Interview: Erie-based Rozei makes the jump to Atlantic Records

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, March 19th, 2021 at 12:24 PM
Interview: Erie-based Rozei makes the jump to Atlantic Records by Teddy Rankin & Julia Carden
Photo courtesy artist.

“Went from skipping class to getting plaques.”

Erie County resident Carter Perkins has been making waves in the music industry after signing with Atlantic Records in 2020. The rapper and songwriter goes by Rozei, based on a nickname from his grandmother. And the wild transition he speaks of? That was an Instagram caption in honor of 10,000 Spotify streams for breakout song, “Ooo La La,” a number that’s now grown to over 25 million and counting.

The McDowell High School 2017 graduate discovered music was his calling during his first semester at Penn State Behrend, where he was studying pre-med biology. Perkins initially had plans to become a chiropractor and take over his family’s business: Lake Erie Spine & Injury Center.

But his art kept calling him. “I found myself skipping class to make music in my dorm room. That was the turning point,” he said.

“I don’t have credits to show for it,” Perkins joked about his time at Behrend. “In my head, I was like, ‘I don't want to work for the rest of my life, I want to do this (music).’ That was two years before I got signed, so it was kind of a leap of faith.”

Within the smaller Erie music scene, Perkins had to get creative with how to break through. “Erie’s just not ‘it’ to make a come-up, unless you know how to work social media heavily,” he explained. So, that’s exactly the strategy he employed.

“When you’re trying to break a scene, you just gotta sit down and think outside the box,” Perkins continued. Frustrated with their music’s reach early on, he and fellow hip-hop artist, 404vincent, brainstormed marketing strategies that would expose them to greater audiences. Eventually, they stumbled upon a huge untapped market: gamers.

“What if we just DM all these people who have some sort of following on YouTube or Twitch to put our music behind their videos with no copyright infringement?” they wondered. After pushing this angle hard, sometimes sending 1,000 messages a day, they started getting responses from some popular streamers. This included Serpent AU, Dodoeu, and BH Motion, all featuring tracks in their videos. Popular music channels Promoting Sounds and BangerOnly, which is locally owned and operated by Nick and Alex Gorny from Millcreek, featured them, as well.

From here, “Ooo La La” had gathered enough steam to catch the attention of Atlantic Records.

While Perkins believes that, “The thing with the music industry these days is you can do everything by yourself,” he also appreciates what his new label has to offer: marketing budgets, potential features and longevity beyond the “Fortnite” craze.

And now that he shares a music home with the likes of Cardi B and Jay-Z, Perkins isn't concerned about his music becoming any less authentic. “I genuinely do have creative freedom. That whole thing about labels limiting your creativity to try to change you is complete and utter BS.”

Behind the glamour of his now rap-star lifestyle, Perkins describes himself as a computer nerd with a fear of amnesia. This combination allows the rapper to be both a technical recording artist and an observant lyricist. Rozei often uses his songs as small time-capsules, saying, “I don’t want to wake up one day and not remember anything, that would be terrifying.”

He currently spends his days splitting time between making music and creating content for social media. Perkins also labeled himself as a perfectionist: “I’m so tedious and picky about the creative side of my image. I just want it to be perfect.”

The blossoming rapper certainly has the time to hone his craft because of the pandemic. “I feel like it’s just such a shitty time to sign a record deal right now. We didn’t know it was coming. I signed last February.” But while COVID-19 may have limited some of the excitement of his first year in the industry, Perkins still believes he is progressing just as well as he would in an alternate universe where the pandemic never existed.

He has spent the last year traveling between Los Angeles and his hometown of Millcreek. Residing in Erie County, he plans to head back to Los Angeles in July for studio sessions, but doesn't see himself staying long-term. “I don’t plan on living out there for the rest of my life; it's too busy for me. I’m a Millcreek mentality person. I like it pretty quiet and subtle … I really want to be tied in with Erie as much as I can.”

When asked who he admires, he mentioned Post Malone for remaining so humble and genuine amid super-stardom. Staying true to himself is an important value to Perkins.

“That's something I strive for: being yourself. Lights, camera, action, at the end of the day you’re the same person."

Teddy Rankin is the Music Editor for The Spectator. Julia Carden is the Social Media Director for The Spectator. They can both be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: erie music, rozei

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