For this instalment of 5th Element interviews, we head to the US State of Colorado to talk with a rapper that is just getting warmed up. Like most interviews I get these days, it all happened with a follow on Instagram. I saw a few teaser videos last year for an EP and I was intrigued simply off that. It was said EP that made me hit this guy up for a talk. I asked for two reasons apart from "I'm always looking for interviews". Reason one was that he can spit bars at a machine gun pace. Once you're done with this interview I will have his EP embedded at the end, you can hear for yourself. And two, from listening to it. I saw a rawness. We talk about this in the interview but even though his voice is smooth across a beat, there's an inner rawness that reels me in and I wanted to know where it came from.
We will find out where the rawness came from nearly immediately in our talk. Including his multiple locale background, MMA & how he links it to his rapping and of course, his Top 5. Ladies & Gentlemen, lyricist Rize Tha Rebel.
C: We start, as always, at the beginning. Where were you born, what was life like around you as a kid and what were you like as a kid?
R: I was born in Santa Cruz, California. Life was a bit all over the place for me. When I was a kid, we moved around a lot, all over the United States, ended up in Europe for a while, my mother was an artist so she was finding different places where she could do her artwork. For a while she travelled with the Renaissance Fair. I was just a little bit rebellious man. Hungry, you know. Physically and mentally. We never had a whole lot but we got to go to a lot of nice places and see nice things, those really stuck with me.
C: Was it just you and your mother travelling?
R: Yea. My dad left when I was real young. I'd see him briefly every couple of years but he wasn't much in the picture.
C: So what kind of artist was your mother?
R: She's a painter primarily, watercolour, things like that. Crafts as well.
C: With your travelling a lot, with all that moving about, did that affect your growth in any way, were you able to find yourself?
R: I mean. I got to see a lot of different cultures, meet a lot of different people, see how they live and I think that made me very personable. Feel like I can get along with all types of people and walks of life. Melding into whatever is going on in the area I was growing up in. I'm very diverse anyways. Ethiopian, Kenyan, French, Irish, Cherokee, Apache. I don't think it was much of an issue finding myself, there wasn't an issue of connecting it was more about trying to find what I was passionate about, finding inspiration. We lived in Mexico for a while, that was probably the biggest culture shock out of all the places I went. But I ended up Surfing and Skateboarding, getting a feel for the people and the machismo culture.
C: Why was Mexico the biggest culture shock?
R: One, because where I lived it was still a village. No paved roads, we got there in the middle of Summertime so that's the middle of monsoon season. I was coming out of the city, we moved out of North Cal at that point, straight to Mexico. We showed up in this small town, the streets were completely flooded out, it was just a river from all the rain. Nobody had cars, not a lot of people spoke English, it was just not what I was used to.
But then I started seeing the benefits in that. Away from all the noise and the people that come from being in a big city. I started making friends with some of the community, made a few enemies too. Had my first few scuffles there. So yea, it was just a bit of a culture shock.
C: So when did you eventually settle? Or are you still moving around?
R: Nah nah I've actually been in Colorado for a while now, Mexico was towards the end of my travels. I was 8 when we started going to Europe, went back to California, went to Middle School, ended up in a little trouble, got pulled out of Middle School, got to Mexico when I was about 12, 13 and then I ended up at Colorado for high school. I've been here since then.
C: So when did rapping start to come in the frame?
R: I'd say around that age was when the spark of inspiration. At that point in time, seemed like such an unreachable goal, it was such an unreal vision that it wasn't something I was pursuing quite yet. But in high school I kept up with it, I started free-styling more frequently, started building up my skills a little bit. I'd say it was around 15 when I started rapping a lot more. Just free-styling, having a good time with it and it probably wasn't until 17 that I really started taking it seriously. Had a couple of years under my belt. started to see it a bit more. Thinking that this was something I can run with. And it was through that time as well that I started getting into Mixed Martial Arts.
For me, they were very similar passions. The way I felt when I was rapping, felt the same way when I stepped into the cage. It all works together. Has the same kind of adrenaline.
C: What was the catalyst for you starting to take rap seriously?
R: Funny enough I had a really good buddy who was a very talented freestyler. He kind of pulled me into it. He was always so much better than me that I never had a foot in the race. But he ended up getting locked up for a little bit and while he was gone I kept at it and kept in touch with him. By the time he got out, I been at it for a while and he actually said to me that I really had something and to hear that coming from him, he really put the fire under me to want to go further and harder.
C: So when did you start taking it seriously?
R: Probably the following year after that. I managed to meet my first producer, started a little group, started bothering the fuck out of the local venues saying "Can we do a show, let's do a show." finally they hit us back. KRS-One was coming through town and he gave us that opening spot, awesome opportunity. That was my first experience on stage and that was also around the same time that I had my first amateur cage fight. I remember the feeling. The feeling of great risk with great reward on the other end. I'm stepping into this cage, got my family and my friends here, I don't want to lose, I don't want to fall but at the same time, that's what made that victory so much better. It was the same feeling when I got on stage. You give it all or nothing in that moment and that's what I want my life to be about. That feeling of living in the moment.
There was a point in time where I started getting back in touch with my dad too. Talking to him about everything I was doing and he said something that really stuck out. He was like "Look. You got a lot going on and eventually you'll have to decide whether it speaks to you or not." So that's when I decided to take it seriously. When everything came together I was like this is what I want to do. I love MMA, I love skateboarding but I want to speak to people, connect with people, all for the love of Hip-Hop.
C: So you don't fight anymore?
R: Nah. I still train when I get the time. Hit the dojo but of course I'm rocking with the music.
C: So let's get into the music. Was there anything that you listened to back in the day that became inspiration when you began to make tracks? Or from what your mother listened to.
R: Yea actually! My mother listened to a lot of diverse music. A lot of Marvin Gaye, lot of soul. Little bit of R&B. That always spoke to me. But she never introduced me to Hip-Hop, it wasn't part of her culture where she's from. So It wasn't till I was 10 or 11. The first Hip-Hop was like 50 Cent and it got my vibing. Then that turned me onto Eminem, I was really vibing! I was feeling that! And then I heard Illmatic and that was the one that spoke to me. That is what I've idolised and drove me to go for lyricism and more traditional Hip-Hop styles.
And I know the UK got a huge appreciation for lyricism.
C: Oh yea, for sure. I feel like it is more lyricism based here. UK Hip-Hop itself was sometimes British artists trying to sound American and that was a bit awkward. Then people that rapped but sounded British and those were the ones that stuck. Then after that, what we call Grime now is basically people rapping as fast as you rap. Going on a mad fast beat and literally go go go over it and it's mad to see. Obviously that's a rarity now in Mainstream Music in the US but it's always there. And since we're talking about that. I listened to your EP from last year and... It's very fast. It's VERY fast!
R: It's funny you mention that because that was definitely the biggest criticism that I received on that project. If I'm being completely honest with myself, it was my debut project and I felt like I had to prove something on that project. And I listen to a lot of UK Hip-Hop, they go in! And so I feel like my perception of what's really fast and what's not is a little bit different from your average person. Especially if you're not a Hip-Hop head, it could probably get a bit difficult to digest.
I've been inspired by a lot of today's artists. Joyner Lucas, Busta Rhymes, Twista, Bone Thugs N Harmony, people that just hit it with that "dananadanana". That rapid fire, it's letting people know that 'You're here'.
C: I wasn't saying it was a negative thing by the way! It was just the first thing I gleaned from it!
R: Nah nah I wasn't taking it like that either!
C: It fascinates me when I listen to that speed and I go "Shiiiieeet, how do they do it?!" It's a fascination to me anyway as to how people can rap in the first place. I'm a writer, but I can't write bars at all! I don't know why, I just can't do it! It's probably because I have such a high expectation of what Hip-Hop is these days, I'm just like 'If I can't do it at that level then I'm not going to try it at all.' That's me personally but seriously, listening to people like you, Logic, Busta, Twista & Tech N9ne. Machine-gunning it. I highly respect that.
R: That's an honour man to be in the same category as those.
C: It's a real skill. You either have it or you don't. Continuing on from that. Before the EP itself. That was last year, there's a little gap in between we haven't touched on between taking it seriously and the EP, so what were you doing before you started the EP?
R: During that time period it was a whole lot of figuring it out. A lot of trial and error. At that time I still had my group together, and we played a couple of shows together, also played before Sir-Mix-A-Lot. That was an interesting crowd. We ended up dropping a project as well and it just wasn't on the level I wanted it. Lyrically, sonically, it wasn't there. Put a bunch of money and time into it, didn't feel like what we wanted. Things kind of fell apart after that. My group split up. My producer went into film, moved to Arizona. So I was just left on my own. Spitting bars with no beats, no crew, but I kept doing it and ended up getting in touch with a homie who saw me play at those shows and he was an EDM producer at the time but he had the right energy and we started working together. Made a project, didn't like it, we deleted it. We worked on a 2nd project, got close to the finish but then he got robbed at gunpoint. Took all his shit, so we lost that project.
But that ended up being a good thing too because that project wasn't there either. And then came our EP.
C: So there were a couple of legit times where you weren't feeling it. Was that a sense of perfectionism?
R: Yea I think it really was. Similar to what you said, I have such a high standard of what Hip-Hop . I'm looking at these artists I'm listening to and then look at what I'm doing. I'm like 'Nah. That's not it, not close enough.' You know, in my mind I still see things wrong with that project but I enjoy it.
C: I feel you on that. When I write some things it's a thing that'll never be 'perfect' so as long as I like reading it I'm fine with it.
So with the 1st EP done. When is the next one?
R: It's so close dude! So close. I know it seems like I haven't done much on social media lately but I'm sitting on about 11 tracks right now. Almost finished but I'm taking my time with it. I've been working on some melodies, might sing a little bit. Beyond what everybody else said about my first project, my biggest criticism was that it comes in too quick. Everything comes at you too fast. So I'm just focusing on making them more "song-like". I'm still going to hit people with bars but you should get a good hook, nice bridge, so you're ready for the bars. So I'm taking my time with it but I think it's going to be a lot more enjoyable to listen to. I can't give specifics yet but late summer/fall is where I'm looking at.
C: That does sound like a great growth period. Going from something so raw to polishing the craft.
R: Exactly. We're still having fun with it. It has been a fantastic experience.
C: So who do see doing it now that blueprint to who you want to be?
R: So of course I'm going to hit you with Cole, always giving the real shit. Kendrick, what he is doing is inhuman. That's that god level. Logic, It's been inspiring to see what he's done and how his fans respond to him and love him. How he can connect to people on a personal level. Joyner Lucas, I want to see him come up this year. I appreciate what he's doing. Spitting hard bars like that, letting people know what's good. There's also some unknown to most like Sylvan LaCue, absolute savage with it. Mick Jenkins. Saba Joey Bada$$, he's doing a lot for his community and for Hip-Hop. I can go on for days.
C: For people that haven't listened to you. How would you describe yourself?
R: Evolving. A lyricist at heart, I like to hit people with bars. I got a lot of stories to tell. Spread positivity and inspire. That's what Hip-Hop is and it's made me want to drive for much bigger things in my life. I want to do that for my listeners. I also want to bring back that friendly competition that Hip-Hop used to have. Bring that fire.
C: I think we can end it there. But we always end on one question. What is your Top 5?
R: Okay. I'll go for Top 5 Right Now. J.Cole. My go to guy. Kendrick No.2. The calibre he comes with is incredible. Logic is 3. Number 4 I'm giving it to Ocean Wisdom.
C: Yo! You know what's funny? I only clocked onto him recently when his latest album dropped I was like "I am sleeping!"
R: Yea man Ocean is in there. Number 5, that's a hard toss up between Mick Jenkins, Saba & LeCue. I'm gonna have to give it to Sylvan LeCue. If you haven't listened to him you really should check him.
C: Rize Tha Rebel. Thank you very much.
R: Appreciate you reaching out.
That was my interview with Rize Tha Rebel. Thank you for reading, The aforementioned EP he dropped last year is below, be sure to give it a listen. Check out the 5th Element interview archive here for more talks and stay tuned for more 5E Interviews!