by Teri Barr
photo by Benjamin North
“I’m in a different place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than when I first started making music almost 20 years ago.”
Josh Rip is a changed man. He’s not the same Madison-based musician taking over the Hip-Hop scene and being awarded for it, just a few years ago. And he’s far from the troubled kid who grew up poor in a tough suburb of Chicago. Rip has found peace, and it has turned his life around. His recently discovered purpose is on full display in his emotional new album, “Trinity,“which is being released at a show on May 17, 2017 at Lucky’s 1313 on Regent Street in Madison; then available following the show at www.WhoisRip.com.
Rip’s music reflects the pain of a difficult transformation, but he also tells me he is now able to celebrate the meaning he has found in his life, and why it may be his biggest reward.
Maximum Ink: The do-it-yourself nature of music has intrigued you since you were young?
Rip: My mother was a violinist growing up. And not many people know this, but I took violin for a year or two in grade school, and never went home and practiced. I developed a love for DJ’ing and freestyling to Hip-Hop records in my bedroom in the mid-to-late 90’s, and recorded it to cassette. I picked up production, and pretty much taught myself everything I needed to know to produce music. Now, almost 20 years later, I produce everything myself; from my music to my music videos. I prefer it that way because I have 100% creative control and everything you see or hear is 100% my vision.
MI: So. the music business was a natural career choice, and you had early success at it?
Rip: What intrigued me about making music when I first started was all the glitz and glam portrayed in the music. The money, the fame, the women, the power, being up on stage performing in front of 1,000’s, and on T.V. I also came from a very poor family; a single mother raising 4 boys by waiting tables. I figured if I could make millions doing something I loved, and gave me many other things along with it, I’d be set for life! Boy, was I wrong. My focus and drive for music has done a complete 180. Since then, I’ve found many more important things in life than money, fame, and women. I still love getting up there in front of hundreds/thousands and performing my music, which I pour my heart and soul into, but my music career isn’t driven by what it used to be driven by before. Before, all I wanted was a Top40 hit that would be #1 on radio and Billboard Charts so I could reap the benefits. Now, my music is about spreading a message, my faith, and hopefully letting people know how a relationship with God has personally changed my life, and how He is enough for me now.
MI: You are from the Chicago area. Why come to Madison?
Rip: I grew up in the NW Chicago Metro area of Waukegan, Illinois. I came to do a couple of shows in Madison; next thing I knew, I was dating a girl in the area. So eventually moved, officially 2009-2010’ish. Madison has treated me well. I’ve built some solid relationships and good foundation for the Rip brand. Will I be here forever? I don’t know what God has in store for me. I turned down a major career opportunity once to stay here, so that must say something, right? I have found peace, acceptance, and purpose here, unlike my upbringing in poverty, with no opportunities, and lots of gangs.
MI: You have new music coming out addressing those topics. Are you nervous to reveal this side of yourself?
Rip: I have a new album being released May 19. “Trinity"is my third studio album, but the content, purpose, and drive behind it comes from 2 completely different places in my life. My first two albums (“Fashionably Late”(2010) and “Sellout”(2012)) were more pop’ish or Hip-Pop, if you will. Both were fun, commercial-sounding records. My new album has more of a gritty, Hip-Hop sound and feel to it with a little bit of rock guitar. It’s kind of like going back to my Hip-Hop roots in the early 2000’s. I also talk about more vulnerable things on it, like addictions with myself, and my family, and other struggles I’ve dealt with my whole life. It’s more real, more raw, more personal. And I don’t care about radio spins or Grammy wins anymore. I care more about changing lives, and having people relate to my struggles and stories and how they can overcome it all, too.
MI: Your music is all original. But as you’ve changed, so has it?
Rip: All of my music is original, but on occasion, I’ll do what’s called a “transformative work"on some songs, and kind of remake some old classics with a new derivative or transformative twist to it. I get inspiration for my music from the same place as many other artists: pain. I think pain has been a major factor in putting out most of my albums—both with unresolved childhood issues and current day situations. Those really propel, and inspire me to be great, and do something great. I also had a lot of people, teachers included, who told me when I was younger I couldn’t do what I’m currently doing. It wasn’t even about proving them wrong as much as it was proving myself right.
MI: Are you happy now with where you are as a person, and artist?
Rip: If you asked me 2 years ago, my answer would have been a hard, NO. Now? I’m extremely happy with where I am at this point in my life. I’m actually the most fulfilled than I’ve ever been and I don’t mean with my music career..I mean with my personal life, which I think pours over into my music career. Mentally, emotionally, but most importantly, spiritually. Just recently, I renewed my commitment to Christ, and a few months ago, my mother told me she was proud of me. She’s never said anything like that to me that I can remember. After I got off the phone with her, I actually went to my room and started weeping. Not crying. WEEPING. Ironically, I set out to find purpose and meaning in life by pursuing music. But, God had other plans. Now I get to enjoy a rewarding career BECAUSE I found my life’s purpose and meaning.
MI: Is there anything else about you that may still be a surprise?
Rip: I love tacos. Actually, I’m obsessed. And I find ridiculous memes or video on social media hilariously funny. The ‘laughing with joy’(tears) emoji is my favorite emoji.