Roddy Ricch is staring at a wall across the room.

Holed up in the back corner of a quiet chicken and waffles spot in lower Manhattan, he repositions himself on a small wooden chair and fights back a yawn. Even in the mundane surroundings of this chain restaurant, though, he carefully analyzes his environment and files away observations in his head.

“Sitting at this restaurant, I might see a pan on the wall right there,” he says, pointing at a cast-iron skillet that’s hanging over a table on the other side of the room. “That pan may symbolize something for me. And I’ll make a song about how, metaphorically, life is heating up like a pot. Or some shit about how you’re on fire and water’s getting to boiling.”

Born Rodrick Wayne Moore, Jr., Roddy Ricch has spent his whole life paying close attention to everything happening around him. Since adolescence, the 21-year-old Compton rapper has been pulling on these experiences to write strikingly honest songs about street life. His first major breakthrough on a national level came with 2018’s Feed Tha Streets II mixtape standout, “Die Young,” a song about street violence written on the night of XXXTentacion's murder. In January 2019, Roddy followed that up with an appearance on close friend and mentor Nipsey Hussle’s final single, “Racks in the Middle,” which earned him multiple Grammy nominations. A few months later, the young rapper’s soulful vocals laid the foundation for Mustard’s Grammy-nominated “Ballin,” crowned the best song of 2019 by Complex.

On this rainy December afternoon, Roddy Ricch is just three days removed from the release of his chart-topping debut album, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, and his phone has been lighting up with messages of congratulations all weekend. One comes from LeBron James, another from Young Thug. Roddy takes it all in stride, but he cops to being surprised by a co-sign from Rihanna, who recorded a video of herself dancing to “Out Tha Mud,” which he says will appear on a deluxe version of the album that he’s “about to drop.” Pulling up the clip of Rihanna on his phone, he laughs, “I was really tripping out about this shit.”