Ridgio Makes “Truth Music”
Written by Vocalo Radio on February 15, 2023
Chicago rapper Ridgio uses his music and his faith to share his message — from freestyling with family to creating music as a reflection of his life.
Growing up in the Lawndale neighborhood, Ridgio remembers freestyling with cousins and discovering his talent for rapping at 11 years old. Now, he uses his faith and personal experiences to create music from the heart — from freestyling to creating albums reflecting his life.
His latest project, Twenty VIII Winters, is a recollection of every winter he has been through since he was 21. One of the album’s lead singles, “?,” was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for February. The track served as a voice for his frustrations and aided in his emergence from depression.
“The majority of the questions I proposed in the song came out of anger, he explained. “But they are all rhetorical. I’m not expecting someone to attempt to explain them. But just take time and really think about what is the true meaning behind all of our actions every day.”
Through his frustrations, Ridgio says his love for God is the thing that keeps his music authentic. He hopes listeners will receive a message of perseverance from his music, and give them the hope to keep pushing forward.
“I want people to know that we’re all in this together at the end of the day, no matter how somebody might package it. But keep your faith in God strong and keep pushing regardless.”
“I believe being from Chicago challenges me to be the best version of myself at all times,” Ridgio said. “I enjoyed making 3-5 songs a night with my family from just having fun and freestyling.”
Ridgio also discussed his favorite parts of the Chicago music industry, his influences, setting himself apart from the stereotype of rappers from Chicago, and a new collaborative project with his wife.
You’re from the West Side of Chicago. Did you grow up there?
I actually grew up Out West, in the North Lawndale neighborhood. That’s where the majority of my family lives.
How do you feel being from Chicago has impacted or influenced your identity as a musician?
I believe being from Chicago challenges me to be the best version of myself at all times. Growing up Out West, especially, you never want to come off weak or vulnerable, so that pushes you to flaunt the best sides of who you are. Since Chicago is such a historical city with so much greatness attached to it, my identity always felt as if it has had to measure up to the legends that came before me. I know people typically think of violence when it comes to Chicago, and although that’s true, I try not to attach that as a part of me.
When and why did you first feel motivated to make music?
When I was 11 or 12, I freestyled with my brothers and sisters on my pop’s birthday. That’s when I knew I could rap. And I did that for a few years, only around his b-day, for some reason. I left it alone until I was 17 and started making music with my cousins in my aunt’s attic back in 2012. This is when I first felt like I could actually become a rapper. I enjoyed making three to five songs a night with my family from just having fun and freestyling.
Where does your passion stem from when it comes to creating original music?
I’ve always been passionate about being an original person in general. I’ve always been different, always stood out, and I never fit in into any groups or clicks. So I do the same with my music. I have a strong love for God and life and that drives me to make music that’s authentic to that experience. I try not to get all caught into the hot topics and what’s going on and I’ve never been that way growing up. So it trickles down into my recordings. My musical taste is dependent upon whatever space I’m in mentally and spiritually and is always subject to change.
What do you feel are the highlights of the Chicago music scene?
There are so many open mics. There are alot of scenes you can dive into and so many venues to perform at. As an artist who has a very small following, you can easily go to almost any open mic or networking event and see someone in the industry and have a shot at making your way in the business. It’s an open field, to say the least.
What’s something about the city’s music scene you wish you could change?
Over the years, I’ve seen a false sense of community within a lot of Chicago scenes. And there is a lot of gatekeeping that goes on. People love to make it seem like their space is safe for everyone and it’s all love, but the majority of the time it’s a popularity contest. I think we could do a better job at being honest about what it is we’re looking for as a city and be truthful about how we’re going about it. There is a lot of talent out here, and this should be a prime hub for people on the outside that want to give smaller artist opportunities. But there have only been a select few to have that access. We need to change that.
Let’s get into your music. How would you explain your music style to someone who hasn’t heard you yet, and why would you describe yourself that way?
When I was 9 years old, there was a rap group at my church named Sons of Jacob. Everyone in my church would coin their songs “Truth Music,” which consists of songs that give uncut truth about the Bible. No — not Christian rap. I hate that name. Just truth, love and honesty. And when I was 20, I wanted to represent “Truth Music” as well. It will always be a part of my artistry.
Where did the title of your new album, Twenty VIII Winters, come from?
Twenty VIII Winters is the eighth installment to my Winters series I began when I was 21. Since I was born February 1, the name represents how many winters I’ve experienced in my lifetime.
What was your goal when making this album? How did you push yourself to create something different than what you’ve made before?
I usually focus on my introspective experience throughout my Winters albums. This time, I wanted to balance being introspective and letting people in on the dark times I’ve experienced recently with sharing my thoughts on what’s happening in all of our lives daily, while also providing a little jack-ball music in the midst of it all. I love challenging myself to carry two or three hats every album. This one was no different in that regard. But my end goal was to provide an experience that dove deeper into what I really go through, which is why I split the album in three parts: “Heart,” “Spirit” and “Self.”
What do you hope listeners take away from this project? Why?
I want people to know that everyone is going through something, even those whose lives seem amazing on the outside. I’ve been through the craziest ups and had to withstand the lowest of lows in a short time frame throughout 2022. I want people to know that we’re all in this together at the end of the day, no matter how somebody might package it. But keep your faith in God strong and keep pushing regardless.
Your single “?,” off of the new album, was added to Vocalo’s February on-air rotation. Tell us a little bit about this single! What’s the meaning behind it, and why did you feel compelled to write it?
I really appreciate y’all for adding it. It really made my week getting that great news. When writing this song, I was coming off a very depressing time in my life. My granny died, my car was stolen, I had some crazy relationship issues and it felt like my life was crumbling. The majority of the questions I proposed in the song came out of anger. But they are all rhetorical. I don’t really want the answers. I’m not expecting someone to attempt to explain them. But just take time and really think about what is the true meaning behind all of our actions every day. Not what we tell people. Not what we tell ourselves. But what’s really the reason? And when you find that, live in that truth. Don’t put up a facade.
You’re currently getting ready for an event called “Botanical Bars.” Could you tell us a little bit about the event? How did you get involved? How do you decide your set list?
Shout out to Th0rn and the world famous DJ Sk0li! They’re the founders of B0tanical Barz. They put on a concert once a month and invite up-and-coming rappers from around the city who have something special to give the world. Every performer has something different to offer and I really appreciate that from them. They reached out to me in October to headline their residency at The Gard3n on Milwaukee Ave. And now they want me back for their February show at Bourbon on Division. I can’t wait! My setlist mostly has songs from Twenty VIII Winters. Two of the songs are from 2022 projects And Friends and Twenty VII Winters. Once I found out I was able to have a band, I wanted to set my songs based on the flow energy on my latest album. I knew a band could really bring every record to life. So I went where the energy took me. And that’s how I usually set up my songs to perform. It’s all energy-based. Come in strong and leave on a high note.
What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety? Do you have a pre-show routine or ritual to get yourself ready?
I typically pee, pray and poop. My three P’s for a perfect performance, hahaha.
What can we expect from you this year? Tour? More music? Let listeners know!
My wife and I plan on dropping our collab album called Lovers at some point this year. And I most definitely plan on going on tour this year. My label R.A.W. Entertainment is getting jump-started, so you’ll see a lot from my friend and fellow artist Parnell. Hopefully, we can sign another artist before everything kicks into high gear. May the Lord add a blessing. In Jesus’ name.
Interview by Joshua X. Miller
Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller & Morgan Ciocca
Interview edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
More from Vocalo: