Behind the Boards: Rick Rock
His resume is official: Jay-Z's "Change The Game," Fabolous' "I Can't Deny It," Busta Rhymes' "Make It Clap," Xzibit's "Symphony In X Major" and much more! Plus he just won an ASCAP Award for Busta Rhymes' "I Know What You Want" featuring Mariah Carey and he's working on Mase's comeback album! HHDX takes notes. The man making BIG beats speaks!
What made you get into producing?
I started just loving the music. My uncle gave me a drum set when I was young. I just really took to it. That's how I initially started. Then I started rapping when I was in Alabama and needed beats. And I started going to somebody to get the beats. Then I naturally progressed into doing them. It was a natural progression. I think what influenced me was the DJ Premiers in the early '90s, the Dr. Dres, RZA.
You live in Sacramento. How's the hip-hop scene out there? I always go to LA to work and it's cracking for the music. You can jump in a lot of things. But here you can hone your craft and take over a spot and blow a spot up to the world that nobody's ever seen. It's really bleak out here right now. There's nothing coming out of here. E-40's holding it down. We got to get the quality and innovation back. The Tony! Toni! Ton! s, Hammers, Digital Undergrounds, E-40s, Too Shorts, Spice 1s, Luniz. It was cracking. Windows open in every different city and state and then they close. We got to help the wheel spin back around.
Did your life change after you did Jay-Z's "Change The Game? " I was grindin' out. I did a lot of work and it was never recognized, and then one song, "Change The Game," which wasn't really a big song, it was just the biggest song I did at the time, but it was Jay-Z so that made it big. And then it was just off the chain from then on. People were more accepting of me. Then I was getting calls on beats I already had out there.
How did you hook up with Roc-A-Fella?
Big Jon at EMI hooked it up. Jay-Z was in the office and he heard two beats I did and he went crazy. So he called me. I had this little apt. in Sacramento. He said these beats are off the chain. I was juiced. Then I went to NY to do the songs with him but by the time I got there he didn't even want the beats any more. It was a crazy feeling. So we got down right there. If I couldn't get down and do new ones, I couldn't be on the project.
What's it like working with Jay-Z and Tupac
Everybody's different, and your respect level's different, especially whatever level of your career you're in. When I was with Jay-Z the first time, I hadn't done anything big and I looked at him like he was big. It was more like, not idolizing, but in awe. But then you have to check yourself, like you're here as a professional too. Jay-Z didn't write anything down. I was already on edge because he didn't keep the beats he wanted at first, and so I did another one and he was feeling it. But he was on the couch rubbing his head and I was thinking this is going to end up not being used. This was "Get Your Mind Right Mami" with Snoop on The Dynasty album, and the next thing you know he's ready, and he goes in there and knocks it out. Working with him was like working with one of the great ones. Pac was the same way. He didn't write in his mind but he wrote on paper like he was copying it from something else. It didn't seem like he stopped to think. Then he'd knock it out. A lot of energy, loud. Jay's more chill.
As far as producers, The Dynasty album featured you, Kanye West, Just Blaze and Bink!. Do you get compared to them often? No. Those dudes do what they do but nobody's ever come to me looking for that sound. That album [Dynasty] was 2000, and Just Blaze and Kanye did a lot of stuff on his [Jay-Z's] last album, and there was more of that fast sample thing, and that was never me. I was more straight original music, hard-hitting. I think those dudes are way talented. There's tight producers and then there's upper echelon producers. I'm trying to be one of the upper echelon producers. That's why I do whole albums. That's what I'm trying to do with Federation. I'm not into doing 2 or 3 songs here and there.
Tell me about your group, Federation.
They make crunk music, but we call it hyphy. Street, high energy club music touching on some real topics. Their album is scheduled to drop in September.
Do you think you have a sound?
Yeah, I definitely have a sound and I hear people biting it. There are influences from everywhere. I was in Alabama, and I moved to California, and I was loving East Coast. I think it's the hard drums from the East Coast with the live playing from the West Coast, but not overplaying. It's a hard crunchy sound.
How did it feel to win an ASCAP?
To win Rhythm & Soul and Pop I've never won sh*t. It's cool. I got a long way to go. I really want to see my people get those types of things. It's tight just to have people look at you in the same light as some of the great people that were getting awards that day.
How do you feel about hip-hop?
I think a lot of the originality is gone. I used to watch the X-Clans, Snoops, Tribes, PEs. They came with their own thing. Now it's more like, OK he's doing it like that. That'll work. Those are the things I don't like. I think A&Rs suck. There's no more A&Rs. They don't look for talent anymore. They look for sales. They ask, Who's his camp? How's he on the mixtape? They want you to do all the work before they do sh*t. They shouldn't even have an A&R dept. anymore. They should have someone in a suit check Soundscan, BDS. It's sad times as far as the business of signing talent these days. I think there's some dope MCs and a lot of good music. I just think there's not enough original music.