How Rich the Kid Went From Being Dropped by RCA to Topping the Hot 100 on Ye’s ‘Carnival’

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Rich the Kid isn’t much of a blackjack player or one to be firing up bets on FanDuel, but he believes every decision in life is a gamble — which doubles as the title of his upcoming LP.

The Queen-born rapper bet on himself when taking a flight to Saudia Arabia for the first time last year to meet up with Ye and Ty Dolla $ign, where the origins of “Carnival” began to take place.

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Rich cooked up the slippery chorus and his verse in what he estimates took about “15 to 20 minutes, tops.” The early version of the track eventually got into Kanye’s hands, which he turned into a chanting stadium anthem, with additions from Ty Dolla $ign and Playboi Carti.

“Carnival” hit the ground running as an immediate Vultures 1 fan-favorite when landing on streaming services on Feb. 10. Without much playlisting or radio play, “Carnival” chugged along and finally pushed through to reach the apex on the March 16 Billboard Hot 100, giving Rich The Kid his first No. 1 hit.

“So many people counted you out and down-talking you — to go from that to No. 1, you can’t script it,” he tells Billboard with a smile on his face.

Just a few months prior to “Carnival,” Rich the Kid was down on his luck, as his RCA Records label dropped him and he began plotting his next move.

The single was a full-circle moment for Rich the Kid, who met Kanye two years ago, and says Ye texted him about how people continued to tell him that Rich was a genius. Their universes finally aligned under unlikely circumstances, and the collaboration led to West’s first Hot 100 No. 1 since guesting on Katy Perry’s “ET” in 2011.

RTK will look to carry his momentum into Life’s a Gamble, his first solo album since 2020. Ye has continued to work with Rich since they returned to Los Angeles, as the Vultures duo of West and Ty Dolla $ign will serve as Gamble‘s executive producers.

During his visit to Billboard earlier in April, Rich played album cuts such as “Bandman,” which will serve as the lead single, dropping on May 10. He’s got more heat in the stash, as he teased another possible banger titled “Gimme a Second,” featuring Peso Pluma and another superstar guest.

Life’s a Gamble is slated to arrive in June, and it will be a busy affair, with co-stars including Ye, Ty Dolla $ign, Chief Keef, BIA, Rob49 and Migos rappers Quavo, Offset and even a posthumous contribution from Takeoff.

Check out the rest of our interview here, as Rich speaks on the magic phone that connected him with Frank Ocean, Vultures 2, “Carnival” and more.

Life’s a Gamble. Talk to me about where your headspace is when naming the album that.

I feel like everything in life’s a gamble. You walk out the front door, you could get hit by a bus. Everything’s a gamble. I’ve took wins and losses with my career and I felt it was a perfect title. I didn’t think twice about it.

Was there a certain gamble in your career that you think paid off?

Just investing in myself and my career. Even to the little things – getting CDs pressed up and handing out mixtapes. I used to have to take the bus from my grandmother’s house from Marietta to get to Atlanta. I had to take the bus to the train station to get to Atlanta. I didn’t have money so I had to take chances investing in myself. To now going to record with Ye and Ty [Dolla $ign] in Saudi [Arabia]. Got a flight and a taxi from the airport. It’s the same hustle.

What was Ye and Ty [Dolla $ign]’s involvement as executive producers on the project?

The project was almost already done. Ye and Ty been helping me with tweaking the beats. Tuning and making everything perfect. We just been tweaking and making everything perfect – perfecting the sound. That’s something me and Ye got in common. I’ve always wanted to perfect the sound or make the next sound. I feel like that’s what we’re doing. When I go in the studio and I heard beats, I try to go off what I know is the next level. This hasn’t been done before. This is the new sound. I try to elevate it. We been in the studio day-in-day working [in L.A.] on music.

“Carnival” hits No. 1 on the Hot 100 – how did that come together? Take me back to cooking the song up.

I’m independent. It’s kinda like three months before “Carnival” came out, me and my label wasn’t on the same page and [RCA] let me go. What a blessing! It was a big moment for me too.

I had a show in Dubai. Ty was like, “We in f–king Saudi.” I’m like, “S–t, I’m an hour away.” And I had an off day before another show. I’m like, “F–k it, off day I’m gonna go to f–king Saudi.” It was kinda different. I never been out there. You can’t smoke out there. You can’t drink but I think you can drink now they passed it after we left. Like what the f–k, why didn’t they have that when we was there? I got out there at the airport they said I needed a visa. I was like, “How the f–k I need a visa?” They like, “You could buy it right here.”

It was me and my boy. We took a taxi cab about an hour and 15 minutes out. Pulled up to a resort type of thing. It was dope. We get out there. The first night Ye and Ty played me Vultures 1. I was like, “Yeah, this is hard.” Second day, I got woken up early around 11 or 10 and we had a set-up in the room. Me and Ty was recording. I was looking for beats and [TheLabCook] sent me a bunch of beats to my phone and I was going through them.

When I heard “Carnival,” I just felt, “Oh yeah, this is the one. This is a new-age rage rock star s–t. This is the one.” I pulled it up and after I did my part. I did the chorus first, then the verse. I probably did it in 15 minutes – 20 minutes tops. Ty was in the room while I was recording. I played it back after I took my headphones off. Then Ty got on there. Ye didn’t get on it right away. I left and Ty hit me up before they had the Vegas listening like, “Ye said he wants you on the album. What song do you think we should put on there?” At the time, it was called ‘Honor Roll’ and another song we had did. I was like, “S–t, let’s put ‘Honor Roll’ on there.’” It had that energy. Ye added a lot of production [and] the chants.

One thing I always think back to, two years ago when I first met Ye, he like “Yo, people are telling me you’re a genius.” He texted me this two years ago. Ye’s a genius. So it’s like two geniuses together. He did the production and picking the chants and I picked the beat. [We] joined forces. [Playboi] Carti got on it two days after Vegas. When I first heard it, I knew it was gonna be No. 1. I was like, “This is a No. 1 song.” I was telling my team that.

Let’s talk about that road to No. 1 on the Hot 100. Not much playlisting or any radio push, it was really the people. What do you remember about pushing “Carnival” to get to No. 1?

Both [Ye and I] being independent and No. 1 is crazy. It’s crazy, because people was asking me why I’m going so hard. “That’s not even your song.” I’m like, “What you mean? I’m on the song.” I feel it’s just as much my song as everyone on the song. It’s my first No. 1, Carti’s first No. 1, Ye’s first since ‘07 and Ty’s second No. 1. We really made history with one song. Largest streaming song of 2024 as of right now. That’s crazy!

Rich The Kid
Rich The Kid – credit @jesusgxrcia

Elliott Wilson said you were the luckiest dude on the planet after that. I was like, “How could you say that?” 

It’s kinda weird. I think he should’ve said something like, “Damn, we watched Rich work for so many years and grind so hard from the bottom. So many collaborations, he’s a young GOAT. Salute him!” Instead, he’s like, “He’s lucky.” What the f–k kind of s–t is that? Keep doing your thing. He too old to be hating on young guys like me. I feel like it’s more No. 1s to come. More No. 1s this year, plural.

What’s your best memories of “Carnival” rising and just traveling with Ye and the team?

We was in Milan and the energy was insane. Blow the top off the roof. After we performed, we were backstage and they’re still singing “Carnival.” Loud as f–k. I’m like, “What’s going on?” Pulling out, my car was surrounded by fans and I jumped on top of the sprinter and they started singing “Carnival” a cappella. Knowing it’s coming too. I was telling people it’s coming. I’m on the way! Y’all see my track record. Just because I was plotting for a minute doesn’t mean I wasn’t working. This album too, it’s gonna be slapping them in the face.

What did you think about Ye’s comeback?

I feel like I call myself the comeback kid. I did a comeback and Ye did a comeback. Perfect timing. We did it.

Vultures 2, is the “Motion” record with you, NBA YoungBoy and Takeoff gonna be on there? You played that for [Ye]?

Yeah, just like that. We were cooking up and working on V2 and I was like, “I think I got something.” Takeoff said something about Ye on the song.

What else do you got lined up for the rest of the year?

I did a full Latin project. My DJ is Dominican. We been working nonstop the last two or three years recording music with different artists and places. I say some things in Spanish. It’s a lot of the biggest Latin artists in the game on there. J. Balvin, for sure. Arcangel, Peso Pluma. Yovngchimi. I was immersing myself in the culture. It’s not like I was like, “I’m gonna do a Latin album one day.” I was tapping in with people.

What do you think about this civil war breaking out in rap right now?

I think a lot of the old heads love it. It’s competition. That’s what I been hearing from the OGs. They love the competition of it.

Do you think that’s lost with the new generation?

I don’t think it’s all the way lost. We got n—as dissing each other all the time.

Last time we spoke [in 2020], people were talking about your lost Frank Ocean collaboration. Was that actually true?

My phone somehow was uploaded with someone’s contacts. Magic contact book. I have everybody you could imagine’s phone number. Executives, artists, restaurant owners, singers, rappers.

You got Dua Lipa’s phone number?

Nah, I don’t got Dua Lipa. That’s how I got on that FaceTime with Frank Ocean. When I got the contacts I was like, “What the f–k’s going on?” I started typing in people’s names. Frank Ocean, damn! You could also go to another time I FaceTimed Ye a couple years back. It was the same way. I FaceTimed him and he picked up the phone looking like, “What the f–k is this?” I screenshotted it and posted it [to social media]. To this day, I don’t know how the contact thing happened. I had Rihanna’s number too.

Did you try hitting Rihanna up?

Yeah, this was three years ago. She didn’t pick up. I texted her saying I was trying to work… I got my first record deal off of that. When I was leaving [Quality Control], I had to pay $500,000 for the buyout, and at the time, I didn’t have $5,000. I had to make something happen, bro. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I was like, “Let’s go to the magic contact list.” I started typing in record labels from A-Z. A lot of people didn’t answer. Then I typed in Interscope and I called every Interscope person. One person picked up and they was like, “What’s up?” I explained, “I’m Rich the Kid and I got some songs and I’m trying to get signed.” I had a project ready. He’s like, “Bet, come to Interscope this day.” Bet.

I come to Interscope and I’m playing music for somebody in the office. I played seven songs. It’s hard. Then I’m thinking the meeting’s over and someone else walk in the room like, “Hey, I’m Manny Smith.” The person I thought I was meeting wasn’t him. It was another A&R. Everything was meant to be. I played the music for Manny and he wanted to make it happen. Interscope bought me out of the deal. I was also signed to 300 Entertainment too. They bought them out. I was able to get paid from the deal. Three months later, I released “New Freezer” with Kendrick [Lamar] from this magic phone.

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