Since signing to Maybach Music Group in 2012, Rockie Fresh has spent a majority of his time there being somewhat low-key. Sure, he’s dropped several projects while on the label, including The Birthday Tape and even the joint mixtape with Casey Veggies, Fresh Veggies. But there’s yet to be a significant push for him to reach the heights of more mainstream labelmates Wale and Meek Mill or even MMG leader Rick Ross.

#mmgweekend

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2016 is already shaping up to be different, as he kicked off the year with his The Night I Went To…, which features the Ross and Veggies-assisted remix to “Your Life” that got a video adaptation shot during MMG’s 4th of July party. All that should set him up nicely for an album slated for release by the year’s end.

Taking some phone time with HipHopDX, the Chicago-native speaks on feeling underrated and his relationship with Rick Ross.

Rockie Fresh Hopes To Drop MMG/Atlantic Records Debut By The Year’s End

HipHopDX: Driving 88 was the last thing you dropped before signing to Maybach Music around four years ago. Looking back, how did that lead into your situation with MMG?

Rockie Fresh: I had been working hard on the mixtape scene, up until that point, and this had gave me a nice little level of respect in my city just for doing shows and being myself. I think that record is one of the toughest soundtracks of my life. Just because I didn’t understand where everything was going. I was getting older, even though I was still young because I had just turned 20. It was just being in Chicago, and living the way I was living came with a lot of responsibility. That project was me wanting to get to another level in my life. It took me a minute to really catch on, I put it out in January, and I would say Ross didn’t hit me up until like July, and then everything started rolling from there. I got contacted by Ross and then Diddy, and then a bunch of other labels as well. It was a real cool moment in my life, it was a fun project to make, I put in a lot of work as well and I didn’t know how effective it was going to be as far as all the things I was seeing. I definitely will forever appreciate Driving 88 and the people that helped me work on it and the state that I was in because it helped me jumpstart everything that I always wanted.

DX: The project’s titular single also features Casey Veggies who you would eventually work with on Fresh Veggies. Talk about your working relationship with him and how that’s grown over the years.

Rockie Fresh: There was a guy by the name of brandUn DeShay, and he was also riding around with Odd Future at the time, and this is way before Driving 88. BrandUn put out a mixtape and put me and Casey on the same song and then from that me and him really liked each others’ verses and we just built up from there. When I came out to L.A. for the first time we got in the studio and made “Duckin and Dodging.” Just during the process of making that song, we developed a friendship and stayed in contact with each other and that’s been my brother ever since, so my relationship with Casey is definitely deeper than the music. It’s also the fact that we have such a passion for music, and that we both are pretty underrated dudes with a lot to prove right now. We always kind of keep each other on point with what we’re trying to do.

DX: Do you feel underrated with a lot to prove still? How do you feel about your status at this point in time? You’ve been on Maybach Music for a long time now.

Rockie Fresh: I feel like at the end of the day, when I got in the game, there was a lot of things I wanted to do at the highest level. I feel like we’re still working to get to that point, just as a unit. My situation with MMG is really good, me and Ross have a great relationship. I’m also signed to Atlantic records so it’s just about building everything with them and growing up and learning as a man what’s important in the business, what’s important to me, what’s important to my family, but also, as an artist. I think back to those wild dreams I had at 17 and 18 when I first started making music, and those are some of the things I still want to fulfill. It’s very superficial things like doing records with Kanye, and Jay Z, and Pharrell, and being able to put out a platinum album and those are still personal goals that I want to achieve in my career. I hope God gives me the time to continue to work towards those moves.

DX: It almost feels like that project came out before drill started popping on a mainstream level. Do you feel like the drill scene rising to popularity at that time kind of diminished the movement you had going on or were trying to build?

Rockie Fresh: I definitely think that goes into the whole underrated situation, like for me it was all about music. So, there weren’t any gimmicks or there wasn’t no ‘Rockie has beef with so and so.’ Everything I was about was just about delivering and giving out a strong body of work to motivate people through my music. A lot of times people think that the drill movement put the spotlight on me as an artist. I was definitely getting a lot of attention just for doing what I was doing.

Enjoying a nice walk in the city @NewamsterdamSpirits #runtheunderground #sp #chicago

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I also had a lot of respect for the drill artists like King Louie who was one of the creators of the drill music, was on Driving 88 as well and me and his manager who was also an artist at the time, we were touring together even before that movement sparked. This was before my second mixtape. It was this thing how I was always getting respect from that culture, I never hated on it, never disrespected it, I never took anything away from it but at the same time, I do think that it was important to know that my movement started before that was a big thing to the world. What Chicago was known for, we were already moving around nationally and me just doing what I wanted to do.

DX: Have you noticed or observed anything since making the deal with MMG years ago?

Rockie Fresh: I think it’s an anything goes type of game right now, which is efficient for all artists you know? I think one thing that’s very important is — you see this with sports and you see this with business — it’s about having a proper team. If you got a team that’s focused on making your business come to life, then, anything you want to do is possible.

A lot of people trip about the rap game because you have artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi who I think are super dope but a lot of people are rubbed the wrong way about what they do but, they’re ignoring the fact that they’re still artists just like Kendrick and J. Cole and Big Sean and people like that who also just represent a different side of the culture. With that being said, whatever you want to do, it’s kind of like you get in where you fit in and just make sure you got people focused on the wins and not so much the losses. It’s a good time to be an artist man. Anything you want in front of you is possible, as long as you got the right people with you.

DX: In January you dropped The Night I Went To… What’s the game plan in 2016 for Rockie Fresh?

Rockie Fresh: We working to get this first album out man I got a lot of new music that’ll be coming out over the course of the next few months. We also got a pretty cool tour that we’ll be announcing soon. With that The Night I Went To… project, man I just wanted to get something out to the fans just to let them know we was working. It’s funny because I was out in L.A. and I was just making so many songs that I kind of forgot that I wasn’t putting nothing out. Once I got that wake-up call, we decided to give the people a project, a little taste of what we were working on. We gon’ be slaying the game all year. But I really think this is all leading to the debut album, which I have a lot of the songs done for and I’m really excited to get them out to the people.

If anybody follows my career and know that I experiment with a lot of different types of music. With that, leading up to the album, I’m going to start putting those sounds in separate places. I might do a signing project and the same thing for more of the harder records too. That’s kind of how a lot of people found out about me was this song called “You A Lie,” which Ross happened to remix and that’s when a lot of people got on along with the “Panera Bread” from the superman OGs. So you know I might just throw out a couple mini projects. It might be for some of those that like the hard tracks. I might put something out for the ladies who like them signing joints and of course, I’m going to do something for the Hip Hop fans as well and then once I think we show ‘em how versatile we are, it’ll be time to announce the album date and title which is already half ready.

DX: Let’s talk about the album. This is a long time in the making. What’s the plan for the album?

Rockie Fresh: It’s definitely going to have a story element involved to it, and also something that I learned with The Night I Went To… as far as having a lot of features on your album is that it’s a process. At first, I was getting a little nervous but, then I was watching another Chicago artist which is Chance The Rapper and I was watching one of his interviews and he was also talking about getting his records cleared just from people he was working with. I think for my album, when I was planning on having a lot of features, I think I might keep a lot of these records to myself and just give people the chance to understand me as an artist, verse by verse, hook by hook. It may suffer from the tension initially, but I think, in the long run, people will respect me as a creative a lot more once I get it going my way.A lot of these executives, they got tired of their artists and if they don’t’ turn up within the first six months of signing you, they’ll get rid of you. Ross has been around with us for a long time though so I respect that. You know the fact that we’re allowed to be who we’re supposed to be and there’s no rush.

DX: What’s it like growing as an artist on MMG?

Rockie Fresh: When I put out Driving 88, I knew that even though I put out a really dope mixtape, there were more levels that I wanted to go creatively and musically. I think that’s the awesome part about Ross. When people really look at his track record over the course of his career, he’s done so much. Not only is that a statement from somebody that’s signed to him, but I mean his track record speaks for itself. He got records with Jay Z, Kanye, Pharrell, Skrillex, he got his own label and has signed multi-platinum artists. As far as everything that he’s covered in his time of being in the game, I think that learning experience and being up-close and personal gives him an advantage that people may not recognize. Now as I’m growing up, you’ll be able to see just how well Ross teaches his artists on how to move throughout the business and you know it’s all about the long term. I appreciate that he gave me time to grow and really flourish into what I’m about to become.

A lot of these executives, they got tired of their artists and if they don’t turn up within the first six months of signing you, they’ll get rid of you. Ross has been around with us for a long time though so I respect that. You know the fact that we’re allowed to be who we’re supposed to be and there’s no rush.

Rockie Fresh Answers If MMG Is In A Good Place & Updates On New Music From Ross

DX: What’s the status of Maybach Music Group? You guys have been in the news cycle a little bit over the past year between Ross’s transition from Def Jam to Epic so you got that going on. You also had the situation with Meek Mill and all of that. What’s the status with MMG? Are you guys feeling any pressure or are you all stronger than ever?

Story still being written

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Rockie Fresh: I think everybody good. I think stronger than ever, though, that’s really for the fans to decide from the outside looking in. As far as on the inside, everybody’s good man. We are grown men, we all individually have things we’re trying to achieve and I think that’s what makes the label cool too. Ross really put a lot of different dudes in a lot of different places and different vibes. You can clearly see that there’s a difference between me and Meek, even though me and Wale come from similar backgrounds you can see that there’s a major difference between me and him as an artist and I think that’s what makes the situation really cool. As far as the relationships with everybody, we all cool with each other. I think the MMG Weekend really showed that for the fans if they disagreed. There wasn’t any stories coming out regarding no drama coming out of that or anything and you can even watch the “Your Life” remix and you can see us all together enjoying ourselves and having a good time. It’s all good, everything is love.

DX: Before we wrap up, have you hear new music from Ross?

Rockie Fresh: He got so much music bro. The big homie dealing with a court case and he’s on house arrest so he’s very limited with a lot of things he can do. He got multiple studios in his house, though.

DX: Multiple?

Rockie Fresh: Yeah, definitely. He got a ton of work on deck.