Josh Mallett (aka RIP), has been making music for the past 17 years. In that time he has aspired to become a well known local DJ, producer and filmmaker. His passion for music and video production can easily be measured by the amount of energy and focus he puts into every project. He is canny in his decision making when it comes to producing big sounding records with cinema quality music videos on a limited budget. Of course, he would tell you that his friends and family are the real reason he has achieved what he has. Not only because they (and God) inspire him to make the music he does, but also because they often play significant roles in his songs and videos.
We sat down with Josh and spoke to him about his upcoming album, Trinity, set to be released on May 19th, 2017. It’s coincidentally the third album in a series of releases which have spanned from 2010 until now, the previous albums titled, Fashionably Late and Sellout.
In addition, we talk a bit about the music industry and get the scoop on his coming of age story, a testament to the evolution of a striving artist who started from the ground up.
Josh Rip, originally based out of Northern Chicago, has now been a Madison-based artist for a number of years. Since his arrival he has managed to win five Madison Hip Hop Awards, an achievement very few can say they have accomplished. His last two albums were huge successes in the Madison hip hop community, and no doubt the third will be as well.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
J: So we are chilling in the studio with Josh Rip.
R: What’s going on?
J: It’s going pretty good. How are you?
R: Excellent man!
J: So, when and where did you start making music?
R: Man, this is throwing it back. This is going to date me, but I started making music in the 90’s in my bedroom. I had started DJing at 14 years old back home in Waukegan, Illinois.
J: What type of music gear did you start with?
Sammie, Josh’s cat just jumped up on Josh’s lap.
R: Welcome, cat, Sammie. *chuckles*
J: That is a really cool cat. Is she a tortoiseshell?
R: I’m not really sure.
J: She looks like a tortoiseshell. They have a lot of personality.
R: She loves attention, that’s for sure!
J: So, anyway. Back to the question. What type of music gear did you start with?
R: I started with a Radio Shack mixer, turntable, cassette player and CD player. I would record music on my computer before digital work stations like FL Studio were popular. This was back when Cool Edit Pro existed, which is now Adobe Audition. I would record instrumentals through my analog mixer into a program called N-Track Studio. That was when I got my first taste of really being able to record stuff digitally. I was 14 then and couldn’t afford to go to a recording studio… and then I got into producing with FL Studio right around 2001-2002. It was called Fruity Loops at the time.
J: What gear do you use today?
R: I have a home studio in my basement. I have a TASCAM 8-track digital audio workstation and a MIDI controller. I use a lot of software. I have a couple racks and a compressor for my vocals. It’s pretty much all software though. I use Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe Audition, After Effects and Premier. And I still rock FL Studio.
J: So I see you have a platinum record on your wall. What is that for?
R: It’s a certification for Twista’s Kamikaze album. Back in the early 2000’s I created a website for Twista which later became his official website. I had been making my own websites on sites like Angelfire since the late 90’s and started my own official website rip-records.com in March of 2000. Being from Chicago, Twista was one of my major influences but he didn’t have a fan page back then, so I built one for fun and that hobby kind of turned into something. The website was going strong with hundreds of thousands of views per month during the time when Twista was in between labels. The site helped his career by showing Atlantic Records that he had a huge core following, and because of that, they gave me a platinum plaque.
J: That’s awesome! So what projects are you currently working on?
R: My current project is called, Trinity. It’s my third studio album, hence the name, but there are other reasons for that too. It’s a new direction, a new phase in my life. Sellout was released 5 years ago and in that time I grew a lot. I matured and came to a point where my new music was leaning on my faith. I wouldn’t put the album in a box calling it Christian hip hop though. I think it’s got its own lane.
J: How is this new project different from previous records you’ve made?
R: Like I said, this album is more faith based. It deals with my struggles and addictions, issues with my family. I wouldn’t say it has a darker vibe to it but it’s more vulnerable. On my last two albums I took a more commercial approach. They were feel good albums. I geared them toward radio play. This new album is me, the real me. This is who I am and you can’t use it against me. I put all my faults out there for the world, to let people know I am still accepted by God despite my flaws. That is the message I am trying to convey on the album.
J: What makes this project stand out from the other records you have made?
R: What makes this album special to me personally is I feel God really had his hand on this album, especially lyrically. There were some lyrics where I thought wow, this is something I never could have come up with on my own. Everyone has their own beliefs. I believe our talents were given to us by God.
J: What artists did you work with on your latest project?
R: The artists I worked with on this album were artists I have worked with on previous projects. My guy Billy, aka Sincere, I worked with him on my last album. He is a real talented dude. My homie, ANT da Hopeboy, he blessed me with some vocals. He and I actually won collaboration of the year in 2013 at the Madison Hip Hop Awards. A new vocalist I featured on this album was Katie Scullen. I actually had recorded something with her for my last album but the song didn’t make the cut. I love her voice. She has a distinct soulful voice. She has a passion. Even when we shot the video for the single she came out and got her feet dirty out in the swampy grass. She is an artist in every form.
J: Who are your musical influences?
R: Early on, early 90’s I listened to a lot of Chicago rap, artists like Twista, Crucial Conflict and Do or Die, but also Warren G and Dr. Dre. And then I got out of that phase and I started becoming influenced by everything. I became more influenced by pop culture and even country music.
J: How do you connect with your fan base?
R: Through social media and live shows mostly. I get a lot of response on Facebook. I also love to perform live. My CD release party will be held at Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub, Wednesday May 17th, 2017. I will also be performing May 27th, 2017 at Brat Fest. I love my supporters though. I don’t even like the word fan because that just sounds like we are on two different levels. One of my favorite lyrics is that “I was given a platform but never a pedestal.” I don’t like being put on that level where people feel like they can’t reach out to me.
J: I totally agree. So how do you feel about the music industry?
R: Bittersweet. We are in a different era from when I started making music. I feel like the industry is over-saturated. Anybody can record music or film a video and put it on YouTube and consider themselves an artist, which is great, but it’s also a double-edged sword. It’s harder to get music on blogs. It’s harder to get noticed. At the same time there are a lot of self made musicians who are making it without a record label. Back in the day you needed a record label to help get your music out. Today, if you can get an organic following of supporters you might not need a record label because you have so many supporters and so much muscle already behind you.
J: Do you feel the digital age has helped or hurt artists sell albums?
R: I feel like the digital age has helped and hurt. I read somewhere that they are really starting to crack down on piracy, which I feel is a good thing. It seems like people are starting to accept paying for music online. At first they didn’t want to, but now it seems people are coming around… I believe digital is the future though. I knew that back before mp3’s were even popular. I was already streaming music from my website in the late 90’s. It’s a good thing. It gives people a platform to promote their music and get recognized across the world. Traditionally, I wouldn’t have been able to get my music out to people from other countries very easily.
J: Would you be upset if people pirated your music?
R: My music has been pirated. Fashionably Late, I think I’ve seen it on the Pirate Bay. I wouldn’t be upset. I see it like people want my music and they will get it by any means necessary. I appreciate it. At the end of the day, people who are going to buy music will buy it, and people who are going to pirate it will pirate it. There is no stopping it, but I prefer people purchase my music since it helps me continue doing what I am doing.
J: In what formats do you release your music?
R: I typically release my music in two formats, on CD and digitally (iTunes, Spotify etc.). When I released Fashionably Late in 2010, I thought that would be the last CD I ever pressed up, but the funny thing is I’m still pressing up CD’s. I like to have a hard copy.
J: Do you feel physical media is still relevant?
R: Physical media is still important. You get things with it you don’t get with digital media. Interacting with fans and giving them something personal that they can take with them is important. I remember buying Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme on cassette which had a booklet of pictures and all the lyrics, and for some reason I really liked that. Being an aspiring rapper, I wanted to get to know the artist. When you search for lyrics online they are often wrong. So having something official from the artist is a good thing, credits, who produced what tracks, I love that. It’s an art form in and of itself.
J: How do you feel about streaming services like Spotify?
R: It’s the future. It’s what people are using to listen to music. Trinity has been distributed on Spotify as well as my last two albums. I am open to having my album on all platforms, whether they pay full price on iTunes or stream through services like Spotify where I get pennies on the dollar per stream, if that, or whether people pirate it, as long as my music is getting out there that’s all that matters to me honestly. This latest album especially is not about the money. This album is about evangelizing and ministry. God has blessed me with the things he has and so the money I make is a blessing from God from Him. He will take care of me.
J: How do you finance the production of your album and your videos then?
R: I pour a lot of my own personal money into my music, income I make DJing and producing videos for other people on the side. My music career is not funding itself. But even if I made a million dollars I would put 60% of that back into the music. It’s a never ending investment. You have to invest in yourself. I feel that is why people have taken me seriously for this long because I am constantly investing in myself. I cut a lot of costs by producing my own videos, recording my own music. I am a very frugal guy not just in my music career but in my personal life. I cut out middlemen and get the best prices I can on resources. But it still gets expensive. You have to pay for help, for visual effects, sub contractors etc. There are a lot of talented people out there but they are not going anywhere because they don’t invest in themselves.
J: Your music videos look amazing by the way. What gear do you use to make them?
R: I shot on a Canon T2i for a couple of years which was a DSLR. Then I upgraded to a Panasonic GH4 which was a DSLM. It was mirrorless, so it wasn’t a DSLR, but it was a camera. And then I just recently upgraded to a film camera, the Black Magic Ursa Mini 4.6k which was a big step for me, but it was something I needed to get to take things to the next level.
J: When and where can we purchase your next album?
R: Trinity will be available on my website, whoisrip.com. You will be able to order the CD from there. The CD is great. It has a booklet with all of the lyrics to the songs as well as a bunch of pictures. It will also be available at all digital retailers.
J: Anything else you want the readers to know?
R: I want to thank everyone for reading. I want to thank Murfie for interviewing me. I want to thank everyone who helped out with my album. My homie, Memory, lent me some dope production. He is a great guitarist and producer. I recommend him to everyone. DJ Pain 1 lent some percussive production on the album. Katie Scullen, ANT and my homie Sincere, you guys are awesome. I appreciate all the supporters who are still rocking with me with this new album, new sound and new direction. I love you guys.
Listen to the full RIP interview on Audiomack:
Check out more of Rip’s latest music videos from his upcoming album Trinity:
Music by RIP