NAZANIN SHAHNAVAZ

SSENSE : Rich The Kid's Hyper Speed Come Up

Interview and Styling: Nazanin Shahnavaz
Photography: Vicky Grout 

At a London photography studio, Rich The Kid buzzes around like a wind-up toy with green-tipped braids, shouting his own lyrics at random. He has just completed his first world tour, signed to a major label, and on the cusp of the release of his debut album, his excitement cannot be contained. From underground rappers in Atlanta’s trap scene to hot-ticket names like Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Justin Bieber, and Frank Ocean, Rich’s accelerated career has been fueled by unexpected collaborations captured on now-infamous mixtapes. He represents a new incarnation of rap braggadocio, inspiring adoration and skepticism through a crass combination of personality, style, lyrical content, and entrepreneurial flare. After fielding a steady stream of texts, calls, and notifications, Rich sinks into an armchair. Having tired himself out, the rapper begins to calmly share his story, from growing up hustling in Atlanta to waking up rich in L.A.

On High School and Fitting In
Moving to Atlanta was weird at first, especially being the new kid at school, but after a while I managed to fit in. I moved from school to school and people seemed to like the way I talked and the way I dressed. I was a full-fledged New Yorker and being from a different place made me popular and shit.

On His First CD
I think it was Get Rich or Die Tryin' by 50 Cent. I bought it from RadioShack.

On Musical Influences
I’ve loved music my whole life, all different types of genres. My parents are from Haiti and they would play Haitian music—that’s how I picked up Creole. When I got into skating, I listened to Sublime, Green Day and System Of a Down. Those bands still influence my music today. Coming up on the rap scene, MC’s like Nas, André 3000, and T.I. inspired me.

On the Turning Point
The moment that changed my life was starting my record label, Rich Forever Music. By signing artists like Jay Critch and Famous Dex, I was able to change other people’s lives too, not only mine. It gave me the chance to take people under my wing and share new opportunities with them. We’ve got to be supporting each other. I want to motivate kids—the next generation—to do the same thing, to accomplish their dreams. Before I came up, I had to learn everything about the business first and I did all the groundwork myself. Even now, everything I do, I do it myself. I might be signed, but all of my achievements come down to me. I’m a self-made boss, I’m the CEO of my own record label. It’s my art, it’s my music, it’s my craft.

On Great Art
I think what makes great art is subjective, it depends on what you think makes great art. My definition has changed over time. There are tracks that I used to think were trash that I really value now. It all depends on taste and taste is something that evolves as you evolve.

On Growing Up
I’ve changed a lot. I’ve definitely grown as a person and changed for the better. I’m rich.

On the Perfect Day
A perfect day for me would be wake up, smoke a blunt. Go to the studio, record with my homies, smoke a blunt. Play a show, smoke a blunt. Go to a party with Migos, smoke a blunt. Go home, play some video games, smoke a blunt, and go to sleep.

On Being Hip-Hop’s Hardest Working Rapper
I’m a workaholic. I just work hard non-stop all of the time. I got a studio at my house. If I’m not in my studio, I’m at another studio. I like working, you know what I’m saying?

On Homesickness
I love spending time with my kids—I have three kids—they are one, two, and three years-old. My family and my kids are what motivates me, I’m doing all this for them.

On Being Motivated by Fear
I was afraid of not making it.

On Legacy
I want my legacy to be Rich Forever Music, how it changed the industry and started a whole new wave.

On the Message in His Music
You’ve got to live your own life and do your own thing. You can be whoever you want to be, just know your influence and know that what you say in your music affects your fans, these teens that are out there supporting you.

On His Grandma
She is greatness. She played a big role in keeping me on track, helping me out when I was in trouble and giving me money. The hardest period in my life was making it into the music industry, and she was always there to support me.

Rich The Kid by Nazanin Shahnavaz for SSENSE.