Exclusive Interview with Best Of The Next
BOTN: How did you get your name?
AL ROCCO: Rocco originally came from the Brooklyn roots of an Italian man who raised me. I wanted to represent myself in a way that’s true and real to my life, so I took it as if it as my official name. Even though we’re not blood related, we’re family and it’s all love.
BOTN: What is the rap/hiphop scene like in China? Do they embrace local artists like you or do they gravitate more towards artists from America?
AL ROCCO: Like anywhere else, popular commercial artists from abroad are much more appreciated. The music’s originated from America and they have the world wide recognition.
However, now being involved in the music industry in China where local creative minds are slowly being recognized, there have always been a big Hip-Hop following here in the Far East. But the availability to really understand the knowledge of the culture has not been fortunate yet to fully influence originality on a major scale in China. That’s why the amount of people with the skills and talent in this field are very limited compared to the West. Hip-Hop is still growing out here and we’re working hard to make sure that happens in the near future.
BOTN: What’s your family background, who raised you, any siblings?
AL ROCCO: Independent child raised by my mother but I grew up with my cousins, so to me, they are my brothers and sisters.
BOTN: Where were you raised, did you move around at all?
AL ROCCO: Born and raised in Hong Kong till’ I ran into some trouble and had to leave to the UK at the age of 14. Being independent since, I moved to Los Angeles in the end of 2009 for a couple years before heading back to the Far East. After a decade now, I’m currently based in Shanghai while moving between Hong Kong, LA and New York.
BOTN: What are some of your life experiences that pushed you towards making music?
AL ROCCO: The ability to express the troubling emotions that I had growing up as a teenager. I had to learn how to be a man independently and music has always been there for me. I knew it was the only thing that I wanted to do everyday and I wanted to do it my best. It kept me in line from all the bad shit and it guided me the right way teaching me about discipline and hard work. There are still stories untold but we’re about to get to that, we’re just having fun right now.
BOTN: What languages do you speak?
AL ROCCO: English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
BOTN: What are some of your past, present, and future projects?
AL ROCCO: Al Rocco’s first project goes back to 2011 where we started off with the Earn Ya Wings mixtape. I was still living in LA at the time learning the business and adapting the art. We’ve also released our first music video, Space Cakes.
The following year was a busy year, we dropped three mixtapes; Fly Sky High, Fly Sky High 2 and Night Flight and had two singles featured on two other mixtapes; In My Hood (Hosted by 2Chainz & DJ Ken) and Grind Pays 3 (Hosted by Wu-Tang’s DJ Pop Dukez). In the same year, I had my first Chinese song featured on a video game, Sleeping Dogs, which was rated one of the top tens in 2012. As well, I opened for DMC Champion DJ Q-Bert and NBA Star Yao Ming. We’ve released five music videos this year; Fire, Knawmean, No Tomorrow, Me Against the World and Beautiful Nightmare.
In 2013 we’ve dropped my fifth and most recent mixtape, Jet Lag. I’ve also had a single rated number 1 on Coast2Coast’s mixtape Indie Top 50 and was officially affiliated with HipHop360CN (HipHop2China). I’ve also had the opportunity to perform at my first music festival in Shanghai with HipHopHiJack (DJ ChoyceKutz and BKut) and was featured on my first TV commercial in Hong Kong for a optical brand called Ocular Plus. We’ve also released two music videos in 2013; Fantasy and Stone Cold Love with 2 live performance videos from the Midi music festival.
This year, we’ve already dropped three new singles to my newest dual project, Raised in China EP & Mixtape. So far, we’ve released a new music video Aint Nobody Got It, a TVC For My City (Hong Kong) and our newest single Red Money RMB人民币. Raised in China is due to be released sometime before this Summer and will be available on iTunes, Dapiff and everywhere else. Following up with another project that will be released towards the end of the year. Expect a lot of videos this 2014 and we’ll also be opening our first creative hub available to the public in Shanghai. We’re working.
BOTN: What are some of your music influences, or favorite artists?
AL ROCCO: JBo Escobar, BusyKidz, Mistah Khaki, Ray Rok, Jae Rich, B Rok, Big Sammy, Dough Boy, Floyd Cheung, Daddy Cheung, LMF, Tupac, Notorious BIG, Nas, Method Man, WuTang, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Dr Dre, NWA, Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, ASAP Rocky, Drake, Tyga, Big KRIT, Wiz Khalifa, Juelz Santana, Kirko Bangz, 2Chainz, Weeknd, Decipher, Flowsick, Snacky Chan, Toestah, Lyricks, Manifest, Thai, Frank Sinatra, Billie Paul, Lousie Armstrong, Beyond, Jacky Cheung.. We could be here all day.
BOTN: When did you start working on your craft(s)?
AL ROCCO: It all started in 2003 when Hip-Hop was at it’s golden prime in Hong Kong. Most of my good friends that i’ve known since were through street battles and house parties. It was around the same time Jin was on the come up and that gave a lot of us great pride to see what we saw happening.
It wasn’t until when I left to the UK I started to take my art a little more serious. Learning how to self record and mix, setting up small home studios, writing themed songs, making beats, self promoting through the internet and finding my own sound. During the holidays, I would perform as an club MC in Hong Kong and perform at school talent shows. I remember after sometime I was ranked number 1 on Soundclick and Myspace on the Hong Kong rap charts in 2005-2006 and performed at my first live TV charity show on TVB in Hong Kong. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but that gave me the adrenaline and motivation to keep on going. School wasn’t doing well for me and all I wanted to do was to do what I did, girls and party. The following year, I was signed to an independent label from LA called Think Records for one short year. After the label fall-out, I still made music on my own but my motivation wasn’t as musically focused anymore.
During my last year in London in 2009, I was studying sound engineering. I’ve decided to dedicate myself fully and do it one more time. But this time, through trail and error, I had to do it properly. After that year I moved to LA and Al Rocco was born.
BOTN: Tell us your best experience in the music industry so far?
AL ROCCO: I believe all my experiences were my best because I learn different things from each one. But if I had to pick, I remember recording at Skee-TV lodge was a great mind opening experience, I was able to work with top creative minds and I learnt a lot from them. Another one would be performing on stage with 2000+ people packed out at Club Hot till 6 in the morning and the cops had to bust in and shut it down. That was a night I will always remember and I know there’s more to come.
BOTN: Anybody in the industry who you are interested in working with?
AL ROCCO: I am open to work with any creative minds who works hard, respects the art and creates good music.
BOTN: Any last words for the readers or upcoming musicians/artists?
AL ROCCO: Don’t stop believing in your dreams and keep on pushing. Nothing great comes easy, everything takes time so be patient, work smart, keep it original and don’t be another copy.
Where can people find you?
Youtube — youtube.com/alroccotv
Bandcamp — alrocco.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud — soundcloud.com/alrocco
Twitter — twitter.com/alrocco_
Instagram — instagram.com/alrocco
Facebook — facebook.com/alrocco
Website — http://www.alrocco.com