For those who may be left wondering, RobOlu is reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point on the cover of his new album Bigger Than Reality. Citing it as one of his favorite books, the Cobb County (by way of Nigeria) rapper, producer, engineer, and one-time Yako Pack member credits the Canadian journalist for teaching him to seek out the threshold where hard work and success intertwine. “The Tipping Point is a book detailing what makes things ‘tip’ or become normal or popular to the common person,” RobOlu explains. “On the cover I tried to highlight the beauty in being ratchet with a clash of culture. The photo has pure shock value and the underlying message is me ‘studying’ how to do it accurately.”
Out today, Bigger Than Reality is made up of twelve songs with production from SenseiATL, Marcus Dominic, SKUFL, Kill, Shaineon, David Morse, and Jordan Lumley. It’s the culmination of several years of hard work and struggle, combined with moments of deep insight and creative breakthroughs. Here, the artist sits down with Immersive to talk about his unique perspective as both engineer and rapper, sleeping in the studio to maximize work output, and why he doesn’t claim Atlanta as his home base.
What does “Bigger Than Reality” mean?
Being bigger than [my] circumstance. Being bigger than my experiences. Just me realizing that the space that I’m in, I can be bigger than that, basically.
What real-life experiences were you going through when you were going through making this album?
It’s just a collection of more of my entire life. It’s not really focused on one experience or a group of experiences during that time frame when I was creating this album. It’s more of a collection of what I experienced in that time and prior and what I expect to experience later type shit.
What’s your favorite song on the record?
“Moon Walk”… or “Switchituh.”
Were you recording features while you were working on this album?
Yeah. All the way through.
Do you feel that it’s better for you to always be working?
Yeah. Facts. For one, that’s how you keep up with yourself. That’s how you keep up with everyone around you. Not necessarily “keeping up with them.” I’m saying, this is what they’re doing so I’m going to try and capture that sound that they’re doing. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, it’s the best idea to just always stay working.
Are you listening to a lot of Nigerian music?
Not really as much as I should. My cousins do. They were listening to it more than I was.
Do you have a musical family?
Nah. Not really. I’m really the only one that’s doing this music shit for real.
What advice would you give for artists moving to Atlanta and hoping to start their careers here?
Don’t move to Atlanta.
It’s oversaturated with everyone doing the same exact thing. Not just trap music. It’s like, “Oh, I’m going to move to LA and become an actor or become a model.”
What are your thoughts on trap music?
I love it. I love trap music. Facts.
Would you say you make trap music?
Nah, I just make rap music.
You’re already working on new music?
Yeah, I’ve already got like two projects done.
Yeah. I was sleeping in the studio. I was working on the project with Popstar Benny and proceeded with Bigger Than Reality. I really just went back to sleep, woke up, and got back to it. So you can say how long you’ve been in the studio working for something and it can get like really vague. ‘Cause if I’m always there type shit, that means I’m always working on something, you know what I mean? But it’s like the longest I ever worked on like one thing was maybe like… I don’t know. ‘Cause I sit and mix and master my own stuff too, so it can really take some time type shit.
Has engineering taught you anything about rapping?
Engineering actually has taught me everything about rapping. I understand sonics differently. I understand pockets differently. I understand where things need to go. I understand everything. That there needs to be a space in the beat. Like a lot of things that I notice when I work with other artists is enhancing their tracks by taking stuff. Most people think that you need more on the track but really you can just take stuff out and it gives more to it.
Did you engineer the entire Bigger Than Reality album?
How long did that take?
That was the thing. It took a minute cause I always go back to the mixes and stuff.
Exactly. And I’ll get better with time. So if I work on a song today and I think that the mix is better now, I’ll go back to a song that I could listen to on Bigger Than Reality here and be like, “Yeah, this could be mixed better.” I’ll go back and mix type shit.
Why choose engineering in the first place?
Waiting on niggas. That’s the one thing I hate—it is waiting.
Do you feel like it’s a Southern thing?
I think everyone in general just moves and has their own agenda type shit. So if you’re working on something, it’s not gonna be as much as a priority to them if they have to go to work in the morning or something. Especially if they have to do their own shit. So it’s not gonna be much of a driving force.
What’s the next video from the album?
It’s going to be huge. I can’t wait until it’s done. I shot it at my boy’s spot. I was gonna drop a video off the tape before the release date, but I realized that most of my fans were gravitating more towards “Moon Walk.” I’m gonna shoot that video and put that out first and then hit the ground running with that.
What would be the next big single after that?
I feel like a track people are gravitating toward the most is a really hip-hop purist track on there titled, “Her.OD.”
Do you write all lyrics on your phone?
Nah. It’s a shift between my phone and just going on type shit. If I write something on my phone, record it and I’m like, “Damn, I’m feeling this.” then I’m just gonna go with it.
When did you transition into writing lyrics?
Once I started engineering myself.
Oh, so there’s a correlation between the two?
Yeah. You can’t pull up to the studio and just sit there and bullshit either.
Is that a studio pet peeve of yours?
Yeah. When it’s coming to bullshit, yeah. If niggas are harboring their shit. When niggas are like “OK, I’m gonna rap,” and they get down to write that’s cool. I don’t mind that.
Do you think that’s influenced by people always putting on music in 2017?
Yeah, I feel like that’s… well what do you mean?
Do you feel it’s an oversaturated market-like thought process?
As to when they go in?
No, when they’re putting out too much music in the market.
Yeah, I feel like that too.
That’s why they pride themselves on efficiency.
Okay. Yeah. I get what you mean. I feel like more people nowadays are priding themselves on how much music can be made rather than how much quality. I feel like they’re almost synonymous because it’s like you can have a lot of good music but if you can’t drop that shit every time you hit then it doesn’t really matter. You can also have a lot of songs and they can all be trash.
Did you cut any songs off Bigger Than Reality?
A lot. I probably had like a vault of over 150.
How many unreleased songs are you currently sitting on?
Probably like 300.
Do you like to put out music that you’ve recorded previously out? Like along ways away or do you record something that you recently made and put that out?
When I drop… it’s like if I’m feeling it, then it’s going to come out.
Are you independent?
Have you met with any labels?
I have a manager. That’s pretty much it. I do everything else myself.
Whats the number one thing you’ve learned about the music industry this year?
To follow your own ideas. To believe in yourself 100% of the time.
That’s something you committed to when you made Bigger Than Reality?
Yeah. Bigger Than Reality… it’s a little bit different because it would’ve came out a while ago because of all the influence. My boy Benny basically told me to wait and get everyone else that I’m with right. We got them right type shit. I was like, “OK.” It gave me time to structure my project and make it feel more whole. It made it feel more concise. Other than that, song tracklist, all of that shit, yeah, it’s like you have to go at that because your vision isn’t anyone else’s vision.
Being from the North, in your song “NORTHSIDEINTERLUDE2” you say, “30 minutes from the city, I am not from Atlanta.” What was your thought process making that song and how do you feel that’s affected you as an artist?
As far as not being from Atlanta influencing my sound and influencing how I move and stuff, I just feel like everyone who is not from Atlanta claims to be from Atlanta and that’s really where that whole thing came from. That was like my thesis in “Northside,” basically. You can live in Gainesville but because you do music and you’re from Georgia, any type of publication will box you in and say “Atlanta artist blah blah blah from Gainesville.” It’s like, no. He’s from Gainesville type shit. I’m from Cobb. I’m not from Atlanta.
Is Mobb County a real thing?
I suppose so.
Will we ever hear Rob County?
My partner was telling me to do that but realistically, no. Maybe not now. It’s not in my mind. Not in my timeline to put out.
What’s next for Yako Pack?
I’m focused on myself, to be honest. I mean Yako Pack was a thing and is always going to be a thing that I was a part of. As of right now, I’m focused on RobOlu. I can’t really focus on that. When you work in a collective, you work around every single person that you work with type shit. But when you work in your own headspace and you work in your own creative space, when you work on your own campaign, you’re good, you’re the main focus. So that’s how I like to keep it. Rob.
You have two albums coming out next year?
Yeah, I have Bobby and Rob is Ugly coming out next year.
Many thanks to Sara Brown for transcribing this interview.