In all the years Kee Riche$ has lived at his Compton home just off Rosecrans Avenue, his block hasn’t changed much. The houses are the same, and for the most part the people living inside of them have also remained constant; a few homies his own age, but most of them much older. Soon after we meet to talk about life in the neighborhood and how it ties into his upcoming Raised Off Rosecrans project, he runs over to greet his next door neighbor, conversing with her for a minute before returning.
“That’s the neighbor I used to have beef with,” he later reveals in a hushed voice. “I used to play basketball and the ball would go in her yard and fuck up her flowers, that type of shit. She’d be hot.”
Kee’s collected many such memories since moving into the house at the age of three. Walking through the neighborhood, he vividly recalls the milestones in his coming of age journey, the passion evident in his voice as he talks.
“I remember walking on Rosecrans all the way down to Tam’s at 11, 12 at night, scared than a motherfucker when I was younger,” he says. “My granny used to stay down there, you go straight down Tajuata all the way to Magnolia. I learned how to drive on these streets too, I did everything here. Everything in my life was on this street.”
Of course, “everything” also includes the dark moments he’s witnessed and the obstacles he’s had to overcome thus far. He remembers seeing his first shootout at the age of 6, after an argument on the street outside his house quickly turned deadly. “We were looking outside through the screen door, laying low trying to peep the scene, my parents had gone outside wondering what was going on. And then out of nowhere, all you could see was niggas busting -- ‘boom, boom, boom,’” he says. “My parents were trying to get us to go to the back, and the whole time, all you could hear was ‘boom, boom, boom.”
“A lot of shit just had to do with death, on God. That Tam’s right there and the Louisiana’s too, it used to be bodies racking up there weekly. I didn’t have a lot going for me in this house. The positivity about it is that I made it, I wasn’t one of those niggas. I sat in that garage by myself for a long time, just thinking, ‘I gotta get out. I ain’t trying to do this shit.’” He pauses to let an ice cream truck pass by, slowly rolling down the street while the theme song to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” blasted from it’s speakers. “All type of shit done happened out here,” he confesses.
Now he’s wrapping that entire journey into his next album, aptly titled Raised Off Rosecrans. It’s far from his first project, but Kee maintains it will sound like a truer introduction to himself, thanks to the increased freedom he enjoyed throughout the project’s creation.
“Get Rich and Get Rich 2, I was under management,” he says. “This one, it’s whatever I wanted to do, however I wanted to do it, whenever I wanted to do it. So I feel like this tape is more an expression of myself, I tapped into a deeper mode with this project.”
There’s a wide range of moods on Raised Off Rosecrans, but an unmistakably West Coast sound links the project together from start to finish. Whether he’s rapping on songs made for the club or spilling his demons over menacing instrumentals, that constant atmosphere keeps it true to the city he hopes to honor. As essential as the album was to himself, he’s aware of what it could it mean to others in Compton, influencing how he packaged the project to allow for as much relatability as possible.
“Even with the cover, a lot of people were telling me to use pictures of myself but it was like ‘nah, this project is bigger than me,’” he says. “At this point, now that I’m going with that theme, I just wanted it to be a blank slate, so people can make what they want about it. I just want to bring light to the community.”
For him, uplifting the community goes beyond just the music; Kee recognizes what needs to be done to bring about change on a wider scale. He’s focused on strengthening those bonds within the neighborhood, allowing for the brighter side of the city to shine at its utmost potential.
“We really need to speak on a higher level for ourselves,” he says. “Going into the Compton community and all the meetings, talking to the sheriffs, really getting involved. There’s some shit that I’m doing with Hub City radio, he’s real plugged in with the sheriffs, all of his events are at the sheriff’s station. It’s those events that get you plugged in with your city; it’s not always a bad light, we just have to get more into it.”
When it comes to the music, however, he’s just as quick to reach out to those around him and make them a part of his vision. Midway through our conversation, his manager Eric pulls up outside of Kee’s house in all black car, and the rapper doesn’t hesitate to give him credit for what he’s done for his career thus far.
“That’s my second in command right here,” he says proudly, while Eric’s stoic figure stands emotionless beside him. “While I’m doing all the rapping, he’s handling everything else, the clothing and all that. We go back like two years, but as far as pushing the brand goes, since the end of last year. I saw the hunger in him, so I reached out and that’s how we built what we have now.”
There’s been ups and downs on the path to their current position, but the team has pushed through and kept their determination the whole way. Kee’s seen his own growth as he’s maneuvered through the scene, and now he’s looking to make the most of his moment with Raised Off Rosecrans.
“I’ve been waiting for the time, and as soon as I started formulating the project, I was like, ‘I got something,’” he says. “The timing is perfect. Everybody in LA is stepping up on their shit, so now it’s time to step up on my shit.”