'Weirdo' is one of the most intense songs we've heard this year, and now we know why - RickRated has a trenchant personal story that deeply informs its originality and appeal.

Let's face it - Darth Vader (and a lot of other cultural icons, real or imagined) have primed us all for a certain degree of father-mystique. In most cases, the notion goes no farther than romanticizing Pa's paycheck or professional accomplishments, but every once in a great while a situation arises where the hidden identity of the father casts a long shadow - particularly on the bereaved. RickRated's dad was a well-respected Seattle rap artist of the same name, known to him through only two personal meetings before his brutal death by shooting. This deeply influenced the up-and-coming rapper, and the quest to understand his departed progenitor recently found traction in his own music. 'Weirdo' not only describes his own life - it gives him indirect insight into the artistic mind of his fallen hero, who was afflicted with stuttering grammar everywhere but on stage. This explains the jarringly intense vibe of the song, which is one of the most affecting we've heard in a long time. Independent reporter Lauren Thompson recently caught up with the talented young rapper to talk about the unusual provenance of his name and avocation - and the ambitious plans he fields for the future.

LAUREN: Let's just get this out in the open - What is the craziest thing that has happened to you in your music career?
RICK: Winning the April 2015 Akademia music award for best rap/ psychedelic song is actually the craziest thing that's happened so far. As an upcoming artist I submit to any opportunity I come across, because logically thinking, the worst that can happen is I get rejected, which isn't too bad. I was pretty excited but I didn't think I was going to win, so I didn't allow myself to get too hopeful. My girlfriend told me not to be so negative, insisting that if I kept telling myself I was gonna win then I would. Again I thought 'What can it hurt?' A few days passed and I received a message congratulating me on my win. I was shocked by what came next. The Akademia ended up making a plan to promote my winning song for the next year, putting it on radio, getting me interviews, shows, music videos, and press! I couldn't believe it! It seemed like the first step toward my dreams, and it was.

LAUREN: Your song ‘Weirdo' is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
RICK: I actually haven't yet heard my song on the radio yet, but when I found out my broadcast time started on May first of this year my heart almost stopped. Being on the radio has been my dearest goal as a rapper. I have never cared that much about the Grammys or playing huge performances; it was always about airplay. So it was really a huge personal accomplishment for me.

LAUREN: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
RICK: Weirdo' was the name of a Johnny Juliano beat a friend of mine had on his laptop. He never really managed to write anything for it, so he handed the beat over to me. When that happened inspiration came instantly - my entire life people have called me a weirdo, or weird, or something along those lines. I just wrote about myself and the things that were going on in my life at the time, for instance the Seahawks killing Denver. My sister says 'Weirdo' is such a huge hit because 'It's me wrapped up in a song.'

LAUREN: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
RICK: A lot of different experiences have fueled my art today... being alone, being picked on and bullied, girl problems, or even just having fun and partying with friends. I do have to say that rumors I'd hear about the father I barely knew were also a huge catalyst.

LAUREN: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving, complicated…)
RICK: As an artist, I'm a very fun guy. I like to experiment with different sounds and styles, throw wacky bars or lines in songs. When it comes to performances I can be very unpleasant if I feel like my art isn't being taken seriously by other musicians. Most shows I've done I've gone it alone for that exact reason. I don't particularly like to depend on other people in order to have a good show. But regardless of anything that happens before the show, no matter how upset or nervous I am before I start, no one can tell when I'm on stage.


LAUREN: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
RICK: I really don't have a team. I'm hoping to get 'Rated R' to the point where I have a talented group of people striving for one goal like Team Backpack or Young Money. But so far I've gotten where I am by working hard in isolation - staying in while my friends get drunk and party, listening to popular music, wracking my brain for dope new metaphors, investing money into my studio and my music submissions instead of buying a much-needed car or new shoes or clothes or frivolous things like that.

LAUREN: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
RICK: My father - the first Rick Rated - was a popular local artist in Seattle before he passed away when I was eight. He was known for his stuttering, which was always a problem except for when he rapped. I only had the pleasure of meeting him twice before he was murdered in a Lakewood apartment complex. When he was alive my name changed as I grew older, starting with 'Baby Rated', then 'Lil Rated', and after he passed and I was old enough I took his name but removed the space from the words, differentiating his identity from mine with 'RickRated'. Unfortunately, just like me, he was adopted, so I don't know how much farther back the musicians go in my bloodline.

LAUREN: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
RICK: The most rewarding thing about being an artist is the love you get for doing what you love to do; the positive comments, the likes, the shares, being recognized by strangers, seeing your music being downloaded... but most of all the love I get from people in a direct fashion. The most challenging thing? Constantly being under pressure to make songs people are gonna like and relate to, which isn't an overwhelming challenge for me - but it's hard! It's the hooks more then anything; I get seriously stuck on hooks when I'm writing a song. There's just a lot of complications when it comes to writing an effective, catchy hook that people can relate to and sing along with. Writer's block is a bitch to deal with.

LAUREN: Who are your role models in music?
RICK: Starting out my role model was my father Rick Rated, then Eminem through my later childhood, then Drake. Even today I can play a Drake song from 'If You're Reading This It's Too Late' and it will hit me like it's the first time hearing it and I'm walking in his shoes. Every time I hear a new Drake song it never fails to inspire me with something new of my own. No other artist has ever had that effect on me. I hope to make music even better than Drake's one day. I've also been inspired by G-Eazy, Kid Ink, Tha Joker, and recently J. Cole and Rae Sremmurd.

LAUREN: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
RICK: My best performance was probably the first show where I really did my own music. It was an event called 'Night of the $avvs'. The crowd included a lot of people that I had known from my middle school days when I was unliked and bullied. Most of them didn't know who I had grown to become or my talent in the field of rapping. I'd been rapping my entire life, whereas most of the other performers on the bill had rapped for a couple years at best. When my turn came the familiar and unfamiliar faces of the crowd were steadily enthralled by the music I was performing. Hearing their reactions to my punch lines, seeing them move along with me - impressing the very people that used to pick on me - was an indescribable feeling. I love performing, but that night I was able to show my old peers a glimpse of my very near future.

LAUREN: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
RICK: Follow your dreams. Nothing is going to come easy no matter how much talent you have. You have to invest money as well as time into your career, just like anyone else. Don't be discouraged if you are rejected - it's happened to me plenty and still does. Just keep working hard and you'll reach your dream one day.

LAUREN: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
RICK: Weirdo' is only the beginning for me. I intend to have countless other songs on the radio. I just released my first mix called 'The Landing' on Soundcloud. As far as new singles, I'm presently working with a producer by the name of J Staffz who collaborated with Wiz Khalifa and French Montana before they reached superstardom. Hopefully I'm next!

LAUREN: Thank you kindly for taking the time to share your story with us. We are deeply impressed with your intelligence and resolve and expect great things from your career in the coming year!


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