Since signing to Maybach Music Group, Rockie Fresh's stock has risen considerably, and today he capitalizes on this higher profile with a new mixtape, Electric Highway. Last week, the Chicago native stopped by Complex to talk about the project, what he's learned from his boss and creative partner Rick Ross, and what fans can expect from his upcoming show at NYC venue S.O.B.'s. Before you check out his latest release, find out what the youngest artist on MMG's roster has to say about the status of his career.
Interview by Tannis Spencer (@LaVisionary)
What's the inspiration behind Electric Highway?
I’m at a point in my life—I’m 21 right now—and I'm seeing a lot things come to life pretty early but at the same time, I still have a lot of goals I want to reach. I feel like I'm on the road to my future. The Electric Highway title jumped out to me. It's something new that the government put in place for smart cars where they can charge their cars on the side of the road without going to gas stations, but that really doesn’t apply to me. I just really like the title, what I can make out of it, the vibe that I can set for people and that’s why I chose it.
Do you think the title accurately reflects the mixtape's meaning and content?
Based on my last project, people automatically expect more of a futuristic sound and I wanted to stick to that. But as far as the title Electric Highway, I wanted people to really listen to the music and kind of create what their own understanding of it is. The point of it was to give everybody the same conclusion which is that he’s at a point in his life where he’s trying to progress with certain things, he’s appreciative of what he has now and as human beings, I think we all reach that point where we're thankful for certain things that we get but then we always want more. And there's certain routes that we gotta take to get there. This mixtape is summing that process.
What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?
I just really want my fans to be entertained. I really want them to be able to get a different experience from my project than what they got from any other “hip-hop project.” I took a lot of risks on it and I really want people to enjoy the music. Most importantly, I really want people to be motivated by it. In my past, a lot of the music I made was to get into the game—not as far as the sounds I chose but the content. It was about impressing people and potentially getting a deal but now I realize my voice could potentially have some power and with that I want to have motivational content to kind of push young people to keep living and go forward and reach some dreams. That’s the main point.
Can you explain your choices for features and production?
I really wanted to keep it in the family as far as production. I got my producer, The Gift, he worked on my last two mixtapes, The Other Side and Driving 88. He produced a bunch of records on the new project. It has 18 songs and I think he did something to pretty much every record on the tape. We got Boi-1da producing as well. I got my homie Lunice who’s a member of TNGHT, he gave a real solid record to the tape. We got Jerm who produces for Wiz, he contributed a real nice record the the ladies on the tape and then this guy named Quincy Tones, he did the intro. As far as features, I've got Curren$y, Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross, and Sasha Go Hard, I wanted to keep it real light and just give people a lot of me on the project so those are just people I’ve been a fan of since before I got my deal and I wanted to work with them and really create some original records.
Not too much has changed for me outside of the fact that I can work way more. On my past projects, I was working on minimal studio time so I was trying to make these crazy musical records while being in the studio for only three hours at a time. That’s what used to hurt me the most about releasing projects. I was just not able to get these sounds that I really wanted to.
Why did you release “Superman OG” as the first single?
I just really liked the record. It was a fun song. Me and Lunice spent a lot of time together last year because he toured with me. I really wanted to bring some light to him. That’s why we put Lunice on the record because the beat is a strong part of that record. And two, lyrically with this whole entire project, I really just vibed out with the beats and instead of writing, I only picked records that brought lyrics out of me. I had a different approach for that record but I ended up just rapping through the whole thing when I got in the booth. I just really wanted to put that out for my listeners and be able to rock out to something.
How is it being a part of MMG?
It’s going real well. Not too much has changed for me outside of the fact that I can work way more. On my past projects, I was working on minimal studio time so I was trying to make these crazy musical records while being in the studio for only three hours at a time which translated to nine hours a week. That’s what used to hurt me the most about releasing projects, I was just not able to get these sounds that I really wanted to. With this project, I was in the studio a lot more and really went for the sounds I wanted. As far as Ross, he has such a respect for my sound so just the fact that he let me do my own thing and he trusts that I’m going to be making the music that I should be making, it makes the situation beautiful.
What knowledge has Rick Ross imparted on you? Does he help with your writing technique or beat selection?
He did a show at the University of Illinois and we was posted up in the hotel room and I always had this ability to freestyle, that's how I got into rap, just battling and playing around. But when I saw how he records when he was playing me tons of records that he worked on while on the road, he was just like, “This shit ain’t even finished, I just went in the booth and spoke.” The stuff he was saying, you could just tell it was so real to his life that he didn't have to write it. When I went back to the crib that's when I started recording most of the records for Electric Highway. Using that format, it just made my music become more real and the content that you’re getting is straight from how I feel being a 21-year-old man right now. For Ross to be in the financial spot that he’s in, for him being the age that he’s at, for the amount of albums that he has and the fact that he’s still recording tons of records a week, it makes me wanna be like, “If the big homie is doing that, I’m going to do that times two now.” That’s really what it is.
So the MMG work ethic is everything it's hyped up to be?
Definitely and I think one thing with Ross too is that he really picks hungry artists. To be on MMG, we just really love music and love to make it. So with that, we don’t have to be told to do too much. We always turning out records, if somebody misses on one record, there’s always five or six more records that could be played and it’ll capture what needs to be captured. I think that’s the beautiful thing about working hard, what talent can’t get one time, hard work will get if you keep repeating it.
Do you have specific plans to work with other MMG artists—Wale, Meek Mill, Stalley?
I think everybody sound is so different and the thing about music...it’s crazy because hip-hop, we break ourselves into these different little pieces like this person is this type of artist but at the end of day it’s all music. I respect everything that each member on MMG does, as far as their different styles and I feel like if I mix that with my style and my type of lyrical content it could be something beautiful for the people. So I’m trying to work with everybody in the same amount.
Does the MMG roster interact often or are people working on their separate projects and then you all come together in the end to make something larger?
Yeah, that’s really what it is. We all work separately. We're all young, we still all got so much to prove, not necessarily to prove to other people but to ourselves, the goals we had as kids, we’re still living that out. You have to be real focused on what you got going on with yourself in order to achieve that. And with me being the youngest member, it's super important that I get to a comfortable state with myself because now I’m experiencing a lot more people trying to get into my circle. We know that whenever there is a need, we have each others back.
In what way does the move to MMG help your career the most?
I honestly felt like I could win with anybody, as far as the way I like to do music and what I bring to the table. It’s not really based off who I’m signed to, it's more so just the emotion and the sound that I’m trying to put out. The move that I made to MMG, I definitely respected the business side of it but me and Ross became legit; he became my big brother. When we first met, I didn't even think it was going to turn into a deal, I just thought he was going to take me under the wing, be cool with me because it was just such a real situation. When I made that move, it was more so putting a stamp on the family type of vibe we had with each other so that’s why I really did it. That means more to me than anything I would expect for them to do with me on the music side.
I just like to be natural and a lot of people take that as me not having passion, but I’m just a chill dude and that’s not going to change because you put me in front of a certain amount of people.
So, you have a show coming up at S.O.B.’s this week.
I've always wanted to headline S.O.B.’s. I listened to Kanye’s music when I was growing up, I still am but I was listening to Kanye and he said something like, "Party at S.O.B.'s and we had packed the crowd,” and it just stood out to me. I know a lot of people that have done shows there. I was actually able to come see my brother Casey Veggies at his first show at S.O.B.’s and from that moment I really wanted to have my own show. I’m super happy about it.
Do you have any weird rituals before performances?
No, I say a little prayer to myself but I’m always praying, I’m a religious dude so I don’t think that’s really too quirky. I just like to be natural and a lot of people take that as me not having passion, but I’m just a chill dude and that’s not going to change because you put me in front of a certain amount of people, so I keep it the same.
What are you personally bringing to the show?
Definitely going to be bring out some people at S.O.B.'s, it's going to be a nice little surprise. I think my performance for this show is going to be a lot better than my past performances and it goes back to what we were talking about as far as the time that I spend on records. I’ve gained an appreciation for my own music with this Electric Highway project that I didn’t have before. So just the natural emotion of me performing songs I’m truly happy with, I think that's going to give the crowd a specific vibe that everybody likes about seeing an artist that they like. With me having the team around me, you never know who could come out.