Listening to Ugly God’s early hits, you wouldn’t be blamed for casting him off as a SoundCloud flash in the pan; a joke rapper riding the app’s success for a quick 15 minutes of fame. “Beat My Meat” is the rapper born Royce Rodriguez’s beginning, but he’s trying his damndest to make sure it’s not his end, too.
To hear Rodriguez speak of ambition, patience, streaming numbers and independence is to hear a young adult (he’s only 22) betray the origin story he rode to success on. He exploded onto the scene as a replaceable entity, just another dude with a successful song making money off of a joke. But Bumps & Bruises, his first “official” record, makes good on the promise that separated him from everybody else on SoundCloud. It’s certainly not anything backpack rap fans would laud as high-concept, but it’s a far cry from the quick buzz that “Beat My Meat” and “Water” cultivated. After all, before he was Ugly God, he was Pussy Bacon. It took three uploads of “Beat My Meat” to get the track to stick; his basketball coach was scared it would jeopardize scholarship offers.
You have to give the man credit: He went from making music in his dorm room to touring the world and leveraging a record deal with Asylum Records. He’s maintained some semblance of independence in a genre where 14-year-olds get snapped up because of TikTok numbers. He turned an opportunity into a career, and he’s seeing just how far he can take it.
Ugly God may not have shedded all of the preconceived notions listeners may apply to Bumps & Bruises, but he’s a far cry from his days as Pussy Bacon. On The Ugly Tape, he was a label entity disguising himself as an individual. With Bumps, his personality shines through. Ugly God is a rapper, and he’s going to keep pushing until that qualifier isn’t even worth mentioning.
How’s the press tour been going for the new record?
It’s been good. I’m tired, but it’s been smooth. I’m fucking with it.
Now that the record’s been out for a bit, how are you feeling about it? How are you feeling about the reception?
The reception has been pretty amazing. The only negative feedback is from people who want me to stick to the same sound -- people that don’t understand growth.
How do you deal with negative reviews and press? Do you tune them out?
I don’t really tune it out. At the end of the day, it’d be unfair for me to not read everything that everyone has to say. I try to figure out what I’m missing. I do listen to what people have to say if it’s some sort of universal opinion that everyone has, like, something I could be doing differently to appeal to the masses the next time around. But that’s pretty much it.
This is your second album--
No! I just got a mixtape. This is my first album. Booty Tape isn’t an album. My body of work is a few years in the making now. People love this, which is great.
You’ve spoken about not wanting to be a “joke” rapper or someone who relies on shock. When did that realization come about?
Not so much that I didn’t want to be a joke rapper, but when I first came out, I was just being that goofy n---a I’ve always been. But as other artists are coming out as actual gimmick rappers, when that became a thing, they sound so phony. Being a troll rapper was a thing, but I was mostly just called that by people that didn’t fuck with my music. They tried to put that on me and my personality. When that became a thing, I had to get up out of it.
Who were some of your favorite rappers growing up?
I just listened to the radio. I was always in my room by myself trying to build some shit.
When did you first realize that rap could be a profession for you?
I didn’t. [Laughs.] I was in my college room just cookin’ up every day. School was really easy for me, it’s just like how well you remember shit and then you put that on paper. It doesn’t judge how smart you are as a person. So I had a lot of free time and I learned how to make beats and record myself in the dorm room.
There’s still some really funny stuff on your new record. How do you balance that without being branded a gimmick or a troll?
I didn’t try to avoid it with the specific body of work I put out, but the record is more representative of me growing as a person. It’s more my personality, I’m more mature. I wasn’t trying to avoid it, I was just trying to put out what I needed to put out.
For someone who’s only 22, you’ve had a ton of success. Have you ever allowed yourself to just sit back and think about where you are now?
I just feel like this is imaginary, some figment in my mind. It doesn’t feel real.
Where are you based out of now?
I moved to Mississippi five years ago but I move all around for the most part. I lived in Texas for the longest but I spent my teenage years in Mississippi. It’s cool. I got used to it.
You came up during the SoundCloud era. Do you consciously try to exist outside of that now? Do you think that’s a limiting tag?
At the end of the day, SoundCloud was just an era. I’m just adapting to what the fuck is going on.
As far as promoting myself. SoundCloud was pretty much the only platform for a n---a like me to be on. Shit’s just different now. It just moves differently. I’m doing a lot of press now, a n---a on Instagram now. The SoundCloud era popularized and shaped and molded how we do it. You can just pop off from one song on SoundCloud, 100 percent.
What has being distributed by a major label allowed you to do?
It’s all the press I’ve been doing. I couldn’t do this on my own.
Did it change the way you decided to record? Or was this recorded the same way?
Hell nah. It’s the same way. I wouldn’t have even gotten myself into a situation where I couldn’t do shit the same way.
In what ways do you think Bumps & Bruises improves upon the Booty Tape?
I’m older and there’s more pressure put on me. People have liked this one more, too. I also took time off and people knew that. I was gone, so I had to come with it. People knew that. It actually felt better putting out this than the Booty Tape because I rushed that one together. It came out nice but I slapped it together because I felt pressure. I still felt pressure with this one, too, but I knew I could take my time on it.
What’s that like? You had some huge early singles and then you had to put out a whole record.
There was “Beat My Meat” and “Water,” so that put on a lot of pressure. The mixtape came and I felt like I put out the music I owed to my fans. It was for the early fans. I felt like I had to give them something, I had to give them something bigger.
Do you think Bumps & Bruises is for the fans, or is this one more for you?
I feel like my fans fuck with me because of me, so it’s as much for me as it is the fans.
Why did you decide to take a few years between the records?
Everything is just an era. It was about adapting to new artists coming out. I had to adjust to the change. On top of that, it was all about growth. I had to take time to grow. I needed to mature and make better music, just being in the hype and on the road. I had to take a break because that can be suffocating.
What’s it like going from a dude making music in his dorm room to a viral sensation practically overnight?
It was hard to process at first. Of course, there was some good stuff, it came with playing shows and stuff, but that moment was unreal. Before I went out and saw my fans, it was just on the internet, it was all through my phone.
Can you speak a little bit about the title of the new record?
I had some depression and dealt with some personal stuff. Everyone has their own issues, but it’s a real personal situation. These are just the things I dealt with.
You had that interview with Akademiks and you were talking about streaming numbers and I found your point interesting, that streaming numbers aren’t everything. Can you talk more about that?
I’m just not a dumbass n---a! Doing numbers is cool, but at the end of the day, numbers can never tell you a personality, they can’t tell you who I am. Also, that shit isn’t always legit. I can package shit and do numbers. Somebody who sells 100K may not even have as many listeners as someone who sells 50K. That’s backwards to me.
Where did you learn that side of the business from?
Nobody told me anything. It’s just how it is. I’m a thinker. I may sound dumb, but that’s exactly how it is. I just treat bullshit like bullshit.
You don’t sound dumb to me.
It’s just my personality on music. That goes hand in hand. It feeds into the persona, but I know what I’m doing.
What do you hope people listening to this album understand about you?
Sometimes, a break can be good, it can be for the better. It’s not always negative or hurtful for an artist. Sometimes n----s are humans, they be hurtin’. They need to find themselves, for the better.
Music moves so fast now.
It was a risk. It was for sure a risk. It was personally for the better, and that’s my vision.
Do you think it paid off?
For sure. This is the best group of songs I’ve ever made.
If there’s one thing you could tell your younger self, what would it be?
Shit...fuck n----s. Relationships are cool but you gotta be in it for yourself. I was too into the lifestyle and what other people thought. I didn’t put myself first. I tried too much to please fans or other people. I need to put myself first.