As a member of the Atlanta trio MSEIZE, with Supreme Words and DJ Fudge, Rock Most and his partners in rhyme made some noise in the underground hip-hop world. In 2009 it came time for him to seize the day on his own. Rock Most went solo, releasing F.L.O. (For Lovers Only), and later this month the emcee/producer/DJ is following that release up with Rise & Shine. In-between he had not one, but TWO near death experiences. All in all, it’s been a pretty wild ride, and this week RapReviews caught up with Rock Most to find out more about that ride, his music, and how his two near death experiences affected his work. He also revealed his feelings on the job DJs are doing when it comes to breaking new music, and how Chuck D made his day, TWICE.

Adam Bernard: You were raised in Ohio, but have spent your entire post-high school life in Atlanta. How often do people say “you don’t sound like an Atlanta artist” to you, and do you take that as a compliment, or as a lack of awareness regarding the full Atlanta hip-hop scene?

Rock Most: I think it’s definitely a lack of awareness, and I guess whether or not it’s a compliment or insult depends on who it comes from {*laughs*}. I’ve been here for a pretty long time and yeah, I do get that a lot, “oh, you don’t sound like you’re from Atlanta.” In fact, it’s actually hindered me from getting shows in other cities because when I say I’m from Atlanta they have a preconceived notion of what I’m gonna do and it’s just not it. I can’t say it’s necessarily an insult, in my eyes, cuz I feel like I have a lot of good southern artist friends, but people don’t necessarily realize that Atlanta is a melting pot, not just culturally, but musically. You have people from all over the world in all genres of music right here. It covers the whole gamut.

AB: Even with the plethora of artists and genres residing in Atlanta, would you say you go against the grain at all?

RM: When it comes to the mainstream, absolutely, just because I don’t necessarily try to make a particular type of music, I just do what I feel and that’s what you hear on the album. Some people say “that song sounds southern, that song sounds east coast, that song sounds west coast,” and that’s fine, I’ll take all those things because I like all those things. Ultimately I just want people to say it sounds good.

AB: Your latest album is titled Rise & Shine. What ideas are you looking to get across with this effort?

RM: The most important thing that I wanted to do was just be an artist. I wasn’t really concerned with trying to present a certain image, I just wanted to make my music and be an artist and have a message but not be preachy. I want people to have a good time, and enjoy the music, but I also don’t want them to veg out and become idiots. I wanted it to be balanced, not necessarily to please everyone, because you can never do that, but to give people an option for something else other than what the mainstream is offering right now. I don’t necessarily want to be an underground artist, I just want to be an artist and whatever people want to call it, if that’s what makes them feel good about it, then I’m fine with it.

AB: The title of the album, the cover and back images of sunrises; why such the reverence for morning?

RM: The title is actually a double meaning. Rise & Shine is relevant to the cover because in hip-hop right now, in urban music, everyone’s talking about shining, being on top, and all these flossy things and what not, and not too many people are talking about rising, at least not the artists that are getting the attention, so I wanted the album cover to reflect the beginning because even when you’re dealing with the sun it doesn’t shine until it rises and I think that’s a very relevant point that the youth need to understand. It’s OK to want to shine, we all want that, but we have to go through the things necessary to get to that point and that’s starting at the beginning, that’s sunrise. The other meaning is you gotta wake up. As a people we need to wake up and look for broader horizons.

AB: Most artistic endeavors lead to a steady diet of Ramen Noodles. You have three artistic endeavors – emcee, producer, DJ. Is this in order to make sure you don’t have an all Ramen Noodle diet, or do you simply want to starve three times over?

RM: {*laughs*} That’s a good question. I’ve always been fascinated with DJing, but it’s not something I started to take seriously until the last five years. It’s something I did off and on all my life. Emceeing was my first love. At ten years old I was like I’m gonna do THAT for the rest of my life. The small town which I come from (Ravenna, OH), at that point in time, there weren’t any other emcees or producers, so I started producing out of a necessity. I can’t say I was the best at it at first {*laughs*}. DJing definitely has been my bread and butter the last few years, allowing me to DJ at night and make music by day. I still have Ramen Noodles every now and then.

AB: That’s just to keep it real.

RM: Yeah! Fortunately it’s not every day. The producing is something that I do out of necessity, but I’ve actually grown to be, I think, pretty good at it and I love doing it. Fortunately I have three jobs that I happen to love very much and probably equally at this point.

AB: As someone who’s a DJ and also an emcee, how do you feel about the job most DJs are doing when it comes to breaking new music?

RM: I think DJs are doing a terrible job of breaking new music. Being a guy in the local scene a lot of times I’ll walk into a club and the DJ’s like “oh, Rock Most is in the house,” but the dude won’t play my music. {*laughs*} It’s like thanks for the shout out, but you know I got a single out. They might even announce my single, or “make sure you check out the new video,” but they won’t play the song. The higher up DJs, in conjunction with the labels, have made it harder. They used to lead the people, the people now lead them. (It’s said that) you gotta play what the people want to hear, but the people don’t know what they want to hear. That’s what your job is, to let them hear the new songs and if you’re a creative DJ like myself there’s always a way to break that into your mix somewhere. If you know how to match a beat and you have people dancin and groovin and you know there’s a new song that fits into that beat, throw that bad boy in there for a verse and a chorus. Because I’m an emcee and an artist, I might take it a little more personally, but I definitely think DJs can do a better job. A lot of times people talk about respect the DJ, but the DJs kinda gotta demand respect and stay in our rightful place and do what we’re supposed to do.

AB: Are there any artists other than yourself that you’re especially proud you’ve played, or put into rotation during your sets?

RM: I think one of the most rewarding moments was when I had a little mix going on, playing some classic Tribe stuff. It wasn’t necessarily a hip-hop crowd, but to be able to thrown on something like Little Brother, something I know they don’t necessarily know, but the beat is bangin, and to keep them dancing, that’s awesome. I’ve had people walk up to me and be like “what is that?” That’s always a good feeling.

AB: You actually stole my next question. I was going to ask you to hit me with what consider to be some of your most memorable, or rewarding, moments as an emcee, producer and DJ. You’ve already given a DJing story, do you have any about emceeing or producing?

RM: Yes. Two of them actually have to do with Chuck D. As a producer I’ve been working off and on with Professor Griff for years. We first met in the early 90s, and I was doing a song for his solo project for which I met Chuck D. That was amazing because not only am I meeting Chuck D and producing a track that he’s on, but I walk in and he starts having a conversation with my buddy about the mix. He has a cocktail napkin on which he’s just writing down individual words and by the time the engineer had put the tape on the reel Chuck has 15, 20 words on this paper while simultaneously having this conversation. The engineer says “I’m ready when you are, Chuck.” Chuck says “let’s go,” jumps up and gets in the booth. As an emcee and producer I’m like, is he ready? What’s he doing? He goes in there and kills the rhyme the first time and asks me “how was that?” Being a huge Public Enemy fan, and basically a kid at the time, this was years ago, I turned around like who’s he talking to, and he’s looking at me like I’m talking to you. I’m like “yeah, that was great, but if you could just put a little more oomph at the end…” and he does it again, which I thought was amazing because it shows his humility about when you’re working with people in the studio and how we’re all just in there as musicians. Another memorable moment, that also involved Chuck D, my group MSEIZE were performing and when we got off stage he basically stopped us and said that’s how you keep hip-hop alive. At that point I could have returned to a job at a fast food restaurant and served fries for the rest of my life because it was like I might be on fries right now, but last night Chuck D told me I was dope.

AB: That’s really awesome. I’m glad you mentioned MSEIZE, too, because you were with them until ’09, which was when you decided to go solo. Is there an illicit story to be told?

RM: Oh no, we were a group for ten years. Before that I was producing for Supreme Wordz. We’re still very good friends. He just went on a short tour with me. It was just a situation where we’re grown ass men now, he’s got a kid, he has some things he needs to take care of, and me being the single unmarried guy I’m like OK, I guess I can make another album. That’s essentially exactly how it went.

AB: After that you had two life altering experiences. You were involved in a head on collision and an armed robbery attempt. Other than simply being happy to be alive, what was going through your head after those events?

RM: Other than being happy to be alive it was kind of like OK, you’ve got a responsibility. My life had been spared twice in less than six months. On paper these situations should not have happened the way they did. The odds were against me. At that point I got a new motivation, a new spark, if you will, towards my music. I was in the middle of working on this project and I was happy with it, but I wasn’t in love with it yet, and I think that moment, it gave me everything I needed from the inside to go ahead and make this album what it is. I hope people enjoy it and all of that, but most importantly, it made me happy. It really made me appreciate the talent that I have, friends that I’ve had, past and present, and it really made me appreciate life in general, and music being the biggest part of my life definitely made this album special.

AB: I’m guessing after those six months you weren’t exactly running out to see the next Final Destination movie.

RM: Right. {*laughs*} I turn the channel every time the ads come on.

AB: Finally, to end things on a much lighter note, you are one stylin individual. In your pictures and videos you’re rockin blazers and hats. Where does your sense of style come from and why is it important to you to be so on point with your look?

RM: That’s just always who I’ve been. I was raised primarily by my mother and she probably has close to 300 pairs of shoes in her closet, she’s that woman. I was the little kid that came to school fresh. I was rockin Adidas suits at a very young age. It’s just always been a part of who I am. I don’t try to be flossy or anything, but I feel like I should look good. Why not?