Rowdy Rebel Talks Pop Smoke, Young Thug in First Post-Prison Interview
Six years after having his rap career temporarily derailed by legal issues, Rowdy Rebel is at the beginning of his second chance. Last Tuesday (Dec. 15), the 29-year-old Brooklyn rapper was released from Collins Correctional Facility in Collins, N.Y., on parole after serving six years in prison for conspiracy and possession of a weapon.
In the footage of his release, Rowdy can be seen reuniting with his friends and looking over wads of cash he was gifted. In subsequent videos uploaded to social media, he’s seen already back in the lab recording new music, plotting his latest career moves and soaking up the vibes, which naturally wasn’t such an easy thing to do while behind bars.
Back in 2014, Rowdy Rebel was on the rise after his friend and fellow rapper Bobby Shmurda dropped “Hot Nigga,” a song that unexpectedly became a massive hit. That same year, Rowdy built a buzz with his own track, “Computers,” a collaboration with Bobby that also went viral. In December of 2014, after both Bobby and Rowdy signed solo deals with Epic Records in July of that year, the two rappers, along with 13 other members of their GS9 Crips set were arrested and collectively hit with a 69-count indictment. Police conducted a two-year investigation that connected GS9 members to a number of criminal activities ranging from starting gang wars in Brooklyn to shooting indiscriminately at crowds in public places to dealing drugs. Any rap aspirations were put on pause.
Rowdy was originally hit with charges of conspiracy, attempted murder, attempted assault, possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment, but in September 2016, he pleaded guilty to 3rd degree conspiracy and weapon possession and was sentenced to seven years in prison. While that still seems like a lot of prison time, it actually could have been worse. Rowdy was originally looking at a 12-year sentence, but Bobby was offered an option to help. Bobby was offered a five-year sentence, but if he accepted, the judge would have sentenced Rowdy to 12 years in prison. However, if Bobby agreed to plead guilty to the same charges as Rowdy and take a seven-year sentence, he and Rowdy would both be sentenced to seven years. Bobby accepted the arrangement, and the two both took seven-year sentences.
In the years since they were both incarcerated, Rowdy and Bobby have become cult figures in the rap world, embodying both raw New York City energy and the notion of staying 10 toes down. Even though they both went to prison just as they were gaining a lot of national attention, their images were endured in the form of memes and immortal Shmoney dance Gifs.
Now, months after Bobby’s parole was denied in September, Rowdy is ready to start a new chapter in his career and hold things down before Bobby is released next December. As evidenced by Rowdy hitting the studio the same day he was released from prison, it looks like he plans on leveling up.
Here, Rowdy talks to XXL about all of it for his first post-prison interview.
XXL: First off, congrats on getting out.
Rowdy Rebel: Good looking.
For sure. How long did you know you were getting out on the date that you did?
I knew it since I got sentenced. When I got up North, I got my timesheet. And that date, Dec. 15, 2020, I just know I’m looking forward to that date.
Would you say that knowing when you’d get out made it easier?
When you in Rikers Island, you basically keep going back to court back and forth, back and forth. So, you never know when exactly you going home. You never know exactly what time you got until they give you the time. You just sitting down there, it’s a whole other process, just going back and forth in court. And it’s like, it’s better knowing that I have five years, let’s go. When they give me time, I already had 24, 26 months in, so it was like I’m ready now. I got four more years, let’s get this over with.
How much did you stay in touch with rap while you were behind bars? Did you stay in tune?
In Rikers Island, you don't get too much privileges and shit, but it was ways around that. I was in tune with everything. I never stay out of tune. I'm Mr. In Tune.
Brooklyn drill was blowing up while you were locked up and you were on Pop Smoke’s posthumous song “Make It Rain.” What do you think of the whole BK drill movement?
Shit was knocking. Fivio [Foreign] can still get on drill beats and have his own style, his own wave, his own flow, his own sauce. I like Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow. The beats they be selecting, they got they own style, they own wave.
I come home, I got my own style, my own wave. You won't hear me on some of these drill beats. You won't hear me on a lot of those because I feel like that's not my style. I feel like that was Pop wave. I feel like that's Fivio's wave. I feel like that's the bro's wave, and they mastered it.
What was your reaction when Pop Smoke died?
I didn’t even know bro, good. Shit was hurtful. Again, another fall to the city. Again, another young bro, just...for what? It was a sad moment. It still be sad moments to the point where we be sitting in the stu’ right now and the beat come on and the bros like, "Damn, if Pop was here with you and Rowdy, bro." Or, "If you, Rowdy, Pop, Bobby.” It feel weird. I wanted to meet young bro. He was putting on in a major way, definitely. And he ain’t forget who he was. While he was putting on, he was still showing love, answering every call.
Did being an upcoming rapper influence the way people treated you while you were locked up? How were you treated behind bars?
Yeah and no. You have the ones that be on some shit like, "Oh shit, that's the Rowdy Rebel nigga, let me try him." Then you've got the ones that be trying to get next to me to see if they could get something that can benefit them. Like, "Oh, let me holla at the boy," ’cause you know I be in the town, in the clubs, or I be in the town fucking with this. Then you got some niggas that's just mad genuine. Like, "Nah, bro, I want you to do good when you get back out there. Hold your head, hopefully this shit be good."
You got the love, you got the hate. You got the genuine love, you got the genuine hate. It just be different. When I got there, it was just on some shit like, I'ma stay who I am, I ain't switching up nothing. And that's that. You gon’ love me for who I am.
What was the hardest part about being in prison?
You got a C.O. that’s 22 years old telling you what to do and the way he’s telling you. "Hey asshole, I say fucking put your shit on the locker now." What? He know like, aight, this kid would never talk to me like this...I used to hate that. I used to be like, Dawg, I gotta get outta here. I can’t keep doing this shit. I gotta go.
Who are some rappers who contacted you while you were locked up?
Bro Meek [Mill], bro Quavo, [Lil] Durk, French [Montana], Yo Gotti. I talked to a lot [people] while I was locked up.
Did any of them put money on your commissary?
My boy Yo Gotti and Quavo.
Dope. Who are some artists that contacted you after you got released?
I talked to all my ShMigo brothers. I talked to the bro Meek, French pulled up on me...my brother Durk checked in. The bro G Herbo checked in. That’s my bro. 808 Mafia [Southside] checked in on me, that’s my big brother, too. A lot of the bros showed me love. Thugger showed me love. Thugger’s the bro. I’m just so happy to get all this love that’s thrown my way, for real. Shit is overwhelming.
You hit the studio the same day you got out, but what was the literal first thing you did when you got out of prison?
I got my hair done. I got my feet done, my nails done, got my facial. I went to Target.
Did you get facials and things like that before prison?
My bitch made me do that.
Four years ago, Young Thug gave you and Bobby props for holding each other down after Bobby accepted a plea deal so you would get less time. When you got out, Thugger sent you two chains. What’s your relationship with him like?
Shout out to the bro Thugger. I just had recently met him on FaceTime. I ain’t gon’ lie, I talked to Thugger, you would’ve thought I knew Thugger for years, the way his energy is, man. The way he just give genuine love. That’s just a guy right there that just wanna see young niggas win. We don’t got too much people like that in this culture. Niggas like Thugger, bro, we gotta learn to appreciate.
You were locked up when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak, and a lot of people were talking about how people in prisons were at more risk to catch the coronavirus. Did you ever feel like you were in more danger of catching it?
In jail, coronavirus is nothing. We not even worried about that in jail, bro. Where I was at, it was no cases going up. We living in a different world from y’all. We was not thinking about corona. We was thinking about surviving every day.
Do you feel extra pressure to get to where you were before you were locked up?
Hell no. I just left jail doing six years. I’m home. Pressure? Hell no, I don’t feel no pressure. You think I give a fuck if I drop a song tomorrow and the shit flop? Niggas can suck dick. I’m home, nigga. I feel good, nigga. I don’t feel no pressure. Everything I do, I don’t do it for the next people. I don’t say, "Let me do this so they could like me," or "Let me do this so they won’t say nothing…." I don’t go off life like that.
Now that you're out of prison, what are your plans for 2021?
Getting my team right. On some military status, militant-minded. Once I get the team right, we gon' get together...I'ma call it a future pack. Everybody that's gon' be on this team gon' serve a purpose. Be a big machine.
I'ma have my team do this, have my team do that. And once we drop one time, ain't no turning back. We gon' keep it going...I got a couple artists that's dope. And once I flame on, Bobby's coming home in a few. Don't even trip. Ain't nothing change. We still the waviest.
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