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Standing out in the crowded world of Hip-Hop can be one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Many have tried, and many more have failed. But if you are able to create your own lane, the highway to success is sure to be a smooth ride at best.

Right now, you can say that Strange Music’s Rittz is sitting in that driver’s seat. Based on the fact of his debut album, The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant is set for an April 30th release, and also because he sounds nothing like what is currently coming out of his native home of Atlanta—which is a good thing.

With heavyweight backers such as Tech N9ne and Yelawolf, the lyricist with the rapid-fire flow sets aim at making his name known not just in Gwinnett County, but the world.

We caught up with the man acknowledged as White Jesus at Quad Studios while he was in New York to talk about the pressure of making good music, being the minority in Hip-Hop and a lot more. Let the sermon begin.

 

iHipHop.com: Your official project is on deck, The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant… Can you break it down for us?

Rittz: Yeah, man… This is my first debut album since I’ve been signed to Strange Music, and it’s the first time that I ever had an album out there major like this… I put my all into this. My name is Jonny, and Jonny Valiant is like an alias of mine. So this album is like a look into my life…

iHipHop.com: With you being signed to Strange Music, and Tech N9ne being the mastermind behind all of it; did you put any added pressure on yourself since he’s basically co-signing you?

Rittz: There’s pressure on me to do good regardless… I pride myself in being a good rapper, so there’s always pressure on me to make great songs… I want people to be like, “That dude is rapping his ass off…” But that pressure is never going to leave. No matter who I’m around…

iHipHop.com: A lot of artists say they won’t sign to another artist, because they believe that they won’t be the focal point of the label. So how did you know that Strange Music would be a good fit for you?

Rittz: My manager was talking about Strange Music forever, saying I needed to go for them… I wasn’t too familiar at first, but when I did my homework, it seemed like the right place to be…

It’s not even about being signed to another artist, because wherever you go, there’s always going to be other artists signed to that label…

It’s really just about being with a label that can get you out there, get you on the road, and get you on tour…

Somebody that’s not going to be sitting there making sure that you write this type of song, judging what kind of music you make, and letting you have creative control…

So Strange Music is just the perfect label to roll with, regardless of who’s on top… Nobody is going to take Tech’s spot; Tech is Strange Music… I’m just hoping to make the label proud by bringing something else to the table.

iHipHop.com: There’s a huge influx of white rappers now. From Mac Miller, to MGK, to Action Bronson, etc… With that being said, does it bother you when critics and fans alike automatically group all of you guys in together?

Rittz: It’s annoying man; it’s really annoying… But then again, I do it too… I do the same sh!t to white rappers… So I understand where it’s coming from, and I understand how it works…

Hopefully people can broaden their horizons enough to really listen… If they can’t then they’re going to fall off, and if they do; then they’re going to become fans…

To me, if someone doesn’t like my music, then they just don’t like fast rap… You can’t listen to it, and say that the sh!t ain’t hard… It’s hard being grouped up in the white rapper thing, but that’s never going to change…

Hip-Hop is black music… If you all of a sudden saw a bunch of Black Country singers; they’re going to do the same thing to them… I don’t blame it, I do the same sh!t to white rappers…

iHipHop.com: Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in the whole XXL Freshmen and MTV’s Hottest MC’s lists? Do you even care about that type of stuff?

Rittz: I care about it a little bit… I wish I would get a little bit more recognition only because I put so much time in trying to be a good rapper… It’s same as being a good golfer… You’re 15-years-old on the golf course, and you’re putting in work everyday…

Then you finally get into the pros, but people keep talking about other golfers, knowing damn well that you can golf better than them… It’s a little frustrating, but at the same time, I’m happy to be even mentioned at all…

A lot of times I don’t get mentioned as a white rapper, because they’re mentioning people like Yelawolf, Mac Miller, MGK, and Action Bronson. They don’t say sh!t about me… It happens, but I don’t take it too personal, it just means that I have to work differently…

iHipHop.com: On The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant, Big K.R.I.T. is featured on ‘Wastin Time.’ Do you feel that it’s important to form relationships with your peers early on?

Rittz: I think it’s very important, man… I think it’s important if the song matches…

I have a lot of homies that rap, and they think that features are going to magically get them a deal and make them hot; but it doesn’t work like that… I look at features as adding to the art form…

“What can add to this song?” “What can make this song doper?” “Big K.R.I.T. would sound dope on this song, Suga Free would sound dope on this song, Yelawolf would sound dope on this song, Big Boi would sound dope on this song…”

I think a lot of people get confused about features, and put people on their songs trying to get recognition or a name; instead of just putting them on there because they sound good with the music… I’m all about making good music with other artists…

iHipHop.com: Speaking of Yelawolf, can you briefly touch on your relationship with him?

Rittz: Yelawolf is basically the big homie… Yelawolf basically did all this sh!t for me, and he put me on… That’s never going to change… It doesn’t matter if I go a month or two without talking to him… Yelawolf gave me my shot when he didn’t have to…

It’s kind of weird that another white rapper would put me on, but we both came up at the same time… It just so happened that his career took off, but he came back and got me… Who does that?! It takes a special person, and man I’ll forever be in debt to Yelawolf for what he’s done for my life…

iHipHop.com: Do you have any crazy tour stories about groupies charging the tour bus, or anything like that? [Laughs]

Rittz: No groupies on the tour bus, but I have had worse stories about me and my girl being on the phone [Laughing]… I might get a phone call just for that “groupies on the tour bus” question [Laughing]… That’s my life…

But my favorite places to tour; I love Denver, Salt Lake City, Nebraska, New Mexico… There are different spots that have been like hot spots… I really like performing everywhere; I don’t want to say that I like one place more than the other…

iHipHop.com: What is it that you want people to take away from your music?

Rittz: That it doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you do for a living—if you hear my music, you’ll be able to relate to it… I don’t want to use the word “depressing,” but I make a lot of real songs that people can relate to… I talk about the struggle.

Not the struggle of trying to get rich, or selling crack, but just the struggle of living… We all go through universal problems… I want to make records that give people goose bumps…