. What are we going to do with our house? We don’t have any money.’ Now it’s up to me and go work. I was like, ‘F### this sh*t!’
So, when I was about to quit rapping, I really started focusing on work. Right then is when, Yelawolf, came along and hooked it up. I think the fact that I got that opportunity, you know, made it a lot easier; because, I was about to break and lose that [motivation to continue]. For a long time though, I did have the backbone to keep driving for years. That was came from knowing that I was talented. Plus, knowing that I didn’t have anything else to fall back on, you know, that was it.
AllHipHop.com: What youthful habits or tendencies did you have to relinquish in order to grow into the man that you are today?
Rittz: Partying is probably my main thing, I’ve had a lot of it. From age 16 to 28, I’ve spent a lot of my years just on drugs. And, that has to go. You have to let that go; you can’t be wasted all the time. At some point you have to focus and make something happen. I’ve always had parents who instilled in me the importance of just being a decent person, and being responsible as well. It’s real easy to fall off into the bullsh*t and get caught up.
AllHipHop.com: As an MC does your ethnicity ever hinder you, or does it help?
Rittz: It always hinders you a little bit. Then it also helps you, too. If you’re good at it you’ll stand out a little bit, because in this business you’re the minority. Nowadays there are so many people rapping, of all ethnic backgrounds, that it doesn’t matter as much anymore. I think it’s hindered me. To me, you got to work extra hard. I don’t listen to any white rapper that I don’t think is dope. If you’re going to be a white guy rapping you have to be a little bit better than the average. It’s hard; you have to push harder. But, it’s not as bad as it used to be.
AllHipHop.com: In an interview that you did with HipHopDX you spoke candidly about your insecurities regarding your lyricism.
AllHipHop.com: With understanding how meticulous you are with completing a track have you learned to better manage your time?
Rittz: Not really, it’s still the same. During the time I was working on this album, was the first time in my life, that I ever had a deadline; that was the good thing about this album. With having that deadline, I didn’t have the option of over-critiquing myself. Then it was like, ‘If you think this sh*t’s wack, too bad, muthaf*cka. It’s a song now.’ My whole thing is I’ve been critical of myself during the actual writing process. Once the rap is physically written, and I rap it to the beat, I like it. I think it’s dope. It’s while I’m writing it that I’m not liking it. It’s like, ‘This word is not interesting enough, or whatever.’ Working under a deadline made that a lot easier to me; because, I didn’t have the luxury of having the time to over-critique myself.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been hailed as a poignant storyteller. When you’re writing, what’s your ultimate goal; do you want us to hear what you’re saying or to feel what you’re saying?
Rittz: Well, both, because if you can’t hear it, you can’t feel it. At the end of the day, there’s really nothing like listening to any kind of music and getting that Goosebump-feeling—to where it touches you. So, those are my favorite raps to write. That’s the type of rapper that I want to be known for. I got regular rap songs like “High Five,” but on this new project I got songs like “Nowhere to Run,” and “Wishin.” They’re deep and come from the heart. The ones that come from the heart are always something you’ll feel. I definitely want to be felt, but I rap so fast a lot of people can’t pick up on that sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: (laughs) You gotta rewind it a couple of times before you decide, ‘Oh he is dope.’
Rittz: (chuckles) Yeah, he’s saying something in there. He ain’t just saying, ‘Muthaf*cka, muthaf*cka.’
AllHipHop.com: (erupts with laughter and shouts) N***a, n***a, n***a!
AllHipHop.com: But he got put on. That’s crazy. Going from White Jesus: Revival to your Strange début The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant, in conjunction to your overall creativity, what aspect has grown the most?
Rittz: Just knowing the direction to go in with my music. I really know who I am. As a rapper, for years I tried to find my niche.—who I am, what I sound like, what type of vibe my overall sound has—I knew it when I made White Jesus and White Jesus: Revival. Since those came over and I got a little feedback on the songs, I figured out what people like from me, and more importantly, what I like.
So, now I know exactly what type of music that Rittz makes. Not to speak of myself in third person, but I know what type of music that I make. When I’m picking out tracks, I just know. I can rap on anything, but I know what type of track is a me track. That’s probably the main difference, because before I was kinda fishing on what people would like from me. Now I have found my niche, 100%.
AllHipHop.com: Until the next time, what would you like to share?
Rittz: Make sure everybody goes and checks out the album. I’m super appreciative to be in the position I’m in. You know, I always remind myself, I just had a f*cking job. So, I’m super appreciative to everybody who gives me a chance to listen to my music. I’m happy to be here.