Student Profile- Jerome Richards

As hip-hop gains more popularity, Penn State Lehigh Valley’s Jerome Richards looks to be the genre’s next do-it-all artist.


Image courtesy of Jerome Richards

Joe Eckstein, Contributor

The average life for a college student consists of managing schoolwork, holding a job and maintaining relationships with friends and family. Sophomore Jerome Richards does all of that, all while making his own music. In an era where SoundCloud has acted as the starting line for many big-name artists, such as Chance the Rapper or Travis Scott, Richards, or better known as JR$CH, hopes to follow in the footsteps of those before him. With six tracks so far uploaded on to SoundCloud, each has reached over 1,000 plays, and with the track “Bad Behavior,” JR$CH garnered well over 4,000 plays and counting. Come next year, the 19-year-old artist plans on dropping his first project and shooting a video for his latest song, “Math,” out in California. From an educational standpoint, Richards plans on pursuing a major in marketing.

Q: How long have you been doing music for?

A: I’ve been doing music since I was a kid, probably around five years old. I started out with the drums because I used to play at my church. I used to watch my uncle play, and he kind of inspired me to learn. He never really taught me, I was just watching him and then I learned and picked it up myself. And after I got good at that I started moving on to different instruments.

Q: When did you make the transition to start doing rap?

A: To be honest, before last year I haven’t put out any music, so I was usually just making beats by myself. I never really put it out there to the world to see or never put it on social media. Honestly, I don’t know why. People started to tell me, “you should start putting out songs,” and I actually was working on a few before my first release, but then my laptop crashed, so I lost all of that stuff. It made me want to push harder, so I just put something out in November 2018.

Q: I’m curious, who are some artists that you draw inspiration from?

A: Drake. Drake is the GOAT. I just like him because he can do anything. I’m not trying to gas him up, but he can hop on any type of track and it will sound good. And that’s what I want to do. I want to be that versatile person that can hop on any track and just body it. Drake is number one. I like PARTYNEXTDOOR. I just like his sound, just like the OVO stuff.

Q: If there is any artist you could collaborate with, who would it be?

A: I like Bryson Tiller a lot. I like the way he sings, so if I could get a song with Bryson Tiller, I don’t even have to be on it, I could just make the beat, I would feel crazy, because he doesn’t put out a lot of music but when he does, it’s always a banger and I just enjoy his style.

Q: What’s it like balancing school, work, and music altogether? How are you able to do it?

A: Honestly, I have no idea. It’s hard, especially because I live by myself, so I have to make sure I have gas in the car, food at the crib, I got to do my homework. Basically I’m looking out for myself. My parents are helping me out, but there is still a lot on my shoulders, especially because at this campus we have to commute, so I have to drive class, drive back home and I have to work because I have to pay rent. It is tiresome and kind of difficult, but I can handle it. I was getting a little frustrated and overwhelmed this semester but I’m good now. My mom got me back on track.

Q: What do your parents think of your music? Are they supportive?

A: Yes. A couple of weeks ago I didn’t feel like they were supportive of it because I wanted to make a really big decision, and they really didn’t approve. [My mother] reminded me that she is there for me. My mom and dad both spent a lot of money on the equipment that I use right now, so they’re the ones that gave me the tools to actually make this happen. So they definitely are supportive.

Q: If you were to give any advice to students trying to get into music and trying to find their own sound, what advice would you give them?

A: I just feel like you have to be different. People have told me that every song they have heard from me so far has a different vibe or feels different and that’s what I want to do. I want my arsenal to be versatile like I’m feeling happy I can listen to this song, or I’m feeling sad I can listen to this song. That’s why Drake is one of my favorites because he has a song for any type of mood. If you’re trying to create your own sound, maybe combine two different genres. I know artists do that and combine genres and as long as it sounds good, just go for it.

Q: Some people just specialize in producing or songwriting. What is everything that you do in your songs?

A: I actually do everything myself. I have a little home studio set up in my bedroom. I actually have a couple of sessions where people come to record, but I produce, I make the beats, I write my own lyrics, I record myself, I mix and master myself, and I record others and actually write for others. I do almost everything you could need from a musician. It’s not like I’m stuck on one thing, it’s not like I’m just a rapper. I can go into other fields and be a producer or engineer for someone.

Q: What programs do you use?

A: I use Fruity Loops. It was a free demo and I started off using the demo but I couldn’t save my projects, but I was like, “this is cool, I understand how to use it,” and there was a lot of tutorials. Once I learned that and I have seen other people that I look up to like other producers use FL, so I was like, “let me just get into it.” I learned and I feel like I’m pretty good at it. I know people are saying, “you should switch to Pro Tools for your mixing.” I eventually want to, right now I’m doing all of my mixing in Fruity Loops because that’s where I’m comfortable, but eventually, when I get bigger in the industry I’ll definitely make that switch.

Q: What do you think your biggest strength is, and what is something you have to work on?

A: I feel like I’m just good at catching a vibe. When I work with other people I ask them, “what are you feeling right now? What kind of vibe? What’s the tempo?” And once they get that, I usually touch the keys one time and then it’s like, “oh that’s it.” So I’m usually good at catching a vibe. Something I could work on I feel like being less picky because I am picky about what I do, that’s why it takes a long time for me to get songs out. I will record something once and be like, “no, that’s not good.” I keep redoing it and redoing it until I get that perfect sound. I think it’s a good thing, but also it is kind of annoying to some people because you got to do this over, you got to do this over, or I got to do this over. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself, but you just got to live through it.

Q: As a producer who is someone you draw inspiration from?

A: Murda [Beatz]. Every time I hear his tracks I already know it’s going to be a banger. I like the way he produces. I like OG Parker, Tay Keith, Weezy, all the big names. They have that sound that it’s just like, “this slaps.” Hopefully, I could collab with one of them in the future.

Q: What do you want your sound to be?

A: I want my sound to be hard to describe. I don’t want people to be like, “he only makes these kind of beats.” Every time you hear my tag, I want you to be on your toes and not really expecting what’s going to happen. Sometimes I hear a Tay Keith beat and I already know how the song is going to come out. Other than that, I just want [my sound] to be versatile. You hear my tag and it’s like, “oh snap, I didn’t expect this.”

Q: What has been your favorite album this year?

A: It might be the Summer Walker album. I like almost all the tracks on there. I didn’t hear about her until this year, but she is really good. She has a dope voice and I like the production. London [on da Track] produced a lot of the tracks on there. I didn’t mention that before, but London on da Track is really good. I like his production. But it has to be either Summer Walker’s album or, I just started listening to Roddy Rich’s new album, and I think some of the songs on there are really dope. Some of his songs he sounds like somebody else, but it’s different, so I just enjoyed that album.

Q: Outside of hip-hop, who are some artists that you enjoy or find inspiration from?

A: Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t really listen to a lot of people. I get in the car and play a lot of my beats or all of the songs I have been working on just so I can get inspiration. I get a lot of inspiration in my car, I don’t know why, but I’ll play a beat and lyrics will start coming to me. Most of the time, I don’t really listen to other artists. I’m not trying to ignore other people or be in a way selfish. But I don’t know it just helps me create. So I don’t really listen to a lot of artists.

Q: What should people expect from JR$CH come 2020?

A: 2020, expect greatness man. A lot of things are going on, a lot of good. I have been getting a lot of new offers. I’m saying this: 2020 is going to be my year, and that’s a statement I’m saying. We’ll see what happens.