By Jake Krzeczowski October 19, 2012 5:34PM
Originally appeared for Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: October 19, 2012 7:37PM
Chicago is quickly establishing itself as the nirvana for rising hip-hop artists.
Over the past year or so Chicago has found itself firmly on the front page of hip-hop with a slew of new artists putting the city on the map, causing one music exec to compare it to Seattle’s grunge scene in the ’90s.
The latest to emerge from the Second City’s streets is Donald Pullen, a k a Rockie Fresh. He earned his stage name during lunch time freestyle battles at Homewood-Flossmor High School and recently inked a deal with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group.
On Saturday, Fresh, 21, returns home to play to Metro on his Electric Highway tour.
“The first concert I ever went to was Chester French and Hollywood Holt at the Metro,” Fresh said. “I always dreamed of filling it out, so the opportunity to do that is pretty cool and I kind of went all out for it.”
When he says all out, he’s not joking.
Opening for Rockie Fresh at the Metro is fellow Chicagoan and Epic Records signee King Louie, as well as up-and-comer Casey Veggies.
He carved a niche in the hip-hop world by incorporating different influences from outside it. He has worked on projects with Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte, Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, sampled electronic duo SBTRKT on his last mixtape “Driving 88 and wants to work with John Mayer.
When asked about his wide range of influences, Rockie says it’s just who he is.
“The thing is that the [alternative influence] is really just what I like,” Fresh said. “It’s just the aspect of the music I appreciated before I started to rap. I feel like it’s all a part of my sound and it’s something I value a lot.”
Chicago hip-hop has been in the news lately for negative reasons, often tied to the violence that has plagued the city this year..
While he is conscious of the problems, Fresh doesn’t feel the burden lies with the hip-hop artists coming out of the city.
“I feel like there’s a lot more positive aspects that could be highlighted and highlighting the negatives acts as promotion,” said Fresh. “I feel as though I lead by example.”
Expect Fresh to continue his example as his first release, Electric Highway, his first release under Maybach Music, and continues to extend his place in the world of hip-hop in and out of his hometown.
“Chicago means a lot to me because it’s where my family, friends and inspiration come from. It’s good to be back,” Fresh said. “I plan to keep making music; it’s going to be a great ride.”
Jake Krzeczowski is a local free-lance writer.