RideOut Interview

October 23, 2008

Many emcees spend their entire careers trying to tap into audiences outside of immediate rap circles. Some will collaborate with rock artists, others will make deliberately female-friendly singles, and others will others look to land spots on multi-genre tours. The career of Lansing rapper RideOut, on the other hand, is the other way around. His first live performance was at his high school’s “Battle of the Bands” concert, and while at college in Ohio, he became the lead vocalist of SoundScape, a Hip Hop band that consisted of him and several instrumentalists.

But don’t get his genre-bending background confuse you: RideOut is an emcee’s emcee, placing emphasis on vivid imagery, storytelling and speaking on issues that matter. The City, his new album with SoundScape producer/bass player Terry Cole, has gotten rave reviews from go-to industry sources like OkayPlayer. With The City getting re-released in Japan through P-Vine Records earlier this month, RideOut talks to MichiganHipHop about the differences between rap crowds and rock crowds, how a Japanese audience will respond to his music, and what makes Michigan’s rap scene better than anywhere else’s.

How was your first performance at Battle of the Bands set up?
It was kind of a random decision I did on the fly. (The show) was an annual thing. That was my senior year, and I guess after writing rhymes pretty consistently just for the hell of it [I decided to participate]. When I was a freshman, I spent way too much time writing rhymes for no apparent reason. I was really trying to be a rapper; I spent way too much time writing rhymes in class. So one day, when I saw like the little flyer for the Battle of the Bands, I was like, “Hm. Whatever. Why not? Try it.” So I went to somebody like “Hey, I’m not necessarily a band, but can I do it?” It was the type of thing nobody had ever asked before. They were like, “Uhh…I guess?” [Laughs] Even after I asked I didn’t know how I was going to do it, (because) I didn’t even have songs. Even when I was writing I didn’t write songs, I wrote the endless emcee raps.

So I started penning a whole bunch of stuff. I was always one of those people who downloaded instrumentals, so I just went home on the computer, found a bunch of instrumentals, and started writing rhymes for the event in particular. I’ll say I probably spent about two to three weeks just getting everything together. I got a couple little friends of mine just to back me up, hit the ad-libs and what have you. When we actually did the performance, it was crazy. I was mad nervous because everybody at the joint was, you know, a band. … But when we ended up actually getting on stage and doing it, it definitely had a rock feel, but it didn’t suck. After that, I hung around a couple days, went back to school, and in the following days and weeks, people were really talking about it. That really motivated me to keep on doing it in front of people, at Michigan State especially. I wasn’t really that dude that people looked at as a rapper; I kind of just kept it to myself.

You perform both as a soloist and your group SoundScape. What all does SoundScape encompass, and how different it can be between recording and performing as a soloist, and doing so with a group?

To be honest, it’s pretty different with them because I guess with the band I’ve noticed a lot of differences. I guess you could say the stuff we see at (Lansing Hip Hop night) Respiration—DJs and like Hip Hop artists, rapping over beats and stuff like that—when we perform as a live band, it’s so different and the crowd is different. One thing I’ve noticed even at Respiration, you get mixed crowds, but it’s predominantly black crowd or whatever. It’s usually a predominantly white crowd when I’m performing with the band, and one thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes it seems black people can’t even comprehend a band. [Laughs] You know, it’s weird to me because it’s music, you know? It’s like the simple fact of just seeing an instrument in your face is just off-putting to black crowds. I feel like that’s opening up a little bit more now with Kanye and Common performing with bands, and N.E.R.D. and Jay-Z rockin’ with bands now. I feel like it’s getting a little bit more appreciated now. And it’s successful, and you could look at that either way when I say it’s as successful as The Roots have been, because you know, as successful as The Roots have been, they’ve also been unsuccessful. And a lot of that is probably because they’re a band. But their crowds… I’ve been to some of their shows and their crowds are out there predominantly white, but they’re not rapping some old happy-go-lucky, Dave Matthews kind of stuff, despite their crowd. It’s Hip Hop.

I try and keep it Hip Hop, I try and keep it this and that, but I think I template things a little bit more with the band, just because of the audience I know I’m going to be performing for. I try to not put a whole bunch of “niggas” in (my lyrics), and all that kind of stuff. It’s really off-putting to me to be working the crowd and hear ten thousand white people scream, “Nigga!” That shit just isn’t gonna work for me. Love is love, but that doesn’t work for me. So I got to temper things a little bit more. Even my band, my band is four white dudes or whatever, and I’m working with six right now, and typically most of the band has been white or whatever. So I try and make it so that we are a band and they’re not backing me; we’re a cohesive group. So I don’t want to go too overboard, too far overboard with my personal opinions. You know I always keep it real, but I don’t want to go too, too far. But it’s a lot of freedom with the band, even if I have a little bit of restrictions. I have a lot of freedom with the band, just rhyming over tracks; the vibe is just lighter. But definitely rhyming, my solo career is more freedom to say exactly what the fuck I want to say to who I want to say it to.

A lot of people come into the game as a rapper, and for their entire career they’ll be trying to get “crossover appeal” to pander to outside rap audiences. But that’s how you broke in the first place—did you feel like you had to do things backward, and crossover into rap?
That is a good question. You know, I never thought about it that way before, and I guess you could kind of say yeah. I don’t really look at it; you can’t really decide who likes you and who doesn’t, you know? It just so happened to be that the band is what hit for me. A lot of it has to do with the timing of the music; when things really started coming together for me, rapping about things in the way that I rap wasn’t popular. It was all Lil’ Jon and crunk and snap music and all that bullshit; so, especially looking at an urban audience, that was just an uphill battle. I didn’t specifically say, “Fuck this urban shit, I’m gonna play for the white folks!” [Laughs] I just had this band, and white people started paying attention, so I just ran with it. I find myself now just rapping with my band and stuff, I do want to get more of the urban audience’s attention, and I bring the live aspect into that as well. Even as far as doing my own solo career, to do like Common and just perform with a band even during my tracks. It’s a little different, but I don’t look at it too hard like “I’m trying to appeal to this person, I’m trying to appeal to this person” because everything that has happened to me so far is just a product of the dichotomy of the way I’ve grown up and how I’ve idealized myself and I’m between the fence of both markets, both worlds.

Tell me about the new album, The City.
The album being called The City, the theme was pretty much kind of lyrics inspired by living in Detroit—living in real-life situations, and things of that nature. That was the inspiration for the album. I’ve lived in quite a few places, and Detroit definitely has the most character of any place I’ve ever lived. So I kind of wanted to bring that out in the music, because even before I got into Michigan, I always felt a connection to Michigan music and Michigan Hip Hop, you know? So once I actually moved to the city of Detroit, I could feel it so much more and I tried to put that feeling into the music.

What are some songs that really stand out to you? Like, on the album?
I’d have to say the opener “The City,” that was a great way to just kick the album off. That set the tone for music and topic. “The Way To Lose Detroit,” with the Gil Scott sample, and the last track “We Got to Live Together.” The thing about “The City,” nowhere is the word Detroit mentioned. So that’s a song that could ambiguously be as much about Detroit as it could be about, you know, the universal city. As much as it is about Detroit, it could be about anybody’s city. On “We Got to Live Together,” I think we pretty much ended the album the same way, on that universal city, on that universal feeling of things being bigger than the city. Everything you’ve listened to is like issues and things that happen in the world everywhere. You have to understand we’re not really in the conditions that you think we are, so.

How did your album got the deal with the recording company in Japan?
Me and Terry released an album independently called Imprinted through Coal Mine Records. In March, in about two months after the album came out, we got a message from a record label in Japan called P-Vine, saying, “We’re interested in releasing your album in Japan, return the message if you’re interested.” You get so much bullshit on MySpace, we’re both thinking it’s some kind of scam, but we both Googled it. The label had been around since the 70s: started off as a label that was releasing American blues records, branched off into different sales, and they got majority stock bought out by a large corporation, and they were also into TV or whatever. So we hit them back, like, “If you’re serious, OK, sure.” They wanted to do some market research or whatever, so we played the waiting game, which wasn’t even that long. I’d say like even two weeks, they hit us back like, “Boom! Here’s a contract.” I was like “Wow, are you serious?” Then they offered us a licensing deal, which had few restrictions about what we could do with the music, and they were taking care of everything; all we had to do was send the music. I was like “Wow, this is pretty much a win/win situation”. We got to open up to a brand new audience and got money, it was great. [laughs]

So we went with it, doing the back-and-forth thing, trying to get them anything that they needed to promote the music. So the album dropped [this month] in Japan, we started shooting a video for “Giving Love” already. We got to get a little more footage in there already, get the editing, we need to get some more shots. Probably from the end of the month until about the beginning of November, the video for “Giving Love” will be out. So we’re just trying to capitalize off that and in the meantime I’m trying to work on something else, something completely different from The City; we’ll stray a little bit away from the “so live” aspect this time, and do something more with the beats. And I just recently got in contact with a producer called The Jake. He’s done some work with the Justus League, and we’re talking right now about doing an EP together, we just got to get all the beats together for that. I’m pretty much trying to do about as much music as I possibly can, trying to pull a 50, “before I self-destruct.” In the meantime, I try and keep people interested doing my blog and stuff, record a couple new tracks every now and then, just to throw out there while I’m working on the projects. I got a couple tracks left, recently done.

What do you know about the Hip Hop scene in Japan? How receptive do you think it will be to your project?
It’s weird, everything I know about the Hip Hop scene in Japan is second-hand, but like I spent a good amount of time recently talking to Othello about it. He told me they’re really responsive to the sound of the album in Japan: they’re really into live bands, hype Hip Hop and jazzy sounds in Hip Hop in Japan. That producer I just mentioned, The Jake, he lives in the U.S. but he’s Japanese. He lived in Japan for seven or eight years, and he said the same thing. As soon as we made the announcement on MySpace, he was like, “Oh yeah, they really be digging that out in Japan.” And I talked to a couple other people who have actually been to Japan, and it pretty much seems to be the same general consensus from anyone that’s actually been to Japan, is that they really dig the sound of the album out there. I’m just hoping that people aren’t lying to me [laughs]. And maybe I’ll sell a couple albums too.

Album available on itunes or @


  1. RideOut Interview via MichiganHipHop « Speech Is My Hammer… says:

    […] definitely dope as hell, got some OkayPlayer love a couple months back. Check out the interview here, and peep his songs in the audio […]

    October 25th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

  2. ed says:

    I hadn’t heard him before but his songs are dope as hell no doubt

    October 26th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

  3. RideOut says:

    You can cop the album The City on itunes and you can hear more of my music @

    October 28th, 2008 at 2:40 pm

  4. Joe Neighb says:

    I met the man once at a show I was doing. Cool dude. Def worth coppin his album. I think I’m one of his many ‘white rapper’ friends…lol…Check his blogs out too. 1

    November 13th, 2008 at 9:27 pm

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