With The Life And Times Tour, Rittz has, for the first time, the proper showcase for the songs from his smash debut album The Life And Times Of Jonny Valiant. Linking up with other rising hip hop stars in Snow Tha Product and Jarren Benton certainly doesn’t hurt either. With The Life And Times Tour, it’s all on Rittz to find out how large his solo entity has become.
We talked to Rittz to see how this tour is going to go, what the pressure is like and why this will be unlike any Rittz show you’ve ever seen.
You’re headlining your own tour. How does it feel to be in the position to where something like this is not only feasible, but expected to succeed?
It’s great. I headlined my first tour last summer, The Revival Tour. Actually the first time I came out to Strange was on that tour. But ever since the Slumerican tour and the Strange tour I went on, hopefully it’s going to be so much bigger than it was then, so this time it’s a notch up.
How does it feel to be doing this within your own camp and it not being a Strange Music tour?
It feels good. It just feels good to know that I can be a headlining artist and that people want to come see me. Hopefully people turn out and want to come out to see the show. It’s a good thing. I’m ready to get back on the road. I’ve been off for a long time so it’s time to get back at it.
For fans that have seen your set on the last tour, the Independent Powerhouse Tour, are you going to toss out anything different or new?
Yeah, it’s pretty much gonna be all new except for a few key songs that I always keep in my set. But this is going to be like straight new shit that I’ve never performed before – just a lot of new material, pretty much a whole new set. And the set is like an hour long so you’re getting double of what I was doing on the Independent Powerhouse Tour. Even when I went on my own tour last summer I didn’t have the material I have now so I’m really happy to get out there and perform this album. It’s exciting. I’m ready to get it!
With your album coming out during your last tour, you didn’t have all of that material to perform on tour did you?
No, I didn’t. I performed a couple of new songs that were on the Strange sampler but this time it’s all new tracks. It actually came out when we were in Philly on the Independent Powerhouse Tour but I haven’t gotten to perform a lot of these songs. It’ll be the first time even trying them so the first couple shows will be interesting.
Can you give us any hints of what songs you’re going to do?
It’s really what songs am I not doing, I’m not leaving much off the album. There are some songs that I’m not doing from the album like “Sober” and some of the ones with a lot of singing in the hook that I didn’t do, but most of the tracks are going to be all stuff from the album. And of course I’m going to add in a couple of little things to make it interesting.
Let’s talk about some of the other acts you have on this tour: Snow Tha Product and Jarren Benton. Why did you guys pick these two acts to go on the tour with you?
I think it just makes sense. First of all, me and Jarren have been cool for a long time and have come up at the same time basically. So we’re kind of both in the same space doing the same type of thing so, to me, it only made sense, let’s get Jarren on there. And then with Snow, J. Dot, who is my manager, manages Snow as well and it just makes sense. Snow is crazy dope, y’all know that from the features she’s done with Strange and she’s a great artist. I think all of us have that unique kind of sound, to me we are the new freshmen coming up this year. I think it’s just a good lineup.
What can fans expect from Snow and Jarren? Have you seen them perform? What are their live chops like?
I’ve seen both of them perform. I’ve seen Snow from backstage so I know she’s dope on stage because I could hear her voice really clear. I’ve never really seen her actual show, besides footage, but I’m sure she’s going to kill it, she’s a really dope lyricist. And then Jarren’s fucking crazy. He’s going to fucking get out there with a raccoon hat and get everybody hype and be jumping around and shit. But as far as just chopping and lyrics go, I think all three of us are really dope with our cadences and just being clear on stage and having songs sound like they sound on the albums. It’s going to be a good show, it’s going to be a really good show.
What is important for you when doing a live performance? Do you put an emphasis on clarity?
Yeah, that’s my main emphasis. I want it to be as clear as possible, I want it to sound as much like the music you hear. I don’t want to be up there screaming and shit. With this tour in particular I want people to get the experience, I’m not just doing all hype songs and putting everything into the thirty minutes that I got. I’m going to slow it down and do some deeper songs, I’m going to do a wide range of shit so hopefully it will just be a nice show. So you’ll have an experience and see a lot of different tempos and a lot of mood changes and stuff like that.
As far as taking fans on a ride, now you have so many more weapons in your arsenal, meaning songs, so have you put a lot of thought and time into crafting your set for this?
Yeah man, I actually have. DJ Chris Crisis, who is REHAB’s DJ is going to be DJ-ing for me the whole tour and he’s really dope. I’ve toured with them twice, doing spot dates and then I went on tour with them for a month and a half, so me and him are really comfortable with each other and we’ve just been rehearsing this whole last month. I’ve also got some surprises, a lot of people think I can only rap fast so I’m going to break it down and do some hip hop shit in the middle and show off some rap skills.
Is there anything specific that you’re hoping to achieve with this tour?
I want to show that we’re able to draw a crowd and build the fanbase. We all have our own fanbases – Snow’s got her own fanbase, Jarren’s got his fanbase, I have my fanbase so hopefully all of us can build on each other’s fanbases and grow altogether.
And then with me, just to be able to draw a crowd and keep growing as an artist and keep getting bigger and bigger because that’s the only way it happens. It’s going to be crazy for me because being on the road with Kutt Calhoun, Brotha Lynch and CES Cru and just being on the bus with those guys, it feels weird going on tour without them. But it’s going to be cool to build that up with Snow and Jarren and go on a little run, every time you go on tour it’s a different run than before.
How does it feel to be the big shoulders in this? You’re the headlining artist so it’s going to be on you if it doesn’t sell well, so that’s got to be scary and exciting at the same time. How do you look at it?
It’s scary because I know how certain shows are. Even when I did the Revival Tour last year, you go to some cities and it’s crazy packed and then you go to some cities and it’s not packed. And you might leave a city and see a bunch of people on Twitter saying “I wish you were here in Montana” and you’re like “I was just in Montana last week, nobody showed up.” I’m just using that as an example, I’m not sure if that necessarily happened on that run. Sometimes it depends on how it’s promoted and it also gives you a good grasp of what you’re looking like in different areas and regions and what your fan base is looking like. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that people who like my music come out and support, and in return I want to put on a good show, have a good spirited show and have a good time. So it’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but at the same time it’s a great problem to have.
At this point in your career, how far do you think you’ve come? And how does that compare to how far you feel you need to go?
I’ve come a long way, man. I was thinking about it this morning. Really, in 2010, I probably had a strong thousand fans, if that. For me to be where I’m at now – it’s still not crazy, I’m not on a crazy rich rapper level and I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’ve come so far, and I always have to remind myself that, but the reason why I have to remind myself is because there is so far to go. There’s a lot more to do, there’s so many people every day that have no idea who I am. They know Tech, they know Yelawolf and they know other people I’ve done tracks with, but they don’t know who I am and that’s just the nature of the music business. And I’ve got a long way to go, but right now it’s headed in the perfect direction. So I just keep crossing my fingers and trying to make good music.
At this point it’s probably liberating to feel like your success is in your hands.
It definitely is. I’m really excited to see what the turnout is going to be at these shows and see what kind of draw it’s going to bring and see where I’m headed.
For some people in the music business you almost have to rely on getting noticed or something, but it seems like everything you need to succeed is there and you just have to put it to use.
I was very fortunate at the beginning. At the very beginning when I got put on through Yelawolf and started getting a buzz, I was very fortunate to be able start going on the road. Groups like REHAB gave me that chance to be an act that’s on the road. That helps you because other states hear about your name, you were just there with REHAB, you were just there with Yelawolf and then you come back by yourself. It’s like “Whoa shit, he’s signed with Strange! He’s backed by Strange.” There’s a lot of artists that have a hard time cracking into the touring part of this business, which is a really big part of it. So I’m blessed in that aspect to have gotten off on the right foot, that and with Strange just boosted it even more. We’ll see what happens, if no one’s there I’ll make up some kind of excuse (laughs).
Besides your music being quality, because we all go to live shows to see our favorite songs live, what do you think it is about your live performance that garnered venues, promoters and fans to be like, “Okay, let’s fuck with him again”?
Well venues and promoters, first of all, the crowd has to be there, there has to be some kind of want for you to come to that city. A lot of people get upset and say “There’s no Texas date, no Florida date, no Georgia date” but that has nothing to do with me. That’s on the promoters, people wanting to buy into the actual show and the routing, all that plays a part of how it goes. So there’s a lot more places I wanted to hit on this tour that we haven’t and hopefully I’ll be able hit them again. But I’m hoping that people come out and when they see me in person it sounds just as good and that’s what keep them fucking with me.
Anything else you wanna say about this tour before we move on?
Just that I’m crazy excited about it and hopefully everybody comes out! It’s going to be a fucking great show and I hope you’re ready to come out and see the future of rap.