Little Rick is the ILLest Spitta
December 30, 2004
By Jaeson Pitt
Over toned-down instrumental in the lounge of Southside Studio, 21-year-old rap veteran Little Rick recently took a moment to discuss the come-up of his group ILL Spittaz.
Rick, also know as Ricky Ruckus, has been bringing just that -- the ruckus -- since he came to Winston-Salem in the sixth grade from Washington, DC. Since then, he has blessed microphones and telephones all over North Carolina, where his name has become synonymous with battle rapping. He started calling 102 JAMZ radio station's "Roll Call" as a freshman at North Forsyth High School, where he bonded with a few aspiring emcees. They eventually formed the group ILL Spittaz.
Rick, who was born Ricardo Thomas, started rapping in 1994 with his cousin two years before he moved to the area. He credits an uncle, who shared a love for hip-hop, for influencing them. That passion rubbed off on Rick, who promised to transcend what he had learned so that he might in turn influence the youths of his day.
North Forsyth became the breeding ground for Rick and his fellow emcees to create ideas as well as harvest some hear makers that would get them started. Glue, a witty Caucasian who doesn't make apologies for his skin color, demands respect as he sticks to his name by sticking to beats and riding instrumentals like transportation.
Meanwhile, the laid-back quiet swagger of Billionz is enough to round out a solid three-man group ready to take on anyone. Glue remembers high school being a time when they were not only the most talented but also the few to appreciate what they were trying to accomplish.
"We were the only people who got along that (weren't) hating on each other," Glue said.
Rick describes their early partnership as "writing verses and passing them back (and forth), finding out we (were) the hottest," he said. From that point on they began recording together.
"For about a year and a half, we were paying and paying (then) we met some dudes who started paying for our time. They thought we were hot," Rick said.
The group soon tired of having to pay for studio time, so the group built one of its own complete with all of the recording equipment necessary for laying down lyrics. Southside Studio, which has been up and running for more than a year now, is home to thousands of tracks, released, and unreleased. Their latest heavy hitter is called "Destroy and Rebuild" with the group D.D.E.
"(We) just said bump that, we want our own studio, and (we) built this joint." Rick said with satisfaction.
Not only did they build Southside out of their own pockets, but they have shot three videos and they plan to launch an independent label in the future with Rodo's guidance. Rodo throws parties and gets them booked in clubs and as opening acts. So far, Little Rick has headlined the group in a Nelly/St. Lunatic type fashion, opening for Disturbing the Peace, 50 Cent back in DC, Jay-Z at Super Jam 2001, Juelz Santana, and T.I. at the Matrix here in Winston-Salem.
Solo projects are also in the works for each of the group members. Little Rick's will be out first, called "Almost Famous."
ILL Spittaz managed to catch the ears and attention of Beat Gods, a group of producers from Philadelphia who discovered ILL Spittaz music online. As far as national recognition, Rick says they don't want to be classified as Dirty South or East Coast. They believe they can hold their own in any sub-genre of rap.
"We don't want to be categorized as Down South or Up North, club or gangster," he said emphatically. "(North Carolina) got so many styles. We're not that (Deep) South nor that Up North sounding," said Rick.
The graphic design student at Winston-Salem State University is also the proud father of 2-year-old Jerimiah. Rick, who will graduate in December 2005, has started a music promotions company with ILL Spittaz called EyeAm, Inc., which allows them to work with other local aspiring artists.
Rodo sums up their efforts best when describing their independent label aspirations called Tunnel Vision.
"It's positive; our focus is positive. Tunnel Vision, it has meaning. When you're in a tunnel, what's around you? Nothing but forwardness...We in the dark, but we gon' see the light," said Rodo about his expectations for the future.