Saucelord Rich dresses the part of a very important man. On a Thursday morning in late September, the New York-born, Atlanta-based producer and rapper showed up to the VICE office in a teal blazer, ruby red velvet slippers, dark pants, and gold just about everything else. He could've been anything from a music mogul to a space-age bounty hunter. But over the course of our conversation, he proved himself to be a few things for certain: smart, creative, commanding, and fearless.
Along with FKi 1st, Rich is one half of FKi—the super-producer duo from Atlanta that has produced hit songs for the likes of 2 Chainz, iLoveMakonnen, Post Malone, Waka Flocka Flame, Young Thug. But Rich's influence in the rap world doesn't stop at production. He's also an audio engineer, working on his own tracks and training other engineers who have gone on to be employed by big names like Kevin Gates. Having spent years behind-the-scenes helping other people fulfill their potential, Rich is ready to do the same for himself.
Last month, Rich released his debut solo project, Know Me "King Wolf"—a 13-track album, out now on 4AM Records, that goes far to explain his production aptitude. While primarily a rap album, the project grabs from electronic music, rap, and rock in ways that prove he has more of a deep understanding than a passing interest in those genres. Rich manages to create a universe where he is king, bestowing his knowledge of the world to all of us gathered to hear his word. It's the first step in a journey that Rich hopes will turn him into a household name around the globe.
Our interview lasted an hour or so, and I spoke for maybe a total of four to five minutes over the course of it. Rich is borderline a motivational speaker, with a knack for engaging you and bringing you into his vision. He addresses topics at length, but never speaks too much. In some ways, his ability to know when enough is enough is another reflection of his music. After hearing him explain how the life lessons he's learned have made him the man he is today, and how he plans to reach the level of success he knows he deserves, I was a believer as well. Pretty soon, you'll be one too.
THUMP: When did you realize that you had a gift?
Saucelord Rich: I was real competitive [as a kid] and always wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. I never really practiced anything, I just sort of did it—play basketball, run track, everything. So I knew I had a gift but I didn't know what I was gonna do. I thought I was gonna play basketball, but then one day, I got on punishment. They took everything but my computer. I started making beats and literally fell in love with that. I knew I was gonna get good.
I always tried myself like this cause of my living circumstances. My house is so small, I couldn't invite people over. I was embarrassed—I didn't have a room. I didn't have a bed until my father got out of jail and he was selling drugs. I had my first bed and it was a water bed. That's my life, I went from no bed to a water bed. So when I leave the house, I'm like, I'm gonna live a superman life. I knew I was going to do something.
I ended up getting married into the hip-hop family [through my dad]—my step-brother's grandmother is Sylvia Robinson and Joe Robinson, the whole Sugarhill Gang, "Rapper's Delight," all of that. As a kid, I'm going to the kitchen and Ronald Isley is in there. I seen how they was living and how everybody had big houses, driving nice cars. I'm from the projects, so I'm like, "oh I'm doing this music thing. They are getting it!!" [laughs] The first big houses I seen was people who did music.
What were you being punished for and why did they let you have a computer?
Since forever I wake up early at 6 AM. I don't know why. I can't sleep that long. So I usually get up and take a shower. Now when you younger, you think you up but you not really up. And my father kept telling me like, nigga you keep jumping and shouting, you gon' fall asleep and then fuck some up. I'm like, "yeah whatever nigga. You don't know what you're talking about, this my life." [One morning] I go in [to take a shower], fall asleep, and flooded the whole house. Water came through the ceiling, the fuckin' floor, the ceiling—BOOM, mad water just came through and I didn't know none of this happening. I really fell asleep. I come out and see this big, gaping-ass hole dripping with water in the middle of the fucking house. My dad is like, "you see what you did, right? I fucking told you." I'm like, "Oh my god!" He punished me... forever [laughs].
But my father is just a straight street dude. A computer to him is like, "What are you gonna do, type on that?" He took my TV, my cool clothes, my cool shoes, everything. All I had was this computer. So I just got some headphones and started making beats. He just thought I was in my room being quiet all day.
So you had bring your entire house down for this shit to flourish?
Exactly. I brought my whole house down literally trying to be cool.
Were you raised in Atlanta?
No, I'm from between Harlem and the Bronx. My father's from Riverside, my mother grew up in the Bronx. I ended up moving to Georgia. My pops was on the run. He don't even live in Georgia no more. He lives back up here [in New York]. I still live in Georgia.
What kept you there?
I guess the music. It was the only thing I had, cause when I came back from college, we didn't have our house or nothing no more. You can say the Feds came and took everything—our dirt bikes, our nice cars, our home, everything. We were living in a smaller, brownstone apartment. My father was locked up. So that forced me to go out and get an internship. Now I'm sleeping at 11th Street Studios, literally trying to change my life, just making beats, trying to goddamn rap trying to make something happen cause I didn't know what the fuck else I was gonna do.
Right now if this shit stops, I couldn't tell you what I would do. I'm not the best drug dealer in the world, but I probably would sell drugs cause I can't sell shoes, I can't work at a grocery store, I can't give speeches—the fuck am I supposed to do? I can't do none of that shit, so this gotta work for me. That's why I am the way I am with this shit—cause there ain't nothing else.
You're a pretty good speaker.
I'ma tell you some real shit: I went in my fucking bathroom when I was a kid, deadass, and was like, "God, if you really want me to believe you, change my circumstances." It was that serious for me. My father got out of jail, just pulled up on a motorcycle, and was like, "Yo I be back." He brought me to [his new] house, he got money, and I'm like, "Goddamn, I literally prayed and that shit happened." I literally prayed myself out of a situation.
I'm still always worrying about shit. I give a fuck about this shit. Cause this is all I can do. I can't even spell that good nigga. They put me in a spelling bee right now, I'd be fucked up. I can tell you all this, but I can't speak that properly—it just end up turning into cusses and real shit, like I'm telling you son.
Would you say that you are more like at Atlanta or New York with how you approach the sound of your music?
I'm taking the New York lyricism and swag and jamming into a southern rhythm. This is how I look at it: it's hard for an older person to rock with the new generation because they can't relate with what they're saying. But there's a person who's 60 who can like Jay Z, and there's a 15-year-old kid who can like Jay Z cause the beats that he's picking and the things that he's saying, one way or another you're gonna take something from it. Big Daddy Kane, Pharrell, Jay Z— the way they just do that shit, it's just... I don't know.
It's like they're living larger than life. You feel like they're not really a human being, but somehow they still are.
Thank you. "Not really a human being but somehow they still are." Good thing you understand what I'm saying. [laughs] It's hard to say for me, I can't really explain it.
Right now if this shit stops, I couldn't tell you what I would do. There ain't nothing else.
FKi all came together when you moved back to Atlanta, right?
FKi 1st was from Cincinnati, and was [in Atlanta] like three or four years in advance [before me].
At this time you could count the black people on—you know what I mean—so eventually we were gonna gravitate to each other. I met one black kid and he took me to the other black kid who took me to the other black kids, and 1st was just a part of that group. Now that whole place is jumping in the black. FKi 1st really liked Jay Z at the time, and back in the day I was a Nas fan. We ended up getting into a big Nas and Jay Z argument and that led us to getting on the same bus and driving to the same neighborhood.
He's like, "Oh shit, you the person who moved into the fuckin neighborhood. What do you do?"
"I make beats. What do you do?"
"Fuckin make beats. That's crazy. I might come to your house, I wanna hear your beats. I have never met nobody who make beats too like me."
I go over like, "oh shit your beats are fire. come to my house." My father out there with fucking guns, a bulletproof vest, we are destroying the suburbs at this point [laughs].
How would you explain your music—is it like, a certain setting, a scene in a kind of place? Is it like the way you dress?
Have you ever seen Face/Off?
You seen how Castor Troy was acting in Face/Off? He was uncontrollable. If he wanted a woman, he was gonna get a woman now. If he was gonna make a move, he was gonna make a move now. It wasn't based on anybody. I've been somebody who's had to wait to come out forever. There was always stipulations. Can't do this. Can't do that. Now it's just like, fuck that. I feel like how [Castor Troy] felt. I know about the villain who's really supposed to be a hero, but by nature he ended up being the villain. You ever see that kiddie movie Megamind? He was supposed to be good person, but his ship fell into the jail cell, so now he think being bad is good because he didn't know better.
Tell me about the album.
I just wanted to make a project that when you click through the songs, you're getting a different side of a person. That's kind of what the whole wolf thing is about. Because if you see me in the day, you're not gonna recognize me at night. From 10 AM to 10 PM I'm in the studio, and after that, you go into that dark layer like, that's when a wolf is created.
This is the problem of my music. I'm always in a constant battle. It embodies somebody who stands in the middle of a situation all the time. You'll hear it when you listen to the music like, "oh he's in it."Nobody really represents that. Nobody talks about the reason why things are this way, or the reason why a woman feels this way. It's either like, "sing nice, tell them that you gon love them forever." That's what they gon do—you Drake them like, "Ooh baby girl, you know you da best." And they like, "Oh I'm the best." But who's the person who's like, "Yeah you do good ass shit, that shit be fire. But guess what? You do foul ass shit too and I still love you. For your foul ass shit and your good shit." [Laughs] I'm about the balance, I ain't tryna tip one way or the other.
You tell me my beat is tight? Hell no nigga. I need more than that.
I don't know who my music is for, that's what we trying to figure out. Could be for people in New York, Atlanta, Texas, LA, I don't know. I always ask people to tell me who I sound like, and they be like, "I can't really say that you sound like anybody." When that new thing comes, it's hard to really judge it. I feel like that's where my music sits—right there where it's like, "are you ready to take this gamble and see if you can put something new in the world? Or are you just going to keep accepting what's happening?" I understand this business, everybody gotta eat, everybody gotta live. But it's always been art to me.
How far do you think you can bring somebody out of their comfort zone at first before they get used to you? What do you do to try to make it so it's not just like, throwing them off the cliff, but kind of sliding them down the rail?
It's the way the beats are. If you listen to my CD, the first song is like up North lyricism jamming to a southern beat. Then on "Top on Top," it's like Southern, it's making it feel like "Oh I like this, I wanna dab." By the time you start working through the CD, now you listening to a rock song. Now you coming into like ambient music. But it's still got that background, it's still got that backdrop. So it's making you feel like, "Oh I didn't just jump off a cliff." But you're definitely sliding down a hill because the time you started at "King Wolf" and you get to "Butter"? You're coming off the end of the slide, WOO! And "Moon Making Music" is when you come off the end of slide.
People don't' do that no more, they just like "alright, I'm gonna make some songs, it's gonna all be banging it through your ears and they're gonna love it because it's banging through your ears." There was a time in the world where you say "the beat was crazy" and the artist in the room is like, "so what the fuck are you trying to say?" [laughs] But the world is so used to mediocrity, they could just be like, "oh the beat was crazy, man good," and you not even be the person who made the beat! That shit ain't hot for me. When people hear my music, I want them be like, "That beat was hard, his lyricism was hard, he had a little flow," Can't nobody gon running on this CD saying he did nothing. There's no outside person, every rhyme that you hearing came out of my brain. No one has ever written for me in my life. I write for people. So when people listening to my stuff I'm like damn, you heard it from this person, this person, and this person, and I wrote songs for all of them. You tell me my beat is tight? Hell no nigga. I need more than that.
I help people all the time. I train engineers fresh out of high school, kids who don't know what they gon do, giving them jobs—Kevin Gates' engineer is mine. He came in here like, "Bro you fire, I don't even understand why you're still sitting here." I don't even know why I'm still sitting here.
What do you have to do to get to the next level?
At the end of the day. I'm trying to deliver something that's impossible. This shit like hitting the lotto and I'm playing this shit everyday. You gonna run out of dollars! [laughs] I'm not winning, but you gotta believe that the lotto is going to change your life. We deadass trying. I'm there [in the studio] every day, making beats, writing songs, mixing shit, engineering shit, recording shit, doing everything.
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