From strange days to headline tours, Rittz has found his home in Hip-Hop. Rittz breaks the mold when it comes to the culture. It’s not his complexion, demeanor, or even how his beanie sits atop his signature long, curly-red hair, it’s his ability to capture one of the most diverse fan bases the game has seen. His deal with Strange Music and artistic perseverance has positioned the Atlanta native as a voice of the unheard; he’s a true success story. A time-old tradition where the underdog rises to great heights is indeed his narrative. While his lyrical skill set is top-tier with rapid and precise delivery, it’s his honesty and truth on record that makes his craft relatable, thus ingratiating himself into a pool of fans that come from all different walks of life. His sophomore album, “Next To Nothing” is a coming of age. A reflective insight into what it means to struggle as an artist, defining success, finding it, then adjust accordingly to that success. His records create a sense of unity and cohesion that doesn’t happen overnight, proving his undeniable worth as a true MC. IAR got to catch up with Rittz fresh off of his Slumerican Made Tour with Yelawolf to discuss “Next To Nothing,” tour life, collabing with Mike Posner, and his plans to release his first cookbook. Looks like strange just got stranger.

IAR: Let’s start off with conceptually breaking down your newest album “Next To Nothing.”

Rittz: “The concept of the album was based on where I’m at in my career, how I’ve come so far from where I was, but still having so far to go. Even though I’ve come so far as an underground artists, I’m still close to having next to nothing you know what I’m sayin’? I was just in a space when I was writing it where I was being honest about my situation. You’re only as funky as your last hit. It’s not like I came out and made $100,000 off the album and can just sit around and be cool, I gotta keep going, it never stops. People think you’re on but you’re not really on like they think.”

IAR: Artistically speaking, did the album accomplish what you intended for it?

Rittz: “Yeah yeah. The main thing was to beat the last one. You never wanna let fans down. As long as people aren’t disappointed with the actual music, I think that’s most important. Secondly, you always want your newest project to be more successful than the last one. It did both of those things. I think the fans thought it was better than my first album. It did better sales in the first week. All around it did great, I can’t complain at all.”

IAR: How have you evolved as an artist from your first album “The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant” to “Next To Nothing?”

Rittz: “I’ve evolved in my lifestyle a lot, I’ve toured a lot since then, moved out of my girls mom’s house and got my own place and finally just feeling a little bit of success from the music. I’ve musically evolved just kind of knowing what people expect from me. I’ve just stayed true to who I am. I know what lane I’m in and the type of music I like to make. I also think the songs and overall sound was a little bigger.”

IAR: How do you go about choosing features? Like Mike Posner for example, it seems to be a collab you wouldn’t expect, but sonically, it really works.

Rittz: “My boy Bootleg Kev does radio in Florida and used to do radio in Arizona and introduced me to Mike. (Posner) Kev was playing him some of my music and Mike hit me up on Twitter like, “Yo let’s work.” When I looked into who he was and started listening to his music I was like, “Oh sh*t, he’s dope.” Then when I was in L.A. I went to his house during “The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant” period and I had the record “Always Gon Be.” He just sang the hook off top. He told me he had another record for me and it happened to be “Switch Lanes” I was like “Yo, I can have this?” The chemistry wasn’t forced, it just happened. When it was time to do “Next To Nothing” I reached out to him to see if he had anything for me and he sent me over “Going Through Hell” and “In My Zone” with just the hooks on em. It’s just a good chemistry. He knows what type of music I do and we’re both fans of each other. Hopefully it will keep going because I like the music we make together. He’s crazy talented, he can go a lot of different ways with the music.”

IAR: Describe how the Strange Music brand put you in a space where your music is on a larger platform?

Rittz: “Strange is a great record label. There’s so many things they do really well. One thing they do really great is make sure your album gets in stores, online, etc. There are a lot of artists that get signed to these labels and just kind of sit there waiting for their album to drop. Strange gives you a time when the album is coming out, you get it to them, and they get that sh*t out and promoted. They’re really consistent with that. Strange has just taught me so much about the game man. Just watching how they work. It’s the house that Tech N9ne built off of his music and it’s pretty incredible what it’s turned into. Just having that backing has put me on a huge platform. We’ve had two radio runs with “Switch Lanes” and now “Bounce” and hoping to do it with “In My Zone.” That’s all from the label. They’ve been so supportive. Also, just learning from Tech (N9ne) and touring with him and being exposed to that many people has been crazy. You can’t buy that sh*t.”

IAR: You’re an artists who is always on the road. How does tour life effect you?

Rittz: “For me, it wears me out. You can’t be selfish about it though. Touring is great because everybody that’s been listening to your music gets to look at you, see your personality, get to hear you talk on stage, etc. Whenever you’re a fan of someone and you get to see them in person and watch them do their thing, that’ s always the best part about it. I have trouble just getting used to sleeping again. I’m waking up at 3:30 in the morning not knowing what to do with myself. It’s kind of weird when you still feel like you’re in tour mode because you’ve been on a tour bus for two months, going from the bus to the venue to the hotel. So when you finally get home and try to get back in the groove of sh*t, it’s weird because you’ve been the guy every night for 60 days in a row. Plus we party pretty heavy and I have a tendency to go a little hard.” (Laughs)

IAR: Do you feel you have one of the most divers fan bases in Hip-Hop?

Rittz: (Laughs) “I do man I do. It never really sinks in to me. It sounds cliche’, but I feel so blessed. I know artists that are like “damn man I put out a video and it only got 2,500 views. How do I do this and that?” I never really have any answers for them. I feel like I got lucky when I came out with “White Jesus” when Yelawolf was all over the blogs and all that sh*t and he was on the tape. I started growing my own real fan base after that. It just grew from Yealwolf fans, to Strange fans, my own fans. I’ve got fans in all different types of sh*t. I’ve got fans that hate on other people’s sh*t, it’s just a big mix. I’m grateful to even just have fans. I feel weird saying the word. It’s just crazy man. It’s weird people pay to come out and see me. It’s the greatest feeling ever. “Next To Nothing” reflects that. I’ve achieved so much but sometimes the financial side doesn’t coincide with what you see out there in the crowd.”

IAR: What’s next from Rittz?

Rittz: “I don’t know man. To be honest I’ve been touring so much I haven’t had time to think about what the next move is. I’m steady collecting beats always, looking for that next sound. I don’t know what the new year is going to have for me. I do have another tour starting up in March with Kxng Crooked (Crooked I), so that’s gonna be fu*kin’ crazy. Touring with him is a big deal. This will be my fourth headlining tour. I’m also working on a cookbook too. I’m a big food head so hopefully I can get that together and see what happens with it.”

Follow On Twitter @therealRITTZ