Compton’s Roddy Ricch Gets Existential

Will Hagle breaks down Roddy Ricch's standout new track, "Die Young."
By    July 25, 2018

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Will Hagle listens exclusively to Willie’s Roadhouse.

I turned the dial to Shade 45. A weekend show—probably but not definitely LA Leakers’—aired. I snaked my car—probably and definitely a Kia—up a congested chunk of La Brea. My Kia followed the Toyotas in front of it as they filtered into the left lane to avoid a construction blockage. Workers paved one side of the road as the cars bounced their way through the bumps along the other.

Roddy Ricch’s “Die Young” came on the radio at the same time my Kia’s windows descended. Traffic stood still. Time froze. People got out of their cars and started singing along, like how I imagine it went in that La La Land scene I’ve heard so much about. The construction crew packed up their equipment and went home for the day. The song seeping out of my windows had done their job for them, paving the streets in a glistening gold. “Die Young” is just that smooth.

Roddy Ricch sounds like Future, but he expresses his emotions with clarity. He sounds the way people did before various pain medications so uniformly fueled recording sessions, even if he acknowledges partaking in that trend. He blurs the lines between rap and R&B, delivering cold-hearted lyrics in a crystal clear fashion, like a one-man Jagged Edge. Fans who relate to or otherwise connect with the specific shades of universal pain only Future or Thug are capable of depicting will especially appreciate Roddy Ricch’s words, which include:

We was fighting fed cases, remember I was 2-0/ N**** was fighting depression sippin syrup I was moving slow/ I was down below, but still I kept my head up/ Gotta get my bread up, I don’t wanna die young, though.

Some other good lyrics also adhere to the theme of the song’s title: “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6/ I’m gonna post bail just look at my wrist/ Tell me why the legends always die quick.

According to the YouTube description of the song’s new video, London On Tha Track produced the beat. That style of production—whether actually London On Da Track or a Fruity Loops-savvy parody producer—makes most people expect the vocal accompaniment to take a specific approach. At the subconscious level, when people hear this type of beat they expect the words to be muddled or mumbled. They expect the flow pattern to be recognizable or randomized. They expect it to adhere to the template that Future and Thug built. It’s true that those two and the legion they’ve inspired also often rap clearly and lyrically. It’s simply less consistently true than it is for Roddy Ricch on “Die Young.”

Roddy Ricch grew up in LA and spent time living in Atlanta, which is perhaps the most ideal background for a rapper in search of critical or commercial success in 2018. During this video, he FaceTimes with Nipsey Hussle. According to Nick Nukem’s interview with Roddy on this site, Kendrick grew up with him and has referred to him as “lyrical.” A construction crew went home for the day the first time they heard him. A quick scan of the song’s YouTube comments shows that there are several others around the world, who, like me, play “Die Young” back over and over all the time. Roddy Ricch doesn’t need anyone to tell you he’s going to be good. He’ll be good. He already is good. This song is great.

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