His album's named "Self Made" for a reason. Rapper Rodney "Rocko" Hill gives himself plenty of credit for his booming career as an artist manager-turned-rapper.His album's named "Self Made" for a reason. Rapper Rodney "Rocko" Hill gives himself plenty of credit for his booming career as an artist manager-turned-rapper.
"I realized I had a mean swagger at an early age -- I could sell a lady with a white dress on a barbecue sandwich and convince her she won't drop a bit of it on her," says the Atlanta-native confidently. "Plus, I love me some money. So I figured if I gotta rap to get me some then that's just what I'm gonna do."
Rocko got his start writing and producing music in his cousin's Atlanta studio in the early part of 1999. He later landed a gig at a local record label, Triple A Records. In 2002, he had his first major managerial break when an artist by the name of Hitman Sammy Sam, whom he'd signed to the label, released a song titled "Step Daddy" and was shortly after signed to a deal with Universal Records. That same year, with help and funding by Hitman Sammy Sam, Rocko decided to leave his post at Triple A and launched his own record company, Rocky Road Records.
Through the relationship with Hitman and Universal, Rocko landed a deal with the record company to sign artists to the label house. "That's when I found Young Dro -- I grew up around him. I developed him and groomed him and made him who he is today. I also worked with Dem Franchize Boyz," Rocko says.
It wasn't long after working with the two acts that Rocko started to ponder becoming a rapper himself. "I always loved music, from a consumer stand point, and even though I'm more of a behind-the-scenes type of person and like to sit back and orchestrate things, the decision to go into rapping was initially cash motivated. I saw the type of money rappers were making and I went in trying to get money," he admits. "But then I really started to get into it."
So in 2003, he released his first mixtape titled "NWA (No Wack Artist)," featuring Juvenile, Turk, Jazze Pha and Bone Crusher among others. Last year, aside from releasing his second mixtape, the appropriately titled "Swag Season," with Jim Jones, Rick Ross, Gotti and Shawty Lo, Rocko signed his first deal as a rapper with Def Jam via his relationship with now Island Urban president, Jermaine Dupri, whom he met through his girlfriend, R&B singer Monica, years back. "We been seeing each other for years, but he didn't know I rapped. Once he found out he reached out. He wanted to do business so we got together and chopped it up," says Rocko about how the deal came about.
Now, Rocko is putting the final touches to his debut set to hit the market on March 18th. Cool and Dre, The Runners, Jazze Pha, Drumma Boy and DJ Toomp are among those lending their production efforts, while no features have officially made the final cut yet. The album's first single, called "Umma Do Me," rose 53-51 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week.
Although "Umma Do Me" and "Woke Up," a promotional single, brandish money and designer clothes, Rocko says they aren't an accurate reflection of what "Made" is all about. "'Umma Do Me' is a song I did for the streets and it took off from there, but I never even meant for it to be a single. This album is colossal. It's much bigger and crazier than that. It's about real life situations," he says.
Proving that notion on are songs like "Shoot Me Down," about the doubts from others Rocko faced while pursuing a career in music, and "Champion," about his struggle to make it in the business.
In addition, Rocko, who will embark on a promotional tour in coming weeks, reveals that as he plans to branch out into acting somewhere down the line ("I have great acting skills," he gushes), he will include a short DVD film about his rise in the industry with the purchase of every album. He hopes it will be used to motivate others with limited resources to pursue hefty careers.
"A lot of people wanted me to fail, but now those same people are in trouble," says Rocko. "I am going in and mastering my craft daily. I went in trying to make money and kept it on cruise control, but when I started to hear the hate, I turned the knob all the way up till it broke off. Now there's no turning back."