Before the age of 21, Rod Wave has become hip-hop’s quintessential rags to riches story. Since his Alamo/Geffen/Interscope debut with 2019’s Ghetto Gospel, the St. Petersburg, Florida native has buried the competition with his icy street bangers and frosty melodies. With two Billboard 200 top ten albums within a five-month span, including last April’s No. 2 debut Pray 4 Love, Wave’s climb to rap’s summit has been a sight to see.
With a dozen Hot 100 records in his arsenal, most notably his latest hit “Rags2Riches,” Wave’s candor and shrewd ability to tug at listeners’ heartstrings makes him a top candidate for rap’s rookie of the year in 2020 — although he’s lucky to still be here. Wave, born Rodarius Marcell Green, nearly had his life curtailed after being involved in a near-fatal car accident earlier this year. An ardent lover of Kanye West’s 2004 debut album, The College Dropout, Wave channeled the spirit of Ye to whip up his version of “Through the Wire,” a song detailing his near-demise.
Grateful to be alive, the self-effacing star looks to wheel himself back into attack-mode with his forthcoming Pray 4 Love deluxe album. Dropping Aug. 7, the glossy ten-track affair will boast features from Yo Gotti and Lil Baby, and serve as a stepping stone on the collaborative front for the reserved MC. With goals of securing his first Billboard 200 No. 1 album, the Alamo/Geffen/Interscope signee spoke to Billboard about his car accident, his rags to riches moment, remaking “Through the Wire” and his desire to one day write movie scripts.
How have you been able to make songs that resonate with people commercially without sacrificing your musical integrity?
I don’t know, man. I just really talk about my life. Life goes up and down. So I just incorporate it with my music. I’m just blessed.
How did “Rags2Riches” come about because it looked like you recorded it inside a tour bus or at a hotel?
So we were on the tour bus going city to city. We were on our way to Atlanta and I was listening to some of the beats. I made three of four songs. Before I sit down and record them, the songs already be made or I already have an idea of what I want to talk about. When we got to the hotel, in the morning, my engineer Travis set up in the hotel and I just recorded the song [laughs]. That was it.
Do you get more comfort recording on the move on the tour bus versus being in the actual studio?
Yeah, I definitely like being in the hotel way better because it’s just me and the engineer. I’ve never really been able to open up and record around people. I remember my first time in the studio, I wasted like six hours. There were too many people in there. I was kind of shy. The music industry is cool and all, but it’s like everything that I’m not with the attention and everything.
So it’s kind of took a lot of adjustment to do. Some of the adjustments I had to do for me to get personal in my music, I had to be by myself so I won’t feel like I’m getting judged and I can really be creative and be myself. I don’t think I’ve been to the studio in like a year and actually made a song. I probably haven’t been to the studio since I made “Cuban Links” and that was like Ghetto Gospel in November.
You’ve proven to be successful without any features. Do you plan on maintaining that formula or do you hope to work with more people?
The music is so personal for me. I never really was like, “Let’s me and this rapper link so the song can go crazy and everybody can listen to it.” I never made music for that purpose. Music always kind of been like an escape for me, you feel me? The people just like it. So when I make my projects and I make my music, I really just make it for people like me. I don’t make it to go No. 1. I don’t make it to hit the charts and sell 80,000 copies the first week. I just do it because I love it. That’s my story.
I feel like eventually – because you always wanna keep the consumer attention — there’s a lot of rappers who share the same kind of story and same background or can feel where I’m coming from [that I can see myself working with] because I’m from Florida. So a lot of stuff that I might say or feel, somebody might not understand it in Chicago or LA. I might have to get somebody from their life to understand what I’m talking about and shed light on it. That’s kind of what I got going on on this deluxe album that I’m finna get ready to do and my next album after this.
Elaborate, because you just said you got a deluxe coming.
I definitely have a deluxe coming on either the 31st or the 7th for Pray 4 Love.
I also saw on Instagram that you said you wanted to drop another album on Aug. 27. Did you get the green light to do so?
I definitely got the green light. They actually told me that I got to do it earlier than that because a lot of people is waiting on it and stuff.
Do you have a name for the next project or are you still working on it?
Nope. It kind of comes just as I be going, bro, I swear. I’ll probably say that I made the whole Pray 4 Love on the road for just like a month straight because it was just how I was feeling at the time. It’s my life. Music is my life. There’s no telling where it’ll take me next. It’s like how I said with “Rags2Riches,” it’s my life. Me being on the tour bus, me going city to city, seeing new stuff, that’s just how I was feeling, you know? I really went from rags to riches. My whole life is different.
What would you say has been your biggest rags to riches moment so far in your career?
Man, I wanna say my house. I bought like a $900,000 house in Florida like cash. I remember getting evicted and all kinds of stuff. Police coming to get me out of my house, telling me it’s time to go. I remember all of that. It’s rags to riches.
You were in a tough car accident awhile back. How have you been recovering since?
I’ve been good. I’ve been coping. Just been at home chillin’ and really trying to stay out the way. It kind of opened my eyes a little bit. It made me appreciate stuff way more.
It’s funny because I know you’re a Kanye fan and he made “Through the Wire” too when he got into his accident at the start of his career. Is that why you chose to name your new record that same title?
Oh, definitely. Actually, when it happened, I was on Kanye real tough. I was just thinking about it right before [the accident]. It was crazy. Then, it happened to me. So I definitely got that from Kanye.
Lastly, before you go, talk about your new publishing deal with Sony/ATV.
A lot of people were reaching out and stuff, but I felt like Sony was perfect for me because eventually I want to venture off in movies and scripts. I’m just gonna play my part for right now because it’s deeper than that. I got stories and stuff. I got all kinds of stuff I done seen in my life. I feel like they’re giving me the opportunity and freedom to express that.
We’re waiting for a book because the way you tell stories on records, you can write novels for days.
For sure. I can definitely write a book. Growing up, I really learned that. The stuff I was reading were urban books and I definitely got into it a lot. So writing books, writing scripts and writing movies, [is the goal]. I love watching movies because it’s the same thing with music: it’s me telling my story. The stuff I’ve seen, you’d be amazed. That’s why I really want to fuck with Sony.
You’re turning 21 next month. Do you have a birthday wish or dream you want to hit?
Yeah, I’m trying to do No. 1, man, with my deluxe. I ain’t got a No. 1 album yet so that’s what I’m trying to do, especially on Billboard.