Rob $tone is San Diego’s finest. The Lemon Grove rapper claims he’s “one of the greatest artists of this generation,” while priding himself in his authenticity. You may have heard his name from his 2014 single “Chill Bill,” which went viral after he uploaded it to SoundCloud. Soon enough, everyone in the country would recognize that hard-hitting, catchy beat and Kill Bill sample.
Growing up in Southern California, the 25-year-old states he had a “real cool, laidback life.” Mostly playing sports as a young kid, it was until high school he discovered his love for music. Right when he graduated, his homies were already going to the studio. But Rob had other plans, moving out to Atlanta to attend college.
While college didn’t workout, Rob was able to start recording in the A inspired by his friends back home. A few months later, he moved back home and connected with his clique — whom made it a point to stand out in the local scene and community. After “Chill Bill” blew up (which happened on an eventful day), Rob’s career skyrocketed, going on to sign with RCA Records.
Recently, Rob has found new independence in not only his music, but his life. The ability to creative direct his own art and release at his own discretion is one he’ll never take for granted. Now, fans have been waiting patiently for his forthcoming album Stone Cold, arriving on January 31st in perfect timing for the new year.
What was your household like growing up, who were you bumping growing up?
My dad was heavy into music so he had a crazy collection. He had these big ass speakers in the garage. Him and his homies used to come over and work out, just be blasting everything. I got a lot of my music taste from my dad. When I was in elementary school, he’d sit me at the computer and we’d make CDs on Limewire.
You got some Bob Marley tattoos, how did he influence you?
I really got into reggae because my dad showed me reggae as well. I gravitated towards Bob Marley because he was obviously one of the biggest figures from over there. Once I got older and got more in tune with his message, started understanding for myself, it became a significant part of how I carried myself and my beliefs.
Are you ever planning to implement that in your music? Because you make more bangers versus reggae.
Definitely. [chuckles] I was on the road the other day thinking I want to do some reggae shit this year. 2020 for sure.
How does San Diego’s art scene compare to your group?
Back when shit started, everyone was pretty wild.
Drugs, parties, young wild reckless shit. I remember I was 19 years old, I was a lot more reckless than I am now for sure. Everyone was like that, but musically we were different. We were a lot more diverse of a group because we had people of all ethnicities and from different parts of San Diego. We’re from Lemongrove, but different backgrounds. We stood out. Then of course, we’re making different music.
I love that the lemon emoji is your brand, what does Lemon Grove mean to you?
It’s everything. It’s home. I still got friends and family there till this day. If I wasn’t in Lemon Grove, I for sure wouldn’t have met a lot of the people that even influenced me to get into music and showed me a lot of the music I love today. Lemon Grove is everything. It’s home, it’s who I am.
How did your mindset and creativity set you apart?
For myself, I always wanted to be a boss. Growing up amongst my friends, I was always a lot more analytical. I used my head a lot more. [chuckles]. Just with my creativity, I was thinking about how I wanted my career and my life to go. I took a lot of the right steps instead of playing around. I had my fun don’t get me wrong, but I was always a little more focused than everybody.
What was Rob doing before “Chill Bill” blew up?
Right before “Chill Bill” blew up, that’s when I was in the street shit. Partying every day.
Did you drop out of college?
Yeah, I dropped out of college. Well, I don’t remember if I dropped out of college after I made “Chill Bill” or before. All I remember is they cut my financial aid off. [chuckles] That’s when I was done for sure.
“Chill Bill” was an accident that blew up right?
Yeah, it was the first song I put out. That morning, we were about to hit a lick. We got stopped before we could even get into action, but we got let go. We were about to break into a house, but thank God it didn't happen because “Chill Bill” came out the same fucking day. Right after that, we went to the homie’s house. J.Davi$ was like “I got the beat, it samples Kill Bill,” then made that shit literally all in the same day.
I was actually bumping that on the way over, shit still slaps.
Massive. It still streams crazy right now. Now, it's approaching half a billion streams.
Were you ready for the song to blow up like that?
Hell nah, not when it first happened. It was definitely overwhelming. I remember being in interviews, nervous to even how I could answer questions or what to say. Celebrities reaching out to me. I remember I was doing something with BET, they had tweeted me “happy birthday.” I’m trippin’ like “that’s BET!” A lot of shit was hella surreal for me at first. It took me a minute to be like “yeah, this is your real life.”
How did that song take off?
Shit, from the minute I posted that shit [to Soundcloud]. It grew more and more and more since the day I posted it. Instantly people were like “what the fuck, this shit is crazy.” People were sharing it on Twitter. I remember people tagging me on Twitter, sharing it, and it took off. Once we shot the video, it really picked up. Then I got signed.
What were the key moments in San Diego that put that song on?
Our shows, because we were throwing independent shows. Early on, I’d see other artists in San Diego doing a lot of opening shit. I’m like “that's not really the way. We need to throw our own shit.” We threw a series of warehouse shows and from the very first one, it was crazy. People were singing “Chill Bill” word for word, it was crazy. Each warehouse show kept getting bigger and bigger.
We eventually did the WorldBeat Center in San Diego. We brought some LA artists. Xavier Wulf is from Memphis but Seshollowaterboyz, they were doing their thing in LA. So we had booked him and Eddy Baker. We opened up, that shit went crazy. I remember we had a clip of “Chill Bill” and I tweeted it to Adam from No Jumper. He put us on No Jumper, shit really started to pick up after that.
How long after did you get signed?
I did No Jumper on my 21st birthday in January, and got a deal in April that same year.
Did RCA find you?
Yeah, and my manager at the time had a connection with an A&R over there. Shit was crazy. I decided to go with RCA because I really connected with Tunji, the A&R at the time. Then I wanted to work with RCA because I had seen their roster. They had Rocky, Chris Brown, just a crazy roster. But at the time, every label was calling. I met with damn near everybody. 300 reached out, I met Columbia. I met with a few people, but RCA was my favorite for the artistry.
How’s being independent and that journey has been?
Being independent is crazy. It's a lot more rewarding, but definitely a lot more pressure. Everything’s on you. You got to make sure your team is handling their shit versus at a label, everybody’s damn near on edge trying to make sure they have their job because a lot of people feel expendable or whatever. When you're independent, you have to have a tight team and make sure everybody’s handling their shit. Everything’s on you financially. It's a lot more pressure but if you doing the right shit, it’ll definitely pay off and be rewarding like it is for me.
You said that with a smile, I love it.
Because shit, I make more money off my music independently than I did with the label. Of course “Chill Bill” is crazy and you get the crazy royalties, but that's every three months or however. Being independent, you eat every month.
You had a little beef with XXXTentation, which I don’t think you intended to happen. What did you learn from that whole situation?
Definitely not. Beef don’t make money, that’s #1. It definitely hurt a lot of business because it made promoters look at me as if I’m a violent person or a violent artist.
If they only knew how chill you are.
Right, that’s not in my character. I can definitely see how from the outside looking in, shit like that can make people hesitant to do business with you. It’s a big learning lesson for me. Not that I meant to do any of that, but shit just happens sometimes.
Did it help that you guys made up though before?
RIP to bro, but it didn’t really matter to me whether we made up or not because at the time it was what it was. When he reached out, I did appreciate it. Damn, it made me respect him more as a man for being able to hit me. Because a lot of people just be acting...
Yeah, so I respected him for being a man and hollering at me. Once we chopped it up, we went our ways. [claps] It is what it is. Two, I learned how fake people are and how quick the industry can change on you. I’ve seen a lot of artists would fuck with me behind-the-scenes but wouldn’t want to fuck with me in public. Even in the industry, I got deals pulled off the table. People were backdooring, trying to block deals for me. I learned a lot about people and the game in general through that. I needed to go through that situation to have the knowledge and wisdom I do now.
How did you bounce back from that?
I just stayed working through it all, honestly. It’d definitely frustrate me at times. There were times where I’d doubt myself but I just pushed through it. I never stopped. That’s the answer for everything for me, is to keep going. Shit right now, I’m the best I’ve ever been.
What can we expect from your new album Stone Cold?
Stone Cold is going to be fucking crazy. Definitely some of my best work. I put a lot into it. Like I said, 100% independent. All me. I’m ready to get this shit out to the people, it’s been a long time.
What’s the significance in the title?
I’m the coldest young n*gga in the game. Like that. [chuckles] Definitely shout out to Stone Cold Steve Austin, a big fan for surely. It’d be cool if I could link with him.
Is he still wrestling?
Yeah, I follow him on Instagram and he’s definitely doing his thing. I know he’s got a podcast now, etc. He’s active.
Yeah, G Perico and P-Lo.
“Too Faded” is my shit.
“Too Faded” goes crazy, that shit still goes crazy. Then my boy Hardini from San Diego.
Your son recently turned four. Biggest lesson learned in fatherhood?
Shit, it gave me more sense of responsibility for surely. My boy is everything. I’d do anything for him. I try to give him the world but at the same time, I got to teach him lessons. It’s definitely weird because I feel so young myself. [chuckles] It definitely feels weird to have a little kid, but it’s cool because he wants to be just like me.
He knows daddy’s a rapper?
For surely. He raps my songs. When I play him my songs in the car, he knows my voice.
What’s his favorite Rob $tone song?
“Chill Bill.” [chuckles] Oh and “Okay Okay Okay,” he fucks with that one.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist at his point in your career?
Longevity, that’s it. I want to be able to do this shit forever. Not even necessarily be in the limelight, I just want to be able to tour, make music, and feed my family for real.