Rockie Fresh Opens Up About Signing With Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group alumni Rockie Fresh is destined for another plateau of rap greatness. In the midst of finishing up his upcoming mixtape, Electric Circus, Rockie signed his first major record deal with Rick Ross' Maybach Music group. The news shook up the blogosphere and gained Fresh a gang of new fans and believers. Days after he gave his John Handcock to MMG's paperwork, VIBE scooped him up again for an in-depth interview on his road to MMG.

VIBE: Congrats family!
Rocke Fresh: I appreciate y'all for supporting me, even before this went down; when I was out posting records and building my fan base. To see everybody believe, now I have something to be proud of. It's a real good time for me.

No doubt. Do you almost feel validated now for believing in your musical abilities even when no one else did?
Yeah, it feels like a little bit of weight has been lifted off my shoulders, but at the same time, it's one of those things where I was working out all of these record deals, basically since February, I've been taking meetings, and it was just one of those things in which I finally found a place where I was real comfortable with and that I knew I could flourish in, and for that there was a relief, and more of a relief than anything and that's what made it so special.

I know you said before you had major labels courting you. You had RCA, Columbia, Universal, even Puff and Bad Boy, were you close to going with any one of them prior to the whole MMG thing?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, all of them were good people. I had some really solid A&Rs that were courting me and showing me a lot of love, and Puff; he's a great dude, like I definitely see why he's still so respected in the industry. I was definitely close to making a couple of other moves, but this situation really felt like the best one for me. That's why I went with it.

From what we see on Twitter from Ross, he really seems to believe in your whole movement, and not just “Rockie Fresh, the new MMG rapper.”
Definitely. I mean, he really saw my vision. Just me being where I'm from, in Chicago, we're just now starting to get our brand back with a lot of things, you know with Lupe, and a lot of dudes coming up, labels are taking notice earlier. You know Chief Keef, he's young; he's like 17, 18; I'm 21; and so we're at a really young age, and people are just seeing it. Ross really believes I'm going to be a big player in this rap game for a long. I feel the same way. We connected on that.

Do you remember the first thing Ross said to you. What was that moment was like when you met him for the first time?
The first question he asked me was, ‘What's your story? What's your motivation?’ And then I kind of broke it down to him, and he took this pause, he paused...there was my story, and after he was like, ‘It's the same way for me man! You know what I'm saying...’ And I was like, ‘Aww, that's what's up!’ You know, me and Ross we just related and it was a real smooth conversation. We talked about the industry; we were talking about the success of Meek and was just dope. It was a real organic thing. I got to go to a couple of video shoots with him, and just really grew respect for him as a person more than anything. We just built from there.

In my opinion Ross doesn't try to stop what you're doing, but more or less lets you run with your own thing but also adds the Maybach flavor to to your music.
That's exactly what it is. Like Ross really respects my sound and respects Driving 88. He liked a lot of records that were out there and told me what he liked about those certain records, and it was giving me a platform for people to appreciate what I do on a higher level, and now I’m combining that with theMaybach sound. Right now, me, Wale, Ross, Stalley, and even Omarion, everybody's turning up and we're becoming that next label in the industry, and I wanted to be a part of something like that. And especially because knowing they appreciate what I do and aren't looking to change it.

Did Ross actually tell you what his favorite joint was from 88?
Oh yeah, definitely. He said his favorite was "Twenties.” He's a huge fan of that joint, and it surprised me because that's one of my favorite records off the tape, too. It really sums things up for me, so for him to appreciate the hunger from that record was dope for me.

I was going to say that song kind of goes with Ross' whole theme. I feel he's really out for longevity. It's about being “rich forever,” not just ‘let's just get it real quick.’
Exactly. And I guess that's just one of those things that we related on, and we really want this to be a long term thing. Like, I'm not looking to jump in and out of situations. I really want to make history here the same way Drake did with Young Money; the same way B.o.B. did with Grand Hustle; Kanye with Roc-A-Fella and so forth. I want that type of run, and we both feel like that was about to happen.

Honestly, I think an Omarion hook on a Rockie Fresh joint will take you to mainstream radio. He really surprised a lot of cats on Self Made 2. No one was expecting him to bring that project together.
He definitely did, and he even surprised me because I always knew that the dude was dope, but he really took it to another level and just showed that he's here to stay. He killed it.

Being that you’re also from Chicago. Have you had any interaction with Kanye and the G.O.O.D. Music Crew?
Nah, not him directly. But I’m pretty cool with Don C. And with Virgil who does a lot of Kanye’s creative direction. I’ve done a bunch of shows with Big Sean and I met Cudi. I always wanted everything to be organic so when I meet Kanye, even now, it’s going to be more respect versus if I met him earlier and tried to sell myself.

Who’s your dream producer collabo?
Its three dudes that I really, really want to work with. I got a lot of respect for a lot of the young producers now, but just me being someone who is new and trying to produce classic albums and knowing people that have done that. I really want to work with Timbaland, I feel like I could make some sick records with him. Also Pharrell just because I have that more mellow rap vibe and I feel like his production would really fit my flow well and also Kanye with him being from Chicago. I feel we could make a classic Chicago type of record.

Tell me about your first mixtape, Electric Highway, under the MMG umbrella.
Man, I recorded a bunch of songs for the mixtape already but just with the new situation that happened and the production resources that I’ll have, even the story that I can tell now, I’m going to, within the next weeks, really go back in and try to create some amazing new stuff that may wash out a lot of the old stuff that I recorded.

Even the title sounds more eclectic than something you’d hear from Maybach. Can you break it down for us?
My last mixtape was called Driving 88 and it was really explaining to my listeners in a long way that this is the speed that I’m moving at, and I’m comfortable with my pace. At the time I was an independent artist, and I was getting hit up by a lot of fans saying that they felt I was underrated or that I should’ve been signed and things like that. But I was comfortable with the pace that I was at, so that was Driving 88 pushing. Now, I’m moving into a different realm even before the Maybach situation went down I got blessed with the opportunity to headline my first tour. With that it’s just a different side, I’m on a different ramp on a different highway, but I’m still moving at the same speed and I want it to show that. That’s why I named it Electric Highway.

Well put, man. I’m sure your phone has been blowing up nonstop. Did Diddy reach out after the news broke of your signing?
He always showed love in the sense that I was honest with him in letting him know that Ross was interested in signing me, and with that being said, it was one of those things where he said he’d show love to me no matter what decision I made. I’m still going to hold him to that. I feel like things will still be smooth.

Is there one piece of advice that Puff gave you that sticks with you?
It was more so on a personal level, his respect for Driving 88 and the way that he broke down certain records out the tape too, made me respect him in a different way. With that, when I started to work more on Electric Highway, after meeting him, then that made me look at my records differently and have a better understanding of what I wanted to do. And I wouldn’t have had someone of that caliber break certain things down to me that made it special and help. So that was the cool part about Diddy conversations. He was a real explanatory dude and he went real in depth in explaining things and allowed me to see the records in a different light.

Honestly, what’s your favorite Ross song of all time?
That’s a tough one. Top 3, the first "Maybach Music" with Jay-Z, that record was insane. He had this freestyle, because I used to be super thirsty for Lil Wayne and Rick Ross releases and he released this freestyle called the "Teflon Don" freestyle and it got snatched off the internet, but I was able to get it because I was on it early, and we all listened to that like every day. That, and he got this other record called "Yacht Club" on Teflon Don. That joint is in-sane. The lyrics and the way he throws down stuff is cold.

One last thing, Ross said something about bringing Nipsey and Dom into the picture. Do you know if he’s still planning to sign them?
I never talked with him about that, but I wouldn’t be mad at that. I’m not too sure.

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Let Jacquees Tell It, He’s The Jodeci Of This R&B Game

Rodriquez Jacquees Broadnax doesn’t want to be the bad guy of R&B. He says this with a sinister, yet warm smile. With year-end debates taking over social circles, Jacquees wants all the flowers for his glowing debut, 4275. “I ain't never had a year like this, I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this,” he says, as he raises his iced out wrist to draw his progression. “It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.”

At 24 years old, the singer knows a thing or two about the ever-changing genre. Nearly half of his life has been dedicated to music, specifically to quiet storm-like sounds that now take on new meaning in our adult love lives. He’s hibernated under the radar for some time with his 2014 debut EP 19 and released gentle falsettos and big name features with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign and Trey Songz along the way.

But between his accolades, he’s been condemned for his favorable “Quemix” of Ella Mai’s “Trip” and now, his self-proclaimed status of “The King of R&B” for his generation.

"I just wanna let everybody know that I'm the king of R&B right now," Jacquees said in an Instagram post on Sunday (Dec. 9). "For this generation, I understand who done came and who done did that and that and that, but now it's my time. Jacquees, the king of R&B.”

R&B artists like J. Holiday and Pleasure P shared their two cents on the matter while the game’s most elite like Tank, Tyrese and Eric Bellinger dropping stacks of knowledge on the gift of consistency, respect, and talent. But Jacquees has these things and then some with legends like Jon B., Donell Jones and Jermaine Dupri in his corner. Despite quick reactions from his peers, Jacquees is confident in nature and proud of his space in the game.

“I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one,” he tells VIBE, just days before his “King of R&B” comments went viral. “You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees.”

Jacquees’ music is just a branch of what R&B has evolved into. Over the years, artists like SZA, H.E.R., Daniel Caesar, The Internet, Miguel and many more have flipped the genre on its head by churning out music that not only speaks to the soul, but to their vocal abilities. Successful R&B records aren’t confined to rap guest verses and traditional instruments now take center stage. But Jacquees sits in an interesting space seeing as his style caters to a grey area of folks who just heard their first Monica album yesterday and now appreciate a good nayhoo like the rest of us.

With hopes to release his sophomore album in February 2019, Jacquees chats with VIBE about his confidence, making 7275 and why he’s the perfect leader for R&B today.


What have you learned about yourself as a human and an artist in 2018?


quees: This was my biggest year. I made the most money I’ve ever made. I dropped my album and was able to take care of my family. I ain’t never had a year like this and I thank God for that. I got one of those careers and lives that keep going like this, (slowly raises a hand to the ceiling) It keeps going up, my sh*t just keeps going up.

I think I learned about my whole self in 2018. Being that it was my biggest year, I went through a lot of stuff personally, but I think the biggest thing for me was listening to other people but also trusting myself. I have a strong mind so more of listening to myself helped.

Do you think you're the good guy or the bad guy in R&B?

Who do you think I am?

I think you’re a sweetie.

I don’t wanna be the bad guy, I’m a good guy. I’m easy to deal with. I’m a sweetie, but ain’t sh*t sweet though. (Laughs)

You have a lot of ‘90s and 2000s influence in your music. Do you ever feel you might sound dated, or do you think you’re bringing new sounds into the genre?

I just think I'm bringing a whole new sound. When I was younger, someone told me if you switch up what you’re doing, someone else is going to do it and you’re going to be pissed off. Just stick with it. When I was 14, everyone was telling me I needed to make club records but I didn’t want to do it. I remember CEOs saying, “Just let Jacquees do that [what he wants,]” because it’s a clock.

I figured out how to get my records at the club without changing who I was. I remember making “B.E.D.” and finding my flow on my project 19, you know? That’s when I got my swag.

What does love look like to you right now?

I think about a family. I think about me, a girl, a kid or something, like a whole family. One day I’m going to have it. I’ll still be in the game but I’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my wife over there with our son and daughter.” I'm getting older, too. I’ve been in the game for 10 years for real, but I’ll be 25 next year and soon they’ll be a little Jacquees.

There are a lot of layers in today’s R&B, especially in the mainstream resurgence it’s had. In that, there aren’t as many young male black vocalists being pushed to the forefront. I want to know your thoughts on where you exist in the genre today.

I think there's a big wave coming back right now because even if R&B didn't die down they weren’t promoting it that heavy. Artists were making songs, they just weren’t being acknowledged on a mainstream level. I think the game is really putting R&B back on top. You know, you’ve got artists like me, Tory [Lanez], Ella Mai, H.E.R., so many people, you know what I’m saying? Of course, you had Chris [Brown], Trey [Songz], all of them but that’s when we were in school. It’s a new time, ain’t no big male R&B singers.

I think I'm the leader though, as far as males go, I think I'm the number one. You're talking about R&B young dudes who understand who goin’ [at] it, [but] who are they going to put in the front? I believe everyone will say Jacquees. They’re not rugged like me. You’ve got Jodeci and Boyz II Men. I’m Jodeci, they’re all Boyz II Men. I’m street, they’re not street like me. You can hear it in their voice. There’s a difference.

It’s no disrespect to nobody because they’re all my friends, but I still wanna be number one. If we’re playing the game and I lose, I’ll be mad as hell but I’m still a good person. I just want to win.

As you should. Everyone wants to make the best music they can–

But I ain’t no hater either. The game is like a sport. The game is like high school. I remember being at this year’s BET Awards and seeing certain singers and thinking, ‘Oh, they’re seniors.’ I knew I was a freshman, but I saw Meek and all of them thought, “He’s a senior.’ You know how it is when you walk through school in the first year. Then the second you’re like, “I’m the ni**a now.”

When I did the Soul Train Awards in November, I felt like a sophomore that everybody knew. They knew me from my freshman year, but this time I’m playing varsity.

You’ve said before you want to do this for a long time–

Yeah, I want to make music forever and it’s my choice. I want to make enough money for me to turn down shows because now, I have to take everything I get. I always tell artists, you got this much time to make this much money. Because after that, sh*t’s closed. I've seen it happen.

For me, I know I got longevity in this game because I'm an R&B singer and a lot of R&B singers have longevity if you take care of yourself, you know what I'm saying? Even rappers, you know what I'm saying? You keep that flow going, don't do no lame sh*t, you know you’re stick around.

How do you take care of yourself?

You gotta take care of your health. That's number one. Your mind and your health is your biggest thing. Keeping good people around you...stay in good spirits with me. I like to keep good people around me. I like people around me [who] make me laugh. Smile, I don't really like people around me that I got to be like, “What's going on?” I just like people who are themselves.

Stream 4275 below.

READ MORE: Tyrese, Usher And Others Reacts To Jacquees' Claim That He's The King Of R&B

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Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.


In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kris Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.


Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.


The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.


Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).


Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)


In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

READ MORE: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And Cardi B Lead 2019 Grammys Nominations


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