Detroit-native whiterosemoxie crafts music that reflects his turbulent reality. We find this brand of hyper-realistic rap on Moxie’s debut full-length project, white ceilings. Released on March 27, two days before his 18th birthday, white ceilings is a captivating coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a kid growing up in Moxie’s hometown of Detroit, Michigan.
Earlier this year, Moxie, born RJ Hardamon, was selected as one of 14 artists to earn a spot in Assemble Sound’s year-long artist residency program. As a part of the program, the 17-year-old was granted 24/7 access to Assemble’s recording studios, which he used to craft white ceilings.
“Assemble gave me that backing that I needed just to take me to that next step,” Moxie explains over the phone. “You can hear the change, bro. I’m way more confident in my music now, and Assemble has helped with that.”
Moxie’s right about his confidence. white ceilings begins with him charismatically skating over bass-heavy tracks like “Newty” and “Mitt Romney,” highlighting his ability to craft high-energy, mosh-inducing bangers. As listeners start moving down the tracklist, the tone of the album begins to shift sonically towards something lighter in production and heavier in emotion.
The four-song stretch in the middle of white ceilings, starting with “Mio” and ending with “West Side Boys,” is a particularly impressive string of performances. The Detroit rapper experiments with unique melodies and vivid storytelling over beds of soaring synths, driving basslines, and crashing hi-hats.
There’s more to Moxie than just making incredible music, though. The young emcee is an advocate for spreading positive energy, fixing broken systems, and bringing people of all backgrounds together at his shows.
“At the end of the day,” Moxie concludes, “I want people to be like, ‘That was just a good ass n***a, bro. He was just a good ass person.’ I want to go down as always having that positivity and making people feel uplifted, bro, because fuck all that negativity.”
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did music first enter your life?
whiterosemoxie: When I was eight years old, I had a tragic asthma attack. I’ve had asthma my whole life, and I was in a coma for a few days. I never actually wrote music or nothing before, but as soon as I woke up from that coma, I just wanted to make music. It was the first thing I thought of. So, that was when I was eight. I’m 17 now, and I’ve been doing it since then.
You’re from the West Side of Detroit. How has your upbringing influenced your development as an artist?
I remember when I got to [University of Detroit Jesuit High School], which is the high school I go to now. It’s a private catholic school, bro, but I got into it, so my parents made me go. I had never been in that situation before because I went to D.P.S. (Detroit Public Schools) my whole life, and then I was sitting there at a private catholic school like, “Woah, what?”
So, I guess that kind of changed my perspective, too. I’m the type of person where my anxiety works in a way that I gotta be on it. So, my brain was always like, “How do I fit into this new community?” Once I fit in, I realized all these communities I’m in are all the same, bro. Everybody is the same. I have white friends. I’ve got black friends. I’ve seen the similarities in everybody, and I think bringing everybody out to [my] shows helps people see that shit, too. They’re like, “Damn, it’s mixed crowds in this bitch.” That’s what I want to do, bring people together. Coming up in the city has helped me realize that.
Often, up-and-coming artists leave their hometowns for places like NYC or LA to chase their dream. But, with your Assemble Sound residency, you’ve been able to stay in Detroit and pursue your rap career. Has that been a positive for you?
Definitely. At the beginning of this year, I had a lot of people following me but not biting. I had 20-30 A&Rs following me from big labels, but I hadn’t gotten a bite yet, so I was just in a weird space where I didn’t know where I was going with my career, you feel me? I’m a high school student, so the only thing that makes me official is—well, now, I feel official because I’ve done things. Like, I had an official release. But, I was feeling like I was just releasing shit out of my basement because that’s what I was doing.
Assemble gave me that backing that I needed just to take me to that next step. They were the first ones to be like, “Yo. You crazy, bro. Let’s do some shit.” You can hear the change, bro. I’m way more confident in my music now, and Assemble has helped with that.
Your album, white ceilings, is a polished and musically mature body of work for an artist of any age, never mind the debut full-length project of a teenager. Where does that polish come from?
Starting in Detroit, you know, I’ve always grown up listening to Detroit rappers so I’ve got to shouts to Sada [Baby], Babyface Ray. Those are some people I be rocking with now, but back even to BandGang Lonnie and just the whole BandGang movement, you know? Just the way they rap, the way they say what they’re saying, it’s insane.
Travis Scott is one of my big influences. I fell in love with him years ago. Kanye West, just for the way he creates everything on his projects. I do the same, so, obviously, I look at him as an idol in terms of music and the way he’s just been able to play with sounds. I love people like fun. I love Queen. I love Bon Iver. I love Tame Impala. Paramore is also one of my favorites. I love Panic! At the Disco.
“Go” was when I started playing with those types of songs, like piano, acoustic types—after I [saw] the acoustic version of “This Is Gospel” by Panic! At the Disco, and Brendon Urie was playing it on the piano. I fell in love with that, so I wanted to make a song like that. But Travis, A$AP [Rocky], [and] Juice [WRLD] are huge influences as far as people out now.
What do you hope to achieve with white ceilings? What was your goal?
white ceilings paints a picture for the world of the last four years of my life because I feel like I’m in a strange wedge. For the kids who weren’t broke enough to be on the block every day but also weren’t rich enough to be straight every day, it’s like, what do you do? That’s the story that’s kinda not told, you feel me?
That’s where white ceilings comes in because where do those people go? We always in the basement. Where do you get high for the first time? The basement. Some people have sex for the first time in the basement. We have parties in the basement, and basements always got white ceilings here. My bedroom ceiling is white. My studio ceiling is white. Over the past four years, I’ve just spent so much time under white ceilings, and this is when I’ve been growing, living life, learning shit, and it’s all been under white ceilings. white ceilings represents that whole lifestyle and those stories of the past four years.
What was the most challenging part of creating the album?
I had never finished a project before and what I mean by that is, I used to do everything myself. I was pulling beats off YouTube or making them myself, mixing and mastering it, and then just dropping it. But with white ceilings, we went back and really got into it and edited it over and over and tweaked shit. That was hard for me because I wanted people to hear it.
After a while, you hear the music so much [that] you start to doubt it. I’m like, “I know I fuck with it, but ain’t nobody else heard this yet,” and it was my first full-length tape. It was my first tape where I was speaking about my life and stuff. My first really explicit project, too. It was like everything was changing with it.
Today is the day before your 18th birthday. Looking into the future, what type of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to be remembered?
I want to do a lot; don’t get me wrong. There’s kids in cages. We’ve got to do something about this water shit in Flint that’s still not fixed. I want to do shit. But, at the end of the day, I want people to be like, “That was just a good ass n***a, bro. He was just a good ass person.” I want to go down as always making people feel uplifted, bro, because fuck all that negativity and shit.
It’s so much shit going on, bro. Two minutes a day can change somebody’s life! I know that firsthand, and so I want to go down as, “Moxie, yeah, I fuck with him.” Even if kids don’t fuck with my music or my art or nothing, I just want everybody to get that good energy off me because I try to put that out all the time. There ain’t enough of that.