Roddy Ricch's brutally honest “Die Young” speaks directly to the conscious, constantly swirling thought of unearned death lurking around the corner. We look at growing old as an accomplishment, but our biggest fear is to reach that stage without anything to show for it. To this end, the rising Compton rapper’s breakout song goes through the ear and straight to the heart. It’s also made him a star.
Ricch, born Rodrick Wayne Moore Jr., grew up in Compton but saw much of the country through his parents. “I went to Chicago, Atlanta, and some other different places,” he told MTV News. The 20-year-old began rapping around age 8 but didn’t take it seriously until a two-week trip to county jail that inspired him to completely change his ways. His music became fresh; its storytelling imbued with purpose. “I feel like the streets at the time didn’t have anyone to talk about what was going on there as far as on a younger scale, where I’m from,” he said. “I needed to feed it to the streets. It could have went a lot of different ways, but it went up.” Feed tha Streets, his debut, was praised by Meek Mill and 03 Greedo, to name a few. And just like that, he was thrust into a new world.
Ricch recorded “Die Young” on June 18, 2018, the night fellow rapper XXXTentacion was shot and killed. “I watch TV when I record in the studio and I saw the report,” he said. “I muted it and spilled out how I felt about it in the moment.” You can hear this spur-of-the-moment energy on the song. It’s a desperate plea for answers about early death. “Tell me why the legends always have to die quick?” he sings earnestly, blending rapping and singing yet remaining straightforward and lightly melodic.
His style is reminiscent of Speaker Knockerz, the South Carolina rapper who died in 2014 at age 19. “When I was just getting into high school and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, I became a fan of his,” Ricch said. To this day, he keeps his name in conversation. “I talked to his pops and his family supports because I support. I keep his name alive because he was someone that died way too young and was a huge influence for me.”
One fan of his was Nipsey Hussle, the legendary Compton rapper who was tragically gunned down in March. Ricch met him by chance, after meeting rising mogul and A&R Keefa Black, who fostered the connection. “At first, I wasn’t really fucking with it but I ended up giving Black a call to chop it up and he told me to pull up to the studio,” he said. “As time progressed, I grew to know Keefa more and we became close friends. He has ties to Nip through his father, and I grew really close to everyone around there.” Ricch owes a lot to the fallen rapper, revealing in a recent interview with Big Boy’s Neighborhood, “He the reason why I’m here today.” The pair collaborated on “Racks in the Middle,” a song that peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Ricch admittedly doesn’t collaborate with many, so when he teams up with someone like Nipsey, there’s a genuine brotherly chemistry. Another of his recent collaborations is “Project Dreams” with DJ and electronic music producer Marshmello. It’s a reflective song that finds power in its somber atmosphere, utilizing sharp bass jolts and the conventions of rave music to create a backdrop for Ricch to spill about wishing and hoping for something better when you come from nothing. The song hit No. 28 on the Billboard U.S. Rhythmic chart.
“He’s my brother,” Ricch said of Marshmello. “I got connected with him through Keefa also. He had a long relationship with him for four years and now I’m on every one of his beats as his tag.”
Not shying away from the success he's steadily earned, Ricch says that he’s trying to be a No. 1 contender in the rap space. The proof? He has “thousands of songs in the cut.” That’s a lot to sit on, but Ricch is unhurried, comfortable to plan and strategize at his own pace.
“When I drop, I just drop,” he said. “I don’t play no one else’s game and I don’t run no one else’s race because if I did that, I wouldn't be who I am. I just stay in my own lane and not worry about what anyone else is doing and settling my own pace. Fans are gonna fuck with me anyway.”
The burn of 2018's “Die Young” and “Project Dreams” has continued into this year, but there’s still a lot left for Ricch to accomplish. The world’s still looking for a remix to “Die Young” — “Maybe,” Ricch said — and there's an appetite for a new album. But first, Ricch has three things left to accomplish before the year is up, a fitting bucket list for an artist whose mind is squarely focused on his legacy: “I want to buy more property, start a couple of small businesses, and if my cousin wants to go to college, I want to put him through with ease.”