Ricch has been using YouTube since he was an unsigned artist eager for a breakthrough. His first music video, for “Baby Boy” in 2017, depicted his strained relationship with his stepfather and was filmed in the heart of Compton. “Back then, we had such a naked mind,” recalls Ricch. “We were showing off our realities. Like, ‘This is what happened when I was 15.’ I couldn’t make this shit up. This is my real-life story.”
Dallas Martin, senior vp A&R at Atlantic Records, Ricch’s label, says Ricch’s impulse to show his everyday reality on film is the reason fans gravitated to his YouTube videos in those early days. “He’s so attached to his team and his hood,” explains Martin. “He always wanted to make sure he let everybody know how important where he came from was to him. [And] from ‘Every Season’ to ‘Die Young,’ we always wanted to put a video out for his fans to attach to. YouTube always has been that platform for us.”
Ricch’s second video, “Fucc It Up,” filmed in a rundown trap house, was his first to earn a million views. His next, 2018’s “Die Young” — a gut-wrenching tale that speaks to the fear of being shot and killed by the police — was seen 85 million times, peaked at No. 99 on the Hot 100 (his first solo record to debut on the chart) and earned him co-signs from Nipsey and Meek Mill. YouTube noticed, too: In November 2018, Ricch was featured in its Artist on the Rise program (spotlighting young acts on the service’s U.S. trending charts), and a year later, YouTube Music gave him billboards. “Compton, rap music and YouTube are lucky to have an artist explode on the scene like Roddy,” says Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s global head of music. “We feel so fortunate to be able to play a small part introducing him to fans around the world.”
“A n—a used to drop songs and get only thousands of views,” reflects Ricch. “It’s crazy. My brother and me, we used to be like, ‘We’ll put this video out tonight, and if it did 1,000, it did good.’ Now, I dropped ‘Boom Boom Room’ Jan. 22, and in a day, I got 1.5 million.” (Ricch and his team declined to comment on his YouTube earnings.)
Ricch promises a visual video for “The Box” soon, though even without it YouTube streams have helped him level up to much more established pop stars. The track zoomed to No. 13 on the Hot 100 on the chart dated Jan. 4, nearly a month after his album release. Two weeks later, it seemed primed for a showdown with Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” as the singer urged fans to stream his record on every platform — and Ricch, in fact, encouraged his own fans to do the same for Bieber. Yet in the end, “The Box” beat “Yummy” to No. 1. A week later, Ricch found himself in a similar position as Selena Gomez released her comeback album, Rare, and exhorted her fans to buy it. Again, Ricch advocated for his followers to support her — “I always have positive intentions,” he says. Rare did hit No. 1, but Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial was just behind it.