It doesn’t take long to uncover the duality of Rucci’s persona. If you ask the Los Angeles rapper what elements go into making a great concert, he’ll say in a very matter-of-fact manner “me.” If you ask Rucci about his journey to becoming a professional recording artist, however, he’ll readily admit he’s lost faith in himself more times than he could count.
Listen to enough of Rucci’s music, and you’ll soon discover a similar dynamic. He can be the shit-talking alpha dog capable of placing a mean mug on your face with the delivery of a single punchline (see “Intro” from 2018’s The Winning Team), or the howling canine who has mourned death and destruction since the age of six (see “Bodak Rucci”). In both forms, Rucci's energy is matched by the heavy sonics that long to be trumpeted from stadium subwoofers, ensuring that once you’ve seen him perform live, you’ll agree with his original one-word answer.
Rucci was born and raised in Inglewood, a city in southwestern Los Angeles County, California, where he grew up with his mother and his stepfather. Music was always playing in his household, but Rucci didn't start to rap until his uncle introduced him to hip-hop. In 2013, Rucci caught a break when his old football coach’s son, a well-connected figure in Los Angeles known as Bossman, took notice of his talent. After hearing Rucci rap, Bossman recruited him into his crew and gave him the foundation to start his career, providing steady studio time and the chance to hone his talents among artists who shared the same hunger.
Now, at 25 years of age, Rucci can point to several accolades as his proudest achievement in music: performing at Rolling Loud, touring the country alongside Shoreline Mafia, signing a record deal with EMPIRE. But when I ask him which accomplishment means the most, Rucci makes clear that streams, views, and ticket sales don’t define his success. Instead, it’s much simpler, and something all of us are fortunate enough to claim still: “Being alive.”
“I was put in so many positions to do wrong, I was just the odd one out of the bunch,” he tells me in a patient, pensive voice. “I would do wrong, but God would just come in... I can’t even explain.”
To say Rucci has overcome obstacles to get to where he is today would be an understatement larger than the Inglewood Forum. Three years ago, the ferocious rapper became a name to watch in Los Angeles after joining forces with fellow Inglewood native Sean Mackk. The two had known one another for years and had formed a close, fraternal bond, eventually coming together to make music under the name MackkRucci.
On their only collaborative project, also titled MackkRucci, the two made clear they were destined for greatness; Rucci’s barking jabs were a perfect match for Sean’s frenetic, dizzying delivery. Together, they were poised to take up the mantle as LA’s next dynamic duo. On July 9, 2017, however, Sean Mackk’s life was cut short by a bullet. He didn't make it to 25.
“He was so successful because of how aggressive he was,” Rucci says. “You can’t tell him no. So when he left, it left me with a lot of aggression, to value myself more and not give a fuck about what other people think.”
Due to the persistence of those who have survived him, Mackk’s presence is an inescapable part of the Los Angeles ecosystem. To date, all of Rucci’s YouTube and SoundCloud uploads still live under the name MackkRucciMusic, while his display name on Twitter also reads MackkRucci. More importantly, the tragedy solidified the bond between the artist and his inner circle, who quickly rebranded themselves as Mackk & Company to keep their fallen comrade with them at all times.
“We were already a team from the MackkRucci shit,” Rucci says. “So when he passed, we just wanted to keep something going for his family and us. [My managers] Tuck and Holiday came up with Mackk & Company, that’s just what we rock with.” He motions toward his neck, which features a glimmering gold chain with the words “MACKK&CO” hanging above his chest. “We all got these. That’s just what it is: Sean Mackk, and us.”
At present, Mackk & Company is focused on the upcoming release of Rucci’s debut studio album, Tako’s Son. Last year, he flooded the streets, releasing three projects within seven months. But this time around, he’s practicing patience, trying to maximize the moment and put a greater emphasis on presentation. In his eyes, it’s his biggest album thus far. He’s hell-bent on using his platform to tell a side of the story artists often leave out of the equation.
“I want to show a different side of the West Coast,” he says emphatically. “We don’t give you our pain; we glamorize a lot of shit. We’ll tell you, ‘That nigga got shot,’ but we won’t tell you why he got shot. There’s a lot more to it that I feel like they don’t see.”
The first song Rucci created after Mackk’s passing, “Keep Going,” will appear on the album's tracklist, underlining the emotion he’s looking to channel throughout the project. The video for the album’s lead single, “La Bamba,” which also has an extremely personal connection, finds Rucci harassing ordinary pedestrians to buy fruit from his curbside stand to earn enough money for a trip to Mexico. Without the proper context, the video might appear to follow the typical rapper has fun at the beach blueprint—that is until the viewer learns that the man Rucci is drinking with is his father, who he hasn't seen in three years.
In 2017, the United States government deported Rucci’s father, known by many as Big Tako, to El Salvador, where he lived for nearly a month until fleeing north to Mexico to escape gang-related attacks on his life. Still, the relationship between father and son remains unbroken, and Rucci revels in the knowledge that his father is proud of the man he's become.
“We talk all the time,” he says. “He’s been in and out of jail [all] my life, but we’ve always been able to talk. He loves the person I am today; he wouldn’t want my life any other way.”
Rucci hesitates to share the title of his best project—after some prodding, he admits it’s El Perro—because of the sheer magnitude of material he has in the can. Even the unreleased songs, he says, pale in comparison to the material he has yet to bring to life. Rucci is a firm believer that his most impressive work is still yet to come.
“There’s music I haven’t been able to drop, and that I’m not dropping on this album, that I think is some of the best work I’ve ever done,” he says. “I used to have an answer for that at the ready, but now, I make so much music, bro, it’s so many fucking songs. So the music that I think is my best is something I can’t even speak on since it’s not out.”
Rucci’s ever-growing catalog is a byproduct of a close-knit circle; he shares an apartment with his producer RoMo, which doubles as a creative space for the pairing. Combine that synergy with an urgent responsibility to further Mackk’s legacy, and it’s easy to understand why Rucci’s work ethic is constant, and why he refuses to acknowledge the “hometown hero” label that his city has bestowed upon him.
“I still work as if it’s 2016 and I’m trying to punch my name,” Rucci explains. “I’m probably big to a lot of people, but to myself, I’m still not big.”