If I asked you to name hip-hop cities you would probably mention New York, Los Angeles, Philadephia, Houston, Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Oakland and New Orleans. For many years these 10 cities have had the highest concentration of rappers come out of them as well as get the most coverage from hip-hop publications. If you were making music back in the day and weren’t from one of the 10 cities or their corresponding states mentioned it was very unlikely that you would be heard on the radio or receive any media coverage for the larger hip-hop publications. But in this day age, things have changed drastically. With streaming doing bigger numbers than album sales and so many different services such as Soundcloud, Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal artists have numerous avenues to get their music heard even if they aren’t from one of those major cities mentioned above.
Wisconsin has never been known for producing rappers but Milwaukee has become a hub for a lot of up and coming independent artists such as Wave Chapelle, Pizzle, Webster X, IshDAAR and his brother BoodahDAR just to name a few. Now let me take you 22 miles south of Milwaukee to the lesser known city of Racine and introduce you to rising rapper, Rob Hicks.
Rob Hicks is fairly new to the game with a small body of work but the unknown rapper has quietly been making a name for himself. At an early age, he began rapping and writing his own raps. He started off rapping over industry instrumentals with his friends as a hobby just like anyone else growing up. After high school, he took his hobby seriously, focusing on perfecting his sound, learning to bend his voice and perfect his craft overall. In late 2014 he released his debut mixtape LXSTSXULS (Lost Souls) which is no longer available on the internet because he rebranded himself and his entire sound. The project caught the ear of Elijah Amant founder of the independent record label Thrift Soul who initially met Rob Hicks through Facebook. What started out with Elijah wanting to manage him turned into him inking a deal with Thrift Soul in 2015. Since signing Rob became more critical of his music becoming very selective with his releases, choosing quality over quantity.
He returned in late 2016 with his debut label single “Perception” and quickly followed it up with “Synergy.” Both tracks highlighted his ominous sound, his aptitude to make bangers, his ability to switch flows at the drop of a dime and bend his voice from verse to verse making himself sound almost like a completely different person. This has lead to many people comparing him to Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar, you can see why as soon as you take a listen to either of those songs. The two releases earned him a distribution deal, made him one of the hottest artist coming out of Wisconsin. He recently released his single “Bail Money” featuring BoodahDAR making it a total of 3 songs under his belt, and he has already caught the attention of some Major labels. With the Major labels knocking and his debut EP Paradise In Hell slated to release September 1st. videos, and some big shows on the way Rob Hicks is set to have a breakout year.
Learn about his influences, how he got started, upcoming EP and more about the Wisconsin spitter in our interview below and check out his recent releases below. Keep it locked for his new single “Siracha” dropping August 25th which Rob Hicks says has a different feel than anything he has ever recorded or released and feels like it will be his most popular song once it’s officially released.
What was it like growing up in Racine, Wisconsin?
It’s like any other place really, moderate crime. Not really too much to do as a kid. It’s a normal place it’s not really anything too special, to be honest with you.
When did you start rapping and has it always been a passion of yours?
I started recording music when I was around 8 or 9 years old. My dad was a DJ and shit so he would DJ house parties and stuff like that. I kind of fell in love with that atmosphere and from there it just became something that I always wanted to do.
Who would you say were some of your biggest influences musically and why?
Rick James and Lil Wayne. Rick James is probably like my biggest musical influence.
Why was Rick James such a big influence on you and when did Lil Wayne come into play?
I mean, my dad was DJ like I said before, but he always played older music. I couldn’t really listen to swearing in the house, so he would just play that type of shit and I just fell in love with it. Everything from his style, to the way he bends his voice, everything. Rick James is like the greatest artist of all time to me.
I would say his ‘Lights Out’ album. My best friend at the time, I was rapping with him, we were like 9, 10 years old. He had bought the album, like I said I couldn’t listen swearing in the house, so I would sneak over there to listen to it and from there I was always fan.
You dropped your first mixtape LXSTSXULS (Lost Souls) in 2014. How have you grown since then and are you taking a different approach with your upcoming project Paradise In Hell?
Yea, it’s a totally different approach. I feel like I have grown not only as an artist but as a person. I had my first son since the first mixtape dropped, I just move a lot more differently, and I approach making records a lot more differently. The flows and stuff are different, I always wanted to rap fast and shit for some reason, but now I learned how to structure songs properly. As far as that goes that’s probably the biggest thing, structuing songs, learning how to actually make records instead of just rapping good is the biggest difference.
What can we expect from the upcoming EP and are you aiming for a particular sound? What has the creative process been like?
A lot of people tell me that my music is dark, but I feel like the sound it’s more of story for everyone else than my personal story. It’s a project about love, lust, pain, comfort, tragedy and triumph. It’s like one huge contradiction but it correlates together. I think everyone will like it.
I have actually been working on it for a year and a half to be honest with you. At first it was going to be an album, but I changed the way I approached everything as far as making music and my sound for one, so I rebranded everything. It was rough, I had to fine a new sound and nothing was really good enough for me at the time, and I had just met my manager and he was extremely hard on me. It had to be literally perfect for me to actually want to release it and now that it’s actually finished and going to be out in like a month, it’s a big stress release.
You have been comapred to Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown. How do those comparisons make you feel?
I don’t really mind it, I get that shit everyday. I get Kendrick Lamar alot , Danny Brown, and a little A$AP Ferg to. I don’t really mind it, if they were trash or some shit I would take offense but they can rap better or as good as anyone so I don’t really trip on it. I know at the end of the day, I’m not none of them so me as an artist I got to do what I got to do and keep it movin, people are going to compare you regardless.
Besides Paradise In Hell what else can we expect from you this year?
I have alot of features, none of them have been released yet. I’m actually dropping my first two visuals like a month after the EP drops, and I’m going on tour with Aaron Cohen. That’s really about it tours, visuals and working on my debut album.