Suga Free once rapped, “I can show ya better than I can tell ya.” Rucci — the biggest Inglewood rapper since Mack 10 rolled through the hood with stripes — spit lyrics from the poet laureate of pimp rap before kindergarten. This was when everyone called him “Midget” because of his resemblance to his father, Tako, a once high-ranking member of the Neighborhood Pirus. Rucci saw dead bodies, but these were better days — before his best friend Sean Mackk was murdered, before his uncle Boner was sentenced to life in prison, and before ICE deported Tako, a legal U.S resident but convicted felon, to El Salvador.
If you’ve listened to Rucci over the last few years — 2017's Dawgystyle or El Perro from last year — you can hear him trying to tell you about these lows one or two lines at a time. They’re dashed off, buried in verses about riding around with the strap or being ridden by another woman. This is by design. Rucci raps with a grin even when all is immeasurably grim, and he moves forward because people are counting on him.
A formalist who raps with ease even at his most aggressive, Rucci bridges the divide between his ‘90s predecessors and his peers in LA’s continued rap renaissance. If Drakeo the Ruler's grumbling, slowed verses is one end of the spectrum, Rucci’s the opposite. He’s direct, pouring up but pouring less, popping molly and ready to party and rhyme with mounting momentum. Undergirding it all is the inherent tension that comes from making turn-up music colored by red paisley rags and blood-red tragedy. Beneath the celebration and self-medication, you can hear Rucci wrestling with what to share and how best to prod wounds that haven’t healed.
Rucci’s debut album, Tako’s Son, is his most personal to date. He tells you what he can’t show you without getting bogged down in explication. You can watch the ABOVE ALL-produced documentary of the same name above, which begins in Inglewood and ends in Tijuana, Mexico, where Tako moved after ducking Salvadoran police, floating along Guatemalan rivers, and traversing dense Mexican jungles.
To better understand what you can hear in Rucci’s music, I went to Inglewood to sit with him outside of rapper 2Eleven’s Level Up store inside a Centinela shopping plaza. Rucci expounded on his relationship with his parents, gangbanging, his father’s tribulations, and much more. Bong in hand, he was laughing and enthused even when discussing events that might bring others to tears.
How has the increased gentrification of South LA affected this area?
[Some people] say, “You’re not going to be over here once the stadium gets built.” I always try to be ten toes ahead of gentrification. You can’t complain. There’s no time for excuses. I’m just leveling up and trying to change with the community. If things are going to change, we’re going to make them change along with us. I plan on staying and having shit here. Right now, I’m thinking of me losing a big house in the future. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.
My grandmother loves Inglewood so much. She can’t come back or get any property over here because of my dad. There were times when she was trying to move places and they'd be like, “No, you’re Tako’s mom.” They knew that as soon as Tako came around, it was going to be the gang house. So I'm going to buy a big house over here. There’s also AA Market on Centinela and Beach — I’m going to make it the dopest liquor store.
Growing up, was being “Tako’s son” a blessing or a burden?
I never thought of it negatively. Even when I was going to Santa Monica High School, that was me getting myself in trouble. I was getting jumped, but not because I was Tako’s son. I wouldn’t blame my dad for a lot of negative shit that happened — but I do go back to my dad, and me being me, when it comes to how I go about these situations. Being Tako’s son gave me a big level of respect.
Did he discourage you from banging?
He tried to take me away from it, but he couldn’t help it. There were times where he was doing shit in the hood and he’d have to pick me up. That would involve everything, including me being in the car with him while he was getting shot at. We were born here. There’s a rumor that my mom’s water broke at Roger’s Park. When my brother [Angel] came home from the hospital, he came straight back to the hood with a red rag on his head. We never even looked at it as a choice.
Why do the Neighborhood Pirus still revere your father?
This is the hood. Every hood has a nigga from their hood who’s done some of the craziest shit you can think of. My dad wasn’t big on money — he'd do shit just for the statement. He'd see a snitch, rob the snitch, and give the money to the little homies. He was all about the right way of gangbanging. As far as the NHP’s, he has no smut on his name. You can’t say nothing bad about him. He was going to ride for you like you were his kid.
When you were growing up, did you know that your dad’s activities with NHP could lead to his deportation?
I was aware of what was going on, but I didn’t know how far it could go. I didn’t know about deportation or green cards or none of that — I just knew I was Hispanic, growing up in a Hispanic house that acted like black people. A green card would never even come up in our house, even though it was full of people who need them. But it got thrown in my face.
After ICE took him into custody, how long did you have to wait to hear from him?
A couple of days after he was taken in. I didn’t think he was going to get deported, but he knew he was going to get deported. I was talking to him so much when he was in ICE. That shit was lowkey cooler than prison. ICE was more lenient about phone calls and visits. One thing about me is that I never go see someone when they’re down. My uncle has been in jail a long time. He’s my best friend, and I’ve never gone to see him. I can’t. I don’t want to look at my homies through glass. I never went to visit my dad when he was in ICE. Even when my homies get shot, I don’t want to go see them in the hospital. I don’t like seeing my people down. But I make sure that my uncle is straight. Matter of fact, today is his birthday.
But I don’t like to see people when they’re down. When my dad was in ICE, everybody that went to see him sent my love. He just knew I was always on my shit. I never let nothing block what I was doing. Even with all of the bullshit, I was like, “I could be mad and sad about it, but it’s not going to get none of us anywhere.” I knew that I had to be the person who took my family out of this hell hole.
How long was your dad in custody before being deported?
Until 2015. He appealed, like, three times. When they finally deported him, we were like, “Is he going to make it off that plane?” When you go to El Salvador, MS-13 is waiting for you fresh off the plane. That was our biggest concern as a family. Even when he got to my grandpa’s, they had to hide him away. As soon as he got there, my grandpa called like, “He’s here.” That was the best feeling. Knowing him, though, he wants to get back here.
When he got off the plane, he got jumped.
He got his ass whooped and then they left him alone, which was perfectly fine with him. He kept telling us, “I’m going to go to Mexico. I don’t know how, but I’m going to get there.” He told us the day he was leaving, “There’s something strange going on around me. I’m in the middle of nowhere. I’m going to figure it out, though.” He got on a fucking raft with a Guatemalan chick and I guess she knew the way. He’s a Mexican citizen now, which is fine with him. I’m fitting to get him a big ass house out there.
When I visit him, we’re just about smiling. We don’t want to see each other down. I went out there so we could sit down and let people talk to him. We always had a relationship. We DM on Instagram all damn day. We send voice messages back-to-back. We talk. He’s always been in my life, even when he was out of it. When I saw him, I got to feel his presence. We didn’t even talk that much about shit — we just sat next to one another.
On “Still” and “Drop Out," you talk about drinking and doing an array of drugs. Do you think that part of you is trying to numb yourself from the pain of past traumas?
Overall, weed makes things less stressful. I shouldn’t be drinking lean, but it helps me block a lot of shit out. When I drink lean, I’m floating through the day. Popping pills is party shit. I’m not going to lie, it’s a fucked up feeling the day after. When I was recording Tako’s Son, I was popping pills, in the studio all night. But I’m self-aware. I know what I shouldn’t be doing. I feel like I have control of it and don’t abuse anything.
“Function in the Hood” and “Get the Strap” are party music but they also sound ominous.
When we were young and going out, we knew we were going to have fun, but we knew we were going to get into some shit. Even with “Get the Strap”, that’s our fun — the homie will be up today and get a gun, a car, and a bad bitch and ride around the hood. We know that this fun could get us into some bullshit. We’re okay with that, though, because we’re ready for it.
The album title pays homage to your father, but you’re close with your mother too. In what ways are you Angela’s son?
The way I love people and don’t let nothing bother me. My mom is super-duper strong. She always finds a way instead of giving up. She’s my best friend. I talk to her about everything. When I was 13, I was taking a shower with body wash that had the little beads in it. I got out of the shower and the beads were still in my pube hair. I called my mom and said, “Mom, look at this. Do I got crabs?” She was like, “You had sex already?!” I was like, “Nah.” I was watching an episode of Jackass, and Steve-O and them said something about crabs. My mom knows about everything I do. Right now, she’s like, “Throw the cup away before I slap you.” She loves me like nobody else. I talk to her every day. I’m fucking up right now, though. I was supposed to send her some money the other day.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to provide for people right now?
Nope. If someone needs money, I’m going to give it to them. I’m not stingy. I don’t need that much money to make me happy. I was broke and happy. I just wanted to make a change and be able to help people who were broke and unhappy. I don’t take it on as pressure — I just get it done. If you procrastinate, then it becomes pressure.
Who are some of the other rappers from Inglewood that people should have on their radar?
Everyone from Mackk & Co. We got Bossman, Lil Duece [sic], and Black. We’re all from Inglewood. Romo, that’s my producer. Free Ackrite. Skeme. That’s my boy, but everybody been knowing about him. White John is next. Everybody really trying to get him from us. He’s like a nigga to us. He do the craziest shit on a regular basis. He could have a lot of money and go spend it all on lean, go to the studio, and make dumbass songs that don’t get catchy until you look at White John and what he does on a day-to-day basis.
Everybody in LA loves White John. He’s from Inglewood. He grew up down the street. He went to Westchester High. He’s always been around everybody. He should’ve been rapping, but he was into living the fast life. Everything he be talking about is real shit. LAPD really does hate his ass. He goes to jail, and he’s a white boy in jail and they don’t know what to do with him. He got love from the Crips and everybody.
You’re going to tour this fall. Do you rehearse? Do you take a lot of pride in your shows?
I rehearse before every big show. We love throwing Rucci shows. It builds the fan base. I also watch live performances all day — from the Temptations to Selena and Ed Sheeran. I know I’m going to get rich off of rap, but I want to be rich off of touring the world. I want to be able to sell out shows until I’m 40. I want my shows to be gangster parties — ‘90s type shit, where it looks like everyone got in for free. I don’t want to be so bougie out here. The streets aren’t going to love you.
Is there anything you want to add?
Sean Mackk forever.