Featured Artist: R.I.C.O

Posted on November 25, 2014

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IMG_4886By: Kendra Lyons

R.I.C.O stands for “ridiculously independent completely over confident.” “It’s a lie,” he said with a laugh as he took a seat across from me at Cafe Keough downtown. It’s not a lie exactly. It’s an acronym, and although Quintin Ricardo Fields doesn’t always necessarily feel “ridiculously independent” and “over confident,” the name serves as a motivator when the 26-year-old Memphis hip-hop artist takes the stage. R.I.C.O sported a Memphis Riverkings jersey, animal print sneakers, and a multicolored jacket- a source of vibrancy and warmth on the grey freezing winter afternoon. At nine years old, he became inspired to pursue music when he heard the Godzilla soundtrack. Rage Against the Machine made him want to play rock ‘n roll- a far cry, it seems, from his current passion for hip-hop. R.I.C.O’s interest in rock was about the energy and the message. “I had no idea that black people had influenced rock music,” he explains. R.I.C.O tried out being a rock musician, and largely by chance, ended up dipping his toe in the hip-hop waters in Memphis, when his buddies from Chinese Connection Dub Embassy asked him to rap with them sometime so they could work on fusing their reggae vibe with rap. I had a chance to hear the collaboration at the Brister Street music networking party at Juicy Jim’s earlier this month and fell in love with the mellow poetic rap songs that were a result of the unexpected duo. R.I.C.O felt nothing but love when he entered the Memphis hip-hop scene.

“It was like being homeless and you walk into a grocery store and they’re just giving away shit for free,” he explains, regarding the surprise and encouragement he felt when many artists were eager to lend a hand, offer beats, and do anything they could to help him get his career moving and welcome him to the network of talented musicians in the city.

R.I.C.O uses his role as a rap artist in Memphis to communicate about issues that are important to him, like modern day racial divides. “My dad was white and my mom was black. I know the difference in the societies. I go to certain places with one family, and we’re in the hood, we’re barbecuing, and we’re doing regular southern hood shit. Then I go with my dad and we’re going to places like politician’s houses. He was Mayor Herenton’s lawyer. It’s not thatI felt forced to become two different people, but it became just a part of me. When I’m by myself, I’m just me. When I write a song and I’m talking about race issues and civil rights issues, I’m all about equality. I don’t care about the race or gender or sexual orientation or religion, it’s just, there’s universal rights and wrongs.” In R.I.C.O’s music, although it is typically categorized as hip-hop, you can hear the rock influences that turned him onto music so many years ago. R.I.C.O doesn’t want to be put in a box, so to speak, when fans try to understand his music. Instead, R.I.C.O wants to be known as something simple, even broader than a musician alone, but instead, an “entertainer.” “I’m in a transitional phase right now. What I’m trying to do will definitely be more versatile. I got caught up in the ‘rapper’ label and I can dig it, but there’s a certain amount of crazy looks you get when you tell them you’re a rapper. They have this crazy idea of who you are and your abilities.” R.I.C.O also plays the guitar and knows how to sing, based on his experience in choir as a young person.

“But if I tell people I’m a rapper, it seems like people think ‘that’s all he can do. He can’t possibly be an actual musician.’”

When I asked R.I.C.O what it was like trying to start his rap career in Memphis, he expressed some challenges about starting a music career in the bluff city. “Being a musician in Memphis, I believe, is one of the hardest things you can do in the music industry.” R.I.C.O even comments, “You have to become a winner first to be loved here,” comparing big name musicians like Justin Timberlake, who have left the city and then received support from Memphis after achieving great success, or even the Grizzlies, who he feels didn’t get half as much support when they were losing as when they started winning. R.I.C.O provides an interesting perspective on the reality of being a musician in a city that prides itself in valuing music. He even asks Memphians to live up to the musical heritage they wear so proudly on their sleeves, and make a little more effort to fully support musicians, especially those who are just getting started. Regardless of the size of the crowd watching him perform on a certain night, R.I.C.O remains determined to perform for the love of the music and appreciation for the people who choose to spend their night enjoying it. Above all else, R.I.C.O will “be real,” he adds, “I’ll never talk in first person about something I’ve never experienced or done.” Listen to R.I.C.O’s unique sound on his mixtape here. Also check out a cause close to R.I.C.O’s heart, a toy drive hosted at Juicy Jim’s this December.

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Posted in: Music