It’s a mid-week afternoon and the rapper Roach Gigz has just cracked open a $5.99 bottle of Carlos Rossi wine. “It’s a good wine for any time of the day,” he explains. Then he adds that the low-budget Rossi brand is part of the Bay Area’s hip hop tradition after E-40 introduced it to the community with a tribute song back in 1995. Gigz has plenty of reason to be embracing a little day-time drinking these days, with his debut studio album, Bugged Out, last this week. For the rapper, who grew up in San Francisco, it marks his graduation from a fixture on the mixtape circuit to an artist with the beginnings of a weightier body of work under his belt. As Bugged Out unravels, Gigz still airs out his infectious cartoonish-punchlines, but there’s a new fire and focus to the project. As he puts it, “This is way better than anything I’ve done before.”
So as Gigz sits back and sips from a glass of vino described by its manufacturers as a “good, honest wine of superior quality,” Hive got him to talk about the trials out breaking out of the Bay Area, over-the-top fan tattoos, and Kreayshawn’s merits as a babysitter.
You’ve built your career on releasing mixtapes so far. What makes Bugged Out different to those?
I feel like everything, for lack of a better word, is better. The way I’d described it compared to the mixtapes is if you took them all and put them into a pot and mixed them all up and added some seasoning to make them all better, that’s what this album is. It’s everything I’ve done in one project together.
Did you feel more pressure recording the songs for the album then?
Yeah, it’s kinda weird, man. At first I was taking the album thing too serious, like I’ve got to make sure it’s a classic and it has to be like all that type of stuff. But what really happened was the songs I had, I sent them off to get mixed, but then of all the songs I felt should be on the album I ended up only keeping half of them and re-recorded another half of them. I felt like they didn’t work.
Was it hard to finally sign off on the album?
Yeah, it’s hard, but then I just decided to not to give a fuck and put it out how I like it best. You know, don’t worry too much about expectations of what a first album should be like. It’s music, and I feel like these are songs that represent me. The ones [recorded] at the beginning and the ones [recorded] at the end, I felt like they were meshing together well. All it took was I sent it to my DJ, who I’ve known since primary school, and he said it sounded perfect, and that was good enough for me.
Do you feel that being from the Bay you get stigmatized a little?
Maybe. People know me for upbeat, town hyphy type songs, and I do do that, but if people do listen they’ll know that it’s always mixed in with slower stuff and different subject matter. So on this one, what will surprise some people is that I’ve never really dedicated a song completely and emotionally to a girl before. This one’s more like a real story; I think that might surprise people.
Is the song about someone you know in real life?
It could be… Nah, it is.
Has she heard it?
How did she react?
She got embarrassed. She got embarrassed because she knew I was spinning out details about the past. It wasn’t embarrassing for her, but it was more like she’s a little bit shy-type of thing. I can’t really describe it, I don’t have the perfect word for it, but it was a mix of disbelief and “Oh my God!” That sort of stuff.
So what was the first rap song you heard that made you want to rap yourself?
It was “Summertime in the LBC” by the Dove Shack. I heard that on the radio, on 106 KMEL. That used to be my favorite song when I was in elementary school.
What drew you to the song?
It was the musical mixture of melody and rhyming. It just felt right, but really I just liked it. I could sing along to it; it was a California song and I just connected to it.
The Dove Shack were one of Warren G’s groups. What would a Roach Gigz and Warren G collaboration sound like?
Oh, man, I don’t know, that would be some funky shit though — we should try it! I actually met him at one of my shows. That was pretty cool. He’s a legend. He was just cool and laid back, chilling.
Is it true that Kreayshawn baby-sits your son for you?
She’s done it a couple of times.
Would you recommend her to other people as a baby-sitter?
Yeah, she’s cool. She’s laid-back. My son likes her. She gives him food, they watch movies and play around.
She directed the video to “F A Chorus” for you. Any plans to make a song with her in the near-future?
I don’t have any plans, no, not really. But you never know what can happen. I think she’s focused on her career and I’m focused on mine. We’re doing separate things, but eventually you never know…
Can you remember the first tattoo you got?
Yes! It was the San Francisco Giants logo on my forearm and I was 15 years old and I got it at this place where all the underage kids would go when they go out of school. You’d get the tattoo, they’d never check ID. It was pretty horrible. I had to get it touched up.
What was the last tattoo you got?
You won’t believe this, but I haven’t got a tattoo for like two-and-a-half years. I’ve been tattoo-sober. My son was born and I got a tribute to him, the time he was born, on my chest. That was in 2010 and I haven’t got a tattoo since then.
Do you encourage fans to get Roach Gigz tattoos?
I don’t encourage it! I have in the past, but I don’t encourage it now. I mean, I don’t encourage any tattoos! I have too many. I don’t like them ’cause everybody has them now. I got them when I was really young but now everybody gets them, but it’s just to think they’re cool.
Do you see fans with Roach Gigz tattoos?
Yeah, I haven’t seen the actual name ’Roach Gigz,’ but people have said that they’ve got it. I don’t know if I believe them or not, though I love them for it. I’ve seen lines from “Can I Rap” and I also see people get the Goomba tattoo, like the little Goomba head logo. The dopest one I ever seen was two girls in Santa Cruz: They came up to a little autograph thing I was doing at a clothing store in town and pulled the bottom of their lips down and they both had Goomba tattoos!
Roach Gigz’ Bugged Out is out now via Goomba. Watch the video for “Different” below: