Just Rich Gates raps with an unmistakable style. Truly distinctive, he brings street tales to life over a variety of melodies. His beat selection is notable, he samples a lot of different types of production. One of the integral members of Brick Squad in its heyday, he hasn’t slowed down with his solo career. His new group Slime Set are true originals. The collective is truly taking off while making a name for Rich’s label, JCE.
During our discussion, we talked about Gates relationship with Slim Dunkin, being in Brick Squad when it was at its peak, Slime Set, and a lot more.
Why did you choose Just Rich Gates as your artist name?
The homies give you the nicknames when you’re young. They used to call me Just or Just Blaze. When I was in high school I always stayed fresh, stayed fly. New pair of kicks on the everyday. All of that. I’ve been getting money before rap. So they started calling me Rich in the streets. I was wearing jewelry when niggas ain’t even seen that shit yet. 8th or 9th grade. When I started doing the rap shit I put them together. Then I added Gates because I want money like Bill Gates. So you get Just Rich Gates.
So you are a sneakerhead. What shoes do you think should be retro’d?
I was just talking about this. The Air Force Alphas and the Revolutions. I used to like the SB’s before niggas got hip. I’d get them from the skate shop and they’d be asking me what’s those? I wish they’d retro the Fila Grant Hill’s. I got the jersey to match.
Is it true that “They Be Choosin” with Waka Flocka & Gucci Mane was the first song you ever recorded?
Almost. It was my second song made in a studio. My third attempt at making a song. It went a little bit under the radar, but my first song ever was “Polos” with J-Kwon. J-Kwon who made “Tipsy” from St. Louis. “Choosin” was my first big song.
I got to start putting a lot of my old shit back out online. I just put Merk Star Gates 2 on Spotify. That’s a classic. It was hosted by Trap-A-Holics, and it really set it off for me. I didn’t even know how good that it was doing. It was a mixtape back when we pressed them shit’s up. I had out of town niggas coming for features. The first nigga came all the way (to South Carolina) from Ohio. He drove with no license, real trapper shit. He had the gas on deck all of that. He asked me how much for the feature and I told him $1500. He said “is that it” and pulled out a huge wad of twenties. He didn’t even count the shit, he just handed it to me. It was so much that I thought it was counterfeit at first. That started happening like every weekend. Shit’s been crazy. They weren’t just copping shit online. They coming from NYC, Ohio, Florida, and some more shit.
How were you introduced to Waka and Gucci?
I had a freestyle up on Myspace. I hadn’t even thought about rapping. This dude hit me up asking me when my album or mixtape was coming out. I hadn’t even thought of no shit like that yet. I’m a young nigga in the streets. I did that freestyle for fun. There wasn’t nobody in the industry where I’m from. No music industry, no nothing.
Then he asked if he could produce a song for me. I hadn’t even been on a DJ mixtape or nothing at this point. He told me he was managing Waka Flocka. I didn’t even really know who he was at the time. This is at the same time as the Gucci Mane/Young Jeezy issue and all that.
He told me that Waka was down with Gucci. A lot of my homies really fucked with Gucci. This was an era when you had to choose between two rappers that were beefing. We all chose Gucci in my neighborhood. To me fucking with someone down with Gucci Mane just made sense.
He told me to trust him. Then he put together the hook and sent me the song with Flocka already on it. I couldn’t believe how hard that shit was. I did my part and sent it back. He told me that everybody at the So Icy offices was loving it. Waka said he wanted to use it on his project. At the time I didn’t realize what a big deal that was.
The producer borrowed one of their cars. I couldn’t remember if it was Waka or Gucci’s, but he pulled up to a gas station near me. I met him up there and he started playing a bunch of unreleased Gucci Mane songs. He broke us off a bunch of Brick Squad shit. That producer was Tay Beatz, now known as Tay Don. He’s a good friend and he was the one connecting the dots. He was the mastermind behind a lot of shit.
After I was on Salute Me Or Shoot Me 2, my name started going crazy. They started knowing about me in the streets and we started getting embraced by the Brick Squad family. We went to Atlanta and Tay Don introduced us to Flocka, who then introduced me to Slim Dunkin.
They didn’t call him Slim though. They introduced him to us as Mario. Waka told us that he really wanted to fuck with each other. He had a vision of us working together.
So you met Waka and Slim Dunkin at the same time, but you already had music with Waka?
Exactly. Waka always treated us like family from day one. This was before he got shot. We were going to clubs, shooting videos. At that point, the video with Waka was the first video I’d ever been in.
When we first met in Atlanta we went to the club we shot one of Waka’s videos in that night. When we were done we went to another club where Gucci was supposed to be shooting a scene at. They weren’t trying to let all of us in. Waka told me to stand to the side. He knew Slim was a wild boy. As soon as they wouldn’t let Slim’s Dirt Gang family in, Slim started fighting the security. They fighting these big ass securities and then a shootout broke out.
Waka told me that we were leaving, they wouldn’t shoot the scene. We were going back to their mansion but I got separated from them in the melee. One of the Brick Squad homies saw me and scooped me. I said, “man that nigga was wildin.” As soon as I said it, Slim hopped in the car. It was his car and he drove off like we were in a high-speed chase. That nigga was going fast as fuck.
When we got to the house I met Dae Dae and the rest of the Dirt Gang. Dae Dae asked Dunk who the fuck I was and Slim introduced us. He was really protective of Slim, I will say that. We chopped it up and then Waka went into a room with two girls. Slim Dunkin went into a room with two girls. I spent the rest of the night smoking with Dirt Gang. I said to myself, damn I really like this lifestyle. That’s when I decided to totally get out of the streets and pursue this rap shit.
Waka was on point, you ended up doing a lot of big things with Slim Dunkin.
Hell yeah. We really started working. By the time I went back to Atlanta, Flocka had got shot. He started moving a little more different. Before Waka got hit he had been moving around like he was a regular street nigga. He didn’t realize how famous he was, or at least he didn’t let it change him. He was still in the streets and in the hood. He just told me to fuck with Dunk.
Me and Slim went to the studio and made some songs. We went our separate ways until I got Slim a show in the country. We were in some little country town in South Carolina. Everything was cool until a fight broke out. Dae Dae, Sy Ari Da Kid, and Derez Deshon were all there. We were all fighting on some movie shit. Niggas was getting hit with pool sticks. I was about to get snuck and Dae Dae came out of the cut and got him with a bottle. Mind you this is only my third time meeting them all. Derez hit someone so hard in the face that he got bloodstains on like four people’s shirts. We were cornered, but then Dunk pulled out a gun and shot out some windows. They cleared the way and we got back to the van.
I was worried that since I booked the show that Waka would be upset. When I talked to him he told me that that was just the regular shit. Slim be going extra hard. Don’t worry about it.
Were you there when he died?
Nah, I wasn’t there. I was supposed to come up the following week. We were going to shoot the video for “Drop It Girl” Everything was strategic. We were going to remix that song and shoot another video. Me and Slim were going to work on a joint project. Just before that he punched the guy and went to jail for it. His cousin called me and asked me to chip in on the bond. He wanted the whole team to do their part. I told him I could, but I had just spent my last. They needed it that day. I went and kicked a door in then trapped it off. I sent it that day. I did my part. Slim was real big on loyalty. He honored that. When he got out he had a show in Myrtle Beach. The promoter was calling for him while we were in the hotel, where he had set up a little studio. He just kept on making records for me, that show was late as hell. We went to the club and as always some shit went down.
Some girl was in our VIP section and Slim told her to move. She refused and threatened to go get her boyfriend. Slim told her to get the nigga, fuck him too. She got him and Slim caught him with a good one. Security had to throw the girl’s boyfriend out so he wouldn’t get hurt worse. At that point, I realized that every show would go like that. Slim passed soon after though, RIP Slim Dunkin. That was my man and I really fucked with him. I miss him.
When the original Brick Squad separated how did that affect your career?
I was embraced by them. When Slim was alive, I also became a part of Dirt Gang. Those were my main focuses, being part of those labels, those groups. I stayed down and stayed loyal, that was my job. We did our work but we were pushing each artist out one at a time. It was Slim’s time. He was blowing up. We were just working and doing our part. We were all making music together. Even when I got a solo tour I took Dirt Gang on the road. Slim was proud of us. It was bigger than music, it was a brotherhood. We fought together. We even split the money when one of us got paid for features.
When Waka and Gucci were going through it we tried to stay together, keep it pushing. Some of us had songs with Gucci. Some of us had songs with Waka. So it became almost a conflict of interest. Me and Dae Dae were still working, going on tour together. We used to work with Dirt Gang at a studio in Boulder Crest, owned by Dame Lucciano. Dame got locked up and that kind of was the end of that. I had been going back and forth from Atlanta to South Carolina. I went back to SC and decided to focus on being a solo artist. I took everything I learned and have been getting it ever since. Shout-out to Dae Dae and Dirt Gang, those will always be my brothers.
You did more than just focus on your solo career. You’ve started a successful label in South Carolina.
I had homies back home that rapped. They were basically family. I decided to take what I learned and use my resources to start my own label JCE. I had always had it, but it was more my movement. It hadn’t been at the forefront. Now I’ve turned it into an actual company, a real label.
I learned a lot from Waka and Dunk. They showed me the business. They taught me how to use my influence and likeness to get money. I started getting paid for shout-outs, drops, walkthroughs, producers paying me to rap on their beat, you name it. Dirt Gang is some real street niggas. I had to play the intermediary with a lot of industry shit. All of which I learned from. I used these resources and knowledge to start our company. In South Carolina, I was one of the first rappers to do big shows and big features. I have access to big producers. It’s only right that my family, my label gets all of the same things.
What advice have you given your artists?
Stay on top of the business. KNOW your business. Value your niggas. Hold everybody tight and move accordingly. Don’t take your blessings for granted. Things can go bad in a split second.
A-Mafia told us he was going to South Carolina to make an EP with you. What’re you going to do when you’re not working?
A-Mafia, that’s the homie. I’ve been in his hood. He showed me 140 and Harlem. I’ve had him at my house. I rarely bring people to the crib. We usually do business in our offices or studio. When we’re not working I’m going to show him that southern hospitality. Get him some good food, take him to the strip club. I’ve been to strip clubs all over and SC has some of the best. Definitely take him to the hood. The homies want to meet him. I’ll show him how we kick it. Whatever he wants. JCE, we roll out the red carpet.
What’re you focused on right now?
My biggest focus is on Slime Set. We dropped the project Slime Set Immunity, our take on Dipset’s classic album. It did pretty good and a lot of people took a liking to Chris Gates. Him and Slime Papi are my brothers. They’re both unique with different sounds. They’re already booking features. We’re going to be dropping part two soon. It’s going to have Bad Azz Becky, Frenchie, Derez Deshon, plus production from 808 Mafia. We’re sitting on a lot of stuff right now.