Activities, people, and places that we take in on a consistent basis—whether good or bad—become normal and comforting to us, especially if we haven’t been exposed to other options. It is highly likely that when someone has been surrounded by robbers, dope boys, encroachers and drug addicts for the majority of their lives, they’re uncomfortable outside of super aggressive environments.
Atlanta native Ralo is currently dealing with this. The 24-year-old rapper is dangerously attached to his ‘hood, dubbed The Bluff. Bred and educated in the school of hard knocks in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, Ralo has transitioned from a local heroin dealer to a self-made millionaire rapper. Yet, he cannot leave the area that he once moved bundles of heroin in. Made popular by the frightening documentary Snow on Bluff, this crime-infested location of the ATL has been described by Atlanta Magazine as an “open-air heroin market.”
Despite the dangers that come with residing in The Bluff, Ralo is precariously comfortable there. His brain whispers to him that living in The Bluff is normal—even for a millionaire like himself. In fact, friend and fellow ATL rapper Young Thug once had a heart-to-heart with Ralo and suggested that he leave the region. “I took Thug’s advice and moved to the suburbs,” Ralo says. “I stayed over there about a year and a half. I couldn’t even complete the lease. I just wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t happy. I felt like I wasn’t doing God’s work by being away from my people.”
With the third installment of his Diary of the Streets project circulating the Internet, Ralo LaFlare, still in promo mode, took time out of his busy schedule to discuss recording Diary of the Streets 3, Gucci Mane and Malcolm X.
VIBE: How far along are you in The Autobiography of Gucci Mane?
Ralo: I read half of it. I want to take my time, read it deeply. I just wish that I was with him back then so I could’ve been in the book [Laughs].
I actually learned a few new things about him from reading that book. One, he was really bothered by the beef with Jeezy.
I mean, I’m around him every day so there isn’t too much that the book can tell me that I don’t already know. This is the person that I talk to daily. He’s like a father figure in my life right now.
What’s the most important lesson he’s taught you thus far?
His humbleness. I love how he stays so happy and unbothered by the lame sh** and the bullsh** that goes on. A lot of the people that’s with him ain’t with him. People be hating and he just keeps silent and keeps a smile on his face.
“You’ll never see me rapping like them other rappers, or you’ll never see me trying to fit in. I’m just me. I ain’t never pop no Xanax, drink no alcohol, ain’t into the fashion and lean. I’m a man.” —Ralo
Let’s get into your LP. How did you approach this project?
On the recording tip, I tried to get my vocals right. I have a high-pitched voice. I want people to hear the clarity of my music, so I was able to attack that in a way that I was never able to attack it. And I was able to get a single off it by myself. All of my biggest songs have featured someone. But I ended up getting this big song, “Ahk Sh** Pop Sh**,” so I’m proud of that.
Yes, talk about that. How do you think that happened?
You have to stay in the studio and just vibe out. Your mood has to be right. You can’t force a hit record. Some days it’ll be in you. Some days it won’t. I have a lot of features on here, but everything was genuine. None of that sh*t was made up or fake. I was able to challenge myself by making sure that my project was solid.
Your music has a lot of positive messages, rules and guidelines. Do you have any stories of fans telling you how your music has helped them?
The most important and what really matters to me is people tell me that I changed their life. I helped turn people who haven’t been loyal to being loyal. I made people start paying attention to unity, to their community, to the world. I got a lot of people on their Dīn. People tell me that hadn’t been on their Dīn like they used to be, and now I got them on it. I want to get that Malcolm X feel, the brotherhood. That means more to me than anything. I want everyone to love each other. We don’t have the love and loyalty and unity that we used to have, the love and brotherhood of black American men. And that’s always something that bothered me.
That’s what I love about you. You’re big on loyalty and growth.
I’m from that JAY-Z and Jadakiss era. You’ll never see me rapping like them other rappers, or you’ll never see me trying to fit in. I’m just me. I ain’t never pop no Xanax, drink no alcohol, ain’t into the fashion and lean. I’m a man. One line that always stuck out from JAY-Z, he told the world that they asked him how he remained the same, yet he became the biggest person in the world. He said, ‘I just never got caught up in the things that’s going on.’ And that’s something that I always say to myself.
So have you left the suburbs, and you’re back in The Bluff?
Yeah. So when I got back to the hood… well, I was actually trying to buy the house that I was living in and the people told me that they wanted $2 million for it. But I said, ‘Sh**, I can buy my whole community for that much.’ It didn’t make sense to me. It would’ve been the wrong decision for me to spend $2 million for that house when I can spend $2 million in the ‘hood. I feel like I can spread all of my cards out in the ‘hood and help them. I need them to see me, to be able to touch me and see what’s possible.
Stream Diary of the Streets 3 below.