Exclusive: Mr. "Umma Do Me" reveals why One of One is dedicated to deceased Def Jam exec Shakir Stewart and if his new LP addresses rumored cheating on Monica.
You might say Rocko is out for revenge – on his critics, his now former label, gossipmongers, and anyone thinking the artist manager/label owner-turned-artist in his own right is nothing more than a one hit wonder.
That hit, the Drumma Boy-laced stunna’s anthem “Umma Do Me,” catapulted Rocko to a deal with Def Jam for his first full-length, 2008’s Self-Made.
But now Rocko is rocking without Hip Hop’s most established label for his all-important sophomore solo album, One of One.
Yesterday (September 29th) Rocko revealed to HipHopDX why he chose to leave Def Jam following the “rocky” time he remained with the label after the suicide of Executive Vice President of Def Jam, Shakir Stewart (who signed Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, and Rocko). During his discussion with DX, Rocko also revealed whether or not his first post-Def Jam release will address his rumored infidelity during his engagement to the mother of two of his three sons, R&B songstress Monica.
HipHopDX: The first, most important question I have for you is…did anyone ever collect on that $50,000 reward you put up [back in May] to recover your stolen laptop and hard drive? ‘Cause if they didn’t, I got a laptop and hard drive you can have for 50 stacks. [Laughs]
Rocko: [Laughs] I mean, yeah, I actually looked out for the person who returned it. Of course, it wasn’t – I didn’t have to give ‘em that [$50,000], but I definitely looked out for ‘em ‘cause I appreciated it, ya know.
DX: How you know it wasn’t the fool who took it in the first place?
Rocko: Because it fell into the hand of somebody that – Well, one of my people called me and they was like…they didn’t realize what they had. [Because by the time] I did that Vibe [interview], and went on the radio and all that, [whoever stole my stuff] had already sold my bag with my laptop and my [hard drive] and everything in it. And by the time they sold it, the person who bought it – once they bought the computer, [whoever was selling it], they threw in the hard drive [with the laptop] like, “Man, we don’t need this shit.” So once I went online [and offered up the $50,000 reward], it started buzzing in the street, and everybody started talking about it, [so] then I guess the person that bought it was like, “Well shit, hold on. I wonder if this it.” So they plugged it up and found out it was it. And they said the [person] that actually sold it to ‘em was trying to get it back. So this guy that I know he knew the person that bought it, and he gave it to him and he called me and I went and got it from him. [So] I ended up just shooting him a little something just on the strength.
DX: And the hard drive had your whole new album on it?
Rocko: Yeah, for the most part. I’m still recording daily [though]. They had probably like 40% of it on there.
DX: I don’t wanna switch gears to a more somber note, but I understand your new album, One of One, is dedicated to Shakir Stewart?
Rocko: Yeah. He played a major role in it. He’s the person that signed me [to Def Jam back in 2007]. So, I feel as if I owe him. I feel like I’ll forever be in debt to him ‘cause he believed in me and he gave me a chance to showcase my talent on a national level… So it’s definitely a dedication to him.
DX: Did you read that VIBE feature that came out end of ’09 about that whole situation?
Rocko: Um…yeah, I think I read it.
DX: I was just curious ‘cause I don’t think most folks know how deep the backstory is to what happened. [Plus there’s] a stigma attached with suicide in our culture – people hear that and automatically they just dismiss your whole life.
Rocko: But at the end of the day, what a person does, that’s what they do. [But] what they do, it affects us. What we do affects not only us, it affects our children and all our loved ones and our friends. And I hate that he didn’t think about that prior to him doing what he did. But, he made his decision, and at the end of the day I won’t judge him on that, because he was a friend to me.
DX: Shakir was the man who signed you to Def Jam, so what has been your relationship with the label since he passed?
Rocko: Since he passed it’s been rocky. We haven’t been eye-to-eye. At one point I felt as if we were eye-to-eye, but then it came to a point where I realized that we weren’t. And we weren’t on the same page, so I went and I told ‘em that, “I’m ready to sever my ties with the label, [because] I feel as if we not moving in the same direction. I don’t feel as if y’all understand.”
DX: Is that after “Maybe,” [which was released by Def Jam back in June], came out and it just didn’t really go -
Rocko: Yeah, it was after “Maybe” came out… “Maybe” was a hit record. It was growing. It had wings. It almost went Top 20. So it wasn’t like it was a failure, but I know for a fact, just with their promotion department alone, that it could’ve been a lot better, and it could’ve been a better situation. I just noticed, not only with my project but with everybody project in the building, they were dropping the ball on a lot of people projects. And with this being my second album, this my baby, [so] it’s like, it has to be done right. But, “Maybe” was a mixtape record. “Maybe” came off a mixtape. “Maybe” was not even gonna be on my album, so it wasn’t a thing to where I was mad at them for not wanting to put the whole budget – you know, my album budget – behind that record, but I just know that they had the muscle to do so and they coulda did it without even really flexing the muscle. So I was like, “You know what? This really not working.” I felt like Jay-Z man, I just dropped the label. [Laughs]
DX: So what label then is gonna be putting out the One of One album?
Rocko: I’m not sure as of yet. It’s a lot of labels reaching out to me right now. I’m just listening right now, I’m not even talking. I’m just gonna [keep] making my moves. I got like 12 videos I shot, a movie I’m working on, and I’m just recording everyday. I’m getting ready to drop a new single in the next few weeks, [and] I’ma drop a mixtape. I’m just staying busy, ya know. I’ll decide which label I’ma go with next year, but as of right now I’m just grindin’, just building.
DX: And, this the question I gotta ask, going forward, what do you say to those that you know are out there calling you a one-hit wonder after “Umma Do Me”?
Rocko: Tell ‘em just keep a ear to the street. “Umma Do Me” came out in 2007. I been on the road almost every weekend since 2007. I make songs like “Dis Morning” to where I don’t even need music to ‘em when I perform ‘em. I perform ‘em accapella. “Tomorrow,” “Hustle Fo,” just because they weren’t commercial hit records – Like, all my music goes hard in the streets. I don’t know if there’s still such a thing called the underground, but as far as like street music, street music lives on in the streets, believe that.
DX: And you said you’re about to break the streets off again with a new mixtape?
Rocko: Oh yeah, no doubt. I’m thinking [of dropping it on] October 8th. It’s called Rocko Dinero. They say all I talk is cash, a majority of my songs I’m always talking about cash, so I just named the CD Rocko Dinero.
DX: I just had this loose question written down, it goes back to “Maybe”: I just wanted to ask, why the Auto-Tune on your raps, especially in 2010? It just seem like we kinda passed that moment, [so] why’d you decide to Auto-Tune the rhymes?
Rocko: Because when I go in the studio I go in the studio and I make this music for me. I go in the studio, I try to have fun. When I can, I go and I try to have fun, but for the most part I be so emotional and I be so in tune with my life and what’s going on and what I’m seeing and what I been thru to where it seem like a lot of my records come across so serious. So I was like on that particular record, I was just in the studio just messing around, just having fun. So I threw it on the mixtape, [Wild Life]. Then when I threw it on the mixtape, before I knew it, it was the #1 record in Atlanta – in the club and the radio… So to me, that was an amazing success to me, coming off a mixtape. I be online, I read, [and] people are like, “Yeah, I dropped 13 mixtapes…,” and I don’t know not one of they songs. Like, I only dropped two mixtapes in my career, and each time I’ve had street singles… The first one I had “Umma Do Me,” “Tomorrow,” “Dis Morning” and a song called “Busy” – [those] kept me on the road. Off this next one, this [just] my second one, the Wild Life, the two hit records I have off this one is “Maybe” and “Lingo.” Right now “Lingo” is tearing the streets up, tearing the hoods up. I just dropped a video for that one the other day.
DX: Let me ask you about one other song that I read is gonna be on your album. “Taking Out The Trash,” what’s that about?
Rocko: It’s basically me just checking myself…all the negativity and all the – With me just being real, I’m a tit-for-tat type of dude. If you step on my foot, I’ma kick you in ya face. That’s just the type of person I am. And I’m really like just trying to get better with myself, trying to become a better person… I can’t lie, I drink, I smoke, so [there are] things that I’m trying to do better about myself. I’m trying to stop smoking; I’m trying to stop drinking. I’m taking out the trash this year. I’ma get my mind all the way right, get my mind all the way clear, anything that could be clogging up my mind and clogging up my thought process and have me making bad decisions, I’m taking it out right now.
DX: And, I don’t wanna turn HipHopDX into a gosip site or none of that shit, but I just have to ask if on that song, or anywhere else on One of One, if you’re gonna be addressing the rumors about what happened with Monica?
Rocko: I mean, yeah, no doubt. I think that’s what music is [for]. I’m a real artist. My music has substance to it. Like I said, when I’m not going in having fun, the majority of my music is real. So, of course I’m gonna talk about it. I didn’t feel like it’d be a real album if I didn’t, ‘cause that’s a part of my life, that’s something that I went through in my life. And I want my fans to really be a part of that, and to know like my side of the story.
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