When hip-hop first started, rappers concentrated on only one thing: rapping. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an artist, who in addition to rapping, doesn’t also own a label, a production company or some randomly miscellaneous entrepreneurial business outside of music.
For years a talent scout, A&R, producer, promoter and label CEO, Atlanta’s Rocko decided just last year to finally add artist to his ever-growing job title. Using the strength of a local single entitled, “Umma Do Me,” the multi-faceted 29-year-old veteran signed a record deal with Jermaine Dupri and Island Urban Records, and will release his debut album, “Self Made,” on March 18.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJ “Z,” Rocko steps inside the booth to talk about why he exchanged a pen for a microphone, if his beefed-up work schedule has affected his family life and how he skips breakfast to make money.
Listen to the Interview
Rocko Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is an Atlanta artist and CEO. Gearing up to release his Def Jam debut, “Self-Made,” later this month, please welcome my man, Rocko – how you doin’?
Rocko: I’m good, what’s good?
DJ Booth: What’s good is, you got a project dropping, and you’ve got to be excited about this!
Rocko: Oh yes, oh yes. I’m very excited – you know, I’m in a different city every night, promotin’ my album. The people, they’re welcomin’ me with open arms, they’re lovin’ me, I’m lovin’ ‘em back.
DJ Booth: Rocko, I heard your current hit single, “Umma Do Me,” before you even inked your deal with Island Urban Music. Would you say that song was your ticket to the big dance?
Rocko: Yes, for the most part. You know, that song’s where I really got all the major label attention. ‘Cause I had to rep it at like five hundred spins, prior to doin’ the deal.
DJ Booth: When you met with Jermaine Dupri and L.A. Reid in New York, to discuss potentially signing a major label deal there, did you believe what was happening? Did it all seem surreal?
Rocko: I mean, yeah, I believed it. I’m not new to it. I’d had major deals before, so I wasn’t new to it.
DJ Booth: I read that you worked as a talent scout for Universal Records for some time. How come you didn’t ever scout yourself?
Rocko: Because I’m more comfortable as a boss, you know what I’m sayin’? Really, I get a kick out of sittin’ behind my desk, sittin’ behind the scenes, but at the same time, when I look in the mirror, and I look at myself, I’m like, “Man, you know what? This is just too much swagger to be bottled up!” So I had to pour it out on the people.
DJ Booth: Rocko, the title of the debut album, as we mentioned off the top, is, “Self-Made,” and that can work in one of two ways. If it succeeds, you get all the credit in the world, but if it fails, you take the blame. So with the industry in major turmoil right now, are you prepared to take this next step?
Rocko: There is no such thing as failure with me. Everything I do is an accomplishment and it’s a success to me because of the fact that I know I’m a work-oholic and I’m gonna work hard. Nothing can deter me from anything I want to do. I understand what’s goin’ on in the music industry these days, and everybody else like to do numbers with everything, like two hundred thousand is the new gold, and gold is the new platinum, and things of that nature. I’m not worried just for the record because, you know, I’m CEO slash rapper, slash actor, and I just made my directorial debut. So I don’t have to rap. With me, it’s all about havin’ fun, and making quality street music, good music, and just having fun!
DJ Booth: Well, you mentioned just before, you carry a lot of different titles. You’re twenty-nine, you’ve been in this industry for ten years – at what point did you decide that you wanted to also be an artist?
Rocko: Last year, around June. Last June.
DJ Booth: Was there something that happened in particular that made you think, “You know what? I’m gonna do this also…”
Rocko: Well, initially, it was all about the cash at first. It was all about the paper, but then I really got into the craft and I really started having fun with it, enjoying it, and once my song started getting hot, I realized how I could impress people, and how people were recitin’ my words. I kind of fell in love with it; that’s when I decided I was gonna go in and do an album.
DJ Booth: When you first jumped on my radar at least, the stage name was “Rocko da Don.” Now it’s just Rocko. So, what happened to “da Don?”
Rocko: That was never my name. That’s what I called myself, but I never professionally, I never said that’s what I was goin’ by. I mentioned it a couple times and people just ran with it.
DJ Booth: Rocko, what we’re gonna do now is we’re gonna jump in the Mix. It’s a three-pack of questions revolving around some of your brand new material. First one is, “Tomorrow.” Now, for as long as I can remember, my mom always told me, “Live for today like there’s no tomorrow.” Is there any point in your life where you feel you were so focused on your future plans that you missed out on an opportunity that was right in front of you?
Rocko: Can you ask me the question one more time? I am trying to comprehend it.
DJ Booth: Sure. Is there any point in your life where you feel like you were so focused on the future, and what you were gonna do in the future, that you ended up missing out on an opportunity that was really right in front of you?
DJ Booth: Okay. “Busy,” it’s your new single. You open the song with the line, “I’m so busy gettin’ money, I don’t have time to talk.” Now, I’m glad you were able to squeeze time into your day for me, but, when I get too busy, I know my friends and family end up suffering. Do you think your beefed-up work schedule has affected your private life?
Rocko: To a certain degree I feel like it has, but, as far as my family, they understand. They understand that you get out of it what you put into it. And right now I’m on the road every day, I’m in a different city every day, but of course that’s what I’m puttin’ into it – that’s the seed that I’m plantin’, so I’m prepared to reap the benefits from it, and they understand that.
DJ Booth: Last song in the mix, “This Morning,” first heard on your “Swag Season,” mix tape. The song is based on waking up and immediately thinking about money and money only. I know when I wake up, the first thing on my mind is breakfast, so is money really the first immediate thought for you when you start your day?
Rocko: Yeah. I can go without eating breakfast if I can go get me some money.
DJ Booth: [laughter] Okay. Best of both worlds, though, you’ll get the chance to eat your breakfast and make your money at the same time, right?
DJ Booth: Give your website or your MySpace page, so your fans and my listeners can find out what you got goin’ on, and of course about the new album, “Self-Made.”
Rocko: It’s myspace.com/rockodadon. “Self-Made,” March 18th, the album of the century – go get it.
DJ Booth: Album of the century – that’s quite a bold claim!
DJ Booth: Well, I wish you nothing but the best of luck. Thank you for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth, my friend.
Rocko: Thanks for havin’ me.