After watching Bow Wow’s performance of “Bounce Wit Me” with Jermaine Dupri on BET’s “106 & Park” and seeing the crowd’s reaction, Retro Champ decided he too wanted to become a rapper. Once he realized he wanted to rap, he played around with rhymes as early as 8-years-old, but it wasn’t until four years ago that he took it seriously and dropped his first project, “Thoughts of a Champion,” via Soundcloud.
“I had a lot on my mind and never really talked about my problems, so I felt led to put it out and allow others to hear my story,” Retro Champ said.
Retro Champ has since released his debut EP, “Backlash,” which came out last year, and he released his second EP, “F.Y.I.” in July. His music has grown a lot within those four years.
“I feel like ever since I started to find my sound and what kind of vibes I like, it all started to connect and hit different,” Retro Champ said. “I make music for the people, of course, but I had to learn to make music for me first.”
A common theme often reiterated by rappers is how they’re different from the rest and their competition doesn’t stand a chance. Retro Champ frequently uses the same sentiment in his music.
“I will talk about the things they don’t want to address. There’s a lot of things in hip-hop and life that happen many don’t want to talk about, but I will,” Retro Champ said.
Mental health has always been a taboo and controversial topic in the Black community, especially in the hip-hop world. When Retro Champ dropped “Rollercoaster” on “Backlash,” he showed a vulnerable side.
“I was in the hospital for three days because I almost committed suicide right before my birthday. I was at a low point in my life where I was stressed, and I figured I was a burden to everyone around me,” Retro Champ said.
“I didn’t feel like I was good enough. A lot of things crossed my head that day. So, I thought the way to end all the voices was to go to the top of this highway and jump off the ledge. Before I jumped, the police came and got me.”
During that challenging time in the hospital, Retro Champ decided to rely on one of his biggest inspirations, God, to help him cope. With no phone and no one to talk to, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to self-reflect and dedicate his focus on God and writing.
“I thought about everything while I was in there and how I needed to change my environment before I self-destructed,” Retro Champ said. “When I finally told myself that I was strong and that I was meant to be here, I felt better.”
Since being in the hospital that day, he has gained a more balanced mental state thanks to a lot with prayer and avoiding problematic cycles and patterns. Retro Champ details the joy of being self-assured on his second single, “Confidence,” off “F.Y.I.”
“I lost my confidence in middle school. It felt like everything in my life was crumbling around me,” Retro Champ said. “When I started writing ‘F.Y.I.,’ I felt my confidence coming back because I was mentally in a great space and I finally felt good about myself and my music, so I decided to write about it.”
With 1,000 streams, his “F.Y.I.” EP has the independent rapper receiving more attention. Fans are particularly taking notice of the lead single, “Lawd Have Mercy,” where he raps, “Lawd Have Mercy. Showing all love who gone show it back. Lawd Have Mercy. Yeah, I’m done talking time to give them action.”
The song has obtained more than 33,000 spins to date and over 600 views on YouTube. Retro Champ is pleased with the reception.
“I love that everybody is enjoying it and catching a vibe,” Retro Champ said. “I love seeing and hearing feedback on it. It drives me to go even harder.”
The North County native shows pride in being from St. Louis and brags on the city every time he is out of town. He makes it his mission to recommend many of the city’s artists to other people.
“With St Louis being my hometown, I want to make the city proud. I always try to go out of my way suggesting different artists from here when I’m traveling,” Retro Champ said. “St. Louis is a major part of why I’m the person I am today. I’m inspired to evolve and showcase the talent we have to offer.”
While a tour is still in the works, he has had numerous shows in St. Louis. The momentum from those shows has his adrenaline rushing and given him tour fever. “The reception here has gotten a lot better since I’ve grown as an artist and now,” Retro Champ said. “I’m trying to spread my music to other cities so I can see how they react to a rapper like me.”
He credits Hospin, Kendrick Lamar, NF, B.o.B., Eminem, Joey Bada$$, Logic, and Dizzy Wright as his biggest influences. It would be a dream come true for him to collaborate with any of these artists. On the production side, he would love to work with 6ix, Tommee Profitt, Kenny Beats, Dr. Dre, and Ronny J.
Retro Champ enjoys being independent but is openminded about signing with a major record label. “I love being independent because I can do whatever I want when I want with nobody looking over my shoulder trying to take from me or trying to manipulate me and my music,” Retro Champ said. “If I did have to choose a major label, it would be with either Def Jam or Atlantic.”
Retro Champ’s goal is to touch as many hearts as possible with his music.
“I want fans to know that I understand and I’m here to get them whatever they’re feeling. I want them to understand that smiling isn’t bad and that troubles don’t last forever,” Retro Champ said. “I accept my fans, no matter what race, religion and sexual orientation they are. If they love music and it’s helping them, I’m doing my job.”
Retro Champ’s music can be found on all streaming platforms. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @TheRetroChamp, subscribe to him on YouTube at Retro Champ and Follow him on Facebook at Retro Champ.