Rockness Monsta: "Ruck Always Told Us: 'Just Go!'"

Rockness Monsta: "Ruck Always Told Us: 'Just Go!'"

Published Tue, September 27, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT

Brooklyn emcee Rockness Monsta is one of the most deeply-rooted figures in New York City Hip-Hop. He's truly connected to so much.

During the span of his 30-year career, Rock has seen and been a part of some of the most pivotal movements in NYC youth culture. Going from an affiliate of the notorious Brooklyn street gang The Decepticons, to forming Heltah Skeltah and becoming a member of the legendary Boot Camp Clik alongside peers Smif-N-Wessun and Black Moon—Rock has seen it all. 

As an early teen in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the young Jahmal Bush's heart belonged to the streets. While he had a passion for emceeing and b-boying throughout his youth, Rock admits “there was more fuckery than rappery” at this point in his life. 

That is until he met his good friend and frequent collaborator, Steele, from Smif-N-Wessun. 

“At that point, it was more street shit than rap shit for me,” Rock explains to ROCK THE BELLS. “But the moment I met Steele, I knew immediately I wanted to rock with him.”

Smif-N-Wessun would land at Duck Down Records, home of Buckshot and his group Black Moon. Steele's burgeoning career helped set the stage for Rock to form Heltah Skeltah with fellow Brooklyn product and old family friend Sean "Ruck" Price. Rock formed the duo after getting locked up in 1992; Price became his partner in rhyme and Rock's bond with Steele meant that they had a way into the Duck Down family.

NOCTURNAL by Heltah Skeltah NOCTURNAL by Heltah Skeltah

“He had his act more together than me,” Rock explains. “Me and Steele...are from the same projects. We lived across the street from each other. But the moment we met, I knew I was fuckin’ with that guy. Steele was that dude that would do dirt with us, and work a job, and still set up studio time for us, and shop demos, and do everything. We all looked at him like, ‘he’s the guy.” 

Much like his relationship with Steele, Rock and Sean P’s chemistry was organic, prompting them to record the group’s debut album, Nocturnal. After Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun dropped successful debut albums in 1993 and 1994, respectively, the stage was set for Heltah Skeltah to break through. Heltah Skeltah would go on to drop three studio albums throughout their career before Sean Price’s tragic passing in 2015. The group continues to be a fan favorite amongst hardcore Hip-Hop fans, considered cult classics by many. 

“It’s one of those, ‘you had to be there' things,” Rock reflects on the reception of the group. “The people that fuck with us, fuck with us. That’s what I appreciate the most. 

Today, Rockness Monsta is back and better than ever. Ether Rocks is due out in October, (pre-order Rock's new project HERE), entirely produced by Ron Browz, veteran beatmaker and producer of Nas’ iconic diss track, “Ether.”  On the album, Rock exhibits masterful emceeing, each track loaded with witty punchlines, sly wordplay, and spirited performances, the Rockness Monsta has arrived out of the depths of his refuge. 

“One thing Ruck always told us was ‘just go.' He would always tell us, 'Nigga you thinking too much. Just go!'” 

It’s one of those ‘you had to be there' things. The people that fuck with us, fuck with us. That’s what I appreciate the most."

On the album’s lead single, “Billy Joel,” Rock boasts that he remains to be a force to be reckoned with; and Ether Rocks also boasts a feature from former collaborator and Wu-Tang legend Method Man, who delivers an animated verse packed with lyrical acrobatics in truth Meth fashion. Rock explains he sent Method Man the track with his verse already recorded, giving the Staten Island emcee the opportunity to try to one-up his verse. 

“I sent Meth the joint with my verse already on it,” Rock explains. “That’s how I do all my features. I ain't gonna ambush you. When I send you a track, imma send it with my verse already on it, so you know exactly how I’m coming.” 

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I sent Meth the joint with my verse already on it. That’s how I do all my features. I ain't gonna ambush you."

On the album’s final track, Rock asserts himself as “The Answer,” over Ron Browz’s triumphant boom-trap production, crowning himself as the bridge to the gap between classic Hip-hop and contemporary rap music. “It’s my time,” he ends his verse, crowning himself a living legend. And the project's newest single is standout track "Shark Tank" with Ruste Juxx and none other than Steele.

“I can spit the most ignorant shit," Rock says. "The most atrocious shit—and call it biblical. For me, rapping is about saying dope shit. It don’t gotta have a message,” Rock explains his writing process. “Even if it got a message, it can be the most motivational message in the world, Imma stack it with bars. If I spit it to you with some uncanny, witty, fly ‘punchlinery,’ and the flow nice too, you’ll receive the message a little better.”

I can spit the most ignorant shit. The most atrocious shit—and call it biblical..."

ETHER ROCKS drops October 21, available on CD, vinyl, as well as DSPs via American B-Boy Records/Fat Beats. [PRE-ORDER HERE]

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