Whilst the drill enthusiasts amongst us are no stranger to the rise of RV towards the helm of UK exports, the roads trudged to get there were by no means a smooth feat. When 2017 saw the release of Drillers x Trappers and of course, the infamous early 2018 hush-hush duologue between Headie One and RV, things were looking up as the impact of drill on the UK forced a wave of new recruits. The advancement of RV was quickly halted however, when in January 2018 he would serve a year-long stretch inside. His release in early 2019 marked the beginning of an onslaught of new music, amongst which were the second instalment of Drillers x Trappers and the Savage EP. Once again however, as the clock turned to 2020, a worldwide pandemic called for a ceasefire from RV. It’s these discontinuous years of struggle which have moulded what we have today. It’s depicted in the mixtape’s artwork. It’s the forming of pieces. Discard of the proverbial bally and what one may deem yet another barbaric and violent drill artist actually becomes a multifaceted, musical mogul in the making. One becomes Rico Vondelle.
“It’s like every time I got the ball rolling, something stopped it. He begins, sitting in the newly built home-studio, a creation of the first UK lockdown. “But I’m still here, I’m still grateful. I’m just hoping for that clean run.” That clean run may no longer be so fleeting. For those familiar with the story, the braggadocious, profuse, calculated and savage RV we see this year is more gripping than the years prior. “I was in a different headspace, but I feel like now, apart from obviously personal life and fatherhood, music is my main thing. It’s a career now rather than a hobby…” Expanding on the influence of fatherhood… “It’s changed the way I think and plan a lot.. I’ve always planned the future for myself, but now it’s for myself and my son. I just wanna keep working and build a legacy to pass down.”
The shift in mentality is then perhaps not one of direction, but more so of depth. RV can be said to have led a route of independence and long-term orientation amongst those emerging from the UK drill scene. “It’s easy to get caught up chasing the bag, on short term positions. Whereas I think more about the long-term future now. I don’t know how long my career is gonna last for.” It’s a stance he’s always taken and a learning-curve for all those faced with similar choices. “Coming from my background, where and how I grew up, I wasn’t used to industry relationships…” speaking on the difference of perspectives he now takes on the music industry as a whole. “It was very weird to me. I used to take things personally, but now I realise, it’s just business. So the way I approach situations and deal with certain things has changed along the way. I feel like everyone is still learning. Even those that have been here for years. Things change every day.”
The conversation of ownership is no-longer taboo. In fact, it’s swiftly becoming the topic, particularly amongst our scene. Knowledge and understanding of the importance of ownership and trajectory is, along with his musical peers, something RV considers omnisciently, delving into the discussion of majors versus independant. “I battle that question all the time. They can help me with certain things. Certain deals I turn down. I wouldn’t say I have any regrets, but if I went back in time, maybe I would or wouldn’t have taken a particular deal. You win some you lose some. Something that may be good for you at that time may not be good for you further down the line.”
“If the independent route is done well and it works for you, in the long run it makes sense. But there’s no point tryna force it if it doesn’t work. 10% of something is better than 100% of nothing…”
Expectedly, with a shift in mentality comes the shift in output, and such can be said for ‘Rico Vondelle’ a soon-to-be quintessential landmark in RV’s already extensive catalogue of work. Why? It should be considered his first true full-length solo-project. Dubbed a mixtape, the 15-tracks truly demonstrate what a lot of so-called ‘drill artists’ are exuding, versatility. From the transformative introspection of the intro ‘Look At Me’ to the tongue-in-cheeky story-telling visuals of ‘Steady’ or the reinforced monorhyme scheme sprayed across the Honeywoodsix drill instrumental of ‘GIFTED’, the project truly speaks for more than aggressive shellings. “The concept behind the tape was showing my musical ability. The different types of songs are different parts of my character. I’ve changed since 2017. I wanna show my personal and musical growth.” Ever the mogul-minded, he is of course intrigued to absorb his listeners reactions to this new found music. “I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. It’s a test for myself and my fans. To find out who’s with me as a person and who’s with a perception of me. Bally me.” The project is also riddled with an unquestionable line-up of features, from fellow OFB members Abra Cadabra (Proper), Headie One (Back To Back) and Frosty (Drip Sensai) to more vocal-leaning artists Ramz (Cost Them), 169 (You + Money) and an incredibly heartfelt vocal performance by 20-year-old singer-songwriter Morgan (Held On).
The road to this project was not an easy one. It has been a treacherous one but not for the want of lessons, which RV imparts as we wrapped up our conversation. ”Don’t focus on the present, focus on the future. Don’t focus on where you’re at, focus on where you wanna be and what you wanna change, and direct all your energy towards that. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment. I got caught up in the moment and that’s why I ended up going back to jail, but it’s like now, my personal growth, all those things that I woulda put my freedom and life on the line for, I don’t even care about anymore.” Having made over 40 tracks for the project, the work ethic is as evident as the mission for RV. “Never going back. Making my family happy and proud. Building a legacy for my son.”
Listen to the full RV AAA Pass interview below and the brand new mixtape ‘Rico Vondelle‘