With his solo career, Rocko scored one of the biggest hits of the last decade with “Umma Do Me.” In more recent times, the aptly titled street preacher has been hard at work once again flexing his A & R muscle as one of the driving forces behind Rap phenon, Future and the “Tony Montana” craze that we witnessed. His 4th quarter 2011 mixtape, Gift of Gab was precisely the warm-up needed for the assault on the industry forthcoming for 2012. From the street game, to music, Rocko has stayed true to himself and what he stands for. The grind is not always easy, and success is not guaranteed. One thing is for certain though, you will get out of life what you put in. Parlé with me as I kick it with Atlanta Rapper, Rocko as he dishes on his rise.
QUALITY STREET MUSIC, I’ll let you take a moment to soak up that statement and then I ask, does it really have a definition? We all have our favorite artists who we feel represent something that a large number of people can identify with. I find myself applauding those who can take everyday situations and put it in a rhythmic form, and lay it to a beat. A true artform. I guess intertwined with other reasons, that would be the exact provocation of my love for Hip-Hop. Meet one of the innovators of “Swag Rap.” Unknowingly, Rodney “Rocko” Hill had a hand in ushering a new genre of Hip-Hop, which has dominated the air waves for the past 5 years or so. The Atlanta native was just putting some of his talents to use, being who is, and the vibe became infectious. From the trap to rap, this ambitious brother took some of his best qualities and laid the foundation for one of the most successful movements in recent history. His role in the development of careers like ‘snap’ music sensations Dem Franchize Boyz on to the shoulder leanin’ Young Dro, have made him a household name amongst industry insiders.
Parlé: At which point in life would you say you felt inspired to transition from your prior endeavors to music?
Rocko: I would have to say when I began to see alot of my homies going down the path of prison, and a lot of them dying. At that point I told myself that I was not gonna go that route. I remember my granddad telling me that I was gonna be a statistic at the rate I was going, and I didn’t want that so I had to make a decision to do something better with myself.
Parlé: I understand you jumped into the business on the entrepeneurial side first, correct? Would you say it was hard to leave the block to do music, which seemingly is a 1-in-a-million risk at success?
Rocko: Thats true. The funny thing is a lot of people that I love and who are very dear to me would warn me against getting into music. They would always say that they knew a lot of people that took loses in the music game; they had known of people who lost their life savings taking a gamble on the industry. One thing about me though is I am a person who does not like to be told that I can’t do something. I wont settle for that. If you tell me I can’t, I’m gonna work that much harder to prove you wrong.
What they told me became my fuel, so with that I hit the yard and went hard. I became a heavy reader, and did my homework on the business. I incorporated literature into my day and stayed in the books. Also, I relied on faith. Music is much like anything else, its about trial and error, so with that being said I got into the field and worked, learning from mistakes and experiences.
Parlé: What do you think was your niche or a quality that you possessed which was instrumental in your early success in the business?
Rocko: Well as you know I got in on the executive side, and worked with a lot of different artists, taking part in the development of their careers and such. I think for me what helped me most was the fact that I am a good judge of character. I take the initiative to invest my time. I am a true believer in the people that I work with, and surround myself with. Anyone that I put that time into is talented in their own right, I become the person who pushes them. In life we all need a push at times. That’s been my niche. When I meet a person, first thing I do is look them in the eye.
When we begin our business, the aim becomes to help that person take their talent to the next level. In life, everyone you come across is for a reason, or a season. I see things in people they might have not seen in themself, and I encourage them.
Parlé: When would you say the idea came along to step from behind the desk, and jump on the mic?
Rocko: Well it came to a certain point where I couldn’t really find any artist that I wanted to work with or invest my money in. Young Dro, if you remember was down with me, and he was having his legal troubles. That was a road block, so I had to go another route. At the time I would go out in my city, Atlanta that is, to all the parties. This is when Puff and Akon would have the city jumping. I would make it my business to have the livest section in the club. My partner at the time who would roll out with me, one night he said to me “I’m tired of going to the club and getting turned up to other’s peoples music. Rather be turned up on our own.” That gave me an idea, so I hit the studio and was toying with a couple ideas and came up with ‘Umma Do Me.” The song became major as you know and before I knew it, the DJs was getting their hands on the record, its like I was forced to keep making music.
Parlé: Following Swag Season, you had a lot of offers, what was the deciding factor in you settling on Def Jam and running with the late Shakir Stewart?
Rocko: Shakir always really believed in me and the project but I had a lot of other deals being offered. At the time he was working with Ross and Jeezy and a lot of people felt like I was in their lane. I was actually getting offers from a lot of majors at the time, we’re talking Capitol, Universal, Interscope, I was about to do the deal with Interscope, there was just a couple of small details to work out. That’s the type of person I am, if I feel strongly about something I’m gonna stand up for it. In the midst of that Shakir called me and said I should take a meeting with Def Jam. I was hesitant but next thing I knew I was in the office with L.A. Reid. L.A. Reid locked me in the office after I told him about some of the other plans I had and offers on the table. For me the most important thing was that I looked around the office and everyone looked like me, so I felt like I would be understood and it would be the perfect match. L.A. is a music, guy, Shakir understood street music. It turned out great, and the rest is history.
Parlé: You had a hand in pushing swag rap to the forefront, What would you say to those people that feel like artists such as yourself and 2 Chainz are just SWAG RAPPERS and aren’t lyrical?
Rocko: I would say to each his own. Everyone has an opinion, but at the end of the day I never came out and said I was the dopest artist, or most lyrical. I Do what I do, and thats where “Umma Do Me” comes from. All my music has had substance as well, so it’s more than just swagging out. I used the word a couple of times, and people picked up on it, but when you really understand you will know that the message and content has ALWAYS been there. Check my catalog: “This Morning” is inspirational. And behind it the meaning lets people know that regardless of your situation if you woke up this morning you have breath in your lungs and the opportunity to make it to wherever you want to. “Tomorrow” Reminds you to not procrastinate. Tomorrow is not promised, live for today and if tomorrow comes live better than you did yesterday. There’s messages in all the records, you gotta decode it.
I’ve heard it said that I am a street teacher, a motivational speaker, all sorts of things and its all compliment, but one thing you haven’t heard is me say I’m the dopest MC. And as far as 2 Chainz, I dont feel like me and him are in the same lane, salute to what he doing, but its 2 different genres of music.
Parlé: Lets fast forward a little bit and talk about You and Future; How did you guys connect and go on to making these major moves we all have been witnessing?
Rocko: Well if you go back, you can see that Future has always been there. Thats my brother! All the videos you’ve seen before the Def Jam and all, he’s been right there so this isn’t anything new. Future is doing the damn thing now. And I always knew it. Future was groomed for this success. When I took that meeting with L.A. Reid, I brought Future with me cause I wanted him to see all this first hand, cause I knew he would be back doing it himself real soon.
I met Future a while back and he was always out and about doing his thing. We sat down around about 2010 and started from scratch, we put together A1 cause the goal was to be first at everything. When you think about it A is the first letter, and 1 comes before everything else. Thats the Motto.
Parlé: So whats up next for Rocko, what you got coming in 2012?
Rocko: Well you know the album One of One will be out in August so look for that. In the meantime I’m about to drop a new mixtape Seeing is Believing this Spring. Future’s debut album Pluto is coming April on Epic. Then together we got a mixtape La Familia. Overall we trying to stay busy and stay consistent with this QUALITY STREET MUSIC
I read something the other day on one of the blogs and they mentioned the Gift of Gab Mixtape that I dropped end of 2011, and how they were surprised. They spoke about really liking what we got going on with the whole A1 movement; said it reminded them of Cash Money before it went International. That in itself is a huge compliment, and it motivated us to keep making it happen.
Photo Credit: Joi Pearson Photography