Rich Kidd [Interview]
Toronto, ON – With the release of From The Bottom Of The Can the third installment of his We On Some Rich Kidd Shit trilogy. MC/Producer Rich Kidd is riding high on a wave of good will and accolades. Both his skills on the mic and his wizardry on the boards have contributed to making him one of the most sought after artists to break out of Canada in the last little while. A who’s who of the Toronto hip-hop community came out on a hot July evening to lend him their support and take in a night chock full of Rich Kidd’s beats and always present humor. Tona, Saukrates and Ayah just to name a few, all came out to celebrate their peer and friend into the night. But Rich Kidd is a man with a lot more than beats and rhymes on his mind. He has plans to take over the world as well as an eye towards spreading a few blessings along the way. I had the opportunity to sit down with the one they call Rich Kidd to pick his brain on a variety of subjects.
HipHopCanada: I wanted to start by talking about your newest mixtape. It’s titled We On Some Rich Kidd shit: From the Bottom of the Can! Where did that come from? When did this project start taking shape in your mind?
Rich Kidd: From the Bottom Of the Can comes from . . . My manager Courtney has a saying where he likes to say we’re coming from the bottom, to the top of the Can . . . as in from the bottom of Canada. So I hit the Internet for some inspiration going through some shit and I came across some old Coca Cola ads and I went ahead and tied these two loose concepts together. Just to see if people would get it. I just like to do creative things. Shit people won’t get right away. I want people to call me back 20 minutes later saying: “What the fuck?!” I don’t want to do regular covers and artwork. I don’t want to sit in front of a green-screen holding an AK-47 with money flowing out of my pockets. I don’t do all that.
HipHopCanada: After you finished your previous mixtape when did you start bouncing ideas and start thinking of the next one?
Rich Kidd: The mixtapes themselves are pretty easy to put together because most of the joints on there are joints that were already done, that I had already put out or joints that the artists had put out themselves. We also have some exclusives on there, as well as some tracks that are unheard. It’s an easy process I don’t really have to get in a zone to make it. Usually when it comes down to all the other creative stuff that comes with it putting a mixtape together, it usually ends up being a last minute thing. I usually work on it like a week before Caribana. I give myself that deadline so I know I’ll get it done. I’ll give myself a month and still do it all in a week. I’ve been that way since school doing homework the day it was do. Honestly, I rush it but at the same time I’m a perfectionist.
HipHopCanada: I was going through your production credits and for someone who’s relatively new to the game you’ve got a long list of collaborations. You’re definitely putting in a lot of work. Anyone out there you haven’t yet worked with, whom you’d like to get on a track with or have rhyme on one of your beats?
Rich Kidd: Artists in the Canadian industry, they’re within reach. I don’t know . . . I want to do a track with some of the older artists like Dream Warriors or Maestro. I’ve actually seen Maestro one or two times and we’ve talked. If we look at American artists obviously a man would want to mess with a Jay . . . uhhh Kool G Rap. I got him on some stuff I did with Bishop where he was featured but I’d like to actually spit on track with that nigga. Just go head to head with him. I know his flows are intricate. So I know I could have fun with that type of flow and a guy could go off on it.
HipHopCanada: There are long line of MC/Producers out there who are known as much for their rapping as they are for their productions, and we can go down the list, Pete Rock, Diamond D, Saukrates, Kanye, K-Os. Where are you more comfortable behind the boards producing or as an MC behind the mic?
Rich Kidd: I don’t know. I feel equally comfortable doing both. MCing is something I’ve been doing for a while . . . before the beats were even on my plate. I started MCing and freestyling and then I needed something to spit on instead of industry beats. So I started making beats and got good at it but . . . I feel so much more comfortable on stage than I do in the booth. It’s so much easier on the stage, you can miss a word or two catch your breath but you’re interacting with the audience instead of simply interacting with a mic. You know what I mean? You`ve got to make ’em feel a certain way, you`ve got to make ’em move and that’s always a challenge for me. To get on stage and make people move with me, make them feel what I’m doing on stage. I’ve always taken that as a challenge.
With the beats it’s the same thing. At first it wasn’t a competition thing or trying to find out how far I could get with the beats. I just did it to do it. Now you`ve keep up with the times if you want to make money with it. Really . . . I don’t mess with that style. I’m still doing the beats I like to do, but sometimes I`ve got to cater to whoever’s going to be spitting on the beats or singing on them. But I feel equally comfortable with both.
HipHopCanada: As you were answering that question you talked a bit about your early days of MCing and how you almost started making beats out of necessity, and I hear that a lot. So let’s take it back a little further. What exactly got you into rhyming? Was it a certain song you heard, a certain artist that made you say: “I want to be an MC.”
Rich Kidd: Well I’ve always been listening to rap. My dad was a DJ and he DJ’d African parties but he still had vinyl copies of hip-hop, R&B records and just about everything else. Because they play everything at those parties. Just through listening to those records and having the instrumentals at my disposal. I started making joke tracks back in the day, just stupid kid shit. Really what got me into the actual rhyming part of it and recording . . . I was leaving school one day and they used to have battles in front of the mall. People would stand in group cyphering old school style and I used to walk by there feeling like I could eat the niggas in the cypher. One day I decided to start cyphering, writing rhymes at home i would come into the cypher and try to remember them but I couldn’t remember shit. But I would freestyle and a say some shit to make the crowd laugh a few times. The main one I was battling with was my dude JuniaT and my next dude Josh Cherry, who landed in a coma a couple of years after. Those guys really got me to start freestyling all over the place and rapping just became a thing I did. That was like grade 9 or grade 10.
HipHopCanada: Have you always been a solo artist?
Rich Kidd: I was in a couple of groups. I was in a group called Rotten Ones when I first sarted MC’in. Just me and a couple of dudes from the neighborhood . . . my man Hoodini and my next man Dre Gotti, Tony Danza and Novi we just ended up forming a click cause we were always rolling together and getting in trouble. So we got together and started doing the rapping thing under Rotten Ones. Actually, we first started as Y.O. . . . Young Offenders, but we switched it to Rotten Ones because our Block is called Rotten Ridge . . . Ridgeway, so we took than Rotten moniker and ran with it.
Then I had a group in High School with my man Emad. We did a talent show together. For the audition we did “H to the Izzo” and I just came out and freestyled cause I couldn’t remember anything I had written and they loved it cause I kept it sweet with no swearing. They didn’t even know what I was talking about cause I was just flowing. When we actually did the show, we did it on Mobb Deep’s “Burn”, so I freestyled to it again because I didn’t know what the fuck I was saying again . . . I had a verse prepared but I forgot it again and just did whatever, but everyone still went crazy. So from then me and Emad formed HTM, Hard To Market, that kind of fell apart because we ended up going our separate ways. He got off the rhyming tip moved away and had a kid and me, I still kept making music. So I haven’t always been a solo artist but in every crew I was in, I was the producer, the one providing beats. So in the back of my mind I always wanted to lead my own movement.
HipHopCanada: What’s your creative process like? When it comes down to you sitting down and doing work; what are the kinds of things that get you going? Do you usually end up working on the beats first?
Rich Kidd: When it come to beats there’s no real timeline for me, I work on beats maybe two three times a day. So there’s no need for preparation I do it when I wake up, stepping out of the shower. I just get into the mood. Generally I have the beat in my head, if anything that’s my preparation . . . I already have the beat in my head. And if I’m not home I try to hum it to myself so I don’t forget it. When I get home I just get on the computer and start working away.
Sometimes I’ll feel like working on a beat and have no ideas. So I’ll start with the drums and work my way up to a melody that will fit the drum pattern I got going. If I already have a melody, then I’ll start with building the beat from there that and complete that part before finding the drums with it after. I’m pretty much making beats all the time.
HipHopCanada: What about in terms of writing, what’s your ritual like?
Rich Kidd: It’s kind of the same thing. If I have some studio time booked and I’m going in to lay something out. It usually just comes to me I write tracks when I feel like i have something to write. I don’t want to just write bullshit. I want to write something that’s meaningful. Even if it’s an up-tempo party joint or a feel good joint . . . that means I have to feel good doing it. Same thing with the beats too . . . I work a lot off of emotion . . . any emotion I’m feeling at the time. So if I’m feeling pissed off then that’s going to be felt in the track that comes out.
HipHopCanada: What are some of your influences, Canadian or international? Earlier on you talked a bit about your father who was a DJ so you were around a lot of music, African music. Do you think that played a role in influencing your sound?
Rich Kidd: Music period inspires me to do what I do. Nowadays I’m working on new styles and new concepts and that just comes from listening to everything. I ain’t afraid to listen to rock tunes, rock tunes are cool they’re musical and melodic, there are some rock tunes I can’t listen to though. The ones that make your ears want to bleed. Some have great melodies even pop tunes. When writing songs you have to open to different approaches to song writing and making hits in order to later be able to get into the mind-state of making something truly original.
I don’t really draw too much from Ghanaian culture and music. There are definitely tracks I’ve sampled. Just going to Ghana kind of influenced me on a broader level. I want to bring some creative programs over there. Me and some people established a youth program we want to bring over there. We’re trying to get a grant for it right now actually. We want to bring some sort of creative relief over there. A lot of people loved the type of music I was doing and felt like they wanted to do the same thing too. I just draw from that spirit when I sit down to make more music.
HipHopCanada: This project you’re talking about is in Ghana?
Rich Kidd: Yes. Ghana, West Africa.
HipHopCanada: Would you mind elaborating a little bit more on that? So what are the goals of this project? What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
Rich Kidd: Right now brother’s over there. He’s a DJ and he’s ready to have the program established down there. He found a location for it so we’re just in the process of receiving the money. We’re still in waiting to get the grant money from Trillium. If we can’t get that we’ll keep pushing ahead with fundraisers. We’re in the process of putting a team together to make it work. My brothers down there and I’m always linking up with him. Next time I go down there we’re actually going to start getting the place built, I’ll be bringing some equipment down there. We call the project the “Third Eye View Project”. Ultimately we want to bring free creative programs to third world countries. We decided to start with Ghana. We want people to start reporting on what’s really going on over there. Everything from the water crisis, to the school crisis, governmental issues, the influence of oil. I just saw a lot of talent over there from poor people in the villages, they have singing ability. It made me want to bring something out there for them to be able to release their creative energies.
What inspired me to do that was being part of the Remix project in Toronto. It’s a youth project very similar to what I want to bring to Ghana. It’s a project for youth who live in certain neighborhoods or who don’t have access certain resources. They take these youth in and give them resources and mentorship.
HipHopCanada: The Remix Project; is that something you’re still involved with?
Rich Kidd: Yeah. I’m involved with it right now. I help the kids with production showing them one or two things and serve as a mentor for some of the youth. It’s kind of weird because when I first got in there they told me it was a pilot program and now it’s in its sixth round. It’s crazy how it’s just expanded . . . when I started nobody knew what it was and many people were skeptical. “How can that be for free?” There’s a studio in there and a creative room where you can learn Photoshop and Illustrator. There’s a video editing suite. There a business resource room where you can get books and information on applying for business loans. Everything you think you would have to pay for. It’s about helping the kids who are serious about making it as an entrepreneur or as an artist.
HipHopCanada: How are the kids taking to the program. Have you seen a change in some of the kids since they first started coming in?
Rich Kidd: There’s plenty of kids who are taking the program seriously. Others might come in at first and seem like they aren’t taking it seriously but many just got some things going on in their lives because some of these kids are going through the worst but they will still come through and try to do their music thing or their creative thing. But mostly they are on point! Like this one dude named Cola who was with me in the first semester he got a grant through Remix. They give Bursaries and grants to schools like Humber, to the most serious and accomplished students. He came through and he’s now moved on and he’s got his own rock band. Chantal Beeso, she’s a magazine editor with Urbanology, she also writes for HHC, she also came out of the program. She came in young and hungry and she’s now accomplishing what she wants to do. I can go on and on, but this shows that the program actually works and it’s not just a hangout spot or a drop-in spot. It’s really a life changing project.
I don’t see why the government wouldn’t want to support a program like this which at the end keeps kids busy! This kind of stuff inspires kids to go back into their neighborhoods to show their brethrens one or two things about what they learned. Something that at the end of the day expands the mind of the youth and gets them on a different level of thinking. Going to school and their day to day keeps them disciplined; but what keeps them creative? What makes them want to explore past their horizons and go further in life? Trust me, the Remix project is really where it’s at!
HipHopCanada: Going through you’re production credits I see one name that seems to keep coming back. You’ve done a lot of work with Saukrates. How did that collaboration come about? Tying back into what we’ve been talking about. Is this a situation where this is someone who’s kind of acted as a mentor to you?
Rich Kidd: He’s pretty much mentored me. We first met maybe 2 or 3 years ago. He was hearing my beats all over the place but didn’t know who I was. So we brought it to his management and they were hyped about getting Sauks on some of my beats. It was really a situation where we met through mutual people and ever since then we’ve been digging each other’s style. He’s been mentoring me on stuff like mixing beats and knowing how to bring added flavor to some of my beats. Ultimately though, he knows I got my style and when I give him beat he never tries to change it, he just knows how to write the perfect tune to it and just murder’s it.
He’s a dude that never stops working. We’re actually going into the studio tonight. He always has ideas and always has stuff to add. Which is why he’s been dropping stuff for so long. He’s a dude you can trust he knows how to put it down. he knows how to bring out that funk combined with the soulful signing and then murders the raps on some next shit. You don’t have to worry about nothing when it’s in his hand, he’s perfected the art of song making.
HipHopCanada: Another veteran MC/Producer I see you’ve worked with recently is k-os. More specifically on I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman which features Nelly Furtado and Saukrates again. What’s the story behind that one?
Rich Kidd: I was already working with Sauks for a little at this point and while he was on tour with Nelly Furtado he heard the beat, fell in love with it and recorded a track with Nelly Furtado called On the Run. So two years later around winter last year k-os hears the beat and he’s digging it. So I slid him the track and he wrote a verse to it and Sauks ended up adding an extra female part to it. So basically there are two songs with the same beat. Sauks has a version he might use at a later time and k-os threw the version you’ve heard on his record.
I hadn’t actually met k-os initially, I just heard that he was interested in getting his hands on the track. We finally met face-to-face for the first time at his album release party. We were both drunk! He’s a dude that stays to himself but he’s a real cool dude still, when you can sit down and talk to him.
HipHopCanada: There are lots of mixtapes out. Even at your release party I left with a few mixtapes that were being passed around. What do you think separates yours from the pack?
Rich Kidd: One is that it’s all on me I don’t have a DJ . . . all original shit, no dubs or freestyles. You know, I never really wanted to call it a mixtape. I called the first one a mixtape and then the second one was a compilation album and this one is just . . . We On Some Rich Kidd Shit Volume 3. I never really wanted to put the mixtape label on it to be really honest. It kind of is like a mix album but given that those tunes were released on different albums and at different times throughout the year I kind of classified it as a mixtape . . . but . . . really, people can call it whatever they want. They were calling it a street album the other night on OTA live. Some dudes call it a mixtape, other dudes are calling it an EP. I was like: ” EP!? I thought EP’s had less than 10 songs . . . so?” It’s whatever people want to call it. There are three of them out there and maybe later in the Fall I might put them all together in a set, Collector’s Edition with DVD and some behind the scenes footage.
HipHopCanada: Do you have plans to put together a full-length? Maybe and LP?
Rich Kidd: Yeah I’d love to do that. Whatever will come, will come. Right now I’m just working on other people’s shit, making sure everybody else is comfortable with their raps being laid out on my beats. I’m not really concerned with myself at this point. Even though I keep what I think are the best beats for myself.
HipHopCanada: You’re buzz is growing in Toronto. Do you have plans to take it national now? This is a big country.
Rich Kidd: Well of course! We try to do shows in all over in London, Barrie, Kingston to bring the movement out there and put the CD in people’s hands. In the grand scheme of things the internet runs all, it’s the real medium that connects people. Any true hip-hop fan out there, is probably going to go on HHC, try to go on the hip-hop blog sites to see what’s popping. So if there are places we can’t reach we can still reach them through the internet.
It’s also vital that you travel and try to go everywhere. I’m trying to go to Hali (Halifax), Van City. I’m trying to go to Montreal which is just four or five hours from us here and set up shop and work with some artists out there. I want to go out to Halifax especially to work with Classified. That dude is saying he wants some beats, so I want to go to that man’s turf and bring him that heat.
HipHopCanada: For every artist out there the goal is to have longevity. Where do you see yourself, Rich Kidd in five years?
Rich Kidd: In five years, I want to have a label an roster of established artists. Get some equity and get a nice house and go on to expand what I do in to different projects . . . movies. Actually if anything I’d like to get into directing movies and scoring them too. Being more creative and expand into different stuff. My way of moving, my mantra is “Do it as it comes”. Anything that comes my way I’ll do it.
HipHopCanada: There are lots of talented Canadian artists out there doing big things. But most people would be hard pressed to name their top ten classic Canadian albums. Why do you think that is?
Rich Kidd: Anybody can make an album and put it out there. I think the mentality of artists here is to have a good label situation when the album drops in order to make it the best it can be. Classic albums we’ve heard coming from the States had money behind them. Ready to Die had money behind it, Illmatic had money behind it. If we hadn’t seen those videos and heard those beats from Easy Moe Bee and Premier you wouldn’t have heard no classic Biggie album. Everything that came with it, the videos the artwork, the production made it a classic.
Here in Toronto we’re always lacking something. It might be the lyrics, the artwork is not popping, [or] there’s no money behind it so the mixing sounds horrible but the songs are good and that might prevent it from being seen as a classic. I can sit here and say the labels need to put more money behind it but the labels won’t put any money up until they see money being generated. People just have to want to buy it. When that happens we’ll be able to make our own classics.
All these rappers Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie even Rakim. Anybody after Afrika Bambata and Kool Herc . . . Were inspired by the people who did it before them. So if you have heavyweights inspiring you in your country in your neighborhood in your city . . . everywhere around you. Then you can look to them and say: “This is how he did? Let me do it this way!” That’s why the flows change every few years from Cold Crush, Rakim came with a better flow and then Kane changed the game, and then Jay. We have talent here but until these talented people start controlling the game nothing will change.
HipHopCanada: Just to go back to the whole Busta Rhymes incident with “Undescribable” and I know you’ve been asked to adresss this a few times in the last few months. But that incident do you see it more as a curse or a blessing?
Rich Kidd: Everything can be a blessing if you take it that way. I see it as a blessing, I try to always look at things as an optimist. Busta didn’t actually steal it, he was actually just featured on the track. Billy Danze recorded the track and Busta leaked it. The track was never supposed to be released. Looking at it now, I never really had a beat stolen. It was put out at the wrong time. Leaks happen all the time because labels feel like they can give an artist a little buzz before the project drops. Which was exactly the case with Busta. It was a blessing really because of that a lot of different people were able to hear my stuff. When I was at Rock The Bells I was talking to people who were asking about my resume and when I mentioned that track they would say: “Oh you did that? You did that!?”
Really and truly I can’t depend on these guys to bust me. That’s why I I included these tracks on the mixtape but I put my own joints to work as well, to let people know that the production’s heavy and the rapping is heavy. I’m not trying to jump on coattails.
HipHopCanada: How did the beat get out there?
Rich Kidd: Billy Danze got the beat CD through G-Unit, really liked one beat in particular and recorded “Undescrible”. He had a verse open and called Busta. He and Busta recorded the verse back to back and then Busta took the joint with him. So they didn’t even know who the producer was. I ended up getting a hold of Billy Danze through MySpace later on.
My man Big Pops, who’s a next producer from Northern Profit when he first heard the joint called me and said: “This beat sounds like you! You have to hear this beat it sounds like something you’d make”. He had never heard the beat before. I heard the beat and was like yeah it’s mine, cause it has no samples. So I hit up Billy Danze on MySpace and he said :”Call me”. We talked for a bit, he explained to me what happened with the joint and we just came to an understanding where like we’ll make some more joints together and build an EP and get some shit popping.
HipHopCanada: Thanks for spending the time with us. I wish you all the best.
Written by Hugues Lamour for HipHopCanada