SauceLord Rich, one-half of the hit-making production duo FKi, discusses his decision to put himself out there as an artist in a lamentable industry climate.
SauceLord Rich entered the office donning a sea foam green blazer and ornate vintage sunglasses, looking like a bossed-up supervillain from a sleek '80s thriller. This is his everyday studio attire, confirmed Atlanta rapper Runway Richy, though he apparently went with a winter green jacket the night before. Born and raised in Harlem, his heroes are emcees like Big Daddy Kane, who sought to back up his finely crafted lyrical boasts with every aspect of his style. SauceLord sees fleeting trends everywhere, and he wants to make style have substance again. He made his name in Atlanta as one-half of the production duo FKi, alongside his longtime friend who goes by 1st. They're responsible for breaking artists like Post Malone and Iggy Azalea, and for about five straight years of hits, called upon by artists like 2 Chainz, Tyga, Travi$ Scott, and Ty Dolla $ign.
After seeing many rappers blow up off of his ideas, SauceLord is ready to reinvent himself as an artist. On his recent tape, King Wolf, he raps, sings, mixes, and produces along with his four-man team of instrumentalists at his 4AM brand and label. Focusing on lyricism and wordplay, he has the confidence of a veteran emcee, and that's because he's been rapping for years now (often behind the scenes for some of your favorite artists). Almost having given up on the music business, he doesn't expect his personal work to catch fire just yet, though he's seen too much of his influence spread throughout the game for him to slow down on his artistic vision anytime soon. In our recent interview, SauceLord talked being reborn as King Wolf after having been robbed of the sauce, his desire to fuse the up-north stylings of Cam'Ron into the Atlanta scene, how Nicolas Cage changed his life, and why FKi will never die.
Welcome SauceLord Rich. We've obviously been on to your production for years, and now we're starting to meet you as an artist. Let's talk about the new tape, "King Wolf." How's it being received so far?
It’s building up slowly. I know it’s gonna take a little bit of a grind because I’m not going with the everyday 808-driven throughout your whole mixtape thing. I’m trying to be a little bit more musical. You know, when you’re hearing guitars on there, it’s real guitars, things like that. Instruments are very prevalent in my music. I know it's gonna be a little harder to just jump straight into it, but once you get it -- plus the lyricism that I'm bringing -- I feel like it'll be wonderful for you, for people who love music.
I saw FKi is credited on the tape, but this is just you [and not 1st]?
Yeah, FKi is me and 1st. He's not just FKi 1st. I am FKi and he's FKi. He did one track on there, "Moon Making Music." Everything else was done by me and my production team.
We've seen the two mixtapes this year. When did you really start wanting to push your own brand?
After we went to LA, and we was working with Post Malone in a mansion for a year. It was just different artists comin' through, and it was a lot of free time outside of artists comin' through, and I've always made music on the side. I didn't wanna put something out just because. Everything is done with good timing. So I wanted to have good timing with mines, and it just so happened that we both [me and 1st] wanted to do solo projects at the same time. And we're about to drop Transformers in the Hood 3 after the solo mixtapes, so everything's cool. Everything's great.
You started rapping way before these tapes, though, right?
Forever. I've written for them all. I'm not a good name-dropper [laughs]. I've done it for them all.
When did you want to put your rapping at the forefront of your craft?
At the end of the day, I’m from Harlem, where I was born and grew up at before I got to Georgia. Lyricism, style, everything about it -- it kinda created who I was. I went to Georgia -- Georgia has the sound -- the 808 sound, bass, you know what I mean. So I’m tryna merge that with the up-north style of how Cam’Ron tried to kick it, or somebody from New York. I wanna be heard. I feel like if you're not going in there to deliver a message, or get something done, then what's the point?
I recite Jay Z’s lyrics. You don’t recite it 'cause the flow is dope. You recite it because what he’s saying means something to you, or how the whole essence of the song coming together makes you feel like you’re in that era, or you’ve done what he’s done. I feel like that’s what being lost in music.
Did you often find yourself working with artists who you felt were slacking on your beats, or weren't giving your music its full life?
Every day [laughs]. Sometimes I feel like I'm making beats for somebody who doesn't appreciate what I'm doing or even what I'm trying to give you.
Somebody could make a song today, having never rapped in their life, and tomorrow they could be a superstar, and you can't talk to them how you talked to them yesterday. I'm like, "Damn!" I can't do that... I'm just tryna do this a better way, and build a company where you're not being juug'd, or you're not being taken advantage of.
I've never tried to juug anyone, but somehow, I always end up being juug'd. I guess it's the "nice guys finish last" theory. I think music creates enemies between ya cliques and ya friends. That's what I feel like music is doing to people, and I just wanna change that.
So you say you're approach is fusing the Harlem style you came up on with the more contemporary sounds you've experienced in Atlanta. There's also a rock edge on some of the ["King Wolf"] tracks, with the live guitars. Where does that come from?
Nirvana. "Heart-Shaped Box." Things like that. Like I love Chromeo, and Pharrell, and Nirvana, and Gucci Mane. So if you put all those people in one room, that would be like madness, right?
With you wearing so many hats [rapper, producer, writer, engineer], do you know exactly what you're doing before each studio session, or is it always organic?
It just comes out how it comes out. Somebody might play a melody real quick, and we might just take off from the melody. We just bounce ideas off each other. If he helps me [sitting next to Runway Richy] or I help him, it's not like I'm tryna help so I can get a writing credit or a producing credit from him. I'm helping so we can make an intelligent and dope song. I'm not tryna be in no room like, "Well, you know I said 'the,' and I gave you the idea for the dinosaur" -- that's how they be in these rooms!
Let's talk about the first "Know Me" tape [released in April]. You were only rapping on a few of those tracks.
That was really just what was left over for me being who I was. I just wanted to put it out because I was ready to become a new person and do new things and become an artist. So it was like I’ma have to release all this production stuff, and all of this stuff you never thought existed -- from Bankroll songs and all of that -- and just put it out to clear the air -- that the wolf is here.
Everybody ate the sauce up. At the end of the day, no matter what nobody say, if you’re not Gucci Mane or Yung LA or J-Money, you can’t tell me nothin’ about this sauce. I became SauceLord Rich, now you see where it went. The biggest line is “I’m saucin’, I’m saucin’.” Why do you think he’s sayin’ “I’m saucin’, I’m saucin’?” My name is SauceLord Rich, my ad-lib is [whispers] "sauce." Now you do the math. You would’ve never in your life started "I'm saucin', I'm saucin'" until the day you’ve known me.
I’ll be in the room, and people will tell me, “Yeah, we like him though” -- how?! I’m the person who found him and wrote raps and all these things, and you don’t fuck with me. This music industry is crazy! That happens to me all the time. They never gonna give you your pass unless it’s you. They gonna keep you in the shadows forever. That’s why I put my tape out.
You think 1st feels the same way?
Yes! We was rappin’ and making beats. We went to EDM first. Look at everybody who ran to EDM. I don’t like to use the word “creators” ‘cause everybody’s gonna always point out somebody who did something before you. But it’s about the influence. Like who’s influential with it to make a certain culture of people do it. And I feel like that’s what we did.
We created a sound. We weren’t like anybody else. We weren’t making songs like anybody else. Our beats weren’t comparable to anybody’s beats. We came in as original as possible. And we’ve just been picked apart left and right. Now you have producers -- literally -- rapping. I remember when they were like, “Nah, we ain’t into that.” We were the only ones.
Is you pushing your own brand as an artist an attempt to remedy everything that's gone uncredited in the production realm?
Yes and no. This is my recognition of the past, but I'm trying to make a new future. I'm trying to create a new legacy. I want to create something that's respectable to be even though you're a rapper.
How we gonna figure out what's good and what's bad when everybody can just hire 30 writers, hire 30 stylists? Like what's music really about? Like Desiigner, he's probably super dope, I've never met him in the world. But honestly, if I was friends with Kanye West, I’d be fuckin’ super dope too. And he was in my music video, and I'm like, "r-r-r-rahw"! Regardless of what it may be, I promise you we would all be on. We could be a rap group right now. We get out the truck and Kanye is with us and I go [another Desiigner ad-lib] and y'all hit a dance move, we would be poppin' too.
I'm puttin' out my music, and I want people to love it, but at the end of the day, we're in a time where I almost don't expect for them to love it. Which is sad. No matter how hard I go. I say bars on my tape where I feel like if somebody who actually rap heard it, they'll be like, "That's crazy." But I'm not gonna get that respect.
A lot of rap -- the best and the bottom of the barrel -- is similar in that it's about boasting and big-upping yourself in a creative way. But in your case, I feel like you're putting yourself out there as a movie character or a mythical being or something. You're figuring out a way to brag different.
You're the first person who's ever figured that out. Dead-ass. I try to tell people I'm Nicolas Cage in "Face/Off," I'm Denzel Washington in "Training Day." I say things like this. But when I saw Nicolas Cage in "Face/Off" as Castor Troy, it changed my life. I'm like, that's how you fuckin' deal with people. And you have your silk shirts blowin' in the wind. If I could have two gold guns right now, I would love to fuckin' have that. I wouldn't even shoot it.
I relate to things like that 'cause I grew up on TV. My dad was sellin' drugs and my mom was a cop, they never was home. I literally was raised on TV, so this is where I’m gettin’ my character from, ‘cause I had like the "Good Times" house where it was like 10 people living in one bedroom. So I can’t bring people to my house, ‘cause I’m embarrassed. So what I’ma do, when I leave this fuckin' house -- I’ma be a fuckin’ superhero.
I wanna bring that back to music. There's no more like, "Damn, he's a superhero." Everybody's so fuckin' regular. People trying to be so down-to-earth and so touchable that nobody believes you're like amazing or different. I wanna be that.
After "King Wolf," what comes next? How are you planning on balancing rapping, producing, FKi, and everything else?
I’m definitely gonna drop another project. I already got six projects, 13 songs each -- they all have different feelings. Like from a sample feeling, to more of a feeling for ladies, I have just straight bars, just different projects. King Wolf introduces you to all the music I can make, so you don’t feel so crazy if you get a whole CD of it. I wanted to let people know I could go any direction.
That's what FKi wanted from the start. We wanted to be able to go in any direction. Like if we gotta mix songs to survive, we gonna do it. If we gonna rap, if we gonna make beats to survive, we're gonna do it. We're gonna get back into our FKi shit 'cause that shit's never gonna stop. At the end of the day, I’m not built like that. I’m the most loyal person I know to myself or my people. It doesn’t matter what anybody say to me. At the end of the day, this is my brother. I been knowing this man since we were 12 or 13 years old. How much could somebody really tell me? Other than that, we just workin', tryna build this 4AM label.