Rapper Rocko scores hit with song "for the streets"

Fri Feb 8, 2008 7:48pm EST

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NEW YORK (Billboard) - Atlanta-bred rapper Rocko never anticipated that his single "Umma Do Me" would be an instant hit. As a matter of fact, he never meant for the track to be an official release, let alone his debut.

"'Umma Do Me' was a song I recorded for the streets, and it took off from there," Rocko, born Rodney Jenkins, says. "I never meant for it to be a single."

Still, Rocko isn't peeved by its success. "Umma Do Me," off his Island Urban debut album, "Self Made" (March 18), has been steadily climbing Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts, where it is No. 28 and No. 17, respectively.

The rapper assures, however, that the track isn't an accurate reflection of what "Self Made" -- which features production from Cool and Dre, the Runners, Jazze Pha and DJ Toomp -- is all about. "This album is colossal. It's much bigger and crazier than that. It's about real-life situations," he says.

Rocko got his start in 1999 scouting talent for indie label Triple A Records. In 2002, he signed rapper Hitman Sammy Sam, who was soon offered a deal with Universal Records. A year later, Rocko left his post at the label and launched his own record company, Rocky Road Records.

He continued scouting talent for Universal, brokering deals with Young Dro and Dem Franchize Boyz. It wasn't long after working with the two acts that he started to ponder becoming a rapper himself. "The decision to go into rapping was initially cash motivated," he says. "I saw the type of money rappers were making and I went in trying to get money. But then I really started to get into it."

In 2003, he released his first mixtape, "NWA (No Wack Artist)," featuring Juvenile, Turk, Jazze Pha and Bone Crusher, among others. Last year -- aside from releasing second mixtape "Swag Season," featuring Jim Jones, Rick Ross, Gotti and Shawty Lo -- Rocko signed his first deal as a rapper with Universal via his relationship with now-Island Urban president Jermaine Dupri. Rocko's girlfriend, R&B singer Monica, introduced the two.

"A lot of people wanted me to fail, but now those same people are in trouble," Rocko says. "I am going in and mastering my craft daily. Now there's no turning back."

Reuters/Billboard

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