Rain’s always had a vision for his music, which is just one reason why he’s been able to persevere, putting out dope project after dope project. The North Carolina product entered the game with Cory Gunz and Hash as a member of The Militia. After that situation didn’t work out, Rain ventured out on his own and hasn’t looked back since. One of the first artists to offer an entire project for free download with Only in America, the NY-based MC was able to capture the ears of fans worldwide. Several projects later, Rain would find himself working with the legendary Dr. Dre on Detox as well as releasing his most anticipated opus, The Magic Hour. Read up on Rain as he talks about his approach to the game, what caught him off-guard with The Magic Hour and what it’s like working with Dr. Dre.
Are you happy with how your latest project The Magic Hour is doing?
Yeah. I wasn’t really expecting that kind of feedback for it. Bloggers and fans are saying it’s classic and I wasn’t expecting those kind of reviews. It was only 10 songs and I didn’t want to leave no room for error. I didn’t want to overdo it. For me to do 10 songs and have people really embrace that the way they did, it’s just amazing, man.
Did you feel you had a classic on your hands or just a solid project?
Not at all. When I make music, I don’t think about trying to come up with a classic. I’m more thinking about just getting my point across. Even now, I wouldn’t say that it’s a classic CD. I would say it’s a good piece of work and there’s more to come. Once you label your own work as a classic, I feel that’s when you have to top that and you’re putting a certain pressure on yourself. For me, when I was making the music, I was just having fun. Let’s have fun and let’s enjoy it and let’s make some different type of music. Let’s have something that’s not cliché and give it to the people. When I get that type of response, it’s even more dope.
On songs like “My Story, My Glory,” it seems as though you’re getting a lot of your chest. What do you want fans to take from songs like that?
I just want them to notice. A lot of these guys who came up, I knew before the music. I knew prior to them having certain fame. When we all come up together and you see these guys doing big tours and you see them putting albums out and you see me still grinding with mixtapes, there’s a reason behind that and people need to know the reason. That’s why I tell people “Next time you tell them I took too long, make sure you tell them which road I took.” By me saying that, that’s me letting you know I didn’t come in here with no cosign and I wasn’t chasing another rapper to get another rapper say I’m hot. I didn’t come in that way. I’m doing it on my own and I’m just letting the fans know the truth. A lot of the times, it’s smoke and mirrors and you just think that everyone has the same shot and everyone has the same fair chance and people will get noticed from their talent but that’s not how it is. Sometimes it’s certain people who don’t want to ride dick or kiss ass and you have to be willing to grind a little harder if you’re not willing to do that.
How do you feel looking back on all the work you put in?
That keeps me going. Me waking up and being like ‘Damn, I’ve been making music for years,’ it even surprises me that I can wake up and do music with the same passion that I started with because I’ve never got a check from a record label. For me to still do music and put it out, I surprise myself.
Do you feel like all your free projects and videos are starting to pay off?
Yeah. I feel like the people are speaking this time. Before, I had jumped out there and I was getting in these magazines and videos and I was doing that without touching the people first. This time, it’s like the people are speaking and they’re saying they want it. I feel like I’m getting closer.
How did you get the people to pay attention?
I think it was just being consistent and not giving up. A lot of artists get in and get out and we like ‘em for a year. I feel like there’s those certain artists who are very special and they rhyme for a long time. Being that I wasn’t doing the music that was commercial and I was doing real hip-hop music that was lyrical, the people had to be introduced to it. It’s never a situation where they don’t like certain music. I feel like if they’re introduced to it, they’ll like it. It’s not like it is with a major label and a video where you can just put it out there. You have to touch everybody singlehandedly and that’s a lot of work but you have to stay on the websites and letting the mixtapes out. You have to just keep it going until everybody realizes it.
Is it ever a challenge getting beats when you’re putting out mixtapes for free?
I deal with people that just respect music. You have producers like DJ Pain 1. He did four joints on The Magic Hour. He’s worked with Jeezy and he’s worked with plenty of big artists. He’s had major label placements with his beats but this is also a guy that just loves the culture of hip-hop. He loves making music and it’s not always about a budget with him. If he can make good music, he’ll ride with that. When you come to someone and they respect you and you let them know you just want to make music, you’d be surprised how many people are willing to do that. I just got a beat from Bink! and he just did the single with Kanye West, “Devil in a New Dress” and he’s working with Rick Ross and he worked on a lot of big records for Jay. I go and see him and he gives me a beat! It’s just a respect factor. They want to hear me and this is the kind of music they enjoy listening to and they don’t have no problem contributing to it for free. And I’ve been making beats also. I contributed two beats on this project and that was something that I was never into but I’m so hip-hop that I wanted to experiment and do something else in the culture. I’m just into the culture for what it is and I want to have my hands in everything. As far as me creating a CD, it’s never really difficult when you have people around you who enjoy the same kind of music you make and you have people around you who are hip-hop purists.
You’ve worked with a lot of producers over the years. Who do you think you’ve had the most chemistry with?
Man, I can name three offhand and it’s so random but I hope I don’t leave anyone out. S1 and Caleb, who did the “Power” joint for Kanye West. Me and those guys were working way before they got that song with Kanye. We actually have a whole album done that nobody’s ever heard. S1 and Caleb, definitely. DJ Pain 1, he did “My Story, My Glory” and “Love Song.” He did “Works for Me” and “The Magic Hour,” the title track. We have a great vibe and we’re already working on some new stuff now. I would also have to say The Rush. They’re out in North Carolina right now and they make amazing beats. They did a lot of stuff on my previous CDs and they have one on The Magic Hour too.
Does it ever bother you putting the projects out for free?
I mean, of course I want to get paid for putting music out, but it’s never been that. I’ve never been into selling the music like that. If I could sell the music, it would be great, but if I could give it away and get paid from people coming to shows and seeing me, that’s good. As far as making music and giving it out for free, it’s not like that’s it. It’s not like we’re giving music out and that’s it. There’s money still being made, it’s just that we’re not selling the actual CD. It’s cool. It works.
What do you think is the best way to win in today’s game?
You’ve known me for a long time. You know that I’ve been around before the blogs were around, when it was just hip-hop websites, I was putting music out. Free OnSmash, it’s sad that it’s going down and it’s sad that they’re taking it away from us because the blogs really help us a lot. It’s definitely a fucked up feeling to see that being stripped from us, but I don’t panic when I see that stuff happening to us but I remember when it was only HipHopGame and a few other websites doing it. As far as the blogs getting shut down, it’s sad but it’s not going to stop the movement.
What do you think the future of the music business is?
This is just me guessing, and don’t hold me to this, but I think pretty soon the record labels will be gone. I think a few years from now, there won’t be any record labels. It will just be artists putting records out and getting paid, like it used to be. It’s going to be secretive again and it’s going to just be our culture. We’re going to be putting CDs out and charging people to come see us. It’s going to be our merchandise. It’s going to be an artist selling music on their own and selling their merch and cutting out the middle man. I think it’s pretty cool that we’re going to have the power.
What are you looking for in the game right now?
With us, it’s never been about chasing a record deal because it’s like you’re chasing someone to be a slave. All they do is you make a bunch of music for them and they break you off a very little bit of it and at the same time they try to control the kind of music you make after you spent so many years developing the sound. I’ve never been interested in no record deal. Let’s say one comes to me and makes sense and they want to sign me and they lay out how they do it and it makes 100% sense, even 80% sense, and at the end of the day, we’re not getting fucked on our end, then I would sign to a major but it has to make sense. All the artists that are on TV today, it doesn’t mean that they’re financially secure. You see the fake jewelry and the rental cars and you assume they have money, but they could have financial issues because they’re not making any money but their label is. We’re going to find a way to get it in and do what we do and have total control over the music. That’s the only way I would sign to a label, is if I had total control over the music and the money is right.
You were working with Dre on Detox. What went down?
I was working with him. I was definitely working with him and I was definitely out there in Cali in his studio, putting in a lot of work and I don’t know what happened. Dre’s a weird guy. He disappears. I went out there and I worked with him on 40 songs. We worked out every day. We went out to eat. We partied together and he disappeared. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. But after that, there was really no purpose in me trying to reach out. I don’t know if he’s going to use any of the music. I don’t know the outcome of it. We’ll see when the album comes out. Maybe I’ll have something on there and maybe I won’t. I don’t know.
That has to be frustrating.
They told me I would have something on there and Dr. Dre asked me to be on that. Dr. Dre sat me down face-to-face and asked me if I wanted to be on Detox and I told him “Hell fucking yeah!” There was never no question. I was like ‘Let’s do it’ and we immediately started working. We got a lot of dope-ass music done together and I’m just waiting to see if he’ll use it. We’re all men and let me get a phone call or something. That’s all I ask. If you like something, call. If you don’t, call. Let me know if you’re not liking something or you do. But I didn’t get no phone call.
How would you describe the 40 songs you guys worked on?
It was real personal type of music. It wasn’t nothing like the single he had out. It’s funny but the “Kush” song is a party type of joint and I can write those types of songs in five minutes but I was told to stay away from that. They wanted deep shit and we were working on hip-hop joints and coming up with different types of flows on some Big Pun type of shit, like some super-lyrical stuff. That’s the kind of stuff we were working on and I was surprised to hear “Kush” come out. We were definitely working on different stuff. It was definitely more hip-hop.
Will we ever hear the songs that haven’t leaked?
I have a few of them. As far as anything with his vocals on it, I don’t have any of that.
Even if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, do you feel like you became a better artist going through the process?
Of course. Dr. Dre is a genius. You can’t mention his name without saying that he’s a genius and a legend. The experience alone…For him to even say he likes my shit gave me a different type of confidence. You gotta understand, when The Chronic came out, I was a kid. That was in ’92. I was 5 years-old when The Chronic came out. When 2001 came out, I was 12. So for me to be a grown man, I’ve been watching this guy my whole life and for him to ask me if I could be on the third one, hell yeah that gave me a different type of confidence and I became a perfectionist. Now when I listen to music I become a perfectionist and I listen to every little detail and try to fix it if I feel like it’s out of place. So yeah, I learned a lot from him.
We did Only in America and Another Day, Another Dollar together. How do you feel hearing those projects today?
That was crazy! Only In America was the first one! We did some good music, man, let’s do another one! You and I gotta figure this one out and make it big. We’re definitely going to get another one done but it’s so dope to be able to do that at such a young age. I go back and listen to it every now and then because it’s crazy how my point of view has changed and the certain topics that I would rap about has changed. It comes with maturity and it’s good to see that growth and know that other people, like the fans and supporters, have seen that growth and they’re growing with me.
What’s the best moment of 2010 for you?
Man, my best moment this year has nothing to do with music. My best moment this year was that I was actually able to take a big break and go back to North Carolina and hang out with my family and we really bonded and got a chance to spend a lot of family time and have a Sunday dinner. I stayed down there for a few months. That was my biggest moment this year. I needed that break to just get back in my zone. I was in the studio every day, locked in and I needed something to snap me back to reality. I would say my biggest moment has nothing to do with music but just being with my family to get rejuvenated and gassed up for this year.
What can we expect from you in 2011?
Only God knows. Hopefully something very big. But while I’m promoting The Magic Hour, I am working on The Magic Hour Part 2. It’s something big. This one is gonna be different. I actually do want to take a page out of Dr. Dre’s book with The Chronic and I want The Magic Hour 2 to have my niggas on there like Big Cas and new talent. I just want to sit back and control the type of music and make a dope-ass CD.