If you’re not familiar with Rittz you may think he’s a new artist. You may think because you just found out he signed to Strange Music you’re ahead of the game and know a little something about him. Truth is Rittz came from the bottom, struggling his way to the top during the golden era of hip hop in one of the most acclaimed cities for breeding “What’s hot in hip hop” to this day. While starting to rhyme in the early ninties, Rittz got with his boy Ralo and became part of a group Ralo & Rittz. They imitated Outkast and looked up to the mega giants of Atlanta. He recalls “Outkast, Goodie Mob… It was a great time for Atlanta, to me that music was just classic Atlanta rap shit. That was a great time in music.”
Being from Gwinnett County wasn’t quite the place to be from to claim street cred as a rapper. In the nineties the upper North East suburb of Atlanta wasn’t recognized for creating famous rappers. “There was a little bit of a line drawn because I live in the suburbs of Atlanta so the line was drawn where I was from than actually being in Atlanta.” He dropped out of high school and hit moments in his life when times were getting really scary for him. He had set forth to become a famous rapper and if this didn’t happen, he nods his head rather not wanting to think of what could have been the outcome if his time didn’t come and Strange Music didn’t added him to the roster.
USM: What were the politics of coming up in the Atlanta rap game?
Rittz: The formula was really getting a song, trying to get it played on the radio or in the strip club. So it was a lot of grimy shows, where you’re standing all night in trap spots waiting to perform two songs. Then there was so many trends in Atlanta with Atlanta being on top of the rap game for so long. You had Crunk, then Snap, and then the Trap shit. It was hard being me making the type of music I make to get on. I finally got on the radio in 2007 and that’s when I started getting a little push. I was with Chrome Recordings, a label I was with then. We just got on the Battle Grounds, a little contest they do on 107.9 where if you win 5 nights in a row they retire your track.
USM: What track was that?
Rittz: It was song called “770” the area code where I’m from. So everyone in the 770 were calling in and requesting that song. I was reppin real hard cause Atlanta didn’t fuck with Gwinnett. Now it’s changed, they gotta say the North Side. Before they’d say “South to the East Side West Side”. Now you’ll here it mentioned with the different rappers being from different areas. It was crazy but after that everything just kind of fell flat.
USM: What did you do between that and Strange Music?
Rittz: I did a lot of things career wise, different managers different opportunities all through out just grinding. My manager Scender was in a group with Yelawolf “The Dixie Mafia”. Scender was Yela’s homie, when he moved to Atlanta he looked up local rappers, seen my shit. It was through him that me and Yelawolf hooked up. Me and Yela were kinda rappin’ comin up on the Atlanta seen. He was coming up pretty big and I was trying to get down to where he was doing his shit at. We ended up being tight. He got me the studio time to do “White Jesus” and gave me the opportunity to come off his momentum by putting me on “Box Chevy Pt. 3”. I did the Slumerican Tour and was just pushing “White Jesus”.
USM: Where did your title “The Life And Times Of Jonny Valient” come from?
Rittz: It’s just a nickname I had growing up. My names Jonny and my homeboys would just call me that. I put out “White Jesus” on some nickname shit. I wanted a title that was going to be controversial, but with this I wanted it to be something that was more about my life. To let people in on me, exactly Rittz. I kind of knew I wanted to name it that because before the Yelawolf thing I was going to name my album “Jonny Valiant Vol. 0”. That just never happened, those songs got shelved and I came out with “White Jesus”. So I kinda knew what I was gonna name it.
USM: After a long road, your debut album hits the stores 4/30/13… is that your main focus right now?
Rittz: Yea I’ve been focusin’ like a motha fucker. Basically I got off the Slumerican Tour with Yelawolf November 17th. I had then until the end of December to write the album. I write slow… it takes me awhile. So I was under pressure, I wrote a lot on the bus but not enough. The pressure was on as soon as I got back in town. I got Thanksgiving out of the way and it was just like bang. Plus you gotta have bonus tracks so all together I have like twenty something songs. With the stress of my first album and getting it done, being with a new label, and then with the Independent Powerhouse Tour coming up. It was just a lot of shit going on at once, but now I’m just happy to be on the road, album bout to come out… a little bit of pressures easin’ off.
You could feel the weight of Jonny Valiant’s past lift off his shoulder’s as we finished up the interview and he proceeded with his day on tour with Strange. He started as an underdog in one of the biggest rap mecca’s and finally grasp his dream because he never gave up. He fought strong to the top and at the end of the day he’s signed to largest independent label in the world. You can say what you want about Mr. Rittz but at this moment anyone who ever doubted him is looking back like man that’s the guy who we never thought would make it. Although he carry’s his swag to the fullest in his latest video’s such as “Like I Am”… in person he carry’s himself with utmost humble respect. For tomorrow you will get to hear the full story on “The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant”. You can cop that at www.strangmusicinc.net or any of your local retailers. Lift your cup to a true vet!
USM: Any last words?
Rittz: I just really want to say thanks, thanks to everyone who fucks with me! This rap shit not easy… at all. That 21 years of grindin is real shit. I’m really appreciative of anything I got going on, anybody who gives me attention, or interested and listens to my music it’s a big deal.
Interview by Breez