Roddy Ricch collects six Grammy nominations and a history of sorrow
Buffeted by Nipsey Hussle’s death, he still had a No. 1 song and album in a year shortened by the pandemic
In the past two years, Roddy Ricch’s ascension to superstar status included the No. 1 song and the No. 1 album in the country – and this week, six Grammy nominations. But that success has come burdened by both personal trauma and a world unable to celebrate live music.
Unveiled on Tuesday, the 2021 Grammy nominations were met with the usual elixir of shock, surprise and anger. The Weeknd, February’s Super Bowl headliner, received zero nominations despite having the year’s biggest hit in “Blinding Lights.” The snub prompted him to lash out via Twitter, calling the Grammys “corrupt” and in need of transparency. Jay-Z’s 80th nomination tied him with Quincy Jones for the most all time. Beyoncé had nine nominations, the most this year, bringing her career total to 79 — the most for a female artist. Ricch, Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa all tallied six apiece. Brittany Howard secured five nominations, and Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby each racked up four.
Ricch’s nominations are for record of the year (as a featured performer on DaBaby’s “Rockstar”), song of the year (“The Box”), and best melodic rap performance and best rap song for both “Rockstar” and “The Box.” Despite his impressive haul, much of the talk around Ricch concerned his omission (along with Lil Baby’s My Turn) from the best rap album category that features D Smoke’s Black Habits, Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Alfredo, Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony, Nas’ King’s Disease and Royce Da 5’9’s The Allegory.
Ricch’s album, the aptly-titled Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, was released in December 2019 and reached the top of the Billboard 200, fueled by the No. 1 song in America with “The Box.”
A product of the musical hotbed of Compton, California, Ricch, 22, has never hidden the importance of his summer visits to Chicago and Atlanta and his adoration for genre-bending projects such as Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan’s Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1 or the Windy City’s drill scene that birthed Chief Keef and Lil Durk. That mixture helps make Antisocial an incredibly lively album, with cuts such as “The Box,” “High Fashion” with Mustard, “Moonwalker” with Lil Durk, “Start Wit Me” featuring Gunna, “Peta” with Meek Mill” and “Bacc Seat” alongside Ty Dolla $ign.
Sound, though, is only part of the appeal of his music, which tells an all too familiar story of growing up Black in American ghettos. Songs such as “War Baby” were never destined to see radio play or Billboard placement: “Like the mob ties in Houston, we got rag ties/ I pray the Lord forgive me the day I got baptized, Ricch theorizes in an almost cathartic manner, “ ‘Cause I’ma clutch the sticky every time a car passin’ by/ I don’t wanna be Ricky or another victim to homicide.”
Ricch’s relative lack of activity on social media, at least compared with his contemporaries, creates an enigmatic aura around him. Following Antisocial’s release last year, Ricch spoke of the irony of his newfound fame. Sure, the money felt great — far better than the celebrity. He admits becoming his neighborhood drug dealer at 15 and recalls spending a week in jail at 18 before he could make bail on a potential gun charge. The loss of his best friend (among other close comrades) to life in the streets remains with him. If he was being antisocial, it was for good reason.
“Life is always gonna be a positive and negative … I will never be able to share a f—ing shot with my n—a,” he told Rolling Stone. “At the time, I didn’t have nothing to celebrate. Now I got something to celebrate with this man, I ain’t got nobody to celebrate it with … That s— is just life.” (At the time, Ricch was facing a domestic violence charge, which was dropped a few weeks later.)
Ricch’s two-part Feed Tha Streets mixtape series in 2017 and 2018, in particular the forlorn “Die Young” from the sequel, feels prophetic in retrospect. Recorded the night XXXtencion was murdered, Ricch noted the song was a memorial to Speaker Knockerz, Lil Snupe and countless others dying before they had a chance to truly live.
Listening to the song now — which has well over 200 million streams — it takes on new meaning given Ricch’s and Hussle’s kinship. Ricch was featured on Hussle’s “Racks In The Middle,” which includes a second verse where Hussle contemplates the loss of his best friend and his own mortality just weeks before his own murder. The song, which yielded both men their first Grammy awards, is now a cultural watermark. As Ricch’s star power increased throughout 2019, Hussle’s memory never left him. Earlier this month, Ricch further commemorated the Crenshaw native on a pendant, posting on Instagram, “I love you big bro.”
As 2020 kicked off, Ricch, with both a No. 1 song and album, was the West Coast’s next superstar ecosystem. “The Box” was the anthem of both Super Bowl weekend in Miami and NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago in February. Ricch was slated to play prominent roles in spring and summer festivals such as Coachella, Broccoli City and Rolling Loud in Portugal.
Then the world stopped. In a year held in a constrictor clutch by the pandemic, Ricch never had the chance to experience the full extent of Antisocial’s value because he, nor fans, could leave the house past mid-March.
Could that explain why the Grammys snubbed Antisocial for best rap album? That line of thinking opens up a Pandora’s box of conversations surrounding “music’s biggest night” and its complex history with America’s most popular genre dating back to the days of Chuck D asking Who gives a f— about a Grammy? on Public Enemy’s “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic.” Or The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s 1989 boycott of the ceremony — or Jay-Z’s absence a decade later because, despite winning best rap album for In My Lifetime: Vol 2, DMX’s zero nominations enraged him. Or the still unexplainable 2014 gaffe of Mackelmore’s The Heist besting Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Or Rihanna going home empty-handed after eight nominations at the 2017 Grammys following her magnum opus, Anti. Black music and historical grievances at the Grammys are ubiquitous.
Nevertheless, the immediate future of the music industry, especially live music, remains uncertain with the virus showing no signs of fatigue. What is certain, though, is Ricch’s status. Six Grammy nominations is something many, many artists will never achieve, even if the Grammys still fumbled the ball on the goal line. And considering where he’s come from, nominations are far better than court dates.
Perhaps this next year won’t come with any caveats. Roddy Ricch has at least proved he’s deserving of that.