Rogizz VS Black Blago: Conversation with a Schizo
I believe I spent the majority of time during this interview speaking to Rogizz of Gizz Ent., and I say this because I was getting an in depth look into the mind of an artistically inclined, legitimate schizophrenic emcee. The other half of Rogizz’s split personality, by the name of Black Blago, was on hiatus for the afternoon. Rogizz did his best to compare and contrast certain points of emphasis which demonstrate an obvious difference between him and his equally complex counterpart in everyday life. It can make for an interesting blend of experiences to live through and learn from, and then translate life into lyrics. Through Rogizz / Black Blago’s music career he took the initiative to leave his native Chicago to expand professionally and has experienced some of it all throughout the Midwest, out West, to the East and even down South. With his travels come numerous stories about outrageous memories and music made to immortalize one of Chicago’s very own, Rogizz / Black Blago. Continue on and see what makes this unique emcee the “people” he’s grown to be and the “people” you should know and learn from.
Let’s take it back to when you first started listening to music. Now after all the emcees that came before you, who was that one voice you heard that made you pursue emceeing on a serious note?
Rogizz: I’d have to say Ice-T. One of the first albums I bought growing up was Ice-T’s “Power”. How he portrayed his life was real cool to me.
Anybody in your family with a musical background?
Rogizz: No, not really. Actually, my family is composed of a lot of intelligent people in the academic field. My father was a college professor and my mother is educated in her own right. I would say that my father would always feed my mind poetry, so I think I showed a lot of talent for poetry at a young age.
We all know that rap lyrics are essentially poetry so tell us what it is about poetry that intrigues you?
Rogizz: I think there’s poetry in everything. With music, you can have a rhythm that you write to in your mind and you know what type of beat will fit it. Plus, poetry is something people like to hear. They like to hear a rhyme. If you do it and evoke a certain feeling out of others when you rhyme, it’s a great feeling.
What emotion or thoughts are you trying to bring about in the minds and hearts of your listeners?
Rogizz: I’m trying to get you to think about different aspects of life. Real touchy subjects, a lot of which concern the under-dog and people who are going through struggles and can relate. Sometimes it really feels like life is out of that person’s control. Sometimes the emotion from a depression causes you to drink and/or smoke and do things to try dealing with it, but we’re only making it worse. I want you to get a vivid picture inside the mind of the average person. I try to touch on subjects of inequality. One of the things about this world; this has to do with pimping. I’m not referring to pimping in its literal sense. I see it in corporations in the way they do their work. I see it in government with paybacks and favors used to make business happen, and how you can do business in a legitimate way to benefit you financially.
When you say “Chuuuch”, explain the essence of the term.
Rogizz: First person I heard using it was Bishop Magic Don Juan. He’s a famous player, pimp, man of the evening. You know, one thing about him is he always has those nice words and dresses nice. Seeing that he was involved in the church, the term “Chuuuch” became part of his vernacular. I think we all got it a bit from him, from GLC to Cold Hard to the other artists who say Chuuuch, or Tabernacle, or Preach. It’s almost like saying, “Yeah man, that’s what it is. Right on.”
You mention being from the Chicago area. What part of the Windy City did you grow up in and how did it make you the man you’ve become?
Rogizz: There’s a suburb outside of Chicago’s Westside called Maywood, home of Fred Hampton and many other influential people in sports and society. Maywood is an urban area and is considered a suburb. I compare it to Inglewood, CA., which is looked at as a suburb, but still has a lot of the same violence occurring. I got more into athletics. Thank God! I think the difference was that I had an active father in my life who wanted to see me involved in sports. Some of the friends I had growing up might have had issues due to not having a father figure, or role model there to kind of guide their moves.
What’s one of your best memories as a child?
Rogizz: Good question. Most of my better memories came from success. Hitting the winning shot. I recall when I was in high school and we were down 5-6 points. I hit a shot, stole the inbounds pass and hit a three to tie the game and go into overtime. Hit a few key shots in overtime to help us win. That was a very good memory; something I’ll definitely remember. Any kind of success when you’re playing athletics leads to a natural high.
If you ever set foot in the political arena, what would be your #1 objective?
Rogizz: It would be prison reform. Change laws and policy so that we can take these people coming out of jail and offer them some kind of future opportunity. There is such a thing as “paying your debt to society”. (Reference to the disenfranchised) There might be decisions made that are irrational at a younger age that involve doing some prison time, but after you get out, you can’t find a job. The Scarlet Letter is going to follow you in life and it continues the cycle of bringing you back to jail because you don’t know what to do to feed yourself, or God willing if you have a family to feed too. I think a lot of our reckless decisions come from panic and I think that panic is created by a lack of opportunity. The way we deal with that is to put our energy into other things that might only make our circumstances worse than before.
What’s your perspective on the city of Chicago cutting anti-violence community programs in the middle of a heated and violent summer?
Rogizz: It’s foolish. You’re not going to stop gangs, or stop the creation of gangs. The world was built off gangs. They’ll exist as long as kids want to be a part of something. Both parents have to be on the same accord when raising the children. I have a song on my album, “Interview with a Schizo” called “Divide” and I think it’s a good explanation as to the fact that we don’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’ve been mentally adjusted to think and believe what’s going on is a natural occurrence. We need people in office that actually care. It’s not a budget issue with the city. There are too many people dying already. Chicago’s the “murder capital” of the world and unfortunately gang violence is killing off most of those people dying.
If you were to do anything in the name of philanthropy, what would it be?
Rogizz: Teach the kids. I want to set up something non-profit where I can restructure what’s considered a normal school day. Expand the student’s minds and have them learn things they haven’t yet been exposed to. You know, the average kid can’t open up the newspaper and read the stock market and understand what the numbers mean. It’s almost like it’s foreign to them. With repetition you can get good at anything as you become interested in it. Instead of looking at urban communities like we can’t do well at math, ect…, let’s create a system where we can. If we don’t have gym class then we should have 30 minutes where a teacher stays with them because a lot of them might be walking around with some anger inside where they need a quiet moment, or to just let it out! I think anything can be trained behavior.
Describe a major adversity you faced, how you overcame it and what you learned from it?
Rogizz: It would be my first situation dealing with a major. My associates and I were doing a deal with Dreamworks and I didn’t have good management at the time, nor did I have a good team around me. There were a lot of ‘things’ going on and we got dropped from the label. I had to work at restructuring what I was doing. One thing I learned was that you can do anything and you just have to establish more control over your brand. Don’t be the person always wanting someone else to do something for you. That type of person wants to be lazy and not put themselves in a position where they have to work harder. That person might have the talent to be better than the person they’re asking to do all their work. I do my own videos and that’s no disrespect to the other videographers out there who came from schools like Columbia College, or some other well-known film schools, but I have to believe in the vision I’m trying to get across.
So you have this concept of using 2 names, Rogizz and Black Blago. Tell us where that idea came from.
Rogizz: I was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and Black Blago is a manifestation of what I think the world should be. He’s the total opposite of me. I’ll wake up and have black outs and become Black Blago. He’s bad, really bad. Sometimes I’ll wake up with a lot of money around me and not know where it came from. If I’m trying to get an album done then I’ll let him do his part. The people on my team are good about catching me before I go into another episode. He’s making it difficult on what I’m trying to do because he’s so negative and doesn’t care about anything other than women and money. He’s obnoxious and has a lot of sex, so I hope he’s doing it safely because I really don’t need any of that drama in my life. Black Blago is more of a pimp. That’s probably something I’ll never be able to get away from until I take control over whatever’s going on in my journey.
You’ve described Black Blago, but who is Rogizz?
Rogizz: Rogizz is cool, calm and collected. He’s really trying to be a positive person. I’m also into the women, but the more I love a woman, the more likely it is that I put myself in a situation where I can get taken advantage of. There have been times in my life when I’ve been harsher and took control. I’ve tried to be him, but that just doesn’t work for me. A woman is God’s greatest creation and I write a lot of poetry about them. They’re the backbone of the household.
Describe your style of music; your flow, image and production.
Rogizz: I’m a poet. I feel like I have the voice that can get people to look at life in a more positive way. I love women and that’s what triggers episodes with Black Blago. I’ve been in situations where I’m so in love with a woman and she doesn’t love me back. She ends up playing me. I’ve been in a lot of situations because of my kindness and my other personality (Black Blago) doesn’t really like that. I’m straight forward and clean cut. I rap about love, the under-dog, inequalities, ect… Blago is a political type of pimp who is easy to get aroused and always tries to be funny. He likes that Trap Music production and raps about money and women.
How did the group WorldFame come about?
Rogizz: WorldFame was when I was fresh out of my deal (with Dreamworks). It was a point when my sound had an Atlanta influence in it and also a bit of East Coast mixed in. We came up with the name from a famous block in L.A. It’s me, my homie Pask-1, Al Dog and Flake the Great.
What’s the main difference between the Chicago music scene and Miami / Atlanta?
Rogizz: In Chicago, they need more people supporting the up and coming artists and not just the established names. Going to Miami or Atlanta as an out of town artist from Chicago has its benefits because those people from down south are exposed to you for the first time. When you perform in your hometown and rock a few shows they become familiar with you and under-value you. You really have to move around as much as possible. Change your performance to bring it to another level. Don’t just walk back and forth on stage and put more into it, even if you need to use dancers. It’s all about the live show. Miami has more of a strip club market, as does Atlanta. I think you have to know your brand and perfect it. You’ll make mistakes chasing success especially in the beginning, but you shouldn’t give up and you’ll get where you want to go.
What’s your most memorable show?
Rogizz: I know Black Blago would mention a Bikini and Baller show a while back in Chicago. There were a lot of women / models competing for magazine spots. Rogizz would tell you about a show in Richmond, VA. That was a great crowd. Then there’s the show with Currency at the Metro in Chicago. The fans were really into that one.
What do you feel is the biggest roadblock for any artist coming up out of Chicago?
Rogizz: Haters. You have to believe in yourself, have tunnel vision, be creative, out-work and out-organize the competition. Kanye West is one of the greatest artists / producers of all-time, but he had to work to get out of the situation his was originally in.
What’s the best move you’ve made professionally so far?
Rogizz: That would be taking control of being an independent artist and moving around and not allowing myself to be confined to just Chicago. By doing that, I have business comrades who can benefit from what I’m trying to do. In music you’re always supposed to have loyalty and love for where you come from and it’s important that you love what you’re doing.
Rogizz: Success is happiness and having peace inside you. Know who you are and love who you are. Working towards goals and enjoying the feat of reaching them. Focus on the positive aspects of life. One thing about it; if you get too deep into the culture of drinking and smoking and eating all the wrong foods, you’ll get into a pattern of stress and that is anti-successful. It’s best to do something you like such as playing some basketball, going golfing, or maybe even loving a woman and going to a museum and taking a walk. If you have a child then enjoy doing something they enjoy doing instead of being like ‘I can’t wait until tonight so I can go out with the guys, have some drinks and get away from these kids that are bothering me.’
Where in the world have you not traveled to that you’d like to eventually explore?
Rogizz: I would love to go to France. I think they have a beautiful landscape and love for music. It’s the cultural experience of it all. England too. London would be a good spot. That’ll happen closer to this winter.
Would you ever go back to artist management?
Rogizz: I…would…not, and the reason for this is that I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak, but a lot of times when you’re working with an artist the timing with the schedules don’t fit. It’s hard for me to deal with the egos. Things can be amplified when you’re dealing with a more prominent name in the game, but generally there’s a lot that goes into it so I try to stay away from it. Artists can manage themselves.
Describe the transition from Dreamworks to starting up Gizz Ent.?
Rogizz: It was when I was working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Hollywood. I would come across a lot of the people that were going to studios to make music. I made a lot of connections. Money was getting short and things were getting a bit crazy because the way the deal was and what was happening to the funds. It’s about meeting the right people who put on shows. When I was enrolled at Howard University in D.C. a friend of mine was in Florida at the time, so I chose to move to Miami and make Gizz Ent. official.
What’s your rapport with Pask-1?
Rogizz: Oh man, that’s my homie! He’s a dope lyricist. We can go back and forth, bar for bar. We push each other. It’s a great thing when we motivate each other word for word. When we record, we’ll do like 4 to 5 songs a day. There’s a great chemistry.
What would you change first about the rap music that’s marketed today?
Rogizz: There would be more of a balance. I’m not hearing enough thought provoking lyrics. You can listen to Talib Kweli and Mos Def (the 2 members of BlackStar) and hear something meaningful there. People / consumers are more caught up in the musicality of it all, the music behind the lyric. There are a lot of great artists who don’t just talk about, ‘I’ll shoot the club up’ or ‘I make it rain more than you’. A lot of it is really guiding the kids and that’s my thing because if you’re going to provide a message to the kids through the media then make sure it’s balanced. No disrespect to Gucci Mane, but listen to the song “Wasted”. It’s crazy when you wake up around someone who has a cup in their hand and they say they’re ‘living the song’. It’s like you’re already drunk from the night before and you’ve got a bottle ready to get drunk first thing in the morning. You wake up with a hangover and nothing positive comes up out of that situation. I’d like to see more artists talk about social issues that matter more; the unseen and unspoken topics that need more exposure. You have things like conspiracies, the government, and the war on drugs, ect... (Rogizz laughs) They just want you to buy their drugs.
If you planted a seed today for the future, where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Rogizz: I don’t see myself as an artist that much. I see myself doing dedication projects. I want to be seen as a leader who helps the kids that are more into the drugs and gangs. Something along the lines of a boys and girls club. I can see that happening. I just have to stay creative, maybe even write a book. A new love of mine is writing screenplays about topics often overlooked by the people. It’s a very visual world today so I’d try and make the most of that. On my bucket list is doing a 5 minute stand-up routine at a comedy show. People say I look like Dave Chappelle anyway, so I’ve got to try it once.
Any last comments?
Rogizz: Shout to you, Bill. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be interviewed and shout out to Kelby Cannick of Makin’ It Magazine. I appreciate it!
Article written by: Bill Oxford