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New York hip-hop isn’t what it once was, hell; New York isn’t what it once was. If one rapper could truly embody that statement, it would be Sha Money XL’s latest find, Harlem native, Riz.
While he is from uptown, he gives no telltale signs that he is from the hip-hop haven that Puffy made famous with his shiny suits and later on Cam’Ron with his pink attire. Riz has a more subdued style and has the ability to craft tracks that appeal to audiences, whether from the smallest town in Mississippi or the streets of NYC.
Riz is also living proof that it takes more than talent and a big name behind you to make it big in this business as he still sees the struggle on a daily basis. Despite the obstacles a new artist is bound to face in today’s rap scene, it’s only a matter of time for Riz, as his grind has brought him this far. caught up with Riz to discuss working with Sha Money XL, his mixtape, and why the game is changing, and not for the better.
You’re from Harlem but you’re style doesn’t really indicate that, do you hear that a lot?
I get that a lot. As far as musically and how I compose my records I get that a lot. For me it’s a good thing because people who really listen to music as far as composition and arrangement tend
to pick up on things like that.
“Position of Power”as hot, were you happy with the response you got?
I think it was a hit and miss situation with that. It didn’t have the impact that I wanted it to have. It was a real good body of work but I think it skipped over peoples heads a little bit, I wanted a lot of people to get their hands on that. I guess we should have pushed it in a different way and I think we should have gone a lot harder than we did.
I feel you, so tell me, how did you hook up with Sha Money XL?
I was actually signed to David The Jeweler and I would be around certain video shoots like G-Unit and I’d just be around with my jewelry on and I’d be observing and seeing how they do it at the next level. I stayed in the cut and people started wondering who I was. After being around so much, Dave and Will, my manager’s at the time went to the studio where they were mixing down Young Buck’s album and he gave Sha my music. Sha called and said he wanted to work with us so we met up. Our first recording session was at the old Sony studios before they closed it down. He wanted to see how we would work one on one and we been working ever since.
Has your relationship with him raised people’s awareness of you in the industry?
I’m sure it has because last year when I was trying to meet people or do certain things it was a little harder. He has a different knowledge of the game than Dave. He was able to get to certain outlets and make it so more people know about me. It was based off his past and track record of working with G-Unit and other big artists. That connection alone brought a lot of awareness.
So have a lot of labels been approaching you?
We met with Jay-Z two weeks before he left Def Jam, we met with Atlantic. We met with some powerhouses as far as the record labels and this business is different than I expected and different than Sha expected, especially with the things that I’ve done and getting the response that I’ve been getting from all around. They like my music, my image, but I don’t have that record that been getting 500 or 600 spins a week. That’s what you need to get signed these days so it’s been rough.
Do you feel it’s like that because of the times? Do you feel if you came in the game five years ago you would have been signed already?
I can’t say that because I don’t feel I would have been as prepared musically as I am today. In 2005, I really got into hip-hop because I had some problems with the law and I really wanted to change my speed and turn my life around. I put out an indie album in my neighborhood called Young King of New York and that basically launched my rap career. The people in my neighborhood thought I should run with it so I been going hard ever since. I think New York is a selfish city. Everybody wants to be on top and be number one. You rarely see guys pulling people up and helping them blow. You might see a guy put somebody on but they keep them at bay so you can only associate them with that person and that’s what New York has become.
Why do you think things work like that in New York?
We have hip-hop powerhouses here like 50, Jay, and Diddy. It’s small in New York in terms of places you can go to win. Another thing, and this isn’t to downgrade New York music but it’ s not really believable anymore. The streets aren’t like they were four or five years ago when you came down here and people were clubbing downtown, popping bottles, and driving a fast car. It’s not that type of New York anymore, so in turn, the rap is suffering because you can’t rap about that no more and it be believable like Ross, Jeezy, and these guys from the South. When they rap about jewelry, cars, and money it’s believable because the money is different in Atlanta and Miami. It got to the point where rappers in New York can only talk about violence and guns and that’s not appealing to the masses anymore. The creativity is limited right now and we’re suffering as a city trying to get fresh people out there because epeople don’t wanna hear it, it’s like a different sound.
What’s your game plan to get around all these obstacles?
It’s like a gift and a curse for me, I’m diverse. I got a song called ‘Brand New Cadillac’that the Track Boyz did and it’s fitting for what’s going on right now in the industry. I know it could win but when you send it out to the radio, because that’s really the only way to go these days is to pay somebody and keep paying them until the record gets where you want it to be. You really gotta have some money behind you. When we send a record, they know it’s Riz but they don’t think it’s cool to put out a record from New York that sounds like that but if you send a New York sounding record and it doesn’t catch, you don’t wanna waste your money. Me being diverse is hard because they criticize that I’m from New York. I could be from anywhere in the world right now and I’ll have a deal but I’m from New York. They judge everything harder.
Right now, as far as the game plan, I have a record with J.R. Writer, actually I’ve had it for about two years now. It’s called ‘Put ‘Em Up’ and it’s a really, really good record, expecially coming from me, it’s real well composed and everything. To this day we think that’s the record. Carl Blaze, God Bless him, started to play the record but when he got killed we lost our DJ support. You turn on New York radio and you rarely hear New York rappers.
So you think you need that one banger to get over the hump?
It’s real sad to have to say it like that man. These days you don’t know what record is a hit record until you put it out to the people and the people have to decide. The audience was different when Big and Pac were alive. People were feeling lyrics, flow, concepts, you know, now so long as you got a popcorn beat and a catchy hook and you’re good, people don’t care what you’re saying. In New York, we gotta try to sound simple but we cant be too simple, it’s just hard to judge which record is gonna hit. There’s only so many people you can go to for hits, Timbaland, Dre, Jr. Rotem, Polow The Don but these are multi million dollar people, you talkin’ 200 or 250 thousand for some beats, it doesn’t make sense.
What are you working on right now that we should check for?
At this moment, we’re trying to figure out which record we’re gonna put out there. We really had to come back to the table and decide what our next move was gonna be. That’s where we at, back to the drawing board. We’re not really recording, there’s some confusion within the camp as to what the next move is gonna be. My YouTube hits are at like 65,000 so I’m connecting with the people. Nobody understands how I could not have a deal.
Anything you wanna say to your fans out there?
Yeah, thanks for the support. Real recognize real and eventually the truth will come to the light. Keep your ears and eyes open because I’m coming.
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