2014 has been a great year for High Rollaz, the hip hop duo consisting of Word Life and Accomplice. Aside from playing a host of shows around Dallas, they also played gigs all around the country, including at SXSW in Austin and A3C Festival in Atlanta. They've also shared bills with such big-name artists as Curren$y, Devin the Dude, Bone Thugs N Harmony and Method Man. Not bad for a group who has flown mostly under the radar here in their own hometown. But that may well change come 2015.
High Rollaz have been working together since 2009 and their first mixtape, East Meets South, was released the following year. After a show in Arizona a few days earlier, High Rollaz will have an album release show at The Prophet Bar on January 15, 2015. They have worked hard to get to where they are now, ready to start the new year in such an auspicious manner.
Adriel Ruiz moved to Dallas from the Bronx 11 years ago when he was 16 and started making music a year later. He took the name Word Life, meaning "real life or real shit," and first performed at a park in Plano. "At 18 and 19 I opened for Wu-Tang Clan, Questlove, Erykah Badu," he recalls.
Jacob Rodriguez literally took the name Accomplice from the legal charges that put him in prison as a teenager, which is where he started writing. "Rap is just poetry," he says. "I wrote poems." He started making music in his early twenties and released his debut, Show Me the Money, in 2004. That was quickly followed up with Total Silence a year later and in 2007 by My Life My Music, an album that was a significant step forward both lyrically and in terms of production. The album sold over 10,000 units and offered singles such as "No Llores," which showed up on urban dance charts.
After getting his feet wet as a teenager, Word Life continued playing shows and released music steadily. He also started King of All Fresh Entertainment, a clothing line, venue and promotion business, and media publishing company. Word Life designs all of the shirts and hats for KOAF, as well as album artwork, flyers and even jewelry. From 2009 to 2011, he was part of Neva Dug Disco, a Dallas record label that put out his mixtapes, music videos, and had events where he often participated in freestyle battles.
It was at a freestyle battle that Word Life met Accomplice. To this day, they both chuckle and insist that the other knows who really won the contest. Shortly after that, Accomplice was winning a freestyle battle in a club when two others joined in and ganged up on him, rapping in his face. "A battle rap jump," he says, with a laugh. Word Life was in the club and helped out, joining Accomplice in the competition. The next day they recorded a song together.
Accomplice was initially hesitant to work with Word Life, but once they did some shows the feedback was strong enough for him to realize that it worked better than when he was alone. "I had catchy hooks, but my verses weren't all there," Accomplice explains. On the other hand, Word Life was good with bars but made adjustments and considered beats differently in response to Accomplice's catchy rhythms.
In person, the differences and the friendly competition that seems to drive High Rollaz are on display. Word Life is skinny and tall with long hair, Accomplice is, shall we say, not skinny and shorter. The two often disagree when answering questions, interrupt each other, even talk at the same time. Word Life responds to questions fast and talks quickly, grinning. Accomplice is not as quick to speak, seems to consider his words before talking, squints his eyes and frowns, as if constantly thinking.
From the first show and the first release, both artists were credited and this continued until early 2014. In 2012, they recorded a song called "High Rollaz" and many were suggesting they come up with a name. "Accomplice and Word Life was too much," says Accomplice. "The first time we got on a private jet, earlier this year, confirmed it," says Word Life. "We were on a jet to New York and the pilot was like, 'You guys are some high rollers now.'" The name certainly seemed to fit their lifestyle, so they went with it.
Word Life is Puerto Rican and Accomplice is Mexican, but High Rollaz do not consider themselves a Latino act. Accomplice can admit to understanding Mexican slang, but otherwise they both just speak English. Nonetheless, they are Latinos and that can definitely help when they are on stages in Texas and Arizona. It also helps in Cancun.
In 2012, Word Life and Accomplice were in South Padre playing to 2,000 people and handing out hundreds of CDs. There they met Manuel "ScrewMX" Huerta, a barber who then lived in Dallas but later moved to Cancun and started working at the Walls Barbershop. For his birthday, Huerta decided to fly High Rollaz out to Cancun for two shows this past July. The shows went so well that another trip to Cancun is planned along with a possible show in Toronto.
In August, High Rollaz were again headed to New York City on a private jet to record the single, "Fuego," at Quad Recording Studios. Madonna, Coldplay, U2 and countless other artists who sold millions of records recorded at Quad and Tupac Shakur was infamously shot five times there in 1994. The duo admitted that potential sponsors and investors helped them travel and record at such a high profile studio. High Rollaz also played a show at Club Lit in Queens during this trip and more New York shows are planned for 2015.
"One opportunity leads to another and we capitalize," says Word Life. "Preparation is key."
High Rollaz insist that they are not projecting an image or creating personas; what you see and hear is who they are. KOAF is now a joint venture with Accomplice onboard and the two always wear their own merchandise. They definitely have old-school hip hop influences and admire all sorts of different artists, but their sound is their own. High Rollaz are too focused on their own music and lifestyle to try to imitate someone else's.
The album release show is for their self-titled debut under the High Rollaz name. After collaborating with High Rollaz on a track that was released a month ago, Atlantic Records artist Kap G is also featured on the bill. Kap G has worked with Pharrell Williams, who publicly referred to him simply as, "The future." Dat Boi T is also featured and no less than three radio stations are involved with the event: J-Kruz from 97.9 will host the show, there will be music from DJ Hollywood from K104 as well as DJ Kane and Daniel Boom from 89.3.
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High Rollaz Album Release Party featuring Kap G and Dat Boi T takes place at 6 p.m., Thursday, January 15, at The Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St., $10
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