Juggling is one of those tasks that’s easy to start. But once you have several objects in the air, the degree of difficulty is instantly raised. Although Virginia’s Rise Rashid may not be appearing in any circuses in the near future, the skilled MC is more than adept at juggling, as the full-time father, student, MC, author and actor is somehow able to keep everything going without sacrificing quality or going insane. HipHopGame caught up with Rise to talk about his upcoming mixtape Rise and Grind and much more.
You’ve been working a lot in the Central Virginia area but haven’t hit fans on a national level. Is it finally time?
Man, I feel like it’s well past time, but I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and before, I felt like everything wasn’t ready. My confidence is just so high and my work has excelled what I ever even dreamed it could be, quality-wise. I think I’m ready. I think it’s getting ready to happen.
You’ve leaked a lot of quality songs off Rise and Grind, your new project. Is this the project for you?
I think so. I never was too heavy of a mixtape kind of guy. I’m more of a songwriter. I love taking an original concept over an original record but it’s 2010 and the game has changed a lot and doing a mixtape, in all honesty, as an artist, it’s a piece of cake. But it appeals to a larger audience at this point in time. I really feel like with the Rise and Grind project, I really feel like this is the one but at the same time, I still feel like it’s the calm before the storm. I got a lot more to say than just those 17 tracks.
A Mic and a Dream, your last album, was released in ’08. Personally, I loved that album. How important is that album to you?
Man, that album, to me, was my bridge. I look at that now even though I started actually writing songs and recording when I was 13. I look at that album as my beginning, as the rebirth of me. I was 23 at the time and things were starting to click a lot better. I had done a lot of reading. I had studied a lot of Malcolm X and I wanted to study the opposite, if you could call him that, so I studied Martin and the “I Have a Dream” speech. I really felt like I was in a dream when I was writing that album and every song reflects that, from when I’m talking about what I’ve done in the past to when I talk about what I plan to do in the future.
It’s weird because some of the things I started talking about in previous songs started to unfold. That is my foundation. It was my rebirth. I really feel like that was my beginning and also, with A Mic and a Dream, when I was writing that, I really felt like I was getting ready to get the attention that I’m starting to get now. I wanted to show that I can actually be a rapper and be an artist and a lyricist and write songs on different levels with different concepts and different sounds. That’s what I wanted to do and when I’m writing a song now, I go back and listen to A Mic and a Dream because that’s my guideline.
How did the concept for “My Song Cry” come together?
I came up with the hook at first and the hook said, “Dog, I let the song cry, I know Jay let the song cry, but dog, I believe in the truth, see we can’t die.” With that hook, I wanted to differentiate myself. I’m not saying nothing bad about Jay-Z, but I wanted to say something different and I kind of followed The Blueprint, but I put my own spin on it. The first verse was just me and the things that I’ve been through in the past five years that shaped me into who I am. Then I talked about my daughter and my daughter was just born at that time. She was maybe six months to a year old at that time and then the last verse I had talked about a previous beef that I had. If A Mic and a Dream is my foundation, then “My Song Cry” is the foundation’s foundation because that song, between those three verses, I base everything from the intro to the outro on that.
To answer the question of how I came up with it, I just write about what I go through, what I live, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done and what I plan to go through. And it came out good.
You also wrote and published a book inspired by A Mic and a Dream. What was that process like?
Honestly, that book, I Have a Mic and a Dream, allowed me to reflect on my own self. While I was writing that book, I was planning on closing the chapter of rap on myself. Not that I was actually planning to quit or retire, like I had done that much, I was just planning on taking another route in life. I was 24 then and I wanted to do something different by the time I turned 25.
I didn’t make it and I was ready to accept that but after writing that book and what I did with that book, was I took hooks from different songs and compared them to parts of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. After going back and reading it, it was enlightening to myself and I didn’t realize two different things tied into each other and it kind of helped me, now that I’m 25, it helped me bridge myself after A Mic and a Dream to now. A Mic and a Dream was what I wanted to do. And after doing that, you know, it’s kind of hard to find a way to continue after that because I thought I had said all I had to say and I said it in the best way I could say it and I didn’t make it and I can accept that. But the book allowed me to look back at myself, look at my mistakes and learn from them and move on to where I am now.
Did the process of writing a book make you a better MC?
Absolutely. Absolutely. It opened my vocabulary tremendously because when I was writing the book, I was studying. I wasn’t just referring to a thesaurus and a dictionary, but I was studying what words I was using and how I was using them and different styles and things like that. It most definitely made me a better MC and not just that, but it allowed me to look back at myself and it allowed me to take a step back from myself and take a look at myself and see the mistakes that I’ve made and the things I could have done differently. It not only helped me become a better MC and businessman, but better in everything that I did. Those two were the perfect mix to get me to where I am now to get what I need to get done.
Do you have more plans to write books?
Absolutely. Absolutely. I also act. I’ve done an independent film and I do a lot of plays here in Virginia. Acting is something I love to do. I don’t love it nearly as much as I love hip-hop but I’ve also been involved in writing some stage plays. I’m a three-headed monster. I’m an actor, a rapper and a writer. I can blend those three things together and be successful, one way or another. I definitely have plans to continue.
Could you take one of those creative outlets out and still be Rise?
Honestly, if I only had hip-hop, I would probably be happy but I wouldn’t be giving all of myself. I can definitely do just rap. I could write songs all day and be happy and be satisfied, but there’s strength in numbers and three is definitely better than one. It sounds clichéd, but I just want to be successful and if I’m recognized more for writing or recognized more for acting than rapping, eventually it’s going to benefit my rapping. If I write a book and get a million dollar deal off of that, best believe 25% of that is going into an album or some kind of hip-hop related venture.
How do you balance the three outlets without losing your mind?
It’s insane, man, because that’s not all I juggle. I’m actually in school right now. I’m supposed to be in my last semester but I have to take a summer class. I have a family and everything that I do doesn’t pay the bills. It’s a struggle, man. It’s a struggle. I don’t know what other words to use, but it’s a struggle and it’s tough to juggle it all and still find the inspiration to still want to do it. It’s very easy, especially with the stress and everything that’s going on in the world, it would be very easy to just pay the bills, come home and be satisfied, but I wouldn’t be happy. I wouldn’t be doing what I want to do. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m good at and it just wouldn’t work out for me.
You’ve done a lot of work with DJ Illustrious. What’s it been like working with him?
Man! Let me tell you, taking it back to A Mic and a Dream, I was actually working on that before I met Illustrious. I credit a lot of A Mic and a Dream to him. Before, that was just an album that I had planned on working on, but it just didn’t come together the way it was supposed to come together. It’s strange. We had met years before. I had another little album that I put out called Pure Talent. I had put that out myself. I had done some recording and put together a local album and he had the radio show on WNRN on Tuesday nights and one of the songs he had taken a liking to and wanted to do an interview. He called me up and set up the interview and he and I were in the studio. Two and a half, three years later, I ended up taking over that show and that’s when we started hanging out and he was throwing me beats. He just kind of started catering beats to that. He threw me the “My Song Cry” beat, which was one of the first beats I got from him. It was just on from there. He helped me market it, helped me put it places and he introduced me to you. Illustrious did a lot for me and everywhere I go, he’ll be there beside me and vice versa.
The Culphonics have also done some great work with you. It seems like there’s more talent than people realize in Central Virginia.
Yeah. You know, in Virginia, one out of every two people is a rapper and one out of every five is a producer. Not all of them are skilled, in my opinion, but I’ve been lucky enough to only connect with the guys who are good at what they do and take it serious. I really take it serious. I don’t have a record deal and I’ve never really had major shows, even though I’ve had shows. Just to work with people who are on that same level as me and take it serious and more serious than I do, it brings you to a comfort level to where you can work professionally and really get a professional sound out of yourself. It’s more than what you can do yourself. Josh and Julian and the rest of the Culphonics, if it wasn’t for those three guys, including Illustrious, it might not have ever been what it was and the book wouldn’t have been what it was and I wouldn’t be who I am now. I really credit a lot to them.
What are your plans for the Rise takeover after Rise and Grind drops?
The Rise and Grind project is not just that one mixtape. It’s going to be a lot of different elements to it that I’m planning on working on. I want to get into some t-shirts, designing some t-shirts with Rise and Grind on it. And I’m also planning on releasing a mixtape every month from here on, or at least every month and a half there will be a Rise project coming out. This is about waking people up. Get up, get out and get it. Open your eyes, not just to me but to everything. Open yourself to what’s going on in the world without me having to sound like I’m someone old who’s kicking knowledge and the kids don’t want to hear that. I can do it this way and still get my point across. You’re going to be hearing from me for a very long time, whether you like it or not. And I’m going to have a lot of material to put out, whether it’s books, music or acting. I will be seen and I will be heard.