We all know that Rittz has style for days, but the reason we love him is for songs like this.
“Basket Case” from the new album Next To Nothing features Rittz at his most unflinchingly honest and soul-baring, where he addresses fake friends, whack rappers and a handful of things in between in the uncut style that we’ve come to love from the Slumerican emcee.
We interviewed Rittz to get his breakdown on the track that he calls “his most honest rap ever.”
I think a lot of fans are going to love this song you have, “Basket Case”. It’s a very honest and personal record. Take us through this song.
The first verse is me struggling trying to write a new record because there’s so much pressure on me to do better than the last time. I’m seeing the other side of it with record sales and the business part of it and how it’s starting to affect my writing process. I can’t let it affect me. I just have to put it aside. And I got a fucking manager that calls me and is like “Did you write anything today?” and I’m like “Yeah,” and he’s like “Well what? Did you write another fucking sad song?” It’s just little shit like that that’s getting to me and things are bothering me so that’s what the first verse was, just showing the – I don’t know if it’s the right word – the humility in trying to write or just the pressure of just being a rapper and being where I’m at.
How much of this game is mental then, because it seems you have kind of a split deal in which you need to pull from your emotions and let them guide you yet manage them to prevent from going insane.
You have to take it and do like I’m doing with it, you have to take it and use it to your advantage and like turn it around and put it in a song. If it’s bothering you that bad, you gotta make a song out of it so it doesn’t stop you from making songs because it’s really easy to let it discourage you like “Damn.” It’s just that the bar gets set high on the skill level of rappers and just period career-wise. It goes along with my whole story. With me trying to work as hard as I have to get here I’m so afraid of losing it. I think all that pressure just builds up and I’m like “Man, I tell you what’s going to lose it if you don’t write nothing and you let this get the best of you. Just fucking write.”
That’s a weird spot to be in.
I know a shitload of rappers that don’t deal with that because they’re just so motivated by their own selves and they’re not worried about falling off. They’re not worried about fans not liking them anymore. They’re not worried about that. They might not be rich or none of that shit either.
I think it’s just my personality, but I think the fact that I talk about being like that, people can relate to it, because seeing some of those guys who look all confident on the outside, they’re probably like that on the inside too but just won’t say it and that’s the difference. A lot of people that I’ve seen be rappers are really confident and write and are crazy motivated all the time and I’m just not. I’m a basket case, you know what I’m saying? (Laughs) That’s where the title comes from. I’m just a little bit crazy, I’m really hard on myself and a little bit of it’s kind of nuts, but it makes me who I am.
Is there anything that you think would make you relax that part of your personality?
Yeah, probably more money in the bank. I hate to say that – maybe it won’t. Maybe you get the money in the bank and it doesn’t, but this money’s like drug dealing money man. If you’re not staying active and touring all the time, shit man you can’t stack money up. If you have to take six months off, you’re spending everything you done made in the last however long and the next thing you know you’re down to your last dollar and people think you’ve got thousands. It’s like, yeah, money in the bank would make you feel a little bit of financial stability, and I’ve had financial stability way more so since I’ve been rapping but it ain’t what people think it is. It ain’t what it should be.
Definitely not enough to get you into relax mode about this.
Yeah, definitely not enough to be in relax mode at all, and if you are in relax mode, it’s relax mode but you’ve gotta work on your next project and while you’re working on your next project, the money’s just dwindling away.
Yeah because all the money you made on tour is getting spent on–
Life, and you’ve got nothing else coming in because it’s not like you sold a hundred thousand albums and you’ve got these big checks coming in under that, so everything’s just dwindling away while you have time off. You could work on features and try to do spot shows and all that, but time might not allow you if you’ve got to write an album. Then again, confident-ass writers can do an album a lot quicker than I can so they might be able to do that and juggle it, but I don’t know if their album’s going to be as tight. It just depends.
Take us through the next verse.
My next verse is talking about me just dealing with other rappers that are in my situation and I start out with I can’t have conversations with rappers and “I’m not an asshole to anyone unless I have a reason to be.” It’s like, if I become friends with a rapper, like an underground rapper – and I’m a friendly guy so if I meet somebody that’s trying to come up and I get to have a conversation with them, or anybody that’s on my level period, I always look out. I don’t ask for money when I do features. If somebody’s coming up and they’re my homie and we’ve had a conversation before, we know mutual people, I’ll do a feature for them for free – all the time. A lot of my features be for free and I just started wondering, like a lot of times I’m stressed out because a lot of times my phone is blowing up simply because of favors I’m doing and what I really started questioning was “Would these same people I’m doing these favors for do the same thing for me if they were in my shoes?” You know, if I was blowing their phone up. So that’s where it first kind of started, and that just goes into the same thing, it’s like “Man, I ain’t got no fucking money. I’ve got to have an album done. Man, your favor’s going to have to wait. You need to stop calling my fucking phone,” and that’s multiple people. That’s not one person, that’s not one rapper to point a finger at, it’s not necessarily to make people feel guilty who I’ve done free features for, but it’s like “God damn, would these people be helping me like I’m helping them?” Even retweeting people, I do that all the time. Do people do that for me? I don’t know. So it’s like the favor thing, me being a nice guy, the nice guy approach is making me a little frustrated with these other rappers. That’s the first part of my verse.
The last part of the verse was really important to me because my story is the guy who never gave up on his dreams so a lot of rappers tell me that I gave them motivation not to quit and to do the same thing I did. So when I see these other rappers, to tell me I gave them the motivation not to quit, I hear that music and in my head I’m thinking “Damn, they should quit.” You know? But I don’t want to tell them that. I’m not going to be the guy that breaks their fucking spirits. Somebody could’ve told me that when I sucked and if I would’ve quit who knows what would’ve happened? But, I also feel a little bit guilty now because now I’ve told all these people not to give up on their dreams and some of them might be wasting their fucking life through taking my advice. I felt like it was really important to address that. Me being me I do feel responsible a little bit, even though I can’t really take that responsibility one hundred percent. People have to be their own people and go through the same shit I went through, but God damn, so many people tell me that I gave them motivation not to quit, and that’s an amazing feeling and me being the guy that did that, that’s like the greatest compliment like “Damn, that’s cool.” At the same time I also don’t want to lead these dudes in the wrong direction like “Don’t quit, but don’t quit your job either!” You know what I’m saying?
You say “And it’s all my fault.”
Yeah “You suck, you need to give up and you’ve wasted your life and it’s all my fault.” And I don’t really feel like this a hundred percent, but there’s a little bit that you feel kind of responsible because you have all these people saying “Dude, if it wasn’t for you, I would’ve gave up and I’m sticking to this shit. I told my girl ‘fuck that shit, I’m rapping.'” And I’m thinking in my head like “Oooh, man that sucks because maybe rapping ain’t for you bro.”
“And you might have a better job and might still have your girlfriend if it wasn’t for me.”
That’s it man. If I would’ve never said that you might have just said “Fuck it” and quit. Now you’re seeing my story and think the same thing can happen for you, but I said in the verse, and this is really important: “The only difference between me and you is I’ve spent 15 plus years studying” and practicing. That’s the difference. This shit didn’t happen for me overnight. I’ve spent years trying to be good at it.
I think the gestation period gets lost on a lot of people, that period where you’re really honing your skills just for the sake of being really good at something.
Yeah, some people just never have those experiences, those emcee experiences of just sitting around and rapping, or if they’re doing it they’re not doing it with someone who’s super skilled. They’re doing it with someone who’s like “Watcha gonna do when my crew comes through?” you know what I’m saying? It’s easy to stand out between that bullshit.
Take us through your third verse.
I touched on a lot of important shit on this song, that’s why it’s one of my favorites. The third verse was like “I feel kind of immature typing my thoughts online because the fans that I got’ll probably hate me if they knew the type of shit that crossed my mind, because I hate rap,” and I was like “Let me take that back” because I was touching on the double-time shit. “I just hate whack rappers for the most part.” I said “Even though I rap fast, I don’t like when people try to impress me with double time and they be swearing that they go so hard.” Like everywhere I’m at, especially since I’ve signed with Strange, everybody just comes up to me – actually it ain’t because I signed with Strange, it’s because of the way I rap – but especially with Strange, Tech raps and the fan base period loves chopping. So when a lot of people come up to me trying to display their skills, they try to rap so God damned fast every time. It’s like “Whoa!” I get that online a lot too like “Man, I rap just as fast as you,” and it’s like, I don’t want to be known as the fastest rapper. That’s not my goal.
The faster you rap does not impress me, what impresses me is what you say. So I said “They don’t even really say shit, anyone can rhyme thinkin’ and drinkin’ and thinkin’ inside my link and think it’s dope. It ain’t about the speed, you gotta make it make sense.” That’s really important to me. You get a lot of fast rappers that come up to you and it’s like (imitates fast rap rhyming “thinkin” with “drinkin”) and it’s like dog, that is not the move. You’re not saying shit! (Imitates it again) and it’s like “Man…what the fuck is that?” So many people come up to me rapping like that and it’s like, that is not it, and the fact that you can’t distinguish the fact that I don’t rap like that, if that’s what you hear when you hear me, you really don’t even really hear the words I put into it. All you hear is speed. That shit bothers me.
The next part I touch on is fake fans. Just looking back on the game I see people that like other rappers and are crazy about other rappers and a year later they’re like “Aw, I don’t fuck with them no more,” but the rapper still sounds the same! So it just becomes cool just to not like that rapper. It hasn’t happened to me yet because I haven’t even been cool enough to reach that stage of liking the shit but it’s like man, when a rapper hits that plateau…I said “First they love you then they hate you then they love you again, you gotta toughen your skin, this type of shits hurts.” That shit’s gotta hurt. Like, how can you go from loving somebody…like I’ve seen somebody in my close family, they went and got Lil Wayne tattoos all over them. Same shit he’s got on his arms, his eyeballs, they got tattooed on them and they’re just Lil Wayne’d out. A couple years later or a year later they’re like “Aw” and they don’t fuck with Lil Wayne no more, but Lil Wayne still raps the same. Like, so why don’t you fuck with him no more? It’s just fake to me. I just hate that type of shit, so I really wanted to touch on that.
Then the last word was very important to me, I was like “You gotta toughen your skin, this kind of shit hurts. This music industry is dumb, dumber than the comments on YouTube saying I use the n-word.” And I said “I don’t rap like that, I don’t hang around white boys who act like that. About to snap, I’m mad at the world, even I don’t really have my back. When I rap it’s like…” and then I went back into “I’m a basket case.” My manager always fucks with me a lot because with me rapping fast a lot of people think I toss around the n-word and I’m dropping n-bombs on records. I see comments on the YouTube on different songs “Oh shit, he said it right there!” My manager’s really sensitive to that too. I’ll send him a song and he’ll be like “Yo, did you say it right here?” Just joking with me and I’m like “Damn, how the fuck did you hear that from that?” And then he’ll point it out and I’ll start listening to it and I’m like “These motherfuckers are stupid!” But then I also see a big culture of white boys who say it all the time, and I’m not talking about with the “E-R,” I’m talking about with an “A” on the end. I’m talking about them saying it in a street way. There’s a lot of white guys who toss that word around and a lot of those guys are my fans. I ain’t never been one of those dudes that does that shit, ever. Where I’m from it’s just whack and it’s just not cool so I just really wanted to make that clear, like “I don’t rap like that, I don’t hang around white boys who act like that.” It’s just not me, it’s not us, that’s not what we do. I just wanted to make sure that got addressed.
There’s a weird, new generational thing to where it’s starting to be okay in some kids’ minds to say that.
Well to be honest, it’s been like that for years. Even when I was growing up kids were out there saying it. There’s white boys all over that talk like that that are into black culture, but for me, they were never my friends. I think people get that impression of me, like I’m one of those guys and it’s just like “Nah buddy, I’m not.” I’m not into that bullshit.
Let me talk about the double time thing, how much time do you put into your lyrics, your words, how they fit and all of that? From listening it doesn’t sound like just some bullshit you throw together.
No. I put hours man. It takes a long time. It takes a long time. Here’s the difference, it’s like, when you’re doing double time you can go the easy route and choose words – it’s not like choosing the easy route because your mind is going to go (imitates fast rapping) and you’re going to put those words in there, so if you say “She’s fucking and sucking,” instead of saying “fucking and sucking”, what can “sucking” be to where it doesn’t sound so fucking generic after “fucking”? It’s going that extra step to find those extra words to where you’re not just picking the most obvious word to rhyme with, that’s the whole thing to me. That might not take that long some days and it might take longer on other days, it might take a real long time, but to me instead of using the obvious word, especially when you’re rapping fast – or rapping, period – go the extra mile and find that other word that rhymes with it but it’s not the obvious choice. Say something that makes sense. Sometimes people say punchlines and it’s just like the line is like, yeah it’s a punchline but it’s corny. You can’t tell that’s corny? And yeah, the rapping fast thing just kills me when people come up to me rapping fast. It’s kind of insulting to me because it’s like, “Damn, that’s how you think I rap?” It’s crazy.
How did you feel about the production?
Reklis Beats is actually a girl from Ohio. Not that it matters but it’s just not that many female producers that I’ve worked with before.
There’s not that many in general. How did you come upon her?
I got the track in my email. It was just one of those tracks that I kind of found and went back on like “Who did this?” Like “Yo, can I use this?” “Fuck yeah, use it!” So yeah that’s it. That was just a random, e-mailed track, which doesn’t happen that often. I get a lot of tracks emailed to me and it just isn’t my style or it isn’t dope to me but that was one where I looked in the email and was like “Whoa! What is this?”
Why is this one of your favorite tracks out of all the songs on the record?
I think I just address some VERY important things I felt like, if you have any time in the spotlight, something to go down in history, just ALL those things: the double time, the n word, the rapper rapper friendship, the pressure of writing. Those are very important factors in my life. Not necessarily in my life as far as the n word but as far as the double time and the style thing and rapper friendships and insecurities, it’s a very important song. And at the end of the day, with me, my whole thing about being a self conscious rapper, I’m a basket case. I kind of get a little crazy with it so it’s cool that I have that song. That song just says a lot of true shit that defines me a little bit. Because you can, if you’re writing, you can become your own worst enemy if you think too hard.
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What’s your favorite line in “Basket Case”?