Interview: The Politics Of Being Yourself, Explained By Royce Rizzy
As Royce Rizzy sits in the VIBE's New York office a few hours before his performance in Brooklyn, he’s very reflective. After all, at the time of our interview, it's Friday the 13th, so it's only right. “I've been doing this for so long, people are just now hearing,” he says. “I've been on this long journey to end up having my own label and teaming up with artists who actually have their own freedom.”
For years, Robert Davis (known to many in the rap circuit as Royce Rizzy, formerly Rolls Royce Rizzy) has released music that’s essentially told the stories of his 25 years on Mother Earth. Some tracks are all about the party (“Hoe In You,” “Private Club Party”) and others are close to the soul (“12-1-90,” “Had To”). Touring off the release of his mixtape Pre Rolled 2, the Cali-born rapper is enjoying working with his Private Club signees, who happen to be his close friends. Rizzy’s career began six years ago and took off in 2013 with the help of a few co-signs from Jermaine Dupri and Lil Scrappy. Riding the wave of successful singles like “Gah Damn,” Royce’s former deal with Dupri allowed him to live the life of a mainstream rapper with indie flavorful tracks.
It’s part of the reason Rizzy chose to perform in smaller venues this time around with Private Club signees MyNamePhin, Noah Wood$ and popular standout and little brother, Madeintyo. The all-ages tour is a mirror image of Rizzy: kids who want to blow down while turning up to spacey trap music. Now that he’s taken control of his career, the rapper is unable to drown in his co-signs. “I was so hungry for music that I would do anything,” he says about his heavy collaborations, a move that left him with little to no sense of his artistic identity. “If Jeezy wanted to do a record, I would do it. If Trey Songz wanted to do something, I'd hop on it. I made a list the other day of people I did records with that were established and I have over 35 records.”
Now that he’s managing a roster of different acts, Rizzy understands the importance of remaining true to himself and not to the game. “I put on my executive hat more,” he said. “It's not a bad thing, it's more of a blessing. I think half of the game is understanding.” On Pre Rolled 2, tracks like “Had To” and free “Free Won” feel more organic with odes to his family and the days of selling records out his car. The track “12-1-90,” which references his born day, is also a reminder of where he’s been and where he wants to go. With many lessons on his back, Rizzy chats with VIBE about how Private Club came to be, why Madeintyo has more to offer than just another “Uber Everywhere” track and more.
VIBE: How did the first show in New Jersey go?
Royce Rizzy: It was really lit. I've performed in Jersey in the past, like in my past life I feel. [Laughs] Before Private Club days, but this one was like a different vibe.
What made it so different?
I mean, last time I think I did an arena like I was doing some big sh*t. I was with Usher so it was on some other sh*t. Like doing your own show versus going with someone to an epic arena is just different. I did a lot of big sh*t before, Madison Square Garden before we were pushing out our own independent wave. It was all when I was just running with my old manager and Jermaine Dupri. Now, it's like our own wave. So just doing everything like from the ground up. More intimate crowds and sh*t like that.
That's always good. What are you hoping to accomplish with this tour? What are you expecting out of it?
To see the people. That's it. I put the music out and people are responding to it. The views are big and everything is going well. People who are fans of your music will always find ways to come out. There was a girl last night that knew every word. There's one thing to see a person [online] and another thing to actually see their energy at a show. It makes me a bigger fan of it.
That's true. If you weren’t familiar with your sound, you would just assume it's all trap music. But when you listened to Pre Rolled 2, it's very special. You have songs on there like “Free Won”...
Yea, that's my cousin who's locked up.
That was a nice counter break in between the higher-tempo jams.
For the people that don’t know, I put out a joint tape with Tokyo called Made In Murder, so when it was time to put out the next tape for myself, I thought, "Should I go that route, or should I just speak from the heart?" I decided to speak from the heart and that's where records like "Free Won," "12-1-90" and "Me and You" came about. Those records really touch people and that's crazy because they really touched me too. That's why I did them. My cousin Won was actually the one who got us into rap. He had the studio set up and now we're living out his dreams. He got 15 years for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Life really teaches you a lesson.
So family is clearly important to you.
That's how I came up. I don't really keep people around me who are unfamiliar. Phin is here with me. He's on three records on the project and he's on Private Club records. I know Phin since I was working a cash register in high school. I was like 16 or 17, so I just keep people around me like that. My road manager I've known since I was 15. We have new people that we're building with. Tokyo, Oscar (videographer) is new to us but our guy that's with us 24-7. My lady (Salma Slims) is in our collective. Private Club records lives in one house in Los Angeles. My mother lives in that house. Our producer is about to move in. We kind of just use it as our headquarters. We're really a family. The outside wouldn't understand how much we really care about each other and what we really go through to see everyone happy.
How is that creative process with so many people?
We don't let anyone put out trash. Salma has a new project out and Tokyo did three videos on Instagram, reviewing her mixtape. So if Tokyo likes it then we like it. If Phin has a project, we listen to it, we say that's hard or that's okay. If one person is like "Eh, I don't like it" then it won't be released. Everyone begged me to put a project out but I didn't want to because the shine should be on Tokyo now. I've been doing this for so long, people are just now hearing. A lot of sh*t I see, I say, "It's been a long time coming." So when I see we have a Top 20 Billboard record I'm like, that's amazing.
I tell my little brother Tokyo all the time. He's more talented than what people think. That "Uber Everywhere" record is just a little bit. It's not even a fifth of what he can do. But the people, you have to give it to them in small doses. It's all premature. The work has to be done right. It's like cooking food. Your mom is making something and you're like, "Ahh, when is it going to be done?" and she tells you that it has to sit. It has to cook, the right seasoning and then it's perfect. So now I have things that I just put on the grill that are huge. Even for Tokyo, we got some sh*t that is like, "When's this sh*t going to come out?" It's all about timing.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned in the past six years?
I learned a lot. I was so hungry with music that I would do anything. If Jeezy wanted to do a record, I would do it. If Trey Songz wanted to do something, I'd hop on it. I made a list the other day of people I did records with that were established and I have over 35 records. People may not know about them but they've been put out over the past six years. I did that. Tokyo is the opposite. He doesn't want to do that. My reasoning was to get whatever exposure you could. I wasn't taught any other way. T.I. has a huge fan base, then do a song with T.I and hope his fans will like you now. Tokyo is like, "I'm cool with my fan base and I don't want to do a song that would ruin that." Or do a song my fan base isn't really in tune with, and I see how it works for him. I didn't know that. I put on my executive hat more. It's not a bad thing; it's more of a blessing. I think half of the game is understanding. I was always trying to imitate something or just try to find the wave, but all in all, I've learned to be yourself. There are a million people just like you. When people see how comfortable you are, people play off of your energy. Every person that I ever met I got them to work with me. When I sat down with Jermaine Dupri, that worked. Before then I was with Scrappy and the whole DTP movement, I talked to Scrappy for 40 minutes and I ended up moving in with him. I talked to people and I let them really see me. I had a couple of label meetings and I know they want to sign me. I was with Ty Dolla $ign the other day and we did 10 records. You have to find yourself in a world where so many people are searching on how to be cool.
How is it balancing your music and managing PC?
I'm hands on. I refuse to let things pass by and now that I have a good opportunity, I cannot past it up. I need to focus on the label and the artists. The game is so fickle. I can change my name right now and change my image and people wouldn't even know. New is what people want. Innovative is what people want. By 2020, you aren’t going to see artists on stage. The game is different. These producers are DJing, rappers are DJing. Lil Wayne can stop rapping right now and become a photographer and sell millions with his photos.
So at the end of the day, how are you feeling about yourself and the future?
I feel like a new me. At 17, I was working at Chili’s and I told Finn I didn't want work there anymore. I called him one day and was like ‘I'm going to quit Chili’s’ and he said, ‘Well what are you going to do? You need money.’ I said, ‘I just want to rap for the rest of my life.’ From then on, I’ve never worked a 9 to 5. I said everything that I said I went through hard times and struggles to get it, but I did it.
Check out info on the "Pre Rolled 2 Tour" here.