Meet Riicch, the OVO Affiliate Carrying on His Brother Fif's Legacy
The rising rapper and OVO affiliate opens up about his forthcoming project and how he hopes to inspire younger kids to avoid gang violence.
Image via Riicch
Just past midnight on September 14, 2017, Anthony “Fif” Soares was brutally shot dead by two men while waiting to be buzzed into a Toronto Community Housing building. The 33-year-old was a close friend of Drake, who would memorialize him just three days later by getting a tattoo of the OVO affiliate with the words "FOREVER FIF." Three years later, Drake would honour Fif again, putting his photograph on the album back cover art for his 2019 project Dark Lane Demo Tapes.
Soares was well-known in Toronto rap circles, but nobody knew him quite like his younger brother, Rich. The two shared a deep bond; a mentor-mentee relationship. The months following Fif's death saw Rich fall into depression. He battled dark thoughts, his mind in a constant thought spiral of sorrow, disbelief, and anger. He had promised his late brother he would never enter the street life. So, he started writing songs.
Now, under the moniker Riicch, he seeks to immortalize Fif via his music, and tell his own story while he's at it.
"The picture of my brother on the [back] cover of Dark Lane Demo Tapes, he's got that serious, scary look on his face. But if you really knew Anthony, he could tell you jokes for days," Riicch tells Complex Canada. "That's the side I want to show to the world. I know I don't live the same life as my brother did—there's a lot of things he did that I haven't seen or heard of—but no one could ever come and tell my story for me, from my point of view. I'm the only one who can tell it."
Riicch recently dropped the video for "WYS," the latest in a handful of woozy, hook-heavy trap singles he's been teasing audiences with in the leadup to his debut EP, God Don't Sleep. Ostensibly, the tracks deal with well-tread subjects in rap—fast cars, women, basketball—but beneath those signifiers are richer veins of meaning, the lyrics sprinkled with shades of melancholy and paranoia. Still, despite his music's darker palette, Riicch's underlying message is a positive one: there's life beyond the streets.
"I'm my own individual—I play my ball and stay out of the politics," he says. "I think that's what Drake sees within me; that's why we get along. He senses that I'm not trying to be like my bro or replace him. Ain't nobody out here trying to be the next Fif. I'm trying to be the first Riicch."
Riicch opened up to us about his brother, his ties with the OVO crew, Drake's basketball league, and his forthcoming project.
You’re relatively new to the rap game. How did you get your start?
A lot of friends, they kept coming to me saying, "Yo, you got a hell of a story to tell. You should get behind a mic and let the world hear it.” I've been playing basketball for like the last eight years of my life, so at first it was a bit awkward. And then through practice, I found a love for it. I've always loved music from a listening standpoint. So then I started making it and I fell in love with it. And then one thing led to another, and here I am.
Well, obviously you’ve also been exposed to music through hanging with Drake and the OVO crew. What was it like coming up with those guys?
It was good. We've always been family friends. So it was dope coming around and seeing stuff behind the scenes, like how to make a video and seeing stuff in the studio. I've seen Preme grow a lot as a person and as an artist, and it's been very inspiring. That's one of the things that got me into music. Preme, even though I didn't live the same life as him, we're from the same environment. So, if he could make it and guys like Baka, who’s from my neighbourhood, could make it—you know, they started from absolutely nothing—then there's hope for anyone who's just willing to work hard.
How did your brother and Drake know each other?
They'd heard of each other since I was a kid, but Preme and Drake were shooting a video and they asked my brother if they could come through to our hood and shoot it. They knew of each other, but that's when they started linking. That was probably about like 2008.
"I was in a dilemma: it's either go full throttle and get yourself in trouble or end up dead, or find something to do with yourself and live a good life."
When you say Drake knew of your brother, what do you mean? How did he know of Fif?
Drake knew of my brother through the streets. My brother was well known in the streets in Toronto. He's well known to other hoods; a lot of people in the hoods know him through the street life. People gravitated toward him. And now with him gone and Drake kinda pulling me closer and making sure I'm good, I could’ve gone in a lot of directions but I chose to stay away from the trouble and the streets. I just want to carry on my brother's legacy in a good way.
I’m really sorry for your loss. To lose a brother like that is just tragic. Can you talk about what effect that has had on you and your direction?
Yeah. It had a big effect. Like that's one of the main things I learned: to not throw my life away. Because for years, even before my brother's passing, he would tell me, "Listen, don't get caught up in this life. It's not for you. Going to prison isn't fun. it's not cool being in prison." So now with him being gone, it's like, nah, I'm going to honour this guy to the fullest. I'm going to stay strong and just stay away from everything. And there have been so many distractions to get into the street life. But it's like, if I didn't do it all that time growing up, why get into it now? With my dad and my brother not here, that would be a shame.
So, yeah, big effect on my life. That day [that he died] I spoke with him. I spoke with him that afternoon, around literally this time. And then by late in the night, that morning, early in the morning, he was gone. And just like that, my life changed instantly forever. And my whole family's too. So now it's about adjusting my life and figuring out how to live the rest of it without him, you know? And I think I've been doing pretty good.
What kind of a relationship did you have with him? Was he sort of a mentor?
Yes, definitely. At first, I didn't approve of the lifestyle he was living. Like, I liked how my brother was before he got caught up in the streets. But then, you know, shit started spilling over on me. Like one time, I was the one that was shot at. The same way he passed away, I was shot at. The guys just didn't come out of the car. And it's like, you know, I survived it. And after that, I kind of had an understanding of it, like, This is why he moves the way he does. Because it's dangerous out here. And I was only shot at because I look like him. So, from there I could come to him as a man and say, "OK, I understand why you're so militant." And then from there, we connected a lot. I would say, especially after the last bit he did, back in 2014, when he got out of jail, we got really close. He would mentor me a lot. And he said this a lot: “One day I may not be here. You cannot get involved in the streets. Even if you know what it is, just don't get involved, just walk the other way.” He always told me: “You're a survivor and you're going to be the one to pull through all of this and do better than me and our dad.”
That's really scary, man. A bullet just missed you...
It was terrifying. And my brother was like, "You'll know if you're ready for this life based on how you react off of the situation." Like, people can train, but once you get into a scary decision, it's two things: you freeze up or you remember what you've been told and you do what you gotta do. And the only reason I'm alive now talking to you is because my brother drilled it into my head so many times: “If something like this happens, you can't freeze. You gotta be brave and do what you gotta do to preserve your life." Though I'm not in the street life, I know what to do if I'm put in that situation because I've been in it not only once, I've been in it several times. That was in 2010 when that happened. Two days before my birthday. It's something you never forget, you know? It's traumatizing. But it made me stronger, definitely.
What did you think about Drake paying tribute to your brother on the back cover of Dark Lane Demo Tapes?
That is a good question, because I was up thinking about my brother when I first saw that. It's corny and funny to say this, but I sometimes think me and Drake will be thinking about the same thing at the same time, because I was literally thinking about my brother and listening to a beat and writing a song and like trying to write about our childhood together and then Drake had posted that. I was like, dang! It really inspired me. I ended up writing a couple songs that night. It just gave me energy, so it meant a lot. And then my mom saw it and was so proud. So that definitely gave me a lot of motivation and confidence right in that moment.
Tell me about the upcoming project, God Don’t Sleep. What’s it going to sound like?
It's going to be dark trap. That's pretty much what my feelings have been like since my brother passed away, especially the first six months. You know, there are a lot of things where I feel like a lot of his burdens that he had—people who had pending issues with him, I felt they spilled over to me. Things look all perfect on Instagram, but there are so many times at night that I almost lose myself. And my mom’s been there to put me back in check and loved ones and family and close friends. Even Chubbs himself, he was like, "Yo, you gotta relax and chill. Remember, your brother wouldn't want you to get yourself into trouble."
So, yeah, the vibe is gonna be dark. It’ll be about what I've gone through in the last couple of years, you know? Doubt, self-doubt. People think I'm not deserving of the title I've been given by accident, by mistake. But I'm up for the challenge. I'll do it for my brother. I'll take whatever criticism comes my way and I'll keep my head straight, just because I'm going to stand strong like my brother did.
"I'm hoping that someone younger than me or older than me will read this and know after so much darkness, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. There's still good days beyond that."
Has Drake given you any advice about your music?
I'm very hard-headed and I haven’t really asked him for advice. I'm the type that watches and learns. And that inspires me. But he has my back. Chubbs, he reminds me: "Yo, when it comes down to it, I'm here for you." They won't let anything happen to me. So when things get serious and I take it to the next level, they'll be there for me. There's no doubt in my mind that each and every one of those guys will be there for me.
You know, sometimes you meet people that you idolize or who you draw energy from and then when you meet them, you're let down because their personality is kind of sour. But Drake is not that. Like, he's shown so much respect to me and my family, and I have the utmost respect for him as an artist and a person. After my brother passed away, he was there for me and helped a lot. I'll never forget that.
I noticed on Instagram that you play in Drake’s basketball league. What’s that like?
Yeah. I'm currently in his basketball league, the SBL. It's fun. The guys talk a lot of shit. They probably talk more shit than my brother. [Laughs.] It's competitive. Though we're not the best basketball players out there, it's competitive and we're having fun, and that's what it's all about. Like me, I play basketball a lot, especially in the last several years of my life. But when my brother passed away that day, I stopped playing basketball for literally three years. My old nickname used to underdog, and that's my team name: the Underdogs. So coming into that last [SBL] season, I was out of shape. I was unprepared and I was getting a tongue-lashing from everyone—from Drake, from Preme. They were letting me know: “You suck and we heard that you're good. What's going on?” And then, you know, a couple months went by and I just made the tongue-lashings motivate me.
Are there set teams or does it rotate every time?
There's set teams. We have a schedule that's made for the set teams, and you have to have a certain amount of wins to make it into the playoffs. It's an official men's league.
Oh shit, so it’s serious. No joking around.
I'm very competitive. My teammate told me at the beginning of last season: “I don't think we're going to be able to win a ring this season.” And, you know, I took offense to that ‘cause I thought we could do it. Like, I don't go into shit and just half-ass it. I thought we could take it one game at a time and win a championship. We ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs, but I'm confident, man. Me and my team, we just got to get chemistry and we'll be absolutely fine. I believe we have a future in this league. We have a chance to hoist a championship one day.
I saw that Drake’s team won the championship this past season.
Yeah, it's motivating. You know, a lot of things Drake does, man, it motivates me. I was damn near nervous watching the game and I had nothing to do with it at all. I try to just watch and learn. Like, I was in a video with him that he did (“Only You Freestyle” with Headie One) and that was pretty dope. I was just watching and learning. And, you know, I wasn't sure how it was gonna play out, but I was able to get that cameo. I didn't know I was going to get a cameo. That was very special for me, but bittersweet because, you know, that's the first time being on a set and my brother wasn't there.
Gun violence has been a growing problem in Toronto. Over the last few years we’ve lost a lot of young, talented people because of it. From what you’re telling me, you’ve made a conscious decision to avoid street life. Is that something we’ll hear reflected in your music?
You know, the worst part of my brother’s death came after—not finding out the day of, but the weeks and months after were very crucial. I was in a dilemma: it's either go full throttle and get yourself in trouble or end up dead, or find something to do with yourself and live a good life. Again, Chubbs stepped in said, "I know it's hard for you and your brother's not here, but I'm going to talk to you now. You know, your brother wouldn't want that. Remember, you're representing him now.” And I appreciate that, you know? Shout-out Chubbs for that conversation we had. Like, I'm human and sometimes I fuck up. I make mistakes and he showed me what it was.
I know there's people out there in the States, in the world, that have been through what I've been through or probably even worse. If I can motivate those people who are hearing my voice and my raps and my interviews to know that you don't have to go into the streets, you can live a life and be successful... If I can just save one life, then that's good enough. I know firsthand that when you lose somebody in your family, it affects everybody: not just you or the mom, it’s his daughter, his girlfriend, everyone’s affected. It’s just like dropping a rock into a pond—it just affects everything. But I'm hoping that someone younger than me or older than me will read this and know after so much darkness, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. There's still good days beyond that.
That's a great message, man. Last year we lost another promising artist in Houdini. Our city can't afford to lose more kids with so much potential.
I've never met him, but I see his work and I love it. And I was sad when he passed away. I was like, damn, this has got to stop. Like, we're killing ourselves. And this guy had a bright future ahead of him. That's facts. We just got to do better, man, and that's something we need to start today. I noticed the culture in Toronto, it's like everyone's in competition. A lot of artists are uncomfortable with posting other artists and showing love. And trust me, I grew up in the hood, so I know the politics of "Oh, that guy's from that ends, and this guy's from that ends, so we can't show love." We need to find a way, the whole city, to just erase that. I mean, it's easier said than done. It's tough. But I know we can do it, man. Anything's possible.
We need a change in mindset.
That's where it starts, man. A positive mindset. You know, I've seen it firsthand: young kids, single mother. And the older guy on the block gets them to do things and think, Yo, this is how you get your respect. But there's other ways you can get respect. You can get respect by being honest, by taking care of your family. That's how you get your stripes in my book. I don't want to come off as a preacher or something but there ain't nothing to prove on the streets. Look, my brother's dead. That, unfortunately, is the outcome: death or jail. And if karma can't get you, it'll get your family.... When you make up your mind to do good, it's tough, man. A lot of people won't understand. Again, if any younger kid is reading this, people are going to say no, they're going to clash with you. They're going to say, "No, I want you to do what I want you to do." But you just got to be strong and stand your ground as a man.