Rittz has toured the world, performing in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. Through his interaction with his listeners during the last several years, he knows what type of music means the most to him and appeals to his ardent followers, many of whom have had tumultuous upbringings.
So, while working on his fourth and final album for Strange Music, Rittz realized he wanted to deliver a specific message to his fans. "I wanted to touch people, but I wanted them to take away something positive," Rittz reveals. "No matter what's going on, whatever you're going through, you're going to overcome it. Through all of the darkness, there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
Thus, many of the themes on Rittz's new Last Call album are about remaining focused in the midst of personal chaos. On the atmospheric "Press Rewind," for instance, Rittz explains how to move past difficult situations. The Georgia rapper recounts not fitting in as a kid and getting jumped by his peers.
As the pain from the past diminishes, it's important to move forward. It's a message he wanted to share. "There might be people out there listening that might be in a similar situation and they can relate to it," Rittz says. "My favorite thing to listen to is something that I might be able to relate to, even if I haven't been in that exact situation. I can feel their pain and it helps me deal with mine."
With the stirring "Indestructible," Rittz examines how to deal with people you trust kicking you while you're down. On the uplifting track, he documents some of the personal strife he experienced while on tour, and the fallout he suffered from people misrepresenting his life.
"The show must go on no matter what's happening," Rittz details. "It's about being indestructible. All these things that are happening to you, no matter what people say and what's going on, you've just got to keep it moving. Keep being you and keep building it and find a place to take all that stuff that you really want to be emotional about and put it somewhere else and forget about it for a couple seconds."
Dealing with disappointment is difficult enough. Rittz wanted to make sure that people weren't too hard on themselves. Hence the introspective "I'm Only Human," a powerful meditation on humanity, and what it means to be imperfect in a world where images of purported personal perfection are regularly presented as gospel.
"People are human beings and people make mistakes," Rittz says. "We all come into this world as just human beings. We get a name placed on us from our parents' last name. Our religion is whatever our family is, the people that are fortunate to have a family. All these things are taught to us, all these bad things. A lot of it leads to people making bad mistakes."
That's why, despite the heavy subject matter, Rittz infuses a sense of optimism into songs that could have taken decidedly dark turns. "With this album, I wanted to make deeper songs, but I didn't want them to be depressing. I wanted them to have a positive ending, a positive outlook at the end. With 'Indestructible,' you are going to be indestructible no matter what you go through. 'Press Rewind,' you're leaving it behind.' 'Fuck Cancer,' it's whatever. This ain't gonna kill me. I'm going to survive. It's about overcoming."
Other Last Call songs highlight Rittz's supurb lyricism. The guitar-driven "Reality Check" finds the nimble rhymer showcasing his clever imagery and otherworldly wordplay, while the ultra-funky "Different Breed" features Rittz distancing himself from wack rappers.
Then there's the energetic "Down For Mine." Here, Rittz flows furiously, taking inferior artists to task for sounding like other acts and for changing their style to fit in. As is the case throughout Last Call, Rittz raps in his impressive rapid-fire flow on "Down For Mine."
"It's a classic rap track for me with the double time," he explains. "If you're spitting bars with the double time, sometimes you don't get the point across as well, but if it was a slower rap, it'd just be me spitting, talking shit about people and flossing. It's a rhyming type song."
With Rittz's rhymes being of the utmost importance, he wanted to make sure he had the music to match his verbal gymnastics. When he started working on Last Call, he talked with Strange Music producer Michael "Seven" Summers and put in a request. Rittz was looking for Pink Floyd mixed with Sade mixed with OutKast mixed with '80s synthesizers on top of Down South rap beats. Seven replied with the instrumentals for what would become "Press Rewind," "Shootin Star" (a spacey tune about Rittz's prowess on many levels) and "Indestructible." Those songs served as Last Call's sonic blueprint, an aural look forward that was in line with Rittz's musical heritage.
Through his four albums with Strange Music, Rittz has emerged as one of rap's best lyricists, as well as a thematic and stylistic savant. His debut studio album, 2013's The Life and Times Of Jonny Valiant, established him as a rapper with tremendous promise. He lived up to that potential on his next two LPs, 2014's Next To Nothing and 2016's Top Of The Line. Along the way, Rittz recorded with some of the best rappers from across the country. He teamed with Kansas City's Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko on the dark "Say No More," Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T. on the wistful "Wastin Time," California's Suga Free on the silky smoothed-out "Sober" and Chicago's Twista on the soulful "Bounce."
Now, with Last Call, Rittz has fulfilled his contractual obligations with Strange Music. He's delivered the best album of his career and is thankful to have been in the Strange Music fold.
"It's definitely been a positive thing, a great experience with Strange Music," Rittz says. "I learned so much from them. I'm just hoping to take what I learned from them, and all the fans, and everything they exposed me to and everything and take it further with me wherever it goes next. I definitely wanted to make sure on this last one I kept giving it my best."
Rittz did that. Again.