V Exclusive! Rockie Fresh Talks 'Electric Highway,' Crime In Chicago & Tapping Into Rock
Rockie Fresh is back and gearing up for what should be a breakout year for his career. Now, with Electric Highway—his first music project since signing with Maybach Music Group—the kid is ready for fans to get a better look into who he is as an artist & just how diverse his sound can get.
VIBE got a chance to speak with the Chicago-bred MC on the biggest changes in his music since dropping Driving 88 a year ago, his relationship with MMG, respect for alternative/rock music—and creating friendships with the likes of Good Charlotte & Patrick Stump of Fallout Boy—and drops some knowledge on the state of violence currently taking over the street in Chicago.
VIBE: Can you break down Electric Highway and how it relates to the whole entire project?
Rockie Fresh: Basically how I came up with Electric Highway is because it's this new thing that the government implemented in certain cities. It's like, if you have a smart car, you're able to charge it up on the side of the highway instead of having to go into a gas station or whatever. That’s really doesn’t apply to me cause I don’t really have a smart car or nothing, but I just like the futuristic feel of the title. It kind of symbolize the progression that I’m trying to have and just the constant movement of being on my own path & on my own road. The music that I make, the way I move, is tailored to the people that can get that kind of lifestyle and have the same aspirations as me. My last project was basically based off Back To The Future, titled Driving 88. With this one I wanted to add a futuristic vibe, but I wanted it to be more influenced by my life versus it being taken directly from a movie. When I came up with the title, I wanted it to be something that I can create out of a new space versus it being based from something that I already shot.
Speaking of Driving 88, it's been a whole year since you dropped that project. Where's your mind state at musically compared to last year?
Musically, my mindset has come a lot more mature. I have a lot more time to work on music. Since I got my deal, this is definitely my full-time job versus something that I’m just trying to do. It went from me having three hour sessions, two days a week, to me being in the studio for 24 hours everyday & really building records. With the increase of my fan base, I understand how important my voice is. I’m going in there now with a mindset of really trying to reach people and set some guidelines for other young people, relate to some of the old heads, and also be a source of inspiration for people to reach their dreams and goals. That’s kind of the mindset that’s is coming out of now versus me being super hungry to get on.
By the way, congratulations on signing to MMG. What’s the biggest difference between being a solo artist & doing things your own way compared to being a team player on the Maybach squad?
I think what makes MMG such a dope team is the fact that [Rick] Ross really lets people do their own thing. He don’t really try and force us to do anything that’s not natural to us as men. I think that’s what makes music even what it is—when you can be a hundred. Take people like Eminem: they was rapping about stuff that was obviously not quote-on-quote socially acceptable at the time, but because it was so real tons of people were able to be moved by it. I think that’s kind of the formula for MMG is, allowing us to be us. Who it reaches is just who it reaches. As a team, we can share those fan bases and really connect to the whole world. Meek [Mill], he raps totally different than me—and same thing with Ross. But now, their listeners are able to get my message and my fans look into their directions more too. It kind of make everything smooth.
Have they influenced you rap style at all?
Um, in a way—Ross in specific. The way that he explains stuff and paints a picture, when he raps you can really see what he's talking about. That come with experience and actually living. The more that I get to see, the more I am able to explain it in a way my listeners can visualize the same thing. That something that I learned from Ross, even before I met him—just me being a fan of his music. I liked the way that he really painted the picture, whether it was on a boss level or whether it was on a street level. For me, my approach is a little different, but at the same time I want people to see it the same way. He definitely inspires me, even now.
Thinking about your entire catalogue, and the fact that this is your first project after being signed to MMG, how important is this mixtape on a musical scale?
It’s super Important to me because I have a lot of fans under the radar that supported me to get to this point. I did three tours before I signed with MMG and just different things like that. My fan base was always different—it was always a little bit left. They've support me to this point, and with that they kind of live through my situation in a way. The more that I progress, I feel like that motivates whoever's in tune with me to continue to do the same thing. With this project being the short term peak of what people see thus far with me, its just important to really explain this timeframe and how I got there in a way so other people can know what they got to go through to get to the same spot.
Let's jump into another musical genre for a minute—one that you're familiar with. I read that you’re good friends with Good Charlotte & Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. Can we expect to hear that alternative sound on future projects?
Oh yeah, definitely. The difference, even with Electric Highway, is that you're hearing my direct perspective on that [rock] sound. It’s not based off a feature, but more-so based off of musically where I saw myself going in that type of lane. Those dudes definitely influenced me a lot. You can look at their sales & see that type of music that they make definitely had a stronger impact than the average rap record. It’s the raw content, what they’re singing about, and the melodies they’re using. As a rapper, I have the ability to do that no matter what people expect me to do—regardless of if people don’t expect me to sing or not as a male. That’s something I am comfortable with doing. On this project, I really wanted to show people that I wasn’t afraid to go to that alternative level on my own. I don’t need no feature to get me to do that. You're definitely going to hear that on Electric Highway.
Dope. Now, you're from Chicago. We've recently been hearing so much about the violence happening in the streets over there. To be honest, it's not really new either. How do you feel the city can change in order to get better?
I feel like people got to give it time. A lot of this is contributed to teenagers. We just don’t know no better. I’m not a teenager anymore, but I know teenagers in Chicago. A lot of them just don’t know any better and they don’t have the right forms of leadership—not even with the generations that came before us. Artists like Jay-Z and Nas really showed both sides and really gave these hustlers the real full story of what could happen. The problem with Chicago is that we expecting 18 and 19-year-old to give this elaborate escape from this lifestyle and they haven’t had a full year to necessarily figure it out. I feel like it’s a thing with time. It’s also bigger than rap music. At the end of the day, there’s still a government in America. If they really want to stop this stuff, they have the ability to do that—whether it’s putting the National Guard in the city or whatever. It’s really on them to figure out what needs to be done to calm that down. For me, personally, I just want to make music that gives people a relief from that and that’s not talking about that kind of stuff. You don’t even get into that kind of mindset [with my music]. When you listen to my records, that’s my contribution to leading by example.
Do you have any kind of crazy Chicago story that you been through or experienced?
One thing that's even contributed to my buzz in Chicago is being able to move smoothly [without controversy]. I ain’t trying to rub nobody the wrong way. When I've been rubbed the wrong way, I try to always handle it the coolest way that I can, and that’s confronting somebody. I don’t get into Twitter beefs and texting people all wild. If I have a issue with someone, I call them directly or I’m going to see the person. It ain’t even on some fighting stuff. It’s always about working it out. That’s how I always moved in Chicago. I don’t really have that many beefs. It may be a few people that don’t like me, but it can only go so far because I’m good in most of the areas. It’s cool.
What do you want people to take from Electric Highway, from an artist standpoint, the overall message you're conveying, or anything little details?
There’s two things: First, with the message, I want people to be motivated you know what I’m saying to go head and achieve their dreams. I really believe that, even beyond talent, with hard work you can really get to wherever you want to in life. It just takes a longer time when you’re less talented, but if you're willing to put in the work you can do anything. I feel like my career is a testament to that because when I put out Driving 88—and even when I out The Otherside—nobody would have thought I would sign to MMG or even have the options. I think that’s something people forget to. Diddy was involved with trying to sign me, as well as the same thing with Universal [Records] and other majors labels. For me to have those options, it wasn’t just because I’m a talented kid. I was really putting in the work. That’s not a cocky side, that’s just the truth. That’s how I want my fans to be able to live their life. I’m sure there’s somebody listening to me that think he can get to the league—and that’s possible if he's really putting in all day, 24 hours hooping. Musically, I just want people to have a different experience. I took a lot of risk on this project, did a lot of things that you wouldn’t expect a MMG artist to do on a mixtape. With that risk-taking, I just really want people to catch a different vibe.
I don’t want people to hear the same story that they been hearing from everybody else when they listen to my music. It's just about respecting that difference and really being motivated to work for it all. That’s the whole purpose.