Rittz Opens Up About His Struggle Getting to the ‘Top of the Line’
They say it takes 15 years to become an overnight celebrity. Atlanta MC Rittz has been at the music game for years, so it’s just a matter of time before his star power shows up. But until then, the Strange Music rapper is enjoying the ride.
Currently promoting his third studio album, Top of the Line, via a 57-city tour, Rittz is living the life. Partying from city to city, selling out shows of an audience upwards of 5,000 people and preparing to say "I do," to the love of his life, you would think things couldn't get any better. But in the music business, success and fulfillment can be hard to find. The checks are constantly changing, and the bills just keep going up. But for this ATL artist, the grind is just motivation.
The Boombox: You come from a city that's known for its ratchet and trap sounds. Rappers always say they're different, but rarely are. How have you been to separate yourself from the pack?
Rittz: I’ve been rapping in Atlanta for so long that I spent so many years trying to imitate and trying to copy and trying to do sh-t that wasn’t me to get on the radio. You’re trying to steady see what’s going on, and that’s why all the music sounds the f---ing same. Then, I finally realized that the best music that was coming out of me was when I was just being myself. As soon as I realized that, and as soon as I stopped trying to do that and copy whatever the typical Atlanta sound was, I started prospering more and getting noticed more and getting respected more.
How long ago did you settle into the sound you have now?
It took a long time. I would say I started to develop more into my sound in 2003 or 2004 on[wards] - around when Lil Jon was really jumping off and every beat was crunk and there was the snapping and all that type of sh-t. The tempos really slowed down a lot [then]. Every time I tried to rap slow on those tempos, I just sounded like every other Atlanta artist rapping. So I was like, I’m gonna rap double time on it; I’m gonna tongue twist on it. Of course, everybody knows Twista for doing it and Bone [Thugs] and Busta Rhymes … but it hadn’t been done in a while so I figured I was just really gonna show out on these tracks.
Do you feel you got a lot of support from other Atlanta artists once you really found yourself in music?
No. I think they know me, and they respect me. I get props from certain people, but I think - and I can’t say this for sure - but I’m from Gwinnett County anyway and that’s the North side, and they’re like, ‘That’s that White boy from the North side with the hair,’ and that’s as far as it goes. And for me, if that’s all it is then cool. If they don’t want wanna reach out and put me on tracks … as long as they don’t say I suck [and] as long as you don’t say I’m a bad rapper, we cool.
You say your current album really reflects a lot of ups and downs that you went through on tour and in your music career overall, and at one point you didn’t even want to continue with this business. What made you decide to stick it out and keep pushing?
After I made...it’s like, this is your job. Green light, you gotta go. There’s always this big fear that it’s all gonna come out from under me. I think it comes from when you finally get a little bit of money in the bank, but it’s not like hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you see how fans can turn on you real quick and how certain things go in and out of style. If you make most of your money on tour, you’re judging your crowds...[and] you’re a bad tour away from making less money. When does it end? Can you do it forever? Can you be financially stable as a rapper forever, and will people still like you? It’s just scary to me. I think it wouldn’t be as scary if you had a hit song or a bunch of money in the bank and some back-up plans and things to do with it. I think that fear keeps doubting it, but it also keeps you going on as well.
Do you have a back-up plan now? When you turn 55, are you still going to be rapping, or do you have something else you know you want to do?
I hope not! [Ed note: referring to rapping at 55 years old]. I hope to do things with food, and hopefully go into the restaurant business. And just financially owning things and making smart decisions with money, but you gotta have the money first. It’s like every deal you make more money than the last, but the more money you make the more money you spend, and unless you just get some crazy, large amount then … it’s just been a constant struggle for me.
People thing being a rapper automatically means you have money. What's been one of your hardest struggles when it comes to money?
The first tour I ever went on myself, I got paid like $50 a night, which was a lot of money to me for working in a kitchen [back then]. Then the next job I thought I was going to make even more money, but I ended up owing like $1000 to the band. You make a lot of mistakes as a young person. So each tour I’m trying to up it. This tour, I’m getting my first car. This tour, we’re gonna rent a house. This tour we’re gonna get married. This tour, we’re gonna buy a house. It’s just [about] slowly coming up, you know? People totally get the wrong impression. Just as soon as you get the deal, [they think] you’re out there and you got it all, and that’s just not the case. When I get done with this tour, I plan on getting married, but when I get married that’s gonna take a chunk of money out the bank so it’s back to working and making more money. It’s like any hustle.
With this album, it feels like you were trying to tell your story and say 'This is my F you because I’m gonna make it.’ Did you have that in mind when you were putting the album together or did you just take it song by song?
I kinda took it song-by-song. The only thing I knew was how I wanted some of the music to sound. That intro had to sound like that. I wanted it to sound like a movie, like a Quentin Tarantino movie and me to really snap. The same thing with “Inside the Groove.” That beat is really classy and grown man. I always got this chip on my shoulder where I not sneak diss, but slick poke at everybody and all the sh-t that gets on my nerves...as far as being better and I feel like I don’t get the credit. But a lot of rappers feel that way. Everybody that I get on a track with gotta bring their A-game, and it’s known. It’s not bragging. It’s known that I’m an MC; that I’m a rapper’s rapper. So it’s like, let me give you a rapper’s album.