Back in the day, the debate on where the dopest rappers and producers hailed from was an ongoing battle: East Coast (Bad Boy) vs West Coast (Death Row). NYC may very well be the birthplace of hip-hop, but these days, the talent coming out of the Midwest is killing it. And, in my opinion, Detroit takes top billing with Chicago coming in a close second.
One of Detroit’s finest is Chris “Red Pill” Orrick who isn’t just another run-of-the-mill white rapper. He’s made waves in the underground/indie scene with standout performances at SXSW showcases that caught the attention of HipHopDX and Fat Beats and led to his collaborations with BLAT! Pack producer Hir-O (The Kick) and fellow Mello Music Group artists Apollo Brown and Verbal Kent (Ugly Heroes).
Red Pill’s storytelling ability turns heads and twists ears with a delivery style that will leave one feeling like they’ve just been punched in the gut. Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble spoke with Red Pill recently to learn how he got into the business and what fans can expect from the new record, Look What This World Did To Us, due out on April 7 via Mello Music Group. Also, make sure to check out the title track here, which will probably leave you wanting to pre-order his album on iTunes, and you can do that here.
What would you say is your earliest memory of hip-hop?
Probably my earliest memory would have been on my TV really. It was before the internet. I was born in ’87. I started getting into hip-hop when I was in third or fourth grade. So, I would say it was pretty typical stuff like watching TRL. Stuff like that. It wasn’t some really underground thing or whatever for me to get into hip-hop. It was really kind of finding mainstream rap and then getting into more underground stuff later on in high school.
How long have you considered yourself a rapper?
I’ve been writing raps since I was about twelve, and I just turned twenty-seven, so it’s actually been about fifteen years. It really started to get serious about five or six years ago. I went to school at Michigan State University, and I was involved in a local hip-hop scene there.
I was performing locally. I’ve been performing since I was fifteen, but things started to pick up there. I think that’s really when it started to kind of hit me that this was something that was real and something that I could do with my life.
Detroit really knows how to cultivate its hip-hop talent. How does the city influence your process?
I think that one of the most important things about Detroit music….I think what it’s probably best known for is production work with J Dilla, Black Milk, Apollo Brown, people like that. But outside of that, we have some of the most incredibly talented emcees. I mean, on a big level, you’ve got Eminems, and you’ve got Royce da 5’9s.
And then, on like the underground level, you have this level. Black Milk is really dope as a producer and an artist, so it kind of makes you feel like you really need to step it up, and you have to take lyricism seriously because you have a lot to live up to.
Have you ever been compared to anyone where you didn’t understand why?
Being a white rapper, I have been compared to, basically, every white rapper ever. So, I mean I can understand the comparisons when you talk about a Brother Ali or someone like that, but when you’re talking about…I mean, I’ve been compared to YelaWolf. I don’t sound anything like YelaWolf. He’s Southern. He has a real Southern twang. It’s totally different.
I would say probably YelaWolf, or there’s an Asher Rother comparison. I mean, it’s literally every white rapper ever. So, I don’t know. It’s not possible to sound like all of them at once.
What’s one song right now that you don’t think is getting enough love?
I think that…I mean, he has been getting a lot of love, but I think that really recent, and I have to shout out the label Mello Music Group, is Open Mike Eagle. He just put a new song last week that’s on his new EP called “Raps For When It’s Just You & The Abyss.” It’s a great song.
Open Mike Eagle in general. I mean, I think that he’s exciting. I’m happy to be on a label with him. That’s someone that I can truly look at as I was a fan first of his. The dude is one of the most talented and creative guys out right now. His album Dark Comedy was incredible last year, but he’s got this new EP, A Special Episode Of, and it’s really dope.
How did your experience with Ugly Heroes set you up for a successful solo career with Mello Music Group?
I had been a fan of Mello Music Group even before I was asked to do this project with Apollo Brown. It just opened the door. It gave me the contacts and the right resources that I needed to get involved. Initially, Mike Tolle, who is the owner of Mello Music Group, he asked me pretty early on if I was interested in doing solo music with the label.
So, I mean, I loved Ugly Heroes, and I was really happy to do that, but launching it was always about a solo deal in the end. Just having that opportunity, getting connected with the right people through Apollo Brown who was very kind enough to give me the opportunity was huge for me.
He’s such a good guy. I got to interview Apollo Brown when he was here for the album release party for his and Ras Kass’ album.
Yeah, he’s one of the most down-to-earth dudes you’ll ever meet.
How do you feel the Learning To Punch EP has been received by fans?
I think it’s been good. I mean, you can talk about numbers and whatever, but it’s doing what we wanted it to do. With this EP, we had Apollo Brown for “All Of Us,” which is really well-received, talking about the Ferguson and Eric Garner issue in the country right now. I also got to work with Oddisee for the second time on a song called “Smile,” and then Duke Westlake has been a frequent Mello Music Group collaborator.
So, on the production end of it, it’s kind of what you would expect, I guess, from getting my start with Mello Music Group. But it’s doing what we wanted it to do. I think people have gotten pretty used to hearing me over Apollo Brown production, so being able to do something with Oddisee and something with Duke Westlake has been cool.
What can you share with readers about Look What This World Did To Us? Has it been a long road getting to this stage?
Yeah, I think so. For me, the album has been, you know…we’ve been working on it for a while now. So, it’s something that is a very slow process usually when you’re working on getting a new album together. For me, I can say that it’s been done for months. It’s been half a year already. It will be almost a year since I finished it when it comes out.
But I think that what people can expect, and what people should know, is that, for me, it was me coming out of kind of a not so great time in my life just dealing with depression. I talk about it a lot, dealing with issues with alcohol and with just kind of growing up and going from that point of adolescence to adulthood, and trying to figure that out was really a catharsis for me as a writer. So, I think that people will get that out of it and have a little fun with it too. And hopefully people relate to it.
So, you’ve got fellow Mello Music Group artist L’Orange on the album, among others. What was the selection process like when you were choosing the album’s production team?
For me, what I wanted to do was to make sure we had a few Mello Music Group people involved but then also kind of lend a hand to some of my friends, some of the people that I’ve worked with before. One is named Hir-O. Hir-O is a frequent collaborator and good friend of mine. Another is KuroiOto who produced the first track. Another is Dayggs who’s a kid from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wanted to have it be something that just made sense. I didn’t really care.
We didn’t need a big name. We didn’t need someone to really draw attention to the record. I wanted it to be about people that I cared about, people that I’ve worked with mixed with some other names that I get to work with now through Mello Music Group. So, my goal with anything, whenever I’m making music, is just cohesion. I just want it to sound good. I don’t really care. I’m not caught up with putting names on a sticker to make it sell. I’m caught up with making an album that sounds good to me.
Smoking Section was quoted saying “the best music is from the gut and Red Pill sounds like he didn’t question a single syllable.” Do you think of yourself as someone that does a lot of revision?
Honestly, I don’t revise enough. I don’t know other people’s process when they’re working. Usually whatever comes out is what comes out. Even when I’m recording albums, I have an idea of what I want. When I go in to record, I know these twelve songs are going to be on the album, and that’s the end of it. I guess, in the writing process, I might revise a little bit, whereas when I’m writing a verse or whatever it is, I’ll cut a line here or there.
But, for the most part, what I’ve written is what initially came out. And, for me, that’s important. I think that when you have initial instinct of what you wanted to write, I think that’s when you’re going to come out with some of the best, most emotive types of songs.
Do you have any plans for 2015? Do you think you’ll tour to promote the album?
We’re trying right now. I’m working with trying to find a booking agent right now. I would love to tour. If I can’t find an agent, it’s going to be one of those very grinded out, just kind of sleeping on promoter’s couches tours. But yeah, for now, the plans are just putting music out.
2015, to me, is show and prove. It’s an opportunity for me, as a solo artist, to kind of get my name out there, and that’s how I’m looking at it right now. So, hopefully, some good things come from it, but the main thing is just proving that, as a solo artist, I can stand on my own.