Rittz Explains Rap-A-Lot Records Influence, Garnering "White Jesus" Recognition Online
Yelawolf's right-hand-man speaks about his strip club following in Atlanta long before the Internet, and how he grew up on 5th Ward Boyz, Too Much Trouble and The Geto Boys.
Rittz is finally seeing the results of his hustler’s mentality. He’s a pioneer of sorts- one of the only big Rap names to come out of Gwinnett County, Georgia. The emcee has been working at structuring his style and sound since his teenage years. He’s embodied the spirit of Atlanta Hip Hop, making the widespread metropolitan area seem a bit closer. Atlanta is just down the freeway from Gwinnett County and Rittz is the glue pulling the Northside and the city together.
Rittz has been receiving accolades for his flow for years but a hefty co-sign from Yelawolf- another buzzworthy rapper who lived just one state over- added to his grind. Rittz’s flery verse on Trunk Muzik’s ‘Box Chevy’ two years ago, is still a major talking point when he meets new followers of his music. With the success of his appearance on Wolf’s tape and his induction into the Slumerican crew, Rittz has the supportive backing, but he’s proud to shoulder the weight of his career. With the positive reception of his first solo project White Jesus, things are notably moving forward and Rittz hasn’t missed a step, continuing to break new ground.
DX had the chance to talk to Rittz about living the Rap life as a newcomer, building a career, and why his friends call him "White Jesus."
Music At Home: "I grew up in a musical household. I’ve always had music equipment at my crib so I was always trying to do music, my dad played guitar, and I was always trying to get into it as a kid. So when I got into Rap music, like when I was around 12 years old, I really tried to rap. I had a little four-track recorder and just started making songs like that, finding tapes of people’s instrumentals and rapping over them. That’s how it started but I just got better and better at it and as the years went by, technology changed and it just enhanced what I had, the quality of the music I was making and it turned into something that I thought I was good enough at to pursue and that’s pretty much how it started."
Adolescent Listening Pleasure: "When I was young and first started listening to Rap, the Rap that influenced me the most was Gangsta Rap, all Geto Boys, 5th Ward Boyz, Too Much Trouble, pretty much, everything Rap-A-Lot [Records]. Devin The Dude. And of course everybody was listening to Dr. Dre and Snoop [Dogg] back then, Spice 1, Too Short. And as time went on and I became more serious about being a rapper, it was Outkast,UGK, 8Ball & MJG, The Dayton Family, Twista stuff like that.
Parental Advisory: "I think with any parent that hears music with ‘fuck this and that’ and ‘bitches and hoes’ and all that type of shit in it… Any parent isn’t gonna agree with all that if they’re trying to make you walk a straight line or whatever, especially when you’re a child. Back then we used to argue about it because I talked like that, but when I look back, I was a kid, you know, so they didn’t approve of it, and not only that but they didn’t really understand it. They were musicians who practiced on learning instruments- somebody just rapping on a mic, they didn’t understand. A lot of the older generation didn’t understand what rap was, especially white parents, you know what I mean? They didn’t get it.
So for it to be something that I was that into, threw them off a little bit, and my actions as a child were… I wasn’t going to school, smoking weed, just acting up- it went hand-in-hand with the music and it didn’t look good. So they didn’t approve of it and they didn’t accept it for a long time. But I think as I started getting older and better at what I was doing, they started respecting it I think because they saw that I actually had something there and they also saw the years I put into it and as much as they hated the type of music it was when I was younger, my dad always helped me out with all the music equipment and they always encouraged me making music. They knew I was working hard at something so it wasn’t all the way negative but now they’re totally supportive. Whenever I’m in town they try to come out."
A-Town Down: "My whole family’s from a real rural town in Southwestern Pennsylvania and there was nothing there, especially in the ‘80s. I mean, there was no Rap there. I mean, I think I heard Run-DMC and The Fat Boys, shit like that but when I moved to Atlanta, I got exposed to Kilo [Ali], 2 Live Crew and that’s when I was like nine or 10 years old. When I was around 12, I was influenced by that, but the whole Atlanta scene, when I was in high school, I started taking it seriously and Outkast was out.
Atlanta started having a presence in the music industry and that music I could really relate to because I’m riding around and I’m seeing these streets and I’m on [Interstate] 85 and I’m seeing East Point and College Park and the shit these people were talking about, I wasn’t from there but I’m seeing it and the music just felt like Atlanta. It’s kinda like, if you go to New York, you wanna hear some New York shit or if you go to L.A., you wanna hear some Tupac or something like that. There was something about Outkast and them that really felt like home, and that kinda made me structure my style."
Finding a Groove: "I just dabbled in it. In all the old records that came out when I was young, you’ll probably hear me imitating people’s styles, when I was really young I tried to rap like Willie D, then when I was in a group Rolo & Rittz, I tried to rap like Big Boi from Outkast. Then I went through an Eminem phase. Different things influenced me and I think all those things put together, once I finally found myself and how I rap, a lot of the double time and me flipping my tongue on records, came from the way the tempo on the beat changed, and the way I would rap over them, it sounded more like I was snapping on them and it became what I was good and started to be known for."
First Big Break: "In 2007, had put out an EP called 770, it was a single with a couple other tracks on it- ‘After Mornin’ and ‘Hitch Hunter’- and the ‘770’ track got the hookup over at Hot 107.9 to go on 'Battlegrounds' and it got a lot of love. We won five nights in a row and got retired on there, so I thought things would be on the way up from there. ‘After Mornin’ was one of the more popular songs that I had then and it was a double time song. So songs like that led me in the direction of letting me know what people wanted from me and that’s when I met my manager Transcend, who introduced me to Yelawolf."
Slumerican Flag: "I met Yelawolf a while back when he was coming up in the underground Atlanta scene. In Atlanta, there are two different scenes: there’s the underground crowd that actually listens to the music and watches the shows and listens to the lyrics - I wasn’t doing that. I was doing the hood shows, the strip clubs, everybody was trapping and snapping, whatever the new dance was, so I really wanted to get down. I met Yela through my manager Transcend, saw the kinda crowds they were doing and I wanted to get in that circle.
I ended up talking to Yelawolf, he let me open up for him at Lenny’s and he liked what I did so we established a friendship from there. I was in a bad situation after the whole 770 thing came about, and he was just about to start working on Trunk Muzik. He had a vision of making a crew and wanted me to be a part of it. So he blew up with Trunk Muzik and then about six months later, came back and put me in the studio and that’s where I started worked on White Jesus, because we had the opportunity to do that. Basically Slumerican is just a family, Yelawolf, myself, just so many people to name because it’s not just rappers, it’s a bunch of people. It’s just a crew."
The Debut: "White Jesus would technically be considered project number one. But I’ve been making CDs since like ’95 so it’s really like project 10 or 11 for me probably, but number one for everybody else. When Yelawolf put me on ‘Box Chevy,’ everybody praised me on that verse and it stood out, but I just expected those people who liked me to go and look me up, and it’s surprising to me even today how many people come up to me and they’re like, ‘You know I heard you on ‘Box Chevy’ but I didn’t do the research to go look about you…’ So people are just now finding out about me- and don’t even know about ‘White Jesus’- just from the ‘Box Chevy’ verse. It’s crazy."
White Jesus: "I always had a close fade when I started rapping but one day I just decided to grow my hair out and image was everything at that point, it was a different age in music. The image was important but the internet wasn’t like that, so there were only a few major white rappers and I was trying to look different from everybody else, so I grew my hair out. My homeboy used to always come to my crib and see me with my hair out and be like, ‘Oh, what’s up 'White Jesus'?’ And it was pretty much just his interpretation of how I looked so I always remembered that name and I thought, ‘If I get to a point where I’m going put a CD or something out there for a lot of people to hear, I’ma call it White Jesus.’ It’s controversial but it’s really that simple, just a name that my boy gave me. I think it made some people wanna listen and it threw some people off, plus the way I look, period..."
The Next Move: "We just re-released White Jesus. It’s called White Jesus Revival. I put eight new songs on there and it’s got seven original songs. The reason I did that was because, as I said, a lot of people didn’t go get White Jesus and haven’t heard of it but are fans of verses they hear from me, but they haven’t heard the projects from me. The more I travelled the more I realized that people haven’t heard it so before I moved on to the next project I wanted to give those songs more life and more time to grow. So White Jesus Revival is out for free and I’m pushing that right now and trying to tour as much as possible, and see the fans and get out on the road. I’m still working on music and when the time’s right, I’ll release a new project but I want to shoot some videos for some of these songs. ‘High Five’’s been getting radioplay here in Atlanta, in Memphis and in South Carolina. So we’re waiting on the right time to do a video for that and really push it as a real single, but we’re waiting on the buzz to get bigger."
Hometown Hero?: "People are embracing me. I think it’s hard to say where exactly Atlanta’s at with it, ‘cause a lot of where I’m at is on the Internet and you know… Atlanta’s different from how it used to be. You hear a lot of the same music on the radio, but Atlanta supports Atlanta. They always show love when I get put in front of them, that’s why radio play with ‘High Five’ is such a big deal, but a lot of my shit is on the internet. Sometimes you have to do some Atlanta type shit to really open their ears up."
The Business of Rap: "I feel like, I just honestly wanna be a successful artist making music. When you’re young, you think, ‘Yeah, I’ma make millions, be a rap star…’ But once you get into it, you realize that it’s not that at all and I think a lot of fans and people who aren’t in the game get it confused and have zero idea of what… This shit is real life. I still don’t have shit, any dollar I make goes right back into buying tee shirts or shooting videos. Everything comes out of my pocket, nobody’s giving me any money. Everything is me. So anything you see on the internet or anything you see going good for me, it happens because I’m putting money into it, and it’s not like I got money, it’s just any little bit I make goes into it. The buzz is growing and I’m happy about that but the ultimate goal is to make a living off this shit because it’s what I love to do and it’s what I’ve worked so hard at for so many years.