Al Rossi.

Rap music is arguably the most popular music genre in America—but it’s been slow to take hold in the local music scene.

However, that’s starting to change—and one of the artists leading the way is Al Rossi. He’s quickly picking up followers on Spotify; his music shows clarity and quality—attributes of possible future hits.

During a recent interview, Rossi explained where he’s at in terms of his music.

“I’ve been doing music for the last eight years,” Rossi said. “Now I’ve been taking it more seriously since I’ve been getting a lot of new listeners, and people are starting to know who I am now. It runs in my blood. A lot of my older cousins had their own little projects among their friends, and I picked it up. My grandfather was a blues musician, and I have a bunch of equipment I don’t even know how to use, because he gave it to us. He would do little tours around the South … and he got back into doing church music. Music runs in my family.”

Rossi said most of the local rap music is coming from the East Valley.

“There are not a whole lot of venues, but the ones who really give us support are the Red Barn, who do some hip-hop stuff; The Hood Bar and Pizza, who do some hip-hop stuff; and we have Sol Nightclub in Coachella, and they’re really open to a lot of music, and they have a lot of good people working there,” Rossi said. “Those are our central spots that really support our scene. Not too many places in Palm Springs (support us), but I have gotten a little bit of play in Palm Springs. Copa Nightclub spins my records, and a DJ who goes to Zeldas will spin some of my records.”

Rossi said he doesn’t relate to much of the current chart-topping rap music.

“It’s a little too simple to me right now. The old ’90s music would give you some food for thought—always talking about what’s going on,” he said. “Now it’s just competitive and about nothing. It’s too basic for me. I like a little word play and some substance. Today’s music is nothing but beats. It’s not really lyrical. Now all they want to do is talk down on the legends that started rap. You can’t talk down on who helped build this platform that we’re able to work on. I don’t understand it.

“I’m all about clarity. I want to make sure the vocals sound right. This EP I put out cost me quite a bit, because I paid to be in a good studio and use a good microphone. … The guy I mess with is out of Palm Desert, Tariq Beats, works with rap artists and has even made beats for Chris Brown, and he’s not really being seen yet, but he’s made a lot of impact. He might not have that No. 1 track on the charts, but he’s on a lot of people’s albums, and you’ll find his name in small print in the album credits. Production means a lot to me, along with clarity. It what makes music better. I critique myself a lot, too. Every song I do, I want it to sound like a single. I’m trying to fight for that one song to go mainstream. I’m paying for my quality to be sharp.”

I asked Rossi if he feels that the artistic sides of songwriting are sometimes sacrificed for success or plays.

“The club scene is popping right now. I make things club-friendly. It’s catering to that party life, and that’s what’s in right now,” he said. “If you can get mainstream in the club, you’re solid in a lot of spots. I talk a little bit about my life and stuff that’s relative. I want people to play my music, and that’s where my focus is now. Everybody is chasing a catchy hook, chorus and a bouncing beat, and that’s all it comes down to—but if you hear rap music on the radio, you’re probably changing the station, because they aren’t saying anything. I have a couple of records like that, because that’s who you have to cater to. … I believe history repeats itself, and I believe it’s going to loop itself back around to where it’s more emotional, with more feeling in the music. Tupac (Shakur) could rap about the whole economy and things going on, and it was going to be an anthem in the club. But do people really want to know what’s going on? I already know what’s going on. I want to be peaceful, sit at home and not think about what’s going on—because the world is crazy right now. Pop-ups on your Facebook and all your feeds—it’s always something negative.”

Al Rossi said he’s found some comradery in the local scene.

“Thr3 Strykes are my boys. We work with the same producer, Tariq Beats,” Rossi said. “You can hear similarities working with the same person. I went to school with them, too. I’ve known them for a long time. I like J. Patron and have done a couple of tours with him before. Tiptoe Stallone out of Indio is one of my go-to people. When I’ve had questions about music, he shoots me in the right direction.”

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...