The rising San Francisco MC talks Bay Area rap, acting dreams, and his first kiss.
Roach Gigz, née Orlando Campbell, has a newborn son and weak phone reception. The latter kept me from hearing him mention the former when we spoke on Monday; seriously, the transcript makes me sound like a mindless interview-bot harvesting biographical data. Roach, if you're reading this, congrats my dude! #YDI. Another beautiful thing the San Francisco-based MC created in his own image is his recent Roachy Balboa Round 3 mixtape. Roach has E-40-like precision and Slick Rick-ian id, internal rhymes leaving you cross-eyed while he walks off with your girl. He illustrates how hyphy's lunatic energy never dissipated in the Bay Area. It went underground, sublimated in the artistic DNA of kids who grew up in the mid-2000's listening to Keak Da Sneak and Mac Dre on 106.1 KMEL. Now those kids have kids, and mixtapes. Peep our Q&A for a glimpse into Roach's amorous past and theatrical aspirations, along with advice for anyone who wants the life of a "Pu$$y Magnet." Spoiler alert: the magic's been inside you the whole time.
Noisey: What have you been up to recently?
Roach Gigz: I've been promoting this mixtape. I'm really excited about it, I'm really excited about the response I got from it. Also I have a newborn, so I've been chilling with him.
When did you first start rapping?
2006, in high school. It was kind of random, I was always in love with rap, I had posters on the wall and stuff like that. I never thought that I'd be able to be a rapper or nothing like that. I would just download free beats off the internet, off Limewire. I had the mic hooked up to the computer. Then me and my friend Lil' 4Tay [daughter of the legendary Rappin' 4-Tay] hooked up and we made our first original song together.
What stands out for you about growing up in the Bay Area?
What stood out for me was my high school years, when the Bay Area music scene was nationwide. That's all you heard on the radio, it's all they played at the parties, there was real, local, homegrown pride. That whole scene stood out for me the most. Taking ecstasy, dressing crazy, going to parties, dancing, that's Bay Area specific for me.
How do you feel the modern Bay Area rap scene compares to hyphy's glory days?
It's in a real good spot. The music is nationally known and accepted, even though I don't feel ilke its looked at from an outside perspective as a Bay Area sound anymore. It's looked at more as a California sound, or a ratchet sound, or an L.A. sound. The opportunities are greater because its not looked at like "What the hell is that fast-ass weird music." Its actually something major artists are trying to make, and it's playing in all the clubs, so I think the Bay Area is in a very good place. There's lot of young artists really doing their thing. Some are catering to the radio, and then there's some underground ones.
Where does your new mixtape fit in this context?
I wanted to bring it back to straight up feel-good music. I have a vast variety of music, but what people gravitate towards the most is Bay Area, hyphy-type beats. That's what the first Roachy Balboa tape mainly was. I wanted to make a 2013 version of that. I worked with a few producers that I like, a few of my friends, and made it happen.
What do you think of the current production sound coming out of the Bay?
I love it. It's become the norm, it's what people want to hear in the clubs. It's a little easier to listen to then the first era of hyphy, easier on the ears. I like rapping on the beats that are coming out now, I think it's good. And it's growing, too. It has to grow. It has to be taken to another level, cause if it doesn't grow it's going to be played out. That's what I want to do with my new mixtape, take things to the next step.
What particular elements of your own style did you focus on elevating the most?
I wanted the production to be a little bit bigger. I feel like I can do one thing really well, I feel like I do the Bay thing really well, and I want to keep that Bay vibe and that Bay tempo. But, I want the production to be a little bigger, a little more musical, have more aspects to it, so that it has the same Bay feel but bigger. Bigger is the key word. I want to do a little more experimentation. Different types of flows and production without veering away from what I do naturally.
In what kind of situations do you find yourself most inspired to write?
Everyday situations. A conversation I could have with a friend about something could inspire me to write a song, or being with my family and hanging out could inspire me to write another type of song. Normal everyday stuff inspires me. Also I have a vivid imagination, so it's not too far for me to come up with some clever things to make it sound good. Recently I've been into writing in the studio with producers, I like doing that more than just working by myself. Before I've always recorded myself and done everything myself, have the producer send me the beats. I'm just kinda selfish in that way. I don't like relying on anybody because they don't come through and you get mad.
Your new song is called "Pu$$y Magnet". What does it mean to be a Pu$$y Magnet?
A Pu$$y Magnet is someone that catches girls' interest. The best way to do it is to be confident. Don't be cocky, just be you. People will treat you better. Just hang out, be yourself, have cool conversations. Really, a lot of "Pu$$y Magnet" came from me being in a national spotlight. Girls are attracted to that, you can't get around it. To each his own, though. Everybody can be a Pu$$y Magnet.
Did your confidence with girls increase alongside your rap career?
Definitely not, I was always good with girls. I've never had trouble. I've always been solid in terms of having a girlfriend and stuff like that.
Do you remember your first kiss?
I don't remember my first kiss, that was probably in elementary school, just playing around. I remember other things.
How about the first time you ever grinded with a girl?
Yeah, that must have been sixth grade cause that was the first time that we were able to go to school dances and things of that nature, so that was probably in the school gym.
I'm actually from the Bay, and I've always felt like we were ahead of the curve on grinding, nationally.
I feel that way too! We definitely started grinding and freaking and all that type of stuff. I know in Jamaica they really get down, but even to this day I go to cities and clubs around America and it's mostly people standing around, trying to look cool rather than throwing it all out there, dancing, freaking, against the wall, all that type of stuff.
I remember at my high school they passed a rule restricting girls from bending over more than 90 degrees while grinding.
[laughs] Really? Yeah, they definitely do that in the Bay. People look at it from the outside in and they're gonna be like, these kids are nuts. That's what I was saying, is those functions, especially the high school ones, were kind of my biggest memory around that time, they were so poppin'. Everyone's just in a good mood, enjoying the times. It was all Bay Area music, that's all anyone was listening to, it was people just proud to be from the Bay and proud to be part of that movement.
Where do you want to be in five years?
See, that's the thing. I'm in a place, I've always been in a place, where I love doing music, I love putting out music, and I don't feel like I'm ever going to stop doing that. But I want to get involved with more stuff, to go to school, and go to college and open my mind to some more things. I'm very interested in doing acting, so hopefully in five years i'll be able to have done all those things. Dabble in acting, go back to school, and be at a whole other level with my music career. I don't know how I'm going to start, but thats always been something thats on my mind, I haven't really shared it too much, but it's something I really wanna do.
What would be your dream acting role?
I love mafia movies. I want there to be a new mafia movie where I could play somebody's great-grandson from one of the previous ones. Or the young version of Lucky Luciano, that would be cool.
Ezra Marcus plays somebody's great-grandson on Twitter—@ezra_marc