Li Rye; The Energy Boost of Mobile

Li Rye has an uncanny ability to share raw pain in a multitude of ways. Hailing from Mobile, Alabama, there is a dark misconception of what that city is recognized as. It is not “farms and cowboys” in that city like one might think, it’s riddled with crime and danger. While it was proven incorrect that Mobile was the second most dangerous city in America, there isn’t much hope to inspire the youth. Rye knows first-hand that there isn’t a role model he can look to when chasing his dreams of rapping at the highest level. All he has is himself to work with in terms of motivation. He knew there was a gift from the moment he got in front of a microphone.

The journey was started in 2021, dropping his debut EP Emotional Demon which started the notoriety. Fast-track through 2022 after dropping two more projects Punch In and One Take and suddenly he was recognized by an Atlanta hip-hop legend Gucci Mane. His new deal with 1017 label perfectly fit into what role he is filling in the hip-hop space. Rye’s unfiltered bars and croons bring authenticity to a game that appears to be lacking in. But looking through his lens, it’s an outlet to share a story of a young man dealing with life in a stark city. There is a small margin for failure and he is hellbent on making a new life for himself. That’s why each track on this project feels like it’s his only opportunity to make an impression. 

Throughout the three iterations of his newest project, Go Li Rye, there’s multiple iterations showcasing his undeniable talent. There is the willful, animated character and breakneck-speed in flow that he performs on “ABC’s.” You truly believe he has demonic powers when you hear his possessed voice. He can make a switch at the drop of hat into a whole ballad of harmonies as well. His heartfelt belches on “Missing” of asking God why he has to suffer and praying to have a better life in general are jaw dropping. While everyone may think of him in only one light, he wants to interject his real emotions on the canvas.

Fresh off his debut album, we caught up with Li Rye to discuss growing up in Mobile, Alabama, signing to 1017 & the creative process of his three-part project Go Li Rye.

You just dropped your third iteration of your debut album, how different does it feel from dropping a few singles and focusing on a whole project?

It’s really just all in the process. You have to sit there and focus on the order and what flows from the third song into the fourth song. You know? You don’t want it sounding too off. It just has to all go together.

What is your process though? Because it seems like you go full throttle when making every track. You bring so much energy into these songs, no matter if it’s aggressive or emotional. So what is the studio process for you?

I have to bring my inspiration with me at all times. Other than that, shit I don’t know. It just comes out easily. I don’t write at all, it all comes off the head. It just flows. All I need is one line, once I start that line off the next one is right there waiting for me. The song is basically done in my head once I have the first bar. It normally doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to finish a song. Now, before having access to the studio, all I did was write music. But once I started going to the studio, it just all started coming to me.

Now you’re from Mobile, Alabama. I remember you saying in a previous interview there isn’t much to that city to grab inspiration from. So I pose the question, how do you find that inspiration outside of the city?

Yeah I guess for me it’s the thought of “I never seen anybody do shit.” I don’t know a lot of people or anyone for that matter who chases their dreams for real. Especially in terms of rapping and acting where you have to get up and go perform. Everybody seems content and cool with living in Mobile. It’s mostly just me in my head saying this isn’t it for me personally. I want more.

Speaking of, your popularity has been growing at a rapid speed. How have you been able to handle and manage that? I can only assume when you grow up around a place that is pretty slow in general that all of this traction is a lot to deal with.

I’m still trying to for real. I don’t hang around crowds of 30-40 people in my corner. I’m used to going home to six people and having eight friends. So that adjustment is challenging for me, I’m not with having new friends or people in your corner. But you have to in this game. 

Understandable. Do you feel like there was a specific moment where you were able to understand that your life is changing?

When I left Mobile, because before the music I had never experienced anything else other than Mobile. You feel trapped here, so when I went to Cali and New York, those are two places I would have never dreamed of. I felt like I could leave, go to the store and not have my gun on me for real. You can’t go out and check your mailbox without a gun next to you. That’s not an over-exaggeration either. I just lost one of my home boys to gun violence. My other homie lost his cousin to gun violence. This shit will give you PTSD for real. One of the worst holidays for me is the Fourth of July, because when those fireworks are going off, here I am grabbing my gun. I envy the people who never had to live like this.

It’s so crazy to hear that because when I think of Alabama as an East Coast kid…

You think of cowboys and farms, I get it. In Mobile though, it’s like a mini Atlanta. It’s really a city. Shit we might have some suburbs, but this definitely isn’t country out in Mobile. You think of the farm-land and some Alabama football, but Tuscaloosa is an hour or two away. It’s just not the same.

Noted on that for sure. Now you just signed this year with Gucci Mane’s label New 1017. Did you know at any point you were on his radar? Did he reach out prior to signing you? And how did that conversation go?

He told me he had been trying to sign me for a while, but I kept getting my Instagram deleted so it was hard to find me and what I was doing. But we had a heart-to-heart conversation, because he knew how I grew up for real, him being in the same situation as me definitely helped us get this deal done. You know when you speaking with him, you can’t be on that fanboy shit, but in my head I’m sitting there like “what the fuck?” He’s the most famous person I had ever met in my life since we don’t have anybody on that level from where I’m from. Me studying music, I know what his impact does to someone like me. When he posted that video of me signing with him, I gained 50,000 followers in a day I think? So that push he has in hip-hop is for real.

When you said you study hip-hop, it makes me curious as to who is it that really grabbed your attention early on? Who was the inspiration or the blueprint to who Li Rye is today?

Man I’ve been listening to Chief Keef since I was 12 years old for real. I’m 22 now, so that’s a whole decade of hearing his music. You see he just performed at the BET awards? Shit that gave me hope. I feel like I can go next year. Like he was BANNED. He said some wild stuff back in the day like snatching chains and what not. But he was young at the same time, so they were wrong for that. He was only 16-17 years old at the time, but with age came wisdom so I take that from him as well. Being able to really see the growth from early on, it was absolutely inspiring.

Yeah his process of growth was different then everybody else’s for sure. I had previously listened to one of your earlier interviews with Adam22, and he brought up the point of you being a demon. I was curious as to what that means in regards to how you felt about that.

You know that is funny as hell, because for real I’m a nice person honestly. Everybody thinks I’m the murder man. Like I don’t wake up thinking “hmm, who am I going to kill today.” Nah, I wake up and see how the bros are doing. I’ll call my momma, check up on her. I get it though with how my music is, but I care about my people first. 

With your newest album Go Li Rye out now, what are the goals you have set up for yourself in terms of creatively and mentally?

Shit, everything is smooth from here. I didn’t think I’d live past 18 years old. I’ll continue to go up from here, but everything is a blessing right now because I didn’t think I’d get to this age.