Being white and growing up well-off is never a great formula for success in hip hop. Not that it can't be done—talented folks like Alchemist and Asher Roth have carved out respected careers for themselves. Rich Hil, son of designer Tommy Hilfiger, looks to be another success story in the making. The Connecticut native channels influences as varied as Lil Wayne and Jimi Hendrix, while musically alternating between smoothly crooning sticky melodies at times, and spittin' fierce and intricate rhymes at others. With a superb work ethic, he has gained a steady stream of co-signs from Swizz Beatz, Kid Cudi, and Don Cannon, who he collaborated with in '09 on his acclaimed mixtape, Limos Were Cool In The '90s.
This year Rich has hit the ground running with an album with producer Infamous (Lil Wayne's "Prom Queen" and "Mr. Carter") in the works, songs recorded with Chip Da Ripper and Boi-1da, and the crafting of his debut album, also called Limos Were Cool In The '90s. Although he lives in Los Angeles now, he met up with Complex while in New York to discusses whether his father is supportive of his music, making prank calls with Kid Cudi, the dangers of reality TV, and his relationship with Aaron Reid...
Rich Hil Feat. Kid Cudi "Trippy"
Interview By Toshitaka Kondo
Complex: Many people complain about the mixtape game becoming saturated. But you built much of your buzz by releasing a slew of material the last couple years.
Rich Hil: The thing with me is I'd rather have my cult following than just have a huge song. I haven't had one album or one official single release, but I probably got 500 songs out in people's collection. And there's songs out there that I don't even have that are mine. That alone makes people feel like they know me already and I've been around way longer than I have. If I could never put out an album in my life, I could just put out mixtapes. The music got to be out there somehow. You know I get tired of my music. I put out the new mixtapes for me, too. If I put out the new mixtape, that's what I got in rotation. And when I get tired of that I put another one out.
Complex: I saw a previous interview where you talked about being a dork in school at first. How were you dressing back then?
Rich Hil: All the kids wearing Abercrombie and Gap. It wasn't a private school, but it was in Glenville, Connecticut. So it was a lot of like preppy kids. And I was into hip-hop at the time, so I'm wearing Rocawear and Sean John. And to them, that's not cool. "That's the outcast kid. Let's make fun of him." But they were squares to me.
Complex: Back in the day you used to be a fat kid also, right?
Rich Hil: Yeah, definitely. I still got a belly. I'm still out of shape.
Complex: Is your father supportive of your music?
Rich Hil: My dad supports me. He said, "I wished when I was at your age I started doing rock and roll music. Then I wouldn't have to be a fashion designer." And I just laugh and keep it moving and appreciate his support.
Complex: Are you close with your sisters?
Rich Hil: Yeah, I'm close with all my sisters.
Complex: What did you learn from Ally's experience being on the reality show, Rich Girls?
Rich Hill: It was a stupid mistake. MTV, man. They make you look bad. She's a really good person. My sister is the kind of person who would work at a hospital the rest of her life for no money. But she had this production idea to put these different girls on every week called Rich Girls. But then MTV threw it on her and put her in the show.
Complex: So initially she wasn't even supposed to be a part of the show?
Rich Hill: Yeah. I thought it was a stupid idea. That's not my sister, that's not any of us. We weren't raised to be like that. It was so stupid to me. They put me on there but I didn't want to be on there. They probably blurred my face a couple times. I was 13 at the time. You got to think when your little brother is like, "It's corny." She's like, "Whatever." She shouldn't have done that shit. It's not her.
Complex: What was so bad about it? I remember it being popular?
Rich Hil: That's cool for the people that want to be known as a rich girl. But for somebody who doesn't live their life around materialistic things it's the wrong show to be on. That's why I was like, "Yo Ally, that's not you. And you gonna be on TV?"
Complex: A lot of rappers today, they try to give fans a glimpse of their lives through flip cam or whatever it might be. How did that experience of watching your sister go through that affect your perspective on reality shows?
Rich Hil: It solidified that I never want to be on TV on a reality show.
Complex: Has MTV approached you about doing a show?
Rich Hill: Yeah. I told MTV to fuck themselves. They told me to do some "Growing Up In Connecticut" shit. This was two years ago. They was like, "At least ask your sister." And I was like, "Nah." They said the director of the show was the same director as 300. That's how they were trying to pitch it to me, but I didn't believe it.
Complex: "Trippy," a collaboration with Kid Cudi, leaked and you've said you have five or six songs with him. How did you two link?
Rich Hil: I heard Cudi's mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi. [My friend] Jaq played me Cudi's shit and this is the first time I heard of Cudi. Jaq said, "I'm gonna send him some of your music." One of those songs were "Cotton Candy Battlegrounds." I get a call the next day at 10 o'clock in the morning and it's Cudi. He's like, "Yo, I heard your shit. We got to do something 'cause it's a next generation feeling."
Complex: How did you and L.A. Reid's son, Aaron Reid, first link?
Rich Hil: I just ran into him around '05 or '06. I've been doing this since I was 13. I had a meeting in his dad's office about my music and he was in the office like, "Yo, I heard some of your music and I fuck with you." But I ain't seen him for like 3 years after that.
Complex: People were telling me, you used to be signed to Aaron Reid.
Rich Hil: Nooo! [Laughs.] If he ever called me his artist we would have been in a fight. I did a show for him when he did an event in Atlanta with Big Sean performing. This is like a year or two ago. End of '08, beginning of '09. Why would I be his artist, he got a label?
Complex: Are you still close with Aaron Reid?
Rich Hil: He's cool. When he was in New York he hung out around me, sometimes. But he goes to school in Atlanta, so I haven't seen him in two years.
Complex: What did you think when the naked photos of him popped up on the Internet?
Rich Hil: He didn't pick up his phone. I was like what the fuck is wrong with you? That shit was funny, man. [Laughs.] I'm sorry but it was funny.
Complex: But the perception of you and him being good friends is not correct?
Rich Hil: Nah, I feel like he made it like that. He wanted to do something on YouTube called Stoner Kids. And I was like, Alright. This was the beginning of '07. We had the first "Stoner Kids" thing up, it was a video of just us in the studio. Then his dad called him up about the weed. And then he couldn't do the stoner shit no more. His dad don't like him smoking weed. His dad don't like me, though. I'm a bad influence.