I met Pleasant Grove native Rikki Blu earlier this year at an event that I covered in Dallas, Tx and instantly felt more nothing but good vibes from him. I later caught up with Rikki Blu at a show he put on at Club Dada in Deep Ellum, Tx over the summer during his tour. Rikki Blu is the kind of guy you want to sit and talk with because he has a well of knowledge but he is also down to earth, humble, honest, and raw. I pulled up on Rikki Blu at his spot in Pleasant Grove with a few of his closest friends who I later learned were more like family and had some real conversation about the highs and lows of his life, his music, family, love and everything in between.
This interview started before I even hit record because we were already having a discussion and follows the natural flow of our conversation.
Question: What kind of music are you creating now?
Rikki Blu: The music I'm creating now is almost uncomfortably personal and it's almost the things you don't want to necessarily promote but it's your life, and it's like you could choose the good parts and the bad parts but... that's not the way I've created music. So, I'm just happy that if I go through a situation, I am about to write a full ballot about the situation.
Response: That's why I have an issue with branding nowadays because everybody is branding themselves as something they're not, you know what I'm saying?
Rikki Blu: Right
Response: Like, I'm a blogger right? If you go to a blogger Instagram page it's very put together, very edited, so I've been battling because I don't want it to look like that. The name of my blog is "Real Talk with Nikki" because I want to be real about life, the dirt, the bad stuff, the good stuff. So that's why I like your music because it's real, it's personal.
Rikki Blu: I appreciate that.
Response: That's why my sister likes your music even though she knows nothing about any of that.
Rikki Blu: It's so cool though because I came up listening to J.Cole, only to seven years later I haven't listened to his past three albums.
Rikki Blu: When I needed him, he was there for me. He let me figure out my voice, he allowed me to figure out how I wanted to do what he was doing. It centered me and I kinda just... I didn't need it anymore. Now it's like okay, it's about me it's about my story. I understand the technicalities, I understand like beat selection... s**t like that but now, I don't get the um ... I don't get what I want ... you know what I'm saying... from the music. I can only get what I want from the music if I create it.
Response: You haven't listened to his last three albums?! I was shocked at this point because KOD was FIRE.
Rikki Blu: I mean probably back and forth a couple times, but not how I know "The Warm Up" word for word, not how I know "The Come Up" word for word, not how I know "Friday Night Lights" word for word... it's almost like that situation where fans, they grow with an artist so much and it's like at that epitome of growth, that's when I was then given the confidence to share my story... you know what I'm saying? And, I just stopped looking outwardly for inspiration.
Question: So do you only listen to your music now?
Rikki Blu: Slick... or here recently my brother been giving me really fire playlist and I've been discovering s**t that I would never ever listen to.
Response: Like who?
Rikki Blu: Um... Francis and the Lights, I really like Francis and the Lights... I love Sade, of course, I grew up on Sade, I grew up on Portishead, I grew up on the band Chicago, I grew up Micheal McDonald and James Ingram, I grew up on Al Green... So it was weird because my dad did music right...
Response: Did he?
Rikki Blu: What?! My dad had a whole clique in Dallas called the NFG, the "Ni***s from the Grove".
Response: Oh okay, so I was going to get to your dad later on because I know on one of your songs you said that he was a Black Panther, so I was interested in how that whole dynamic was growing up.
Rikki Blu: Man, just growing up it was militant, it was either I was going to get my a** beat or I was going to be in front, lean, and rest... you know what I'm saying.. push up position until it's time to get up.
Rikki Blu: That was his form of discipline.
Response: For anything? Like, if you knock over something?
Rikki Blu: Well no, not like that... Just whatever kids get in trouble for, I can't remember half the reasons why I got the a** whoopings but I remember all the a** whoopings. So he'll give me that ultimatum, friendly arrest or you want a spanking... ni**a I'ma choose front, lean, and rest every time.
Response: But if you would've chosen the spanking you would've gotten it over with.
Rikki Blu: I don't like that s**t though. That s**t didn't sit right with me. And you know what, growing up my sister was so stone-faced, she would just get a** whooping and not make any sounds and I would be like bruh how bruh. But for me, I couldn't do that s**t bruh. That's how I know I couldn't do slavery. I would've been the first ni**a they offed. Because as soon as he had that lil' gun and whip, I'm taking yo strap. Me and Nat Turner would've been cool.
Question: So what did your dad teach you?
Rikki Blu: My dad taught me heritage, he taught me spirituality... I never grew up in a church, I went to church probably one time with my grandma and I had to go... but my dad did all the research that a ni**a can do in the 90's as far as our identity as African Americans and his studies showed that the slaves that were brought to America were direct descendants of the Hebrews in the Bible. And I think the first thing that kind of led him to it was... you know how some people have question's about the doctrine they've been given, and most people don't give a f**k to question it. My dad was one of them ni**as, he had that hunger for knowledge and so that led him to figure out historically where these people came from... how these things happened.
He did his family tree DNA, and when he did his family tree DNA every marker that came from Africa had a huge Judaic Afro Culture. You look at the Lemba Tribe in Africa and these people are the only people in African that have the Marker that Jews call themselves Jews for. So as a child it was more so like the dichotomy of my dad being a street ni**a first, and doing his thing with music, and then to transition to "I have to do more, not only for my kids but I have to be able to tell them something that they can get from nowhere else". So I grew up with a very peculiar dynamic, not only in life but just how I was raised... I was observing the Sabbath every Friday to Saturday. I couldn't play varsity sports because I was observing the Sabbath on Friday Night to Saturday day... you know the dietary laws, not eating pork and catfish. So all of these things on top of my dad being a Black Panther, that militant upbringing... that "ni**a you not gon die in these streets, you gon survive, you're gonna manipulate the system that they set up to kill you, and you're gonna see more than this". So I was able to have one foot in the streets, cause I'm in the hood, I can't be no square... but I also no better and I know I'm more than a ni**a.
So that alone, even to this day is probably the driving force in my music cause I know better. I could make some "f**k a bi**h, spend a bag", do all that type of music but ni**a that don't even make sense for me. Like on the inside, that doesn't make sense for me like for my family and the people that listen to my music... my uncle and them will call my phone and be like "aye what you doing?", "Where you at?", "Let me holla at you". So being true to myself is something I didn't have to learn. I was given that, I was taught that I wasn't just a ni**a in the Grove. So I didn't grow up as a ni**a in the Grove.
Thoughts on Other Artists
Question: So how do you feel about artists who do make music like that? I listened to 6ix9ine last night...
Rikki Blu: It's crazy right, it's an experience.
Response: Check this out, because I did a blog on the...
Rikki Blu: Nicki Minaj... they did 21M on the same day that they released it.
Response: I'm not going to lie to you, I like the song and I like the beat, and I like the way that he kind of just rode the beat...
Rikki Blu: I hear you, but the crazy thing about that song... not to take anything away from him, but he took that flow from another ni**a and the other ni*gga that does that flow, he the only ni**a to come out with a flow like that.
Rikki Blu: A ni**a named Valee, got signed to Good Music. He had a song called 52 bars. Valee started that s**t. Even the word "FeFe", that's Chicago lingo.
Response: What does that mean? Do you know?
Rikki Blu: That's what ni**as call b****es out there.
Response: Oh, I had no idea what it meant. I had to listen to his album before I did the blog on their song because I needed to know who I was dealing with, and I couldn't even get through an entire song. I literally skipped through the album because it was just too much yelling.
Rikki Blu: I get it, it's one of those things that's not for everybody. It's for whoever it touches. But at the same time, ni**a getting on Billboard every song he drops.
Response: I can understand why... I appreciate the artistry, so I can understand why. I'm not going to lie to you, I would turn on a song and be like "okay I see what he's doing", but then the yelling... it just felt like my ears were going to start bleeding.
Rikki Blu: I can't lie to you bro when I'm listening to the ni**a I be liking it bro but then I hear him say ni**a so many times... and then I know he is Mexican, and I just be like... it's not even that Mexicans can't say ni**a, it just be throwing me off. He says "pop a silly ni**a, you a illy ni**a", and when I hear other people say it, then I'm like "what you mean you gon' pop a ni**a bro?"... and then when they use it excessively to other ni**gas then I'm like "bro, hold on bro"... and that's just my own personal s**t.
Response: I don't disagree with you.
Rikki Blu: And I'm like go ahead and do your thing... go off. My opinion doesn't matter on the ni**a, I don't listen to his music. I see what he doing, he putting stupid numbers on the board and I think it’s more so off of you know how you got fans, you go viral and start doing this and that... this person starts contributing certain s**t to your brand and that’s just what it is.
Response: I think it's the controversy.
Rikki Blu: I try not to get into the hive mind of how this s**t works and the other people that’s cosigning the ni**a and the publicity stunts and stuff like that.
Response: I can't even see you being the type of person knowing what I know about you so far… to do all of that. You know how they say once an artist gets on they kinda changeup… I don’t really see that happening.
Rikki Blu: Oh no, it can’t... honestly, I’m too honest with myself man... and outside of that... I have real people around me and the people around me don’t even know that they remind me of who I am... they keep that in check… not that I’d ever lose sight of who I am…
Question: So you write all your own lyrics and all your own music?
Rikki Blu: Yes, with no help.
Response: Earlier you were talking about how you find your music getting more personal…
Rikki Blu: Yeah, more uncomfortably personal.
Response: Right more uncomfortably personal… So it makes you uncomfortable but you do it anyway, why is that?
Rikki Blu: I have to because it’s the things... it’s like you paint a picture or people see your s**t for what it is... it's perfect, you know they don’t see the inner workings of it. It’ll be unfair to just keep pushing that dialogue when that isn’t your reality anymore. So a lot of my issues, like my personal issues it’s come from me trying to focus more on my art... me trying to focus more on my craft.
I’m not sorry about it but I recognize that I could’ve possibly neglected some people that I really care about... and where I was trying to expect ni**as to see where I was coming from and what I was going through... it was more so like it doesn't matter because your intentions don’t matter. Only what you do matters, only what's been done. So I had to eat that. And when I’m writing and I say some s***t like that on the record I know it’s 10 million ni**as that know exactly what I’m talking about.
Because I am coming home late, I was just trying to record, my girl, do think that that’s what I’m doing... you know what I’m saying? So it’s like not making it a smear campaign… But ni***s go through that. You know we go through all of it… And so digging deeper and getting into those things, they probably aren’t the easiest to write about. But ni***s go through that. You know we go through all of it… That’s where I’m at.
Question: What kind of people do you keep around you?
Rikki Blu: Creative people, I keep good energy people around, I keep people around that push me… I’m not going to say I’m the reluctant rap star or nothing like that but I’ve always been so self-conscious, I’ve always been so into my head that I never realized how great I was and how good I was… It's people around me that really appreciate me and I remember not being appreciated, I remember ni**as tried to hide me, or ni**as tried to act like my contribution wasn't anything like that. And so the people I keep around me are people that fan my fire, people that inspire me to be inspired, and people that I can pour into… people who… it's weird bro I’ve been through so much like I see a ni**a bro and I see him... I see what he's going through I see what he is trying to do and he ain't got to tell me nothing... it's like a mutant power bro even with people… I get people I’m a people person, like kind of antisocial...
Response: To a certain extent right?
Rikki Blu: Yeah, but my art allows me to open up, so now I can be like Mr.Congeniality when it comes to music when it comes to on stage when it comes to talking to people who are here to hear my offering… Now, ni**a, you family. It's like I can talk to you, I ain’t scared to express myself or expose myself to you.
Love + California
Question: I got that from you when you performed at RKJ‘s showcase. So you lived in California for a while, why did you come back to Dallas?
Rikki Blu: I lived in California for two years and then I came back last June because I had Bam Bam.
Question: Oh, so you and Dom met in Cali?
Rikki Blu: Yeah we met in California... Dom is really Dibbi Little sister, Dibbi is OG Big Flag… Dibbi Blood, Nawf Side Cognac, light skin dude with the face tats. We played his song before my set... when we through the water in the crowd the first time.
Response: Oh, okay yea. And I got wet. during his show at Club Dada.
Rikki Blu: Oh, you did? Like bad? laughing
Response: Oh, no, it wasn't bad. I wasn't there to be cute lol. I was there to get my footage and see you perform.
Rikki Blu: Oh, okay... that's why by the time the video started with the set you was in the back lol?
Response: Yeaaaaa... lol because they were doing a lot of moving and I was like hmm...
Rikki Blu: You was like, "I'm really trying to listen"...
Response: Right, and I was like "just let me step back".
Rikki Blu: My bad. My bad.
Response: No you were fine, so Dibbi?
Rikki Blu: Yeah, Dibbi went from being my art director with Infntry... He was my right-hand man. Me and Dibbi go back, but when some s**t went down... when the T.K s**t went down, they were trying to put Dibbi in the mix. By this time, I've gone through all the terrible s**t in L.A... the homelessness, getting pressed by Mexicans calling me a ni**a crab in East L.A, getting crawled on by roaches on Llerena Street... So by the time Dibbi got to Cali, I've bossed my whole situation up... by December 17th, 2015 is when my life started really changing as far as music endeavors actually coming into fruition into bigger things... December 25th I dropped the Pleasant Grove EP, it did 100k the first two days. So I was like "what the f***", cause I'm in L.A, I didn't do any promotion back home... I uploaded that to SoundCloud and went to a Christmas Eve party with Ash Roger... you gotta think about how that is, I dropped it and went and turnt up.
Dibbi came the next week… he was staying out in like the Valley somewhere but he was coming up to the studio periodically… Dibbi manifested this crazy plan and then he ended up getting into it with a ni**a hit the ni**a in the head with a skillet... his cousin said: "bro like you can’t stay here anymore bro, you hit my cousin in the head with the skillet bro". Understandably so… So Dibbi pops up on me at the studio, now this whole time I had been telling the owner of the studio about my brother coming to town, saying you know I need him around me he got to be around me. Because the dude with the studio situation he hit me up and he was like "aye bro what you need bro", after he heard my music he was like "you know what you need?" and I was like “I need you t f*** with my people the way you f*** with me... let’s harness some s**t”.
So now you got ni***s from the Nawf in Cali, ni***s from the Grove, you got people from Tennessee and everybody doing something. So Dibbi came the next day and he had his sister with him they had all got kicked out of the studio out of where they were at… and we had one rule bro... no girls at the studio… we had one rule fool. So I meet Dom and I give her a tour of the studio... we go upstairs I turned around to look her in the eyes, I kiss her in a mouth, and then we been together ever since.
Response: And it was history from there… Dom is always at your performances turning up with you and she’s featured on your album.
Rikki Blu: Right, so fast forward four or five months and we’re getting kicked out of the studio and it’s really on some con h** a** s**t. Like I’m the reason all this is going on, not like I’m better than anyone but me and J.O the guy who owned the studio, we were locked in and he started locking the doors to the studio... I’m having to record myself in the lobby where everybody be at, on a little bitty a** microphone with a little short stand that you have to sit down with… I’m like what the f***... I thought this n***a said he f*** with me... and ni****s turning up going crazy in the main studio, ain’t no music going on… So I was like why am I even here at that point. That’s when I recorded “All In” that was before I got kicked out of the studio…
So now I’m meeting new people he introducing me to new people… Initially, dude said he didn’t want to be my manager he didn’t want to do anything he just wanted to help me get my s**t there and be the executive producer of my project… I was like if you f**k with me, we can do that, and I was like "no problem, no problem".
I was like that’s cool... so we started taking meetings, ni**as really hearing our s**t people like "he next up", people trying to manage me… I’m keeping him in the loop, I ain't doing n snake s**t... everybody told me not to f*** with the ni**a… the ni**a like this is our year bro so just sign over like 50% of your publishing man and we good… I said “what?”... "50% of my publishing why?"… Oh, now you’re recouping your investment of looking out for me and my ni***s for these last four-five months when we were at the studio making these records.
Response: Oh so he probably had that planned the entire time…
Rikki Blu: Of course that’s the plan, that’s the play. See out there it's different... ni***s always envy Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles only with the façade that they sale you, not the fact that it's ni***as out there who have figured out a way to entrap artist for life. And the way that they do it is so crazy because of accessibility. It’s a studio on every corner you are walking down the street you don’t even know it’s a studio it looks like a flower shop…
Question: Is that why you hear people say sometimes that their dreams died once they got to California?
Rikki Blu: Yes. Because now you got to pop that p***y for that recording time girl… I’ve been taking care you for like two months so what you ain't gon' do that? Come on what… it's drugs and all this other s**t and a ni**a can actually introduce you to your idol, a ni**a actually got a little clout, a little accessibility, he got a place, a business, he got a studio... now he got the water… So in LA, they take your water because it’s a water shortage. That’s crazy… But you got the water… But out there the tables are different people have actually made it doing that… The channels... these people have a pedigree of successful endeavors being entrepreneurs, in Dallas that ain't it. In Dallas everybody trying to be the one everybody trying to be it, instead of realizing we can’t do anything without accessibility. Now the ni***s who do have the access are able to then be the gatekeepers to other ni***s getting the same access.
Response: But are they being the gatekeepers?
Rikki Blu: No. Or are they being good gatekeepers or are they being h** a** gatekeepers and telling you-you can’t get in with those shoes or you can't get in without a Cuban Link or you can't get in if you don’t look like this… Man, I have seen a ni**a paying $500 a month for a manager… What? And the manager hitting him with some "for like $400 I can get you on iTunes"… Thus the creation of INFNTRY.
Question: What is INFNTRY?
Rikki Blu: It started off as the internal network of forgotten youth, so I wanted to create a something that people could contribute to the INFNTRY brand.
Question: INFNTRY is your brand?
Rikki Blu: It’s something that I started but now it’s everybody's… INFNTRY use to have an "A" in it but we dropped the "A" out of it because it was too much other stuff coming up with the "A". Me and my bro Leo we just started brainstorming, we started doing different graphics, doing different things... I always had to learn how to do graphic design because ni***s was h**ing me when it was time for me to drop my music. They busted me over the head for artwork and I knew back then that if your artwork ain't fire then ni***s not gonna listen to your song. So I taught myself how to do that. I became self-sufficient, I jumped off the porch in Tennessee by myself, in Nashville by myself, in New York by myself.
Question: What part of Tennessee?
Rikki Blu: I was in Murfreesboro right outside of Nashville. Nashville was the big city, Murfreesboro was the college town that’s where I went to school... so I started learning to do all of that because I was by myself in another ni**a hood in another ni**a state on another ni***s stage… So that journey was me doing me and feeling like all my ni***s had folded on me. I starting meeting other ni***s who had been through the same stuff and so I started to think dang bro this INFNTRY is really necessary. So INFNTRY became out of a necessity because I was running with The H0US3 with Isaiah Rashad and Micheal da Vinci and YG Tut and they started getting a lot of label looks... Atlantic came down to my potna Mikey D spot in May with everybody and the s**t was real bro… I attribute a lot of this to what I was going through at the time and what type of person I was... I use to be wild. I use to be the loudest ni**a in the party... I’m hosting parties, I’m shaking the city. I went there to college and by the second day of school I knew everybody... it wasn’t like a conflict of interest man it was like we were all on the cusp and either I was going to fall in line or be a leader like I know I am and me and my boy Mikey D talked about it and I just started my own thing.
I started my own idea of how the s**t should go, I started my own idea of the aesthetic… the way that it could be actually digested by fans and I just kept pushing my formula... and so anyway Dibbi... we finally back to that part he got to the studio and it was me him in and a couple of the people and so that’s when I got the flag on my face.
Question: Is that why you always say "flag on me, flag on me, flag on me"? I mean obviously is obvious what it means but if you didn’t have it on you could it be metaphorical as well…
Rikki Blu: The logo is a Unicode flag so, if you go on your phone or any computer it’s a Unicode symbol. Unicode symbols can be used on any computer anywhere, it’s the world language. So I started thinking about my childhood a lot, like what resonated with me... and I remember getting put on the potential terrorist list because I didn’t do the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid. So as I got older… not until I was having my son, I’m holding my son and I’m watching the World Cup on mute and I started to see why we chose that symbol. Inherently... I see Croatians, Nigerians, Spain, France, Netherlands… I see all these people in the crowd going crazy... not even just for the players but on some, this is us and their pride and it hit me in the face… we never knew that felt like we never felt like we were under this American flag. Some people they fake their patriotism but I never identified with that.
But with this... with what we chose to define us is this flag... especially with it being transparent it was like this is what we are...and it’s us, it’s not just me, it’s you, it’s all of us... we on the front lines bro. The generals and everything they back there calling the shots bro... if it was up to them we would’ve been dead a long time ago… So what you stand for ni**a if you know that you going down the front lines, what you stand for when you know your life is expendable… Because all of our lives are... we could not wake up tomorrow.
So it felt like we were all in Boot Camp because it was just us and we were tasked with making use of our time… If you look at the "Flow River" video it kind of shows the regime in its full spectrum of what we wanted to create as a lifestyle brand because that’s what this eventually is.
And after that, we just started looking at the movements and what was going on and we knew that we had something that people could get behind. This past May we dropped the merch.
Question: So tell me a little bit about Miami. What happened there?
Rikki Blu: After I left LA I went to Miami and sprite approved one of my songs and sponsored me and threw me a large sum of money and from that, I started working on the "You Can’t Make Me" album… I was buying a half a day and 12 hours of recording time every day, just working bro linking up creating it for myself and I saw that although the love of money is the root of all evil I saw that I could literally do whatever the F I wanted to do it my way and do it the right way and make my earth happen, bro, if I have the check.
Response: I think that’s the way a lot of creatives feel.
Rikki Blu: Of course because you have everything except that, and when it’s in your hands and it's yours and a company is giving you the validation you’ve been seeking from your peers that you’ve been seeking from everybody around you... and a multimillion dollar company sees it and breaks you off something… Bro that's live than a b***h. Because at that point I was already dropping s**t like "Pleasant Grove" without ni***s from the Grove being on it. I was already doing my thing.
Response: But it took that happening for the people around you and the people that knew you to be like "oh that's Rikki Bu, he's really out here making moves"... that's how it goes. I don't look for support from people I know.
Rikki Blu: I don’t even ask for it bro, and that’s the big thing that made me start making the moves that I did in Dallas. I came back from Cali and threw the “Bluwop and Friends” show and turned that b****h up. I was like dang bro I just went back home, threw a show and went back to Cali... I can do this for real bro. I got back with no guerilla promo, no pay to play... we started doing it on our own. N****s was booking me... I was telling ni***s I wasn’t going for less than 500. So it’s just like we teach ni***s how to handle us.
So all we been doing is just building everything from our rep to the quality, to the aesthetic, to the people around to help pour into them. It’s INFY.
One of the things I admire most about Rikki Blu is his unadulterated realness. He brings that realness with him to his conversations, not sugar coating a thing in his life, and he then translates that rawness, that grit, to his music. I learned about him and his life in this conversation, I learned about him being homeless on the streets with roaches crawling on him, to pretty much every trial he's faced on his journey thus far. For Rikki Blu to have faced everything he has in his life and in his career one would be a fool to say he isn't heading somewhere. Rikki Blu is on fire and I don't foresee his flame burning out anytime soon.
All of Rikki Blu's music can be found on any streaming platform by simply typing his name into the search bar. Also, I've heard some of his unreleased music, and I can guarantee you when it drops you won't know what hit you.