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Music

For Nipsey Hussle friend Roddy Ricch, Grammy recognition is bittersweet

Roddy Ricch
Roddy Ricch is nominated for three Grammys, including rap song and rap performance.
(Chris Parsons)

Compton singer-rapper Roddy Ricch was hardly known beyond the South L.A. streets when he earned his three Grammy nominations, but his voice is central to one of the year’s great anthems: Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks in the Middle.”

That’s him on the chorus of the song, which is nominated for rap song and rap performance: “I was riding around in the V-12 with the racks in the middle / Had to pray to almighty God they let my dog out the kennel.”

Ricch’s voice was ubiquitous across Los Angeles, but the track’s presence was anchored with heartbreak after Hussle was gunned down in front of his Marathon Clothing store in Crenshaw on March 31, 2019.

Ricch, 20, earned his third nod for “Ballin’,” a track from South L.A. mega-producer Mustard’s album “Perfect Ten.” On it, Ricch, who’s got a rasp that works wonders with vocal filters, outlines in detail his former life slinging crack and various other illicit endeavors: “We came up on dirty money / I gave it a birdbath,” he sings. Ricch, in fact, shouts-out Hussle and the late rapper’s girlfriend, Lauren London. Roddy Ricch’s new album, “Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial,” comes out on Atlantic Records on Dec. 6.

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You were in the recording studio when you learned you were nominated, and tweeted thanks in the form of a Nipsey Hussle rhyme. What was the story behind that?
I tweeted, “Grammy-nominated in the studio shedding tears, all this money power fame but I can’t make you reappear.” Nipsey said that [of a late friend] in one of his verses in “Racks in the Middle,” because when he wrote the song he was a fresh Grammy nominee for “Victory Lap,” his album. So that line just hit me because it was, like, although we are Grammy-nominated, and although it’s one of the greatest accomplishments, how it came about was just crazy.

How did you end up on “Racks in the Middle”?
I had made a song with Hit-Boy, and it was just us on it at first. But then Nips came by the studio and heard it and said he wanted it. I didn’t really even like it as it was, but he said, “The streets are going to feel that s—.” I was, like, “All right, I trust you.” He did his part on the song, and I pulled up before the third verse was done. A week later, he was wanting to do a video, which is unheard of with him. He usually takes his time with everything, but this time was a little expedited. I had to go on the Post Malone tour the day after I shot the video, and we was up all night shooting it.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Racks in the Middle” on the radio?
I don’t really listen to the radio like that, but I remember hearing it flowing through the streets. That’s how I knew everyone was listening to it. I can remember just flying through the city and thinking, “It’s just me and Nips on that song.”

Have you given any thought to what you’ll say if you win a Grammy?
I don’t really know, but it’s a blessing, really, that the Grammys would even consider our writing abilities in the song to be among the greatest in the game. I just know that I’m supposed to be here, because if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be. I feel like my mom’s prayers worked.

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Your track with Mustard, “Ballin’” also got a nomination. How did you hook up with him?
I actually did that song very early on, probably in the fall of 2018. Mustard held it for a while because he was working on the album, but he was always, like, “Man, this is going to be the one.” It was hard enough the first time I heard it, so I knew it could do something. But with all my music, I never think, “I hope this is a hit.” If I like it, I put it out and see if the fans f— with it, you know?

In the middle of your big year, you appeared on an EDM track, “Project Dreams,” with producer Marshmello. That seems like an odd pairing.
[Laughs]. Oh yeah, I’ve got a good relationship with Marshmello. Emotionally, we’re all family, so it was only right that I do something with him. And I just wanted people to know that I can talk about the streets but take it to infinity. Take it to the moon. I want to keep people guessing.


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