Rockie Fresh Talks To VIBE about Alternative Cosigns, Rap Beginnings and Driving 88

I spoke to one of Chicago’s leading up-and-comers Rockie Fresh for just in time for his latest mixtape release. Get yourselves acquainted ’cause this 20-year-old is sure to be a problem.

Rockie Fresh is the next best thing out of Chi-Town. The 20-year-old already has co-signs from up-and-coming favorites (Lil B, Casey Veggies), alternative rockers (Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden) and even Asher Roth. With a new mixtape Driving 88 dropping today (Jan. 23), Fresh’s career is accelerating at high speeds and he has no intention of slowing down. Fresh recently spoke to about his parents’ initial reaction to his rap career, his diverse range of musical influences and his upcoming project.

At 17, a young Fresh was studying to mainstream rap records and alternative hits at Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in Chicago but as a member of the debate team, he was set on another occupation.

“When I was in high school, I was on the debate team and I was really trying to set up my life to become a lawyer. It was something I had a passion for but the problem with that is that I really didn’t like school itself,” says Rockie. “I definitely understood school but the whole time I was there, I knew it wasn’t for me.”

It was a rap battle victory in his school’s parking lot that made him consider a music career.

“In the last semester of my senior year, I had a rap battle with this kid in the parking lot and I won, which was lame, I would probably never do anything like that again. It kinda got people in tune with me that I was a rapper. And from there I just started slowly trying to deal with the idea of me becoming a real artist.”

The rapper’s name was born from a combination of childhood idols including Rocky from 3 Ninjas and the red Power Ranger of the same name–mixed with his modern sense of style. But when it comes to his records, make no mistake that Rockie’s not just another artist to file under his Chicago predecessors Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco. He’s different and his diverse tastes in music are evidence to that.

“I went to a very mixed high school and…got introduced to different types of music and instead of blocking out or you know being afraid of it, I really embraced it and some of these alternative songs have the best kind of lyrics and if you can get through the singing, there’s a message in there,” Rockie tells VIBE. “I just made it one of my guilty pleasures. You know I listen to Paramore, Avril Lavigne and Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy just as much as any other alternative fan but I also still listen to rap music like crazy, too.”

However, few can say that the bands they grew up listening to are fans of their music as well. Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte have touredith Fresh, as well appeared on his mixtapes.  “My fan base is all over the place because of my tour history and the different artists that I work with but it’s cool because Benji and Joel from Good Charlotte and Patrick, they’re fans. They don’t dislike rap music but it’s just not around them and so a lot of times, I’m their first introduction to rap and it’s coming from a vouch from an artist that they know and love to death and like for me to have those types of vouches and fans to give me a chance, to become fans of the music, it becomes a real beautiful situation.”

Fresh also brings this eclectic flavor on his new mixtape, Driving 88, inspired by the DeLorean from the classic film Back To The Future. In the Michael J. Fox classic, the car is required to hit the speed of 88mph in order to reach its destination. The project, which features the Good Charlotte Brothers, Phil Ade, Casey Veggies and Skrillex samples, gave Fresh the opportunity to create a record for everyone, painting a picture of various human emotions that people can relate to.

“I kinda want people to take from the project that it’s based off of real life and that also even if you don’t click with a record, you know at some point in your situation, maybe later on, that record may be instrumental to you because it was written for that purpose.”

Race to the future and listen to Driving 88 here.

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