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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.

You can stream/download Electric Highway by clicking [HERE].

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Back Like He Never Left: J. Cole Drops New Song "Middle Child"

After posting pictures of famous middle children throughout media history (like Michael Jordan, Britney Spears and Lisa Simpson to name a few), J. Cole dropped his latest song "Middle Child" on streaming services on Wednesday (Jan. 23).

The over three-minute song was produced by T-Minus, who previously linked up with the KOD rapper on the songs "Kevin's Heart" and 6LACK's "Pretty Little Fears." Those who attended the high-profile Dreamville Sessions got to hear the new song before the public, including producer Illmind, who wrote "U know what? I don’t even have words...I’ll just leave this here," with the mind-blown emoji to end off his tweet.

Heard “MIDDLE CHILD” at the Dreamville sessions and trust when I say..........

U know what? I don’t even have words...

I’ll just leave this here -> 🤯

— !llmindPutTheLoopOn (@illmindPRODUCER) January 22, 2019

The track features trumpets in the production, and features the North Carolinian spitting lessons to the younger set of MCs as well as some choice words for the older rappers in the game. While he may not be the middle child in his family, the term "middle child" here appears to be a metaphor.

"To act like two legends cannot coexist, But I never beef with a ni**a for nothin'," he raps. "...If I smoke a rapper, it's gon' be legit, It won't be for clout, it won't be for fame..."

What do you think about the new track? Let us know in the comments after listening to the song below.

pic.twitter.com/fmDiHYC2ff

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

🐐 MIDDLE pic.twitter.com/8GNUDbQJZE

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

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10s, 10s, 10s: Teyana Taylor Gives Us Life In Her "WTP" Visual

Teyana Taylor’s long-awaited video for “WTP” has finally been released.

The video, which features inspiration from the cult-classic documentary Paris Is Burning and ballroom culture as a whole, follows members of different Houses headed out to a ball. Teyana, who is from the “House Of Petunia,” appears to be in distress as she tries to figure out why she’s not invited to get 10s across the board with the other Vogue houses. However, thanks to her “fairy c**t motha" and some serious Cinderella vibes, Teyana is whisked away to to the ball, where she performs for the crowd. The video features appearances by Lena Waithe as well as Taylor’s husband, basketball player Iman Shumpert.

The eight-minute long visual was directed by Taylor, Gregory Jones, and was produced by The Auntie Production. On Twitter earlier this week, Taylor wrote of her issues with her label Def Jam delaying the release of the visuals. Originally, the video was slated to drop on Jan. 19.

“My [Instagram] page is gone because I’m upset at @defjam for not dropping my damn “WTP” video on time, per usual,” she wrote.

We’re glad the video is finally out, and fans of the KTSE musician are singing the video's praises on social media. What do you think? Check out the video above and let us know.

I’ll tell you why you’re GAGGING.💅🏾 WTP MINI MOVIE 3PM #WheredSheGo pic.twitter.com/uZclYhed1c

— TEYANA M.J. SHUMPERT (@TEYANATAYLOR) January 23, 2019

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Courtesy of Project Girls Club

D. Woods And Shanell Share Details Behind Project Girls Club: Exclusive

There's power in numbers, especially when it comes to black women. YMCMB songstress Shanell, former Danity Kane star D. Woods, Princess of Crime Mob and platinum-selling songwriter Mika Means have merged their talents together to form Project Girls Club, a group that not only boasts big female energy but also a sisterhood like no other.

The ladies' first single "Run Up" is all about the girl power while playing with boastful 808s. The video does the same with the ladies turning up industrial style as their colorful personalities bursts out on every verse.

The group's origins were planted in Atlanta over a decade ago with the women acting as supportive cheerleaders as they moved in their previous groups. After moving on to solo endeavors, the ladies decided to add a music component to the group which also includes mentorship of young girls.

Speaking to VIBE Tuesday (Jan. 22), Shanell and D.Woods, the sisters of the group, shared the creative process behind the first single.

"We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first."

The ladies know a little something about girl groups. At the start of their careers, three of them were apart of the biggest groups in hip-hop and R&B. Shanell was the sole female vocalist in Lil Wayne's Young Money group comprised of Nicki Minaj and Drake, D. Woods was famously in the platinum-selling girl group Danity Kane while as a teenager, Princess was apart of Atlanta's Crime Mob.

The ladies plan to hit the ground running with more new music and their upcoming album this year.

Check out the rest of the interview below.

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I love the fact that "Run Up" is a confident track as opposed to a love song. Was that a conscientious decision to make the first single more braggy than a love ballad?

D Woods: I think that is just how we are as people. We didn't really have to think about it or make any type of strategic decision of what kind of subject matter. It just came out of how we really talk in every day in conversation.

Shanell: We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first.

If you could label each woman as a superhero who would be what?

Shanel: I can kind of give you the personalities of each one of us. Like Minka is the party girl, myself, I am like more of like, "Here is the plan," D keeps everybody organized and on task. Princess is our hood spiritual advisor. She's gonna give us a crystal and try and throw you a shot of jack at the same time.

So how did this group come together?

Shanel: We created Project Girls Club years ago with myself D, and Mika. We were all doing shows and mobs of guys would be on stage and there wasn't enough feminine energy.

So we were like, "Let's band together and do all of our shows together. So when you have a show we are gonna come out on stage; if I have a show you're gonna come and support me," so we kind of built it like that.

Then everybody got their deal and started getting pulled away from doing stuff together so much, me signing to Young Money, D being with Danity Kane and Mika doing her solo project, it was hard for us to keep doing stuff together but now, we're wiser and we're experienced

What would you say is the biggest difference between this and other girl groups?

D Woods: For me personally, these are people that I've chosen to work with instead of being put together with that I didn't know. That's the biggest difference. Shanel of course, is my blood sister and Meeka we've known each other since high school, and Princess, we know we cross paths so many different times in the Atlanta music industry so this is like we're coming together because we want to (laughs). That's the difference between me and anyone else's group experience. I was put in a group with people I didn't know and had nothing in common with before–

Shanel: And they were pitted against each other.

D Woods: We were pitted against each other and then put into a group to act like we're all on the same page. Even during the time I was in Danity Kane, there was Project Girls Club. I wanted to include my group into that but we weren't on the same page.

This is a lot being on the same page because we want to be on the same page and seeing the benefits of being on the same page. A lot of times in groups, people are competing against each other and are pushing out one leader and everyone else has to be background singers or just the backup to that person's vision. With this group, we have a hard time explaining that because we see groups, especially those with females, it's like "Who's the leader? What's the look?"

Everyone in Project Girls Group has their own vibe and we don't make anyone else have to be on everyone else's vibe. We celebrate each other's vibe (laughs). I'm not going to make my dream be your dream. Let's figure how to coexist these dreams and push them to the next level.

Shanell: For me, being a part of Young Money it was mostly men. I had Nikki [Minaj] for a while but then she went and did her own thing. It was a lot of creative things I wanted to but there was no female energy. I felt like I was the black sheep. Everyone was super rap and I was doing rock and R&B so I just want to build a place where all of those parts of me can shine. We've all thrived, we've all seen success and we all get it. This is like a more comfortable, a better space for me to tap into every stream of talent I have.

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming album?

Shanel: That's our timeline so we have to set our set dates so that we work toward those dates the project is going to have our plan is to feature as many female artists as we can and leave enough room for us to be on the records.

Shawna reached out and was like, "I want to be a part of this." Sharaya J who was on The Four wants to be a part. We are going to feature a lot of black women in the game and some new girls and just make it a party, make it fun.

D. Woods: Right now we just see black women fighting on TV and talking about taking each other's men and bend it over, pop it open, buss it open for these real ni**as like okay well we are going to be that other thing, that fun thing.

Do you think that because all four of you have these massive hits in your catalogs already that you will revamp those to fit within the group that you are doing now?

D Woods: I mean, that's an idea. I mean we still perform some of those songs for the audience for the audience that is there that is like can we hear something from Young Money and Danity Kane and Crime Mob, like we tap in and give them a little bit of where we came from but right now my focus is in creating this new sound, this new feel, this new vibe, this new culture of women who aren't afraid of each other, who uplift each other, who congratulate each other. What we are hearing and seeing now.

Lastly, what have learned about each other and the process of Project Girls Club?

Shanel: That is a special thing. Of course, we are positive thinkers, we move positively but being that we are all from different walks of life, different experiences, just learning each other's strengths and weaknesses.

When you say women working together it's easier said than done, just people working together is easier said than done so we have to constantly know that that is what we stand for so when we are challenged.

We argue, we bicker and get upset about certain things but it's like okay so we are learning ourselves how sometimes you just gotta figure out how to make it work and understand somebody else's point of view or show them something they don't know and learn something they can teach you. There has been crying, there has been fighting there have been happy days of celebration but it's all apart of this journey.

D. Woods: I joke and say I know everything because she is my sister but you know when you are around people and have known people for as long as we have known each other you tend to generalize people because you are too close to them you can't see the trees through the forest.

In this new stage of Project Girls Club and us having come back together after we have gone out into the world and fought our own battles, we have relearned each other's passions again and then relearned each other's talents and seeing each other's hearts.

We are here to support each other's vision and execute it together so we are learning each other's hearts again and making each other's dreams come true.

Check out the video above and stream "Run Up" by Project Girls Club below.

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