Rich The Kid Opens Up About Working With Ye On “Carnival” and Previews New Album

After earning the first No. 1 hit of his career, Rich The Kid is determined to silence doubters and keep the momentum going on his next album.

Photo by Jamal Peters

Rich The Kid wants to clear something up. 

Years after dropping hits like “New Freezer,” “Plug Walk,” and helping to popularize the dab, the Atlanta rap veteran is still working his ass off, and he has a lot left in the tank.

“A lot of people be like, ‘Damn, your ass has not been putting out music’ or some shit like that,” he tells Complex. “But the whole time, I've just been perfecting the craft, perfecting my sound. I'm always working, so motherfuckers who don't think I'm working, you’re wrong.”

It’s been two and a half years since Rich dropped his last album (Trust Fund Babies with Lil Wayne) and nearly four years since his last solo album (Boss Man), but this year, he’s caught a second wind with the first No. 1 song of his career alongside Ye, Ty Dolla Sign, and Playboi Carti on “Carnival.” And now he’s getting ready to drop a new album of his own called Life’s a Gamble.

Rich says that the album’s title was a no-brainer because he’s always bet on himself, like spending all of his money on CDs and flyers to promote his music at the beginning of his career. It still sounds insane to him now, but those early grinding habits came full circle when he had to take a flight and an hour-and-a-half-long taxi ride to a Saudi Arabia resort where Ye and Ty Dolla Sign were working on their joint album, Vultures. (As Ye himself once said, “Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”)

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A few weeks after their recording sessions, Ty called Rich and asked which of the two songs they made in Saudi Arabia would be the best fit for Vultures. “I instantly was like, ‘Oh yeah, ‘Carnival’ is one,’” Rich remembers. “It’s got the energy. When I first heard the beat, I already knew it was a new sound. I was already ready for it.”

“Carnival” became Vultures’ war cry, a stadium anthem created by some of the most energetic vampires in rap. The track became a massive chart-topping success, a fact that Rich holds with pride, which is part of the reason why it frustrated him when cultural commentators like Elliott Wilson implied that the achievement was the result of luck, not hard work.

“I kind of felt a way about that because I made this song, we made this song,” Rich says. “I kind of felt a way about that because I made this song, we made this song. I went in the booth, I recorded it—I didn't write it down, I freestyled it—and we made magic. And now you're talking about I'm lucky, like the words didn’t come out of my mouth, like I ain't say it. How the fuck am I lucky? I chose the beat. It was like, get off my dick.”

Rich plans to replicate some of the magic he made on Vultures with Life’s a Gamble, and with executive production from Ye (plus his own hard work), we’re not betting against him. We sat down with Rich The Kid to talk about his upcoming album, orchestrating the creation of “Carnival,” random FaceTime conversations with Frank Ocean, and more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.

You have an album coming called Life’s a Gamble. Why that title?
Just taking wins and losses. I felt like it just fit the project so well. It was just immediate, like, “Oh yeah, life's a gamble.” I didn't have to really think about it.

What were some of the most important risks you’ve taken in your career?
Spending all my money on CDs, flyers, posters, fucking standing in front of the club late at night, 11 o'clock at night, 12 o'clock, handing out CDs. I took those chances by taking the bus. Matter of fact, taking the train to the bus to the club with no ride home, just to get my music out there. It might sound crazy but shit, it worked.

When have you drawn a losing hand?
I would have to say: not going all the way in on some things. Sometimes you’ve just got to go all the way in, and I feel like if you go halfway, you won’t get the same result. I took some losses by not going all the way in on myself sometimes.

It’s been four years since your last solo project. Why is now the right time for this new one?
I was just featured on a No. 1 hit song. Yessir!

How does that feel, especially this deep into your career?
It feels amazing. It's definitely a huge accomplishment. I'm very happy, feel blessed. My family's happy. We’re just working on the next No.1 now.

What can we expect to hear on this new album that’s different from your past work?
It's just a full body of work. I wouldn't say that this is going to be different or that's going to be different. I would just say, just listen to it.

Vultures was recorded in studio sessions in Saudi Arabia and other exotic places. What was the energy like when you recorded your part of “Carnival?”
I had a show in Dubai and I was talking to Ty [Dolla Sign]. He was like, “Yo, we’re here in Saudi [Arabia]. So I was like, “Fuck it.” Got some tickets, flew over to Saudi. We were over there listening to the Vultures project, and the second day I was there, we started recording. Ty came over and we did two songs. “Carnival” was the second one, and then I had some more shows, so I shot back to L.A. Then I got a text from Ty three or four weeks later and he was like, “Yo, Ye wants you to be on the album.” He was like, “Which one of the two songs do you think fits the project best?” So I played the two songs and I was instantly like, “Oh yeah, ‘Carnival’ is one.”

Why did you think “Carnival” worked better than the other song you made in Saudi?
I felt like “Carnival” just had that energy to it. It was just something you never heard. It's just a new sound, like an elevated type of sound. That's why I went with that one over the other one.

So if you hadn’t given it that green light, “Carnival” wouldn’t have been on Vultures?
Yeah, probably. It feels dope bro. Lab Cook is the producer who made the beat—the same producer who made “Plug walk.” It was pretty lit.

After you got that call from Ty to work on the album and traveled from Dubai, what were you thinking about on that flight?
I was like, “What the fuck? I’m going to Saudi!” It was really a journey, because I did not know I was going out there, so I really didn't have shit set up. When I got to Saudi, you need a visa. I got to the border and they're like, “Yo, where's your visa?” I'm like, “Fuck, what visa? I just flew over here.” They’re like, “No, we need a visa.” They let you buy the visa right there, and I ain't had no car, so me and my boy took a taxi an hour and a half to the resort. It was dope, bro. What's going through my head was just like, “I’m about to go work and make a hit,” and that’s exactly what we did.

What was the wildest moment you remember experiencing while working on Vultures? Shit, fucking Milan, Italy. That shit [at the listening event] was crazy. They were chanting the whole chant, doing the whole shit. We performed the song, and after we left to go backstage, they were still singing “Carnival” after the whole shit finished. That shit sounds crazy in the fucking arena, too. It really sounds like it's supposed to. That's fucking arena music. And leaving the venue, I was surrounded by fans, so I just hopped out of the van, and they started singing “Carnival” a capella, every word. 

Bktherula just did an interview with Complex, and she said that “Carnival” is her all-time favorite moshpit anthem. How does it feel that people are already looking at the song in that light?
I feel like it's just timing and the sound. Elevating the sound, trying to make the best sound. I feel like it's a stamp right now in musi,c and I want to see what's going to top it. What's going to top “Carnival?” Because that's just legendary. It's crazy right now. 

Playboi Carti is on the track, and you and him go way back. What was it like to hop on another song with him?
Man, definitely just a full-circle moment. It’s crazy seeing how far we came from back in the day, recording videos in my grandmother's apartment. Shit is crazy. Running around L.A. together, doing all types of crazy shit. Just like, damn, we got our first number one together. It’s history. We’re really making history.

Was Carti in the studio when you laid your verse, or did you find out he was on it later on?
I think it was a couple days before Vultures was supposed to come out, Ty FaceTimed me playing [Carti’s] verse. I was like, “Yo, that's hard.” And they sent it to me, the final version, and I listened to it. I had my Apple Vision Pro on, and I was like, “Yo, this is what a No.1 hit sounds like!” And look at God, shit went No. 1. This is some shit that's going to blow the speakers. And that’s exactly what it did.

How did Ye end up as the executive producer of your album?
The day the song went No. 1, Ye DM’ed me. He's like, “I want to executive produce the project with me and Ty and shit.” So I was like, “Hell yeah, let's do it.” So we've been in the studio day in, day out, cooking up and perfecting the sound.

Before he joined, how many tracks were already finished?
A lot of the project was already there. We were just reworking stuff, perfecting the sound.

This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with a rap legend. How did it compare working with Ye on Vultures compared to Lil Wayne on Trust Fund Babies?
It's just way different. Being in the studio with Wayne, we might just keep recording songs. But being in the studio with Ye, we’re perfecting beats and changing hooks. Working on the album with Tunechi, it was like we were just knocking songs out. Whereas [with Ye], we just reworking songs, and if we got a perfect beat, we'll hop on it. But it's just two different processes.

Do you ever get nervous or anxious in these moments working with massive artists?
I feel like I'm just in it now, just living life. Just next level, elevating everything.

What made you still want to work with Ye, despite everything that has been going on with him in the news over the last year?
For one, it's Ye and it's the music. I'm just focused on the music and doing what's the best for the sound. Making history, music, and stamping what we've been doing now. 

You’ve been called one of the hardest-working rappers in the industry for a decade now. How do you maintain the energy and stamina to keep that work ethic?
I feel like over the last two or three years I haven't put out that much music. I've been really back working and perfecting my craft and trying to elevate the sound. I’ve been working on so much shit, so I can't get burnt out. It's not like I'm trying to overdo it, I'm just working at my pace.

I remember you teased having a song with Frank Ocean back in 2016. Was that track ever finished, and will it ever see the light of day?
[Silently shakes his head] That shit was mad random. I really don't know how to explain it. My phone, it's got a magic contact [list]. Somehow, I just had everybody's contacts in the world. I really don't know how it happened. I think I got locked up one time, and then I got my phone back and I just had everybody's number.

I had everybody’s number and I was like, “Oh shit.” I'm going through the contacts, I got Miley Cyrus, Frank Ocean. I just FaceTimed him randomly one time. I never spoke to him before, so there was never a song. I [also] had Ye's email, and I FaceTimed him one time randomly. Then he's like, “Hello, who the fuck is this?” And I screenshot it, I posted it, and people was like, “Oh yeah, Rich and Ye are doing something.” But it just came from the magic contacts. But there was no song [with Frank].

Do you still have this phone? Are the contacts still there?
That's how I got my deal. When I was leaving [Quality Control], I had to do a buyout situation and I was really fucked up. I didn’t have any money, but I had the magic contacts, and I went to every single record label. I had every label, every execs [number], everybody. So I called every label. The only person that really answered was Manny Smith from Interscope, and he told me to pull up like, “Yo, come play the music, let me hear.” And that's how I got my deal, through the magic contact list. That was in 2017.

What’s the biggest misconception about you? What do people get wrong?
That I haven’t been working. A lot of people be like, “Damn, your ass has not been putting out music” or some shit like that. But the whole time I've just been perfecting the craft, perfecting my sound. I'm always working, so motherfuckers who don't think I'm working, you’re wrong.

I remember a few months ago, Elliott Wilson tweeted that you’re “the luckiest nigga on the planet” for landing on “Carnival,” and you rejected that idea.
I kind of felt a way about that because I made this song, we made this song. I went in the booth, I recorded it—I didn't write it down, I freestyled it—and we made magic. And now you're talking about I'm lucky, like the words didn’t come out of my mouth, like I ain't say it. How the fuck am I lucky? I chose the beat. It was like, get off my dick.

It was very weird. It would've been dope [for him] to congratulate me. Like, “Sounds like he perfected the sound. This is crazy. Production is crazy.” He should have said that. Like, “I’ve seen Rich work forever and he's been grinding.” But you’re going to say some shit like, “You lucky”? Come on bro. You’re too old for that shit. But it's all love bro. It went No. 1.

Is rap competition good for hip-hop?
Yeah, for sure. People love that.

Obviously, Kendrick Lamar was on “New Freezer,” one of your biggest hits. What are your thoughts on the current rap competition going on between him and Drake?
Man, rap competition is back. Real rap is back and people love to see it. I see hip-hop heads like, “Real rap is back! Y'all cats got to get in the bars.” It's hard.

Does it make you want to jump in the ring and throw a jab for no reason?
I’d like to stay in my lane [Laughs]. I got a tunnel vision on exactly what I need to do. 

Early last year, you said that Rich Forever 5 was finished. Any release date in mind for it?
The project is done, man. We’re just setting everything up. Everything is about timing. I know people have been waiting on it and they're going to wait until it drops. Let me cook.

Do you have a release date in mind for Life’s a Gamble? 
Very, very soon. In the next two months.

What has been the best piece of advice or gem you’ve picked up from Ye as he’s executive produced the album?
Elevating the sound to the top of the top. It's got to be right, shit got to be perfect.

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