the rapper talks rick ross, timbs, and taylor swift.

by ray siegel

A$ap Rocky is not the only "Rocky" that's having a great year. Rockie Fresh was signed to the Rick Ross founded label MMG (Maybach Music Group) in July--making him the group's youngest member alongside major artists like Meek Mill, Wale, Gunplay, and of course, Ross himself. You're about to become well acquainted with the Chicago-born street rapper who, by the way, has verses on some of Ross's biggest hits this year. As it turns out, we have a lot in common: he loves APC, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Hayley Williams from Paramore. And just an FYI, if you're looking for someone to headline your Bar Mitzvah, he's more than open to the idea. Ladies and gentleman, meet our favorite Rockie (with an "ie") Rockie Fresh.

You're the only Chicago-based Maybach music artist. What is the music scene like there right now? I'm the only one. The the music scene is good. There's a lot of emerging artists.

I've heard that Chicago rappers like Chief Keef are beefing with other crews. Nah, they're cool. They're just young. You know what I'm saying? They're living their life. You can't really expect seventeen year-olds to have all of the answers right now. Especially the neighborhoods that they came up in. You gotta give it some time to play out. Jay-Z wasn't squeaky clean when he first came into the game. He matured into a business powerhouse because he was just able to mature.

That's good advice. You should mentor them. Nah, I have issues too.

How is Rick Ross handling being dropped from Reebok? Is he cool with it? I'm not gonna say that. I'll just say that he's a very established individual. You know, life just throws you curve balls sometimes, but when you're that big and you're that successful--you just roll with the punches. So yeah, he's good.

What do you like about working with the other Maybach Music Group artists? They're all different and they all bring so much different stuff to the table--different experiences. Me being the youngest on the team--I get to learn from them in a real, easy way. You know what I'm saying? They teach me a lot of stuff by example. Due to my fan base being at a good level, I'm able to have a lot of experiences with them, like touring and things like that. I'm learning by watching. There are times when Ross drops a nice bit of knowledge on me--and the same thing with Wale and with Gunplay--they all give good advice. You know, they're all like big bro's to me, so it works out real smooth and natural. That's why I wanted to be on that team; I knew they were going to keep me working hard. I'm competitive, so I want to be at the top.

What were the best words of wisdom that Rick Ross has ever given you? It was two things: One was to never take anything personal in this industry and since then I really have been able to keep a clear head about a lot of negativity that I've seen. He also told me to be comfortable in my sound of music. He put me on the team because he liked the music that I made before I met him. The music was based off of my natural life for sure. I really didn't travel that much. I was able to go on tour, but that was mostly work. Those were the only experiences I had. I didn't have any cosigns and it was really just about me talking about my life in Chicago--he appreciated that story, which is why he wanted to sign me to MMG. Now that I'm signed, I've been motivated to stay comfortable. Even though I have a better lifestyle and more experiences I, still have to stay true to my roots because thats what got me here.

What do you think it was about your story that Rick Ross appreciated? I think it was the realness of it, you know? There's a lot of artists that go into it trying to impress fans--which is good--but at the same time the content still has to come from your real life. Every artist that I've ever liked--like Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z, Eminem, and Drake--these guys stay true to what they know, the experiences that they have had, and what's been around them. There's something in their voice--in the honesty of it--that you can relate to. You know when people say, "real recognize real?" I think that's really what it was, he understood that I wasn't trying to be "too hood" or be "too weird." When Ross met me, he knew I was being myself. He understood my hunger and that's how he made his decision. What were some specific things or stories that happened to you kind of put into your music? I more so think its like the experience, you know what I'm saying? I grew up on all of the different sides of Chicago and I've been able to be around all different types of people: all different ages, races, and age groups. That's how I created the relatability that I have.

Does that make you a White Sox or a Cubs fan? White Sox. Yeah--South Side. They're the truth. I'm not a hater of the cubs, but it's just White Sox over the Cubs.

How do you see this all playing out? What are your goals? I think that if you're from Chicago and you have that competitive mindset, seeing people like Jordan win all of those championships and Kanye get all of these Grammy's makes me really want to have a platinum album. As far as my first actual album goes--I want it to be platinum. I want it to be Grammy nominated

. Do you think you would have to compromise anything to make that happen? Do you think you would need to cater your music to a more mainstream audience? That's definitely not the case. I feel like most people that change their sound are the people that never really get recognized by the Grammies and the award shows. The ones that do get recognized are the people who are the most original, the most comfortable, and that take the most risks. The people that take strategic risks and really put themselves on the line for the betterment of their music--those are the ones that get recognition.

Now that you're actually a part of it, Is there anything that surprises you about the music industry? Or is it what you expected it to be like? Honestly, I'm surprised by how cool certain people can be when you're just doing what you're supposed to do. I guess that's another piece of advice that Ross gave me, he said "man when you're always on your job, you're always trying to work, you're always trying to create music, then your situation with your label is only going to get better over time. And it's never going to be something that you regret." There's going to be ups and downs, but at the same time it's easier to do business with people when they know that you're putting your best foot forward. These people are gonna give it back. Seeing that gave me a better outlook on the industry. Before I was signed, everybody was warning me about how cutthroat it is. That is the case, but that's why you shouldn't get into too many relationships with people. Stick with the people that you came in with, do your job, and focus on making good music. Thats what I've been doing and being signed has been a lot easier than people had said it would be

Sometimes meeting people that you have had respect for turns out to be disappointing, but it seems like you managed to find the right crew. Ross is one of the nicest dudes that I've ever met. He's still about his business. He's still not somebody to be f*cked with or nothing' like that. But he shows a lot of love to people. I've been with him in airports and radio station stores and he just walks around like it's normal--shaking hands and taking pictures, and all of that. Seeing him be so humble after being in the game for so many years, makes you think, like, "who am I?"

Rick Ross obviously loves to enjoy life. Do you live by that same philosophy? He reached the point in his career where it's about that for him. For me, it's all about the work right now so I can hopefully be able to have that comfort. So I just be grindin'.

I heard that you're a fan of our cover girl Hayley Williams from Paramore? Yeah I love her. Yeah she looks really good on the cover. I need that. Can I have that?

Have you been a fan of hers for awhile? Yeah. I used to play "That's What You Get" on Rock Band. At first I saw other people playing it, but didn't take it seriously. I was like, "I don't really know these songs," but when I saw that Paramore's song was on the game I was like, "ah man, I gotta get involved with this." I knew that was the song that I could be successful with . I just play it on "expert" and go in and hit all of the reds and all of that sh*t. I'm the singer--no lie. I'm also really good at Dance, Dance Revolution.

There's another game called Karaoke Revolution that's sort of like Rock Band, but it's only singing. Are you good at that? You can sing?

I can't sing that well. It doesn't sound good, but I can hit the right note, so that I don't lose any points. I might need that. Do they have Paramore songs on there?

It comes with two microphones. I think that if you have XBox Live you can download anything. Oh lord--don't tell me that. I'm getting ready to put R. Kelly, Paramore, and Al Green on my XBox.

R. Kelly would be good. I could sing that on expert. Speaking of other songs that would be good for XBox Karoake--one of my favorite songs of the year was "Clique." Your chorus reads, "I got a bad white bitch I know they spend cake on/Just hope she never fall off like Kreashawn." Is that about anyone in particular? Nope. Sometimes I write about my friends experiences too because they don't rap. So I tell their stories in my verses.

I heard you're into APC clothing--is that true? Yeah I like A.P.C. It's just clean and simple. I don't need all of the branding and sh*t on me. They've got good denim, good jackets, and good tees--it's just clean.

What about sneakers? Mostly Jordan's for me. I've been wearing Timbs since I was a kid because I didn't like wearing dress shoes and I had to wear uniforms. I bought black and navy blue Timb's and just wore those throughout all of my grade school years. So I kinda have this attachment to those. But it's mostly Jordan's for me.

Are there any other female artists that you like other than Hayley? Definitely Taylor Swift. Taylor is dope. I think Rihanna is dope. To me, she's got the best singles right now. Since she came out with "Pon De Replay" she's had really strong singles.

I just want you to know that I nominated Gunplay's Bogota Rich for "mixtape of the year" on NYLONmag.com. Ah, thanks! I respect you for that; for real. In Chicago, we're down with that ratchet down south sh*t--that's what we're all about.

When does your mixtape come out? I think I'm dropping it next week. It's called The Birthday Tape, 'cause it was my birthday this week. I wanted to drop something to celebrate life.

A lot of your titles are about Bar Mitvah's and birthdays, which is actually a Jewish Bar Mitzvah. The good 'ole black bar mitzvah. That was all Rozay's idea.

How did he come up with that? He's just a happy dude, man. He likes to celebrate. He lives that kind of life, so he just took it there.

Have you ever been to a Bar Mitzvah before? Nah, surprisingly not actually. I know a lot of people that have had them, but I met them past their Bar Mitzvah age. Maybe I'll get lucky enough to perform at one soon.

Can you give anything away about your new mixtape coming out this week? The project is kind of short. I really want to give people a little sample of what I've got going on. I'll possibly release a more lengthy project following this one. I don't have a date for that or a title or anything, but that's the game plan. And as far as the music, the mixtape features Rick Ross and Gunplay. Production-wise, it has my old producers on there from The Cartoons and then also Doctor Genius and Lunice from the group TNGHT. It's a real cool project--something different. I don't think too many of the beats sound like anything anybody has ever heard before. I'm excited to release it.

Is there anything that you'd want your fans to know about you that you don't think they already know. That I love them.

Do you hear that? He loves you and he wants to perform at your Bar Mitzvah. Download 'Electric Highway' here and wait for his new mixtape to drop this week.