Compton, the city that bred Roddy Ricch, has everything and nothing to do with his success in the music industry.
In December of 2019, Roddy Ricch graced the stage at Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment’s Charity Concert. His debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Anti Social had just dropped and the buzz around Southern California’s newest star couldn’t have been louder. Mirroring that figurative rumble was the very real one erupting from the crowd when Ricch took the stage. He performed "Ballin" and "The Box" during his set and it must’ve been a surreal feeling. Towering over the community that cocooned him, the place that gave him the stories that paved his road to celebrity.
Roddy Ricch is the newest fixture in hip-hop’s mainstream wheel. The success of his debut album has topped the Billboard charts and challenged records held by some of the genre’s pantheon projects like 50 Cent's Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. But before all the talk shows, sold-out concerts, and big-budget music videos, Roddy was born Rodrick Wayne Moore Junior to humble beginnings in Compton, California. At 8 years old he started rapping. Stylistically, his soulful vocals grew to reflectively narrate a life of struggle and survival. Melting sung melodic verses with gritty lyrical content which has become the trend. A trend that inner-city artists are perfecting given its resonation with not only avid but casual music listeners.
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After decoding the maze of Compton’s streets as a teen, the realities of life didn’t give Ricch time to mature before delivering an awakening. He faced a number of violent and traumatic ordeals which he speaks about in the song "War Baby." “Survived in the trenches, I’m a war baby,” he raps. “Post-traumatic stress, I know the war changed me / you can bend, but you can never break me.” That PTSD, as Roddy describes it, may come from the premature death of his best friend. He unpacks his trauma through music in a therapeutic form of expression. The sentiment bleeds into the music he produces, the product of Compton's notorious gang culture.
“My city is known for police violence and gangs," he explained to Complex. "That’s not good. I want my city to be known for private jets landing in that motherf*cking airport.” But it's a process. From an earlier age, Roddy says he ran with the Compton Crips gang, explaining that all his cousins and family were Crips as well. Around the age of sixteen, Roddy was kicked out of his mother’s home, thereby having to dive deeper into the street life. Charlamagne Tha God asked Roddy during a Breakfast Club interview if it was possible to grow up in the streets of Compton and not get caught up in the gang lifestyle. “I know people who had it worse than me," replied Roddy. "The homie come up to your door like 'come outside you getting put on' and ain’t nothing you can do about it.”
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Ricch dropped his debut mixtape, Feed Tha Streets, in November 2017. A project that featured both "Chase Tha Bag" & "Fucc It Up." Yet, it wasn’t until the release of "Die Young" that everything changed rapidly for the artist. Even so, Ricch had connections with Compton's most famous rappers prior to his national breakout. He speaks much admiration about his relationship with California hero Nipsey Hussle, even having the same “prolific” tattoo the rapper sported. He credits Nipsey for teaching him to have the mindset of an owner; not relinquishing control of his situation was the rationale. Roddy also appeared on the Grammy-winning record "Racks In The Middle" with Nip, but their ties go beyond music. He says watching how Nipsey would move taught him a great deal, noting that at times his actions spoke as loud as his words.
He also rapped for Kendrick Lamar before he was a teenager and credits Lamar for teaching him as Nipsey did. “Kendrick Lamar taught me that life experience is an important part of being a good illustrator,” he told Complex. “When you’re illustrating a story, you have to go based off of your personal experiences. When you write about shit you don’t know about, it’s not going to sound right because you’ll miss the details.”
That same life experience growing up in his city might’ve had a role in molding the rapper’s personal life but his musical inspirations seem untapped by California’s hip-hop influence. Undoubtedly an innovator in this era of singer-rappers, Roddy has still found a way to sport a style all his own. YG, Kendrick, Dr. Dre, and even The Game have a sound that feels innately Compton - but not Ricch. He seems to be going against the grain while also resonating at the grassroots level in Southern California. He’s been able to create a persona and brand authentic to Compton, but he doesn't mirror it as other artists of his generation might have done. After a debut like Please Excuse Me For Being Anti-Social Roddy Ricch has become a mainstay in hip-hop culture. I look forward to hearing his collaborations with other Compton artists and how he marries that signature sound with his own.
LISTEN: Roddy Ricch - "War Baby"