Written by Thomas Herron
Q&A: Rilla Force on his debut, Fiesta, and more
For Roxbury native and Boston-based artist Rilla Force, it all started back during the era of Krump music, in a local Boys and Girls Club’s community studio.
Diving into more traditional-style production in his early days, Rilla’s sound has evolved into its own eclectic sub-genre, which he coined “RNBDM.”
Drawing influence from artists like T-Pain, Flying Lotus, Timbaland and Kanye West as well as electronic artist Sam Gellaitry, and eventually South American music after some exposure through soundcloud, Rilla’s sound combines elements of hip hop, R&B and EDM, among many others, to create the signature we hear on his debut album, Fiesta.
The 28-year-old quit his job in 2017 after getting his first check from his 2016 EP, RNBDM, deciding it was time to go all in. Fiesta is the culmination of two years of work since Rilla went head on into his music career, and the work shows, as you’d be hard-pressed to find a sound similar to his.
Fiesta is a two-part project and Rilla aims to release part two sometime in 2020.
Give Fiesta a listen here:
Q: Fiesta has a few features from other Boston-based artists like Latrell James and Lord Felix, what’s your relationship with those guys like?
Rilla: We were all friends first. I've known Latrell for like - I don't know even know how long. When I left my job in 2017, we had always been kind of talking on Twitter, Instagram like ‘Yo we need to link!’ and one day I tweeted him like ‘Yo, it's time,’ so we started working more then.
I actually knew Luke Bar$ before Felix, and the reason why I even met Felix was because through Super Smash Broz. They had some type of series, pairing a producer and an artist together to make a song and me and Felix got put together, we just were both nice people so we just clicked.
Q: What was the inspiration for the album?
Rilla: I just wanted to make a narrative to be honest. A lot of people probably don't know, but Fiesta’s a love story. So it's kind of an emotional roller coaster, coming from my perspective and dealing with another person and relationships, and some people don't hear that the first time around.
Q: Where does the hispanic influence on the album come from?
Rilla: With people like Sángo, they really influenced SoundCloud and made a big impact in introducing a lot of people to South American music and baile funk. That kind of influenced me to want to put a different type of spin on the music I normally make, but also make something that I really like personally. So some of the influence also comes from growing up with a lot of Brazilian people. After moving from Roxbury, I moved to Framingham and they have a big Brazilian population, so that’s part of where that comes from.
Q: What’s your favorite song on the album?
Rilla: I would have to say “Corre Conmigo”, as far as the more instrumental side of the album, and then “Atone” for the more lyric-driven side of the album. “Corre Conmigo,” because I feel it's a very neat blend of my type of style, in terms of hard EDM and the South American influence. Then by the time that guitar comes in, the more that somber RMB kind of feel comes in and I feel like that best represents me trying to attack that focal point.
“Atone” I just really liked that song, it was just like a really cool song that I feel like it resonates with a lot of people. It’s a little bit more complex as far as the topic. When it may seem like I'm talking to a person, but I’m more or less referring to my relationship with music. That's the way I was approaching it, but I tried to make it vague enough so like everyone can relate to it.
Q: Who’s your favorite artist you’ve collabed with?
Rilla: I liked working with Latrell. He's in a similar boat as me as far as that we're both artists and producers. Just seeing his perspective on making music and his philosophies, he’s like me in that he’s very humble and down to earth. His process is super unique, but it's very simple. It’s very like ‘This is this is how it should sound,’ and that goes into even his philosophies in life. They're very simple and very black and white.
Q: What was your sound like when you first started producing, like, was it more hip hop traditional kind of thing?
Rilla: Yeah for sure. Honestly, I'm super into video games, so I would sample a lot of video games and clips of like Animes and stuff like that, as a super heavy sort of base music.
Me and one of my label mates, his name is Hiram, we went over to Japan for like 8 days and we just DJ’d, played our music at venues, clubs, bars, everything. It was so much fun. It was my first time out of the country, which was weird too because sometimes we'd be walking down the street and then people would stop me and be like, ‘Oh, you're Rilla Force!’ That was surprising because walking down here, for people who don't know, I'm 6’6, I'm a distinct person, but it's weird because I'll be walking down the street here and people don't know me, but I go to a whole different country and people stop me in the street, which was pretty crazy to me.
Q: How much of a focus is it to make the album cohesive overall and what type of things do you do to help in doing that?
Rilla: I try to have my music be very detailed and even as far as albums, concepts and whole rollouts, having everything kind of go together is a big focus of mine so that everything fits together from start to finish. I actually have Synesthesia, which is a disorder where when I hear certain audio frequencies or sounds, I actually see certain colors.
A lot of people who tend to have it, they develop perfect pitch and I feel like I have that too, which is why I think a lot of my melody sounds so on point and very like unique. I can hear something and then I can literally see the color and how it resonates so that's kind of my experience of my day to day involving sound and music. Even right now like it's hazy to me, like if you’ve ever walked into a fog. It feels kind of like that because it’s just a bunch of noises going around but then when there's music there's usually a tone to it.
Q: Has that sort of ability influenced your cover art in your career then?
Rilla: Oh, definitely. I've always loved bright and vibrant colors, pastels and art in general, so my brand is bright, bubbly, colorful. My artwork sometimes is just solid colors, because that’s what that track feels like to me.