Is there such a thing as a Southern-hip-hop sound? Looking at the most successful artists from Atlanta alone, the only discernible thread between OutKast, T.I., and Young Jeezy is the drawl in their respective inflections. Otherwise, unless they’re sharing producers, their records sound nothing alike. But if you consider their process, then a connection appears. See, when the South spits game at the pop charts, it’s with lucid charm. Sure, sometimes it’s curt, almost to the point of being blunt (Yeaaah-yah!) Other times it’s warmly familiar like an old friend you’d love to chew the fat with forever ever-forever ever? Yet in every case the sound invites your ass to the dance floor. In a perverted way, Southern hip-hop channels its regional predecessor, the blues, by making anything–the happiest, the saddest, the best, the darndest things–in life sound pleasant.
In this sense, Rich Boy (born Maurice Richards) fits right in with his regional brethren. Though hailing from the isolated city of Mobile, Alabama, the rapper scarcely misses a beat when it comes to balancing the art and the business-or cRap, as Dallas, may say. On his hit single “Throw Some D’s,” the molasses-mouthed rapper’s first verse blows in to the sound of a breeze as if to presage his lithe grasp of speech and casual just-got-paid glee. With staccato, measured mumbles, he chants and fragments phrases like, “Niggas wish they could feel the wood in my ’83/ Ridin’ with no tints so motherfuckers know it’s me.” In the song’s world of new money, yes, it can be all so simple.
In person, Rich Boy is no different. When he talks, he is short and to the point. He knows when to play the part (promptly listing producers/guests/themes in each highlight track from his upcoming self-titled debut album on Interscope) but takes his time to consider each question. He speaks with the confidence of an artist with a taste of success but remains earnest in his dreams to simply provide jobs for others. So, pour yourself a tall cup of lean and take a slow sip: Rich Boy will fit right in.
Where am I talking to you from?
You sound a little discombobulated. Have you been traveling a lot?
Yes. We gotta keep it moving [laughs]. Everyday we’re somewhere different.
I read you were planning to shoot a video in Mobile during Mardi Gras weekend. Did that happen?
Yeah, we actually just did that. It was crazy. We caught the Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama . . . a lot of people ended up over there because New Orleans is pretty empty. I just wanted to capture that in the video, so we did.
Which video were you shooting?
A song called “Boy Looka Here,” produced Polow da Don.
What is the video about?
It captures how it is in Mobile-like, how different [Mobile’s] Mardi Gras is from New Orleans’s. We did something different; everybody else’s videos just show girls and cars ‘n shit. We caught a moment.
How is Mobile’s Mardi Gras different from New Orleans’s?
The Mobile Mardi Gras is more ghetto. It’s more ‘hood.
Less tourists coming through?
Nah, in Mobile we have four different Mardi Gras going on at the same time. So, it’s kind of hard to explain. You got one parade, the Martin Luther King parade, we got all kinds of parades. It’s different from being on one strip, like Bourbon Street. It’s all around the whole city, so it’s crazy.
I imagine you’d be happy to capture some of that in a video.
Oh, yeah, I was super excited, super happy about it. It’s gonna be a great video when they edit it.
What does the name Rich Boy mean?
I got it from my father; they used to call him Rich because his last name is Richards. So, they’d say, “There goes Rich’s son, or ‘Rich’s boy.’ ” That’s where it comes from; it’s a neighborhood name.
How long have you had that name?
Forever. My whole life.
What is your goal in this business?
My goal in the business is to make enough to get some real estate and restaurants so I can support and supply jobs.
Back at home in Mobile, or elsewhere?
Anywhere, anywhere. Just to supply jobs.
For anyone in particular?
You were attending college before leaving to pursue a career in the music business. Why did you leave?
I left because I just fell in love with music just that much. It had all my attention.
Had you been doing music before?
Nah, I wasn’t doing music before.
What got you interested in doing music?
One of my friends was making beats, so I’d stop by his room and it would amaze me. And I just wanted to know how to do it, so he showed me just by doing it everyday.
Mobile hasn’t been recognized nationally as a hip-hop scene. How would you characterize it? What sets it apart from other scenes?
It’s really like anywhere else; it’s just the way they sound. The sound is different. It comes from Alabama.
You’ve said that you chose “Throw Some D’s” as the lead single because some of the other songs are “too advanced for people to really catch on.” What are these other songs about?
One song is called “When They Get to Poppin’,” produced by Brian Kidd. It’s a song where I’m painting a picture of the ‘hood, just what you would see if you were standing in the neighborhood and just watched. I got a song called “Hood Riches” with John Legend, but it’s actually talking about the opposite-it’s talking about being super poor and going through the struggle of trying to make it. I got one called “Lost Girls,” which is like a reggae song that is talking about girls going into a high level of prostitution-talking to men [because] they have a lot of money.
Those all sound like relevant and important topics. If anything, plenty of people would be able to relate. So why not release any of those songs as the first single?
The way music is, you just gotta come in [with something] kinda similar to what’s out, so they can understand. Then you can lead them in the way you want to go. You just gotta get their attention before you lead them first. ‘Cause if don’t nobody know who he is, they ain’t mos’ definitely gonna listen to you. You have to get something to lure them in to at least know who you are. “Throw Some D’s” did that for me.
So, when someone listens to Rich Boy, what do you want them to take away from it?
I want them to take different feelings. I want to connect with people-the feeling that you always remember like when you listen to a classic album. I just want to make people sad, happy, cry, whatever: different emotions.
Your upcoming album features productions from a number of veterans-Timberland, Lil’ Jon, Polow. What have you learned from working with them?
I learned different things about sound quality just working with producers on the spot. Just about how good each little small sound sounds.
There are a lot of different versions of “Throw Some D’s” out there, both remixes and versions thrown up on YouTube. What is your feeling on that?
I’ve been excited about all the remixes. I feel like it shows that the record is a great record and that people just want to be a part of what we’re doing.
Which has been your favorite so far?
The “Throw Some Cheese On It” video is probably my favorite [laughs].
That seems to be the popular one. You worked with DJ Drama on his Bring It to the Block tape. What is your feeling on the arrest of DJ Drama and Don Cannon?
I don’t know what to say about that. I guess their just trying to put a cap on artist mixtapes. I think it’s all about money. I feel like the record labels are trying to settle the money from the mixtape [market], so they started a commotion.
Do you think that is going to get in the way of how you release your music?
I don’t think it’ll get in the way. I think I’ll always be straight and get my music out.
You are about to embark on a national tour with several heavyweights, like Jeezy and Weezy. Is there anything about your live show that you’ll have to change?
Most of the time, I try to put some tricks in there for the bigger arenas, so we’ll see.
Do you have anything you’d like to talk about that we haven’t discussed?
My album will be in stores on March 13, self-titled Rich Boy. It’s going to be a new sound for the South.