There are often times when we see someone who has beaten the odds to obtain success, we are often fixated on the luxuries of their success rather than the risk taken and the work ethic that got them there.
When you think of the great city St. Louis, Missouri, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it the unique architecture of the beloved Gateway Arch that graces the skyline of the beautiful city? Perhaps you may think of Nelly, one of the bestselling hip-hop acts of all time, or maybe culture shifting producers like ChaseTheMoney and Metro Boomin, or the many other famed natives who refer to St. Louis as their homeland. Whatever thought or memory you may share or hold with the River City, it will always be easier to maintain a sense of exuberance than to wonder what may lie beneath the surface and what troubles may lurk beyond the shadows of The Lou.
We often get a glimpse of the grime that pollutes the city of St. Louis through various media outlets such as multiple First 48 episodes that host many murders within the city, or often spoken through the music of fellow musicians who speak on their surroundings. “You can find drugs quicker than you can find some food on the North side.” Say’s North St. Louis-native Robbo Brilliant when speaking on the negativity he’s seen and endured while growing up in the Northside of the city.
Meet Robert Page, know to the world as Robbo Brilliant, and striving as an American hip-hop artist emerging from the shadows of the heartless and gruesome streets of North St. Louis and headed directly into the spotlight. Experiencing quite the fair share of hardship and becoming a product of a rural environment at a very young age, Robbo’s transition from a hustler of the North St. Louis streets to becoming a successful full-time musician is very much so, well, Brilliant. During an intriguing conversation with the emerging talented artist, I was greatly informed on one’s journey and obstacles they may face all while trying create a better life for themselves and their children while the odds stack heavy against you in a city where misery loves company.
DGB: What was your experience like in the streets of North St. Louis? When did you jump Off the Porch?
“Man to be honest man, I say I jumped off the porch at like 12 man. Late 5th grade 6th grade is when I really started getting into shit.”
“Man, it was crazy. It was really nothing positive around me, soon as you go outside it’s a bunch of negative bullshit. Gangs, violence, drugs, junkies, crooked police.”
DGB: What inspired you to jump off the porch at such a young age?
“Just being a product of you environment. See how it is in the hood allot of N***as don’t have they fathers so they’re raised by their mamas, their grannies and granny and mama can only do so much. It’s way more outside influencing you and having a bigger impact than your mama or your granny having an impact on you. It was just peer pressure for real.”
After listening to Robbo explain the hardship and struggle of North St. Louis, out of curiosity I randomly ask about the aura of the city during the BMF era, and Robbo quickly described it as “A time to be alive”
“Nah, the BMF era was crazy in St. Louis. Like, I was a little young but I remember thou. The economy was good in the city. The n***as with the money kept the lights on in these clubs, the n***as with money brought the baddest bitches out, so that had the rest of the n***as trying to step their shit up just to holler at these bitches. The dollar was circulating. It was just a good time for the city. Everybody was just getting money and having fun. It was allot of money circulating. Now that I think about, we aint like Atlanta in St. Louis. Our entertainment structure aint that solid so once that BMF shit died out, entertainment kind of died out.”
DGB: At what point did you realize you had to make a transition from the streets, and how in deep were you at the time?
“Man I’d say after my second time getting locked up I knew it was time to do something different. I had been to prison twice so by that second I went to prison that’s when I stared getting hip on how the music business really work and I saw I could really have a career in doing it so when I got out that second time that what it was. So for real I’d say like 2015. I caught my lase case in like 2013, 2012 something like that and my partners had a sit down with me like look “If you gone do this you got to do it all the way” so that’s really when I got serious. I was in real deep man, I had problems with the police, kept stacking cases, and you know three strikes you’re out so I had to make decision like “What do I want to do?”. The judge told me he didn’t want to see me in his courtroom no more so it was getting serious.”
DGB: After making the decision to change your life for the better, how hard was it to transition from the streets to becoming a full time artist?
“Man it was hard as hell I aint gone lie” said Robbo following his reply with a chuckle.
“You know that rap shit a little slower than the street shit. It’s a whole process with that rap shit so when shit aint moving as fast a n***a be tempted to go right back and do some illegal shit to get some money, but you just got to stay down with that music.”
DGB: What was the initial feedback you received?
“The feedback was love. In 2016 when I dropped my first real record called Flippin, it was produced by DY of 808 Mafia and my boy Downtown Cho and I got real good feedback, a lot of blogs picked it up and that’s what motivated me to keep going.”
DGB: How did you apply your hustler’s mentality into your music career?
“Just had to keep selling and don’t fuck up the re-up! Whatever money I was making off music I’d put that back towards music. Just like the dope game, you got your re-up money, you keep your profit then go right back in with your re-up.”
DGB: It’s rare that we see artist such as yourself giving back to their communities so early on in your careers. What exactly inspired you to start the TNB organization and what love and appreciation does your community have for you? Why do you feel it was so important to give back to the people of your community?
“It is rare but you know it wasn’t nothing to it but to do it. It’s our hood, it’s our community so we already had the resources so all we had to do was show up.
“We had sponsors but the feedback, it was love. Everybody respected it, everybody fucked with it, old, young, the politician’s, the news, it was love. It was crazy, n***as fucked with it.”
“It first started out with me wanting my own imprint. My own label, my own brand. I started it in 2017. It was just TNB, Touching Millions N Billions LLC. The TNB foundation came shortly after the TNB brand and label. I just wanted to keep everything in house, keeping my name and my brand all together. The whole meaning behind Touching Millions N Billions is my goal with my music, being able to touch millions and billions of people or millions and billions of dollars.”
“It was just something god put on my heart to do, you know? I felt like I was in a position to help others so that’s what I did, you know also I wanted to start a trend, I wanted to set an example. You know rappers man, rappers always bragging about how much money they got and how much jewelry they got and I just wanted to start a trend for rappers. Let’s start a give back trend. My one act of kindness might inspire another rapper to do the same thing next year or this year. It was just something I was wanting to do and finally being able to do it.”
DGB: How important is fatherhood to you? How has it made a difference in you as a person?
“That’s like family first now, that’s my top priority now. It changed me allot cause you gotta go extra hard, aint no room for error. You got a whole other life to look after so ever move got to count. Fasho made me go harder with the music, fasho fasho. That was one of the main inspirations behind the TNB foundation too. Just being able to show my daughter other children that’s less privileged so she know to count your blessings because everybody doesn’t have it good.”
DGB: How important was it not to allow your child to see the same things you’ve seen growing up?
“It’s super important. That would’ve defeated my whole purpose of grinding. I have joint custody with my baby mother and she stays in a real nice part of town so she really aint got to see allot of the shit I saw growing up. It’s just super important because I had allot of problems growing up because of the shit I saw, problems in school, behavior problems and shit so she aint got to go through that. She goes to a way better school than I went and she aint gone have as nearly as many problem as I had growing up.”
DGB: How important is it to stay consistent and have faith when pursuing your passion while living in St. Louis?
“Man that shit is super important! That’s all you gone have is your faith and consistency. Aint nobody else gone have faith in you. Shit 90 percent of the city is trying to rap. That’s all you got is your faith. You got to have faith in yourself, you have to believe in yourself. No self-limiting thoughts, no self-limiting behavior man you got to go all in. St. Louis aint a friendly city. If you’re looking for love and looking for other people to believe in you, it aint gone happen. Allot of people here don’t believe in themselves so they damn sure aint gone believe in you.”
DGB: What do you want to accomplish with your music and where we see Robbo Brilliant in 5 years?
“I just want to come original, that’s what I want to accomplish. I want to come consistent and stay consistent, tell my story and use my music to reach others and teach others for real. In 5 years lord willing yall gone see me at the top, yall gone see me with my own label with my own artist hopefully they have they own artist, just see me doing my thing you know what I mean? Just see me at the top.”
DGB: Thanks for locking in with DGB is there anything else you’d like to say to the people?
“Fasho it’s always nothing but love, I just want to say to the people don’t give up whatever yall want to be in life keep striving to be that. Believe in yourself. Stay dangerous, stay healthy, keep practicing that social distancing, and big shout out to Dirty Glove Bastard, R.I.P. Lil Pooh, yall follow @dirtyglovebastard_ on Instagram, and make sure yall follow me on Instagram @1robbo_brilliant and Twitter @Robbo_Brilliant. God bless yall be easy”
Be sure to tap into Robbo Brilliant’s mesmerizing ode and anthem to his beloved city in the appeasing record, From The Lou featuring fellow hometown-native EJ Carter accompanied by the stellar visual below!