As the first artist signed to Prodigy's Infamous Records, Rick Gonzalez aka Realm Reality, has his heart and soul embedded in Hip-Hop.
Despite being known first and foremost as the actor from such films as Old School, Coach Carter, Biker Boyz and War of the Worlds, Realm first honed his rap skills as a kid growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Joining a long list of actors/rappers, he's out to prove the naysayers wrong.
Rick, who just recently officially signed with Infamous Records, is gearing up for the release of his second mixtape next week titled In the Grind We Trust. The 12-track project features appearances and guest verses from the likes of Joell Ortiz, Fred the Godson, Blu, Skyzoo, and Termanology among others and is set to make quite the impact.
AllHipHop.com got the chance to speak with Rick about his signing to Infamous Records, working with rappers like Blu and Prodigy, his favorite film from 2012 and much more.
You teaming up with Prodigy seems to come out of nowhere. When did you two connect and how did your signing to his label come about?
Yeah well me and [Prodigy], through mutual friends, have known each other for a long time, like six or seven years at least, so we’ve always had a respect and friendship that was built.
When P went to jail, I sent letters in and just kept in contact with him and kept his spirits up and when he got out he knew I had been doing music so he came to L.A. I said “we need to go to the studio, I need to get you and [Havoc] on something and while we were unable to get Hav at the time, P came through and I played him the joint, he laid down his verse and gave me a hook on top of it.
P is a man of very few reactions and emotions but once we played it back he gave me this look like he loved the record and so that moment just kind of led me here.
Since you just brought up both Prodigy and Havoc, what kind if impact did last year's break-up of Mobb Deep have on you as a native New Yorker, lyricist but more importantly someone who is a fan of Hip-Hop?
As a fan it was definitely disheartening to hear ‘cause they influenced me so much as an artist and I sympathize just as a fan like ‘wow this really hurts Hip-Hop in a big way.’ They are simply one of the greatest Hip-Hop groups of all time so it was definitely disheartening to hear.
In addition to Mobb Deep, while you were growing up, who else were you listening to and being influenced by?
That’s easy. As a kid, and I’m talking like four years old up until like ten, it was easily Slick Rick, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie… and once I got older and started thinking about rhymes, sometime around ’98, I started writing. At that time it was [Big Pun], Nas, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Eminem even really influenced me heavily and was someone that I listened to a lot. The Roots of course I listen to all their stuff. So I was dabbling in all lanes.
I was really just listening to everyone and before CD’s were available I was buying tapes of like The Pharcyde, and I think I bought the “Gas Face” by 3rd Bass tape too, and that was my thing like all day. So yeah, stuff like that.
Taking all that into consideration, shoot off your “Top 5 Dead or Alive.”
My “Top 5” changes a lot but right now, how I’m feeling, is Nas, [Eminem], [Jay-Z], [Big Pun] and because today I’m just feeling that way, I’ll say [Tupac]. But you can always switch out [Notorious B.I.G.] in there. That’s my “Top 5” right there.
That’s dope and you can tell that’s honesty because 99% of people are always going to include both Tupac and Biggie in their “Top 5."
[Laughs] Yeah for sure.
Of course people are paying more attention to your stuff musically now especially with the release of In the Grind We Trust coming in a couple of weeks but what do you classify yourself as first, an actor or a rapper?
I mean I definitely consider myself an actor first because that was how people initially recognized me and that’s the truth of it. Unless you were from Bushwick, no one knew I was a rapper. I used to rap with people out there and certain friends of mine knew I did that but in terms of the world, it knew me as “Rick Gonzalez the Actor” first.
It’s been a long time of me just trying to gain notoriety and become visible from the music. I guess I technically have to just own it; I’m an actor first and I’m proud to say that ‘cause that’s an incredibly hard career to break into. It’s a huge blessing.
Let’s talk about the project itself since that’s what is up next for you. Of course your man Prodigy is on it, as is Joell Ortiz but so is Blu. I have to ask man, how the hell did you get a verse from Blu, he’s not the kind of artist to just hop on anyone’s track.
[Laughs] I don’t know man this is the second time that someone has told me that. Is it really that hard to get Blu on a track? I have no idea.
I go to Alchemist’s studio all the time and Blu is always there, that’s how I met him. He showed me love at the studio and I told him ‘I’m a fan and I think your music is dope as hell.’ We just knocked it out and I told him we had to do something. I just waited for the right moment to get the right production and I got him on this joint produced by Nottz Raw that is not going to disappoint. Trust me, it’s not going to disappoint in any way and I got Fred the Godson on that track too so it’s just nuts.
What was the reaction and reception to the music when you were playing it at your listening event in NYC last week?
It was good honestly because I wasn’t really in the trenches, I was with P most of the time just kind of hosting it and giving a narrative for each track and I kind of pay attention to the energy in the room and it just seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves and the music wasn’t removing them from having a good time it was actually helping so that really let me know I was going in the right direction and that people were actually interested in it.
It was my first listening event ever so I understood the parameters of people drinking and talking was going to be more prevalent then the music BUT if it doesn’t remove the energy from the room and you don’t get a bad vibe from the room then it’s a good thing and I definitely felt good vibes. I think people are going to really enjoy it once they grab it and really listen to it.
As someone who has their foot in both the movie and music industry, I’m curious what a highlight from each in 2012 was for you. Was there an album and movie that really stuck with you?
Kendrick Lamar’s album was really good and in terms of film…what the hell did I see last year that was really good? Oh yeah, Life of Pi was amazing.
Interesting choice movie wise, I was expecting something like The Avengers or Django Unchained.
Man, Life of Pi was mind-blowing. I went to see it at a screening with a good friend of mine and this was before the whole awards season started happening and I just knew it was going to get recognized as an amazing film. I haven’t had a chance to see Django but I really do need to see it.
Is there anything on your slate coming up that you can speak on?
I do have a couple of things but I can’t really speak on them right now ‘cause they’re being developed so the production companies would not be happy to have me speak on them but there is definitely things in the pipeline coming in 2013. Yes you will see me working.
Would one of those projects in the pipeline be 179th Street with Fat Joe?
I don’t really know where the process is with that and I can’t really speak on it ‘cause I’m not the producer of it so I don’t really know what to say about that one.
Last but not least, tell me how you got the name Realm Reality? Does it have some personal significance?
It actually came from a friend of mine in the neighborhood who was also an emcee and he just came to me with it. I was 18 and we would read each other rhymes out of our notebooks and he just came to me with the name Realm Reality and it didn’t make any sense to me you know I mean? I didn’t care though.
I said I was going to take it and run with it and I was just honored and humbled that my man gave me a name ‘cause my mom never gave me a nickname, people in the neighborhood didn’t give me a nickname so the fact that he gave it to me at the time, I just knew I was going to do something with it.
Realm Reality's In the Grind We Trust Drops February 12th!