When we last interviewed an up and coming Roach Gigz in May last year, a week or so before he was set to release ‘Roachy Balboa’, he admitted that the mixtape was probably his first serious effort at music. Jams like his and Lil 4 Tay’s breakout local hit I Get It and the D-Lo-featuring Smack displayed Roach’s contagious energy and hinted at his massive potential, but that one DJ Racks-helmed project, which even lead to a very favourable review by David Drake for Pitchfork, was by far his greatest and most coherent body of work to date. Until today.
Just over six months later and Gigz, having become a young father and achieving regional fame as one of 106 KMEL’s Bay Area Freshmen 10, is taking music more serious than ever, but at the same time not serious at all. Read, listen and enjoy.
Since we last spoke to you in May when you’d just dropped the Roachy Balboa mixtape, your stock in the Bay and beyond really seems to have shot up. Do you feel more famous when you walk the streets of San Francisco?
Man, it’s crazy. I was just at the Giants World Series parade, and I couldn’t go anywhere without people running up on me. It felt like I was Chris Brown or some shit. These days, if I’m in the Bay Area, and in public, I’m probably cheesing in somebodies camera phone too.
You’ve also recently become a father. How does that feel, and do you think fatherhood has influenced your newer music?
I would do anything for my son. It’s really helped me reflect on life more than I ever could have before. For a bunch of years, really up until he was born, I could really only recollect and remember parts of my life, or what was going with me at that moment. A lot of negativity took over most of my thoughts. Now I think about the big picture. All the birthday parties I had, the sports teams I played on, going to The Jungle that used to be on top of Toys-R-Us, and now it’s my turn to do all these things for my son. I have to make sure his life is the best life possible and he can do or be whatever he chooses to. My son is lucky because he has his real father in his life, and a child needs that male role model, because even though women like my mom tried to be that for me, and I will appreciate it for life, a mother can’t fully take on both roles.
As far as becoming a father relating to my music, there is definitely an influence. It’s not like I’m about to cuss less, no fuck that motherfucking punk-ass bullshit. I mean damn, my group is called BITCH I GO. But music reflects experiences, feelings, thoughts, and emotions an artist might be having at any given time in their life, and since my son is now a big part of mine, there gotta be an influence from that.
Is Roach Jr showing any signs of being an artist like his father?
Every time a female walks up to him he always flirts and smiles at them. Whenever a dude comes up, he just stares or mugs. So as far as the charisma and attitude it takes, I think he got it. But I really hope he finds other dreams and passions. I especially don’t want him to become a rapper. There is so much hate in this business. It’s something I don’t see in other genres of music. In hip-hop and rap, there are people that really want you to do bad, or to tear you down the minute they smell success. But if he wants to be the next Picasso, get your paint on son, I’ll buy ya first brush. Really I just want to expose him to everything so he has the choice and ability to be a doctor or lawyer or whatever else is out there, the sky’s the limit.
You’ve been gigging a lot recently, what’s your live show like?
I try to get my rock star on. I just try to keep it as lit and live as possible… I need to start working out though cuz I swear I move around so much I’m damn near dead when I get off. I feed off the fans tough, when they go crazy, I go crazier. You gotta come to one, or I gotta do one out there in London, fassst.
Definitely. One thing I think labels will be paying close attention to in terms of Roach Gigz the artist is how evenly split your female and male fans are. Do you get a lot of groupie love at shows?
What Mike Jones say? ‘Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot hoes all on me!’ It’s crazy doing a show and girls are rocking shirts with my picture and all that, they want me to sign my name on their titties and everything else, and I’m just like ‘damn, all I do is rap’.
If I’m not mistaken, one of your biggest breaks very early on in your career was when Mistah FAB put you on at one of his shows. Can you recount how that went down and what it meant to you and Lil 4Tay at the time?
FAB has been supportive since day one. Since the day me and Lil 4 ran into him outside of the radio station and he took our burnt CD, then played our song on his show, Fabby has been with the movement. After that we just kept finding out where he would be and dropping off more CDs with more songs. After a while, him and his manager started letting us open up for him and hype for him, and it was just always hella fun. We would be on these road trips to places like Chico, Sacramento, Clearlake, and random other places in California. We were young, on like shit, and we just thought it was the dopest shit ever, like bitch! We told you we go! We’re on tour!
A lot of the people we met while we were out in San Francisco a couple of months back knew you from working at the Youth Radio station. Can you tell us about your time there and which artists and DJs you came to know while you were working there.
I started at Youth Radio when I was in high school. I was just a another kid in their program. Matter fact Youth Radio is where we made the ‘I Get It’ beat. That was the first beat I ever made. After I graduated from there, I kind of like disappeared for a couple years doing whatever else I was doing. Then I ran back into this dude named Trackademicks, who was one of the leaders or supervisors or whatever you call it back then. He told me I could come back and get a paid job. So that’s when I came back and started working. Hundreds of kids go through Youth Radio’s different programs, and I’m proud to be a part of it because I know it helps keep a lot of young people in Oakland and the Bay Area out of trouble and helps others to follow their passions in producing, radio, and whatever else. Like the young people can really host their own internet radio show, or get help writing a piece that could air on some other big radio station. Its dope. A bunch of DJs and artists slide through too, everybody from Davey D to D-Lo.
When we were hanging out with you and your crew on you and Pac B’s Ay Boi Boi video shoot in San Bruno and Sunnydale, just like the song says, everyone seemed to have tails down their back in one form or another. How long have kids in your area been wearing their hair like that? And is it just a Bay thing?
It’s a San Francisco thing. That goes back to probably before I was born, I don’t know. But I’ve had tails, cut em off, grown em back, cut em off again, grown em back. It’s just something dudes do. A lot of people had dreads for a while, then in the city they cut em off and just kept the tails. I can’t get dreads, I would look like a hippie surfer, but I’ve had tails since high school.
Speaking of image, how vital has Aris Jerome been to your rise? He seems to have a knack for delivering stylish videos that really communicate a song’s feel and also give artists an epic, professional look.
Man, Aris Jerome, that’s my guy. I first hit him in 2009 before he had all this big shit popping, and I’m really happy for dude that he’s getting all this success. He’s real talented. We rarely plan our videos, we just feed off the moment, and I guess we just got some artistic chemistry and everything just ends up working out in the end. The videos have played a big part into getting me where I’m at, definitely.
It’s obvious from the outside looking in that Oakland and the Bay Area at large are incensed about the verdict and sentencing in the Oscar Grant case. Could you put into words how deeply enraged the community is, and how let down they (and you) feel by the system?
Its almost too hard to capture the feelings with words, that’s why we put it on video with Pop Off. I can’t understand how this cop could murder this young man, actually shoot him in the back while he is laying down on his stomach, the whole world witnesses it, and they give him involuntary manslaughter. The taser excuse was bullshit. The taser weighs less, is bright yellow, and is holstered on the opposite side of his belt. He would have to be one of the dumbest people in the world to confuse the two. Mehserle looked down and knew what he was grabbing. This was the first time the world was actually able to witness some of the injustice and tragedy that happens all the time. This case was a chance to set an example that police brutality and murder won’t be accepted, and instead they slap him on the wrist. If you’re a police officer in America, it has now been reconfirmed that you can get away with anything. The system failed, terribly, and the Bay Area has been beyond angry.
It’s interesting that the sense of injustice is so localised, and that people living in the same country, but in different states, don’t seem to be as affected, at least when you compare people’s Twitter timelines. Does that make people in Oakland and San Francisco feel even more motivated to make some noise for Oscar?
I feel like if you weren’t out here in the thick of it, it could have just slipped by you as another fucked up thing that happened on the news somewhere else. That’s why I felt like the protest and the ‘riots’ that followed at that time period were so important. If people didn’t stand up and make noise, the rest of the country would have stopped paying attention, or just kept worrying about which team LeBron James was playing basketball for. We had to keep Oscar Grant’s name alive.
Young Gully’s recent free album The Grant Station Project, which you featured on, was as powerful as it was because you could hear how intensely Gully felt for Oscar, and how selflessly he was acting in putting out the project and giving all the proceeds to the Grant family. Do you think the Mehserle verdict will influence your music at all?
Yeah, I salute Gully for making that. That was authentic, and deep, and I am proud to have been a part of it. It has already influenced my music, me and Gully got another song on ‘Roachy Balboa 2’ dedicated to Oscar Grant, but like I said, its hard to put everything people have felt and experienced into words, I just did the best I could.
The follow-up to your excellent and very well received Roachy Balboa mixtape is about to drop. What role will this new project play in the development of Roach Gigz the artist, and what differences do you feel there are to the music, compared with the first one?
I’m growing, and my music is too. Don’t expect to hear the first Roachy Balboa over again just with different songs. What I do is make the music that the beat inspired and/or my life at the time brought out of me. If I was rapping in pre-school, I would be talking about naps and snacks. On here I’m talking about everything from raising my son to a love triangle I had with syrup. I gotta lot of different sounding beats too, and when I hear a beat I’m feeling, I just gas it. I think RB2 is the first dose of showing everybody there’s more to me. It doesn’t need to be ‘hyphy’ type music, it just has to be good music.
When can we expect an album? Have you recorded anything for it yet?
I got songs recorded, the thing with me is once I record em, then listen to em hella times, they get old, and I feel like something new would be better. So I’m constantly making music, tossing or forgetting about shit, then making more music. I might sound old school, but I want my first album to be classic, even in this crazy internet age, I still want that dope ass album. It won’t be a ‘mixtape’, it will be an album. As far as when its coming, mannn, I don’t know. Once I get the right opportunity, then I’ma drop it. But I’ma keep dropping music don’t worry about that. Right now I’m trying to put a project together with Lil 4 and the Mango Mob, it just takes longer, but that’s coming too. Shout out to Lil 4, and the Mango Mob too, Marlo, Cheese, Reese, Young Meez, Juvie, Pac-B, everybody.
Any last words/shoutouts?
Since I’m talking to you, a blog, I want to shout out all the blogs and music websites. All the ones that been supporting from the beginning like Beezies And Bankrolls, Nation Of Thizzlam, Digital Dripped, and then there’s So Many Shrimp, Southern Hospitality, Tumblin Erb, The Bay Is Back, Thizzler, Siccness, Space Age Hustle, 100 Grand On My Wrist, and all the newer ones like Fader, XXL, Hip-Hop DX, there is really too many to name, but it doesn’t make any of them less important, I see y’all and I rock with y’all. The support means a lot to me, and has helped me get to where I’m at, and I just want the people running all these sites to know that I respect them and what they do.
Download: Roachy Balboa 2 – Hosted By DJ Racks