Rocko has never been one to play follow the leader. Four years after dropping Self Made, the Atlanta native continues to carve his own path. As CEO of A1 Recordings, he is the man behind the success of rapper, Future, and has plans to drop a new mixtape, a new album, and is currently penning a book named after his 2011 mixtape, Gift of Gab. VIBE recently caught up with the “Going Steady” artist to talk new projects, his innovation behind the word, “swag”, and Future’s success. –Tyler McDermott
VIBE: It’s been four years since Self Made, but your hustle is still alive. What has kept you motivated for all these years?
Rocko: The love I get from my fans. When I see them out and about, they tell me who they live by my music, they love my music, they’re waking up every day, every morning to my music, and they’re going to sleep at night to my music. I think that’s the fuel to my fire.
According to your bio, you never intended to step behind the mic in the first place. Though you’ve achieved success as an artist and as CEO of A1 Recordings, do you prefer the business side or the performance side of the music industry?
I prefer the business side. I always wanted to be behind the scenes making things happen. Turning nothing into something has always been my passion. The love that I get from being an artist and by just being myself is priceless. You can’t really put a price on that because there are so many rappers and artists out here that’s just trying to do things and be something they’re not, so for people to appreciate my honesty, sincerity, and take it and run with it, I love it. Initially, I just wanted to be behind the scenes, but after having success with records, mixtapes, and developing a core audience that loves me, I’d have to say I’m torn right now.
What sets you apart from other artists who are out here in hip-hop currently?
My sincerity, just by being a real person and my fans know that. The person they perceive me as, that’s me. They know that’s me. They know I’m not going to sugar coat it. They know I’m going to tell it how it is. If there’s something that broke my heart, I’m going to tell you straight up that broke my heart. If I feel good, I’m going to tell you I feel good. I’m going to tell you that you should be ambitious that you should be better than what you are. I’m going to inspire and motivate you with my lyrics. It’s going to be coming from a street perspective because I’m a street guy. But, you can listen to it and you can take what you want away from it and apply it to your life. That’s what separates me from a lot of these artists out here. They’re going into the studio to make hit records and I don’t do that. I don’t go into the studio saying, “I’m going to make a hit today.” I go into the studio and I record what I’m feeling. The streets gravitate towards that and they make them hit records because they can relate to them.
Do you feel pressure to change?
I never follow the trend. I’ve always set it. My grandmother always used to say, “Boy, you gotta raise the bar!” It was joke. I might be on the phone with her and the phone would cut off and she’d say, “Boy, you gotta raise the bar!” But, I took it heart. She was saying it as in I need to get a better phone service, but I took it as something else, so I went in and raised the bar. I challenge myself, by changing my rap patterns and changing my wordplay. It’s something people might not catch on to after three or four years. There are thing I said in my first album that people are just now catching on to. I try to set the trend, rather than follow it. I came with swag, then next thing you know, everyone came with swag.
When you first dropped, your flow was labeled as “swag rap”, how does it feel to see the idea of “swag” so prevalent in rap today?
It makes me feel good. T.I.P and I was just in the studio a couple of weeks ago and he said “Man, you should do a song called ‘Turn Up’. That’s your slag.” Yeah I came with it and everyone ran with it, but I take it as flattery. I’m flattered by it. Now, it’s time to come up with new slang for them to come up with.
You released your mixtape, Gift of Gab back in November, and in the Intro, you defined the meaning behind the title of your mixtape. But, for those who do not know, what’s the philosophy behind Gift of Gab?
Words are powerful things. You can change lives just from the words you use. Gift of Gab is basically having a way with your words, through the way you talk and the way you express what you’re feeling through your words. I just wanted to express that. I have records such as “Balance it Out”, that I know people can relate to because if you a human being, you’re dealing with the same issues. Regardless of your personal situation, you have to find some way to balance it out so things run smoothly. I did a record called “The Choice is Yours.” One bad choice could affect your entire life for the worse or for the better, so you have to be conscious of the choice you’re making. I can go on and on because all these songs mean something. The Gift of Gab, to me is just having a way with words. I’m using the words and applying them in a way that you can understand it better. That’s what I’m trying to bring the forefront with the Gift of Gab.