Three days after releasing his debut studio album, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, Roddy Ricch sat in the back of a Sweet Chick restaurant in Manhattan and laid out his life philosophy.
“Usually, the loudest in the room is the weakest,” he told me, taking time to carefully choose each word. “The quietest man in the room, who is being very observant, is the smartest and the strongest.”
This statement foreshadowed how he would handle the biggest success of his career so far, which would come less than a month later when he secured the No. 1 album and the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts at the same time. While his closest competitor for the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, Justin Bieber, was being criticized for begging fans to push his single “Yummy” to the top of the charts, Roddy stayed quiet. Outside of a few simple tweets, he opted to stay off social media and let the music speak for itself.
“I think he saw how a lot of the new artists were doing so much on social media, but not delivering records, and he didn't want to be looked at like that.” - Dallas Martin, SVP of A&R at Atlantic Records
His strategy came in defiance to the notion that the only clear blueprint for success like this is to double down on social media tactics and roll out elaborate marketing campaigns. As we entered a new decade, the chatter was getting louder: Would it even be possible in the 2020s to earn a No. 1 single without a star-studded music video, a half dozen remixes, a little controversy, and a viral dance challenge?
Roddy Ricch’s chart-topping accomplishment is important not just because it’s fun to make #streamyummy jokes, but because it’s a correction to every trend that has pushed attention away from the music itself. Roddy’s success proves to every aspiring young rapper that it’s still possible to focus squarely on music and find success at the highest level. Somehow, “The Box” is the No. 1 song in America without even having an official music video or any remixes. It’s No. 1 simply because it’s a great song and people can’t stop streaming it. Can you think of a more refreshing way to start the decade?
Roddy’s rise may seem sudden to some, but none of this comes as a surprise to those who have been at his side for the past few years. Dallas Martin, Senior Vice President of A&R at Atlantic Records, remembers being blown away when he first saw the music video for Roddy’s 2017 single, “Fucc It Up.” Intrigued to hear a rapper from Compton who sounded like he could be from Atlanta, Martin invited Roddy to a recording session.
“He came by the studio, and off the rip, you could tell that he was super focused on music,” Martin recalls. “He did like three records the first day. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, he’s focused.’ I've never seen an artist just come in here off the bat and record so many records without having any excuses.” He adds, “Roddy had a vision for what he wanted to do, he knew what he wanted to accomplish, and he knew what he wanted his sound to be like. I could just tell that he really had it. He knew what he wanted to do.”
“Roddy just always wanted to make a classic album.” - Dallas Martin
Impressed by Roddy’s focus, Martin signed the young rapper to Atlantic Records and pointed him in the direction of other mentors. “I kind of introduced him to all the key players in my life and the rappers who I was working with at the time, which was Nipsey Hussle, Meek Mill, and artists like that,” he says. “They gave him advice and just kind of showed him ways to be successful in music. They were supportive, like big brothers.”
Martin makes a point of bringing up how easy it is to work with Roddy. “He records every day,” Martin says. “He’s very efficient. He’s one of those artists who records in the actual studio room and not in a booth. Honestly, you can just give him beats all day, and he's going to knock things out, play them for you, take your advice and your opinion, and modify his music like that. He’s one of the first artists I’ve worked with that, if you just give him the producer he wants to work with, he's going to knock out a hit record.”
From the beginning, Martin says Roddy has preferred to avoid the trappings of social media.
“He was never big on social media and Instagram and things like that,” Martin says. “He always wanted everybody to focus on his music. He used to argue with everybody on his team, like, ‘I don't need to post that much. I don’t need to do these things because it’s more efficient for me to put out a hot record.’ And honestly, he was right at the end. I think he saw how a lot of the new artists were doing so much on social media, but not delivering records, and he didn’t want to be looked at like that.”
Instead of getting caught up with the distractions of rap stardom, “Roddy just always wanted to make a classic album,” Martin says. Outside of an arrest in August, in which all charges were quickly dropped when the District Attorney’s Office determined there was no merit in the case, Roddy has avoided any and all controversy. And he knew he was ready for an album like Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial before anyone else did.
“After Feed Tha Streets 2 came out, I was kind of pressed and, like, ‘Let’s drop another mixtape, then an album.’ Roddy was like, ‘Nah, I think I’m ready for the album now.” At first, I was like, ‘I don't think you're ready for an album.’ But he was like, ‘Meet me at the studio tonight,’ and he played me like six records I hadn’t heard yet. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you're ready for an album, bro.’ He always knew he was ready for this moment.”
Martin, who has made a career out of paying close attention to industry trends, acknowledges how important it is for a young rapper to reach the pinnacle of commercial success by ignoring all distractions and staying focused on making great music.
“He’s not with none of the bullshit,” Martin says. “He doesn’t like any of the fake love. He likes people that are authentic. And once you prove to him that you're trustworthy, he’ll open up to you. I’m proud of him. I haven’t seen an artist do nothing like this in a long time.”