Rucci and AzChike are rap’s latest duo to put the music industry on notice. Beyond their combined willingness to say whatever comes to mind, the Inglewood mainstays are friends first – blood couldn’t make them any closer (no pun intended).
If shit talking was a professional sport, consider Rucci and Chike shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame. Rucci attacks the beat with tactical precision, flexing his lyrical versatility through disrespectful punchlines and a breakneck, snapping flow. And then there’s AzChike, crashing the beat like a bat out of hell, finding hidden pockets in instrumentals that accentuate his undeniable talent.
Beyond being paired together by their high school dropout status, both artists are united by their reverence for gang culture. While Rucci is true to the lifestyle because of his lineage (he’s Tako’s son), Chike claims, “That shit just around you,” if you’re a native Angeleno. But there’s a brighter side to repping your set that tends to go unnoticed and Rucci is bringing this vision to the forefront of rap. “The negative outweighs the good like a muthafucka but me being who I am, I just make it look super dope,” he shares. “I guess you can say I am the other side of it.”
With Kourtesy Of Us, Rucci and AzChike’s first-ever joint project, the West Coast tandem deliver a full-length album that condemns any sucka behavior. As a sign of homage for the late Sean Mackk and his incarcerated uncle, Rucci’s continuation in music is an extension of his loyalty. When it comes to Chike, their collaborative effort is a reflection of his desire to simply release new music.
Candidly, Rucci and AzChike got the West on smash right now. And yet, they’re still doing block shit.
The two rappers caught up with Dirty Glove Bastard to talk about their new album, life in Los Angeles, making it out the streets and more.
What’s your first memory of being introduced to gang culture?
Rucci: Ion know, I was born in it. I face this shit everyday so I ain’t really got no memories.
AzChike: It’s just L.A shit forreal. It’s nothing to get introduced to unless you just moved out from an hour away or some shit like that. That shit just around you. If you grew up in L.A you bound to have some ties to it, though.
Is there a brighter side to that lifestyle that no one talks about and if so, what does that consist of?
Rucci: I would say, for the people who make it out – like myself – they usually give back a lot to the community. Shit, you find a lot of brothers in it, too. To be honest, there’s nothing really “good” about gang banging.
I don’t know, man, I hear what you’re saying but you’re Tako’s son. You make this shit look cool.
Rucci: Yeah, I feel that but I’d rather be respected if I went to school or something like that. I love the respect I get but if I could, I would’ve gone to school and been on a whole different wave. There’s ups and downs that come with being Tako’s son. The negative outweighs the good like a muthafucka but me being who I am, I just make it look super dope. That’s my job, to show people the other side of this lifestyle. I guess you can say I am the other side of it.
How would y’all best describe life after dropping out of high school? That’s a crazy commonality shared between you two.
AzChike: Shit, a journey. Figuring it out. It kinda felt good, though, ‘cause you were running your own program at that point. Now, it’s really on you to make something happen. It wasn’t nothing scary.
Did you immediately start looking for a job or what was that decision-making process like for you, Chike?
AzChike: My mom wasn’t tripping like that. She just wanted to make sure I got a GED or something. That was really it. After so long I was just really figuring shit out. Trying lil’ jobs and shit, rapping in between, raising my own money to buy equipment and shit. Then boom.
Boom, as in one of your biggest records was recorded at home, right?
AzChike: Mhm, at my mom’s house. I recorded it and sent it to Krook, Rucci engineer, and we got that shit on.
Rucci, your story was a bit different, in terms of life after dropping out of high school. You were pretty direct with your intentions, letting your mom know a career in rap was next up.
Rucci: My mom supports everything I do. It was just to the point where, when my pops and uncle went to jail for attempted murder, I was so used to having them around that I really didn’t know where to go or how to move at that point. I was on some broke shit. I really had to pick up rapping again. I always knew how to rap but I had to pick it up again and take it serious because when I dropped out of high school it was niggas blowing up at age 16. I had that type of vision and I had to understand that this shit don’t happen overnight. I wasn’t one of those viral artists so I knew it had to take time. I just really kept my uncle’s dream alive. To be honest, Ion’t really tell nobody that but that’s really why I started rapping, because of him. He basically told me, “I told you what to do just go do it,” ya feel me. That’s my pride and joy. Every step he tells me to take, a lot of people don’t even know that’s how I make my moves.
Between your dad, uncle and (Sean) Mackk, it seems like the male influences in your life are important to you.
Rucci: When I was rapping by myself, Sean spruced that shit up. He was in the hood wit me, he was another person that I looked up to. I looked up to him so much I always did over what I was expected to do.
Has there ever been a period of time when you guys have contemplated a career outside of rap?
Rucci: Shit, I was hustlin’ (laughs). I couldn’t get a job, I tatted my face kinda early. I just said hustin’ on some regular shit but I always had my eye on this music shit, bruh.
AzChike: I did the job shit for music reasons. That shit was a dead end. A nine to five ain’t gon’ get you nowhere but stressed out. I was still broke with two jobs.
Can you put into words what the transition from a life in the streets to the limelight has been like? I imagine the change in pace is a sigh of relief.
Rucci: The streets is everywhere. It’s in the limelight, too. It’s not really hard to transition into that shit. Before I was poppin,’ I had older homies that were poppin,’ too, and they were wit all the rappers. It’s always been this lifestyle so it wasn’t really hard to adjust.
Kourtesy Of Us is the first-ever full length project from you two but it’s not your first collaboration. How has your chemistry developed over the years?
Rucci: I think it gets stronger day by day.
AzChike: Yeah, real life shit, know what I’m sayin’. The homies you hang out wit on the block but we rap type shit, feel me. Still doing block shit.
Rucci: It’s super strong, though, ‘cause we already tied in the friendship outside of music, the family outside of music, so it makes making music that much easier. We get better every time we link.
Did you guys experience any creative differences while working on this album?
AzChike: With picking the tracks for the album, we fasho sat down wit the whole team. We had to really sit down and everybody chose their top five. Shit, we just communicate, forreal. That shit was stressful, though (laughs).
Rucci: Me and Chike be on the same shit.
Was it a tough decision to hand-select the featured artists for Kourtesy Of Us? I’m curious to know how y’all decided who would pair well with certain beats.
AzChike: I wouldn’t say the features, though. I’d say the type of songs we did. I like to do dark shit or some aight let’s just gas type shit. Rucci, he can really get you in your feelings. That’s the only creative differences we have, technically, but I still take that on because that shit put me in that range, too, where I can range out and make music like that also.
Rucci: Yeah, so each other’s fans can become our fans as one. That’s why this album gon’ go so viral because both our fans getting everything in one. The features, I feel like we already had a good idea of what we were doing when we made the music, feel me. The shit we really didn’t have figured out was the Boosie shit. Swaye, Pjay and Bilo came wit the song and then we all came wit that at the end of the day, like oh yeah, Boosie perfect for this. The different types of music on there, honestly, you can hear the creative differences but it just came together so perfectly.
What was the driving force behind lacing this project with 21 songs? By today’s standards, that’s an awful lot of music.
AzChike: Shit, we ain’t been dropping nothing, forreal. It’s a lot more songs than that.
Rucci: I think we was just like fuck it. So many people want it (new music) why not flood ‘em? We got too much music to be honest so that’s probably the main reason.
Listening to Kourtesy Of Us, the tracklisting seems to focus more on conversation pieces about your everyday life. And yet, for me at least, the cover art is the backbone of the album, conceptualizing what Mackk&Cult represents. Do you consider this project the start of a new wave in music or is this more so an extension of your friendship?
Rucci: Both. It shows y’all how strong me and Chike are together. How powerful we are as one, just me and Chike taking the frontline and putting our nuts out. The shit is literally a whole new get down ‘cause me and Chike really had time to put the songs together.
AzChike: We already had so much good shit stored, once the album finally came we had two, three weeks to work strictly on that. Before that, we already had good music so we decided to merge it. If you make a new theme, you gotta throw the old songs out.
Has this been years in the making?
AzChike: Nah, not no years. Maybe like six months, forreal. It was only six months ‘cause the deal took that long. We was already doing the music but once the deal came through, the bread came through, they gave us the studio time so we got busy immediately. We been locked and loaded. The pandemic going on, shows back poppin’. Shit, it’s really going wit the times, too.
Rucci: We was gon’ release that bitch in the summer.
AzChike: Mhm, that’s what we wanted to do. It’s working out, though, ‘cause shit, we seeing niggas tour shows get shut down. It’s gon’ all work out like a muthafucka.
COVID definitely has changed music industry dynamics for sure. Touring accounts for such a big portion of an artist’s income.
AzChike: Touring is a big part of streaming, too. A lot of people don’t realize that people listen to your music more when they come to yo shows. Even when you’re opening up for another artist, your streams, followers, interactions, everything goes up. Real life interactions count ten times more than social media.
With the recent social media outage that took place, it got me thinking about the future. As an artist, if you weren’t able to do live shows, how would you reach those core listeners without having that avenue of interconnectedness through social media?
Rucci: You know what’s crazy, me and Chike, we young niggas but we like young OGs. We was around before all this shit, too. When we were growing up, there wasn’t streaming or none of that shit. Me and Chike would probably be out the trunk right now wit the CDs. We’d have to get back in the streets and we know how to do it. Even though we got Instagram and stuff, my manager been talking about getting in the streets and putting posters up, shit like that. We still got that same mentality even though we got Instagram and shit.
Random, but who’s the best shit talker between you two? You’re both notoriously known for saying whatever comes to mind, unapologetically.
Rucci: Chike. Chike know how to talk that shit and he bring it out of me, feel me. It’s times on the album, it’s certain songs I can name, probably like on “What We Talkin Bout” with Swaye. B ro like, “Go in there and rap. Talk yo shit,” feel me. I think bro know how to talk that shit so it just fall over on me, too. We both talk shit all day, though.
AzChike: All day.
Rucci: We talk shit to each other all day.
AzChike: At the same time, like I already said, he versatile, he do other shit, too. I kinda started my rap shit focusing on shit talkin’. That’s what I wanted to specialize in first. I probably just put a lot of focus on that shit more. Even though too much of anything is bad for you. Not even to just shit talk but to be clever while you do it. Make a nigga think or it can be a new saying or catchphrase. That shit is hella unique. I fuck wit that shit.