My interview with 21-year old Chicago emcee Rockie Fresh was supposed to take place sooner , but we were unable to connect. The silver lining in the delay though was that I was able to absorb all three of his mix-tapes. And as an appreciator of lyricism, I became more excited than ever to hear from the man when I heard him rhyme, “Okay they thought that I would fail, they only see me making it/ Even when I chill, I’m getting more dough than they can get/ Yeah, I’m in the game but, I don’t really play for shit/ Kwame Brown money n****s saying, ‘I get paid to sit’.”
Sometimes things happen for a reason.
Finally, after weeks of conflicting schedules, the man born Donald Pullen responds and sheds some light on, among other things, his quick ascent in hip-hop, creating his latest mix-tape, Driving 88, and how Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown’s DeLorean is a metaphor for success.
SHAD You’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time. What do you think you’ve done differently than your contemporaries?
ROCKIE FRESH I’ve always looked outside of the rap genre and tried to stay ahead of the curve. Growing up in the inner-city and then moving to the suburbs, I was exposed to many different genres of music and I think that’s reflected in my music.
According to the biography on your official site, you took the stage for the first time at your release show for Rockie’s Modern Life. How did you prepare for that performance? I was nervous. I just kept practicing and practicing and practicing. When the time came though, and the venue ended up being sold it out, it turned out cool and was easier then I had imagined.
How did your connection with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump come about? He found out about my second mix-tape, The Otherside, and reached out to me via twitter when I was in LA. We got in the studio together during that trip, and we’ve been cool ever since. Then when he went on tour, he wanted to bring me with.
Driving 88 is your third mix-tape. How has the process differed each time the you put together a new collection of material? The first two projects were made entirely while I was living in Chicago on a smaller budget, so the influence of the location they were made in definitely changed the sound from project to project. I made Driving 88 as I was traveling city to city during tours, and because of that I think it has a more seasoned sound and is probably my most mature project to date.
I was very intrigued by the Back to the Future theme on Driving 88. What inspired that? I was a big fan of the movie growing up so that’s initially what caught my attention. Then after watching the film so many times it eventually took a deeper meaning to me. The car had to reach a certain speed before it could successfully time travel, and that’s what this project was to me. It was the project that I felt I had to really execute on and hit top speed on to see out my success.
Do you have a favorite track on Driving 88? If so, why did you select that one? Honestly, I didn’t have a favorite track. Each track played it’s own part in making the mix-tape what it was. I like to let fan feedback dictate what are the best tracks on a project, and every time we make one we usually are surprised by how many different favorites people have.
What can fans of Rockie Fresh expect from you in the near future? What are your professional goals as an emcee for the year 2012? My fans can expect a lot of musical growth. More music, more videos, more tour dates. I’m just trying to get money and stay alive. You will definitely be hearing more from me.
Common, Twista, Do Or Die, Kanye West-what are your thoughts on Chicago hip-hop? What do you see your greatest contribution being to it? Chicago has been home to a lot of great artists and it’s still continuing to grow. My greatest contribution is going to be my originality and that I’m the only one from the South Suburbs. I hope to follow in the footsteps of the greats but to do it in entirely my own unique way.
Words: Shad Reed [SReed0508@gmail.com, @Shad1424]
Photo: courtesy of Shavana Meresha
Download link to Driving 88: via www.rockiefresh.com [@rockiefresh]