28-year-old Rotimi has a lot to be thankful for. Starring in Starz hit series Power with rap mogul Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and actor Omari Hardwick, the multitalented thespian also touts previous roles in Netflix’s DEUCES and Burning Sands.
But that’s not all. Before acting took off, Rotimi was always a singer, and now the artist wants to get back to his roots. Last Friday (Aug.4), he released his eight-song EP Jeep Music Vol. 1 via G-Unit Records/EMPIRE. The personal project chronicles the ups and downs of a real life relationship. In advance of the EP, Rotimi released “Want More,” featuring dancehall artist Kranium, and “Nobody” with 50 Cent and T.I.
Aside from his successful acting career and a new project, Rotimi is currently on the road with August Alsina for the singer’s Don’t Matter Tour and has so far performed in cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, and D.C.
Billboard spoke to Rotimi about why he decided to do music, what his plans are before he turns 30, and a little more about Power (spoiler alert!).
First I have to ask, why did you do my man Julio like that on Power?
Well, I got to ask this, did you care for Julio before that moment? [Laughs]
Well, he wasn’t as appreciated, but you never appreciate something before it’s gone. Moving along, why did you name your EP Jeep Music? Why was the jeep your ex drove so significant to you?
The car was with us throughout the whole relationship, and she’s known for having a white jeep in Jersey. So it was the car she took me to the studio [in], the car we fought in. It was consistent with her. So it symbolized our relationship. And then me sitting on top of it kind of shows I conquered it. I got out and am still okay. The back story is I met her in college, and she saw me through my two phases so far: when I got out of college, I went from broke to then making more money. Everything happened so fast. I had pride, she had pride. I messed up, she messed up. Just kind of the ups and downs of a true relationship we all go through.
When did you start working on this record?
Well, I came up with the idea last year, but then I was like I want to be really transparent. Because the way music is, I’m realizing that when people know your story and your truth, they gravitate towards you. You have to make people care and invest. So I said this is a significant part of my life. Let me talk about it and put it in music form. And from when I met her, the record “Want More,” to when it’s over.
You’ve been doing music for a while, even before Power. What made you get back into music?
Because I know the gift that God gave me. And I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I don’t do it. So as soon as I realize it’s about me being true to myself, not trying to be a cool artist, but just being me, I felt like it would just come a little bit easier. With the response of the project, and everybody who says, ‘Oh my God, I feel like I was there,’ with people saying these things, I knew I was making the right decision because who says I can’t do both. I just know I had to make the project undeniable and that’s why I really, really took my time with it because it was last year. We took our time to build it. So now people are saying they can play it [tracks] one through eight without stopping. We did something right.
What made you decide on signing to G-Unit and releasing the EP through them?
I was always taught to go where they will treat you best or where the loyalty will lie. And I mean to learn from a real renaissance man that I want to be, to have 50 firsthand on both acting and music, just made sense strategically. And plus I’m mad cool with him and he believes in me. He gives me mad freedom, and it makes me feel good now that people are taking the music seriously because he believed in me. He’s basically saying, ‘I told y’all.’
What’s the inspiration behind “Want More,” and how did you recruit Kranium for the record?
The inspiration behind the record really is how I met my ex. In the song, she’s in a bad relationship. I’m not saying you should leave the guy, but I’m saying I’m better for you. And it starts the project like that. But I wanted to do an afro-beat feel because I’m of Nigerian descent. So [I] kind of [wanted to] bring it home a little bit and make that the opening, but in a cool reggae vibe. And with Kranium, we just called his management on a Monday and he came into the studio on a Tuesday and knocked it out in five minutes, which was crazy.
You’ve accomplished so much in your career and you’re not even 30. So looking to that age, what do you want to accomplish before then?
A Grammy or a Grammy nomination. Filming a really powerful movie. And you know, hopefully still on Power, depending on what they want to do. And then, just really happy. I just want to be happy. I just want to continue to make music that makes people feel. So those are the things that really make me happy. I want to go to a concert that’s mine, and basically the whole crowd sing along and know my words. That’s the goal.
Speaking of concerts, you’re going on tour with August Alsina. How did that manifest?
We have the same booking agent, so it made sense to do it. We basically have the same fanbase. So to open up is dope. It’s a fun time and all about self-preservation, though, because it’s a lot of dates. But it’s good seeing people rocking and making new fans. Every night is just a snowball effect that feels really good.
What part of your character Dre is most and least like you?
The part that’s like me is probably his ambition and his desire to be the best. I want to be the best at what I do so he has the same drive. He might do things differently than I would, but he’s really ambitious and I like that.