You get used to the frequent interruptions fairly quickly. The voice comes on the line, reminds you that the conversation is being recorded, slinks back to the dark recesses of GTL’s headquarters, and pops back in a few minutes later, always slightly delayed, but always on time. Rassy Bugatti has been hearing this voice every time he’s hopped on the phone in the past four or so years, though the exact number is hard to tell because days in jail bleed together like a brand new LAnd tie-dye t-shirt in the wash with your white [ed. note: act now, while supplies last].
Rassy Bugatti’s adult life has played out like a horror film, spending most of his days in and out of jail as he battles the city’s notoriously corrupt criminal justice department along with his cousin, Drakeo the Ruler, and their rap collective, the Stinc Team. Bugatti put up a million of his own dollars for bail in 2015, and skipped his court date after becoming skeptical of the trial he was going to receive. He became a fugitive in the eyes of the law, and has been in prison ever since his capture in 2016. Like his brethren, Bugatti’s new mixtape, Million Dollar Fugitive, was recorded over prison phones, and the entire album, out October 2nd, follows through on the promise Bugatti hinted at when he dropped “Sorry Sussie” shortly before returning to jail in 2016.
Bugatti rarely rapped before entering prison, but with little else to do and continuous hype surrounding Stinc Team, he decided to try his hand on it and became a more than worthy contributor to the group’s growing Nervous Music movement. “Light Up the Blocc,” featuring 03 Greedo and Bambino, is being released today, and the Ron Ron-produced track does a stellar job capturing Bugatti’s precise eye for details and stalking, hunting flow. Though he’s hoping to get out in the next year or two, Bugatti’s future is relatively unknown. The only thing he’s near certain of is that when he gets out, the streets will be screaming his name and ready for new music―hopefully recorded in a studio without ghoulish corporate interference. — Will Schube
When did you start recording this project and when did you realize that you had an album on your hands?
Rassy Bugatti:I started working on it when I was in prison. I’ve been putting it together when I first came down to jail, but I started recording when I was in the pen.
Does being in jail inform the stuff you talk about, or do you try to use your rapping as a way to not think about being behind bars?
Rassy Bugatti:I try to use it. I don’t really be thinking about being behind bars like that. I throw a few things in there though about it, it’s part of my life.
Day-to-day, how do you stay positive when it seems like the whole criminal justice system is actively against you and your team?
Rassy Bugatti:I just stay focused. I let all that energy go past me; I learned how to let energy go past me now. I just keep my mind focused on the goal and the next big thing.
What do you hope that people who have never heard of you before take away from this album?
Rassy Bugatti:This is the realest, and when you listen to me, you know what’s really going on. You know how to understand real from fake.
Can you talk about how you actually record when you’re in jail, how that process goes, and who you work with and who you talk to?
Rassy Bugatti:I’ve been recording through my boy JoogSZN and my engineer Navin [Upamaka]. He be mixing that shit up. Sometimes I just go over it, and he’ll line it up, or I’ll punch in a few times, shit like that.
Did Drakeo give you any advice on how to record from behind bars? His new album features the same sort of method that you use. Did you learn anything from him?
Rassy Bugatti:Yeah, sort of. He tells me it’s going to be kind of hard doing this shit, but I did a song over the phone before Drakeo did. He really put it all over his whole album, so he figured a way he was going to do it. We told the engineers what to do because me and him recorded a few songs over the phone.
Why do you think the Stinc Team, more generally, attracts so much interest from the cops and the LAPD, and what is it about what you guys are doing that has them so eager to lock you up?
Rassy Bugatti:They just trying to figure out how we just been having things before we got popping and got our own name and all that. They was just watching a whole lot going on and a few of the homies is already in the streets, and they just start to watch everybody then, shit like that. They’re just trying to figure out what’s going on. Nobody got faith in them like that though.
I know you can’t talk too much about your case right now, but where do you see it at now, and are you hopeful that you’ll be able to get out in the next year or two?
Rassy Bugatti:Hell yeah. Right now, I’m down for four and everything’s looking good right now and shit; hopefully everything go right and I get out on this fulfillment shit. If the Corona shit hit, then I’ll probably be out faster than that.
Your first single came out in 2016, right before you went into jail. Have you improved as a rapper since getting behind bars?
Rassy Bugatti:Yeah, yeah, hell yeah. I’ve been ready to pull in all the stuff in here. When I was out on the streets, I was really just like fucking around; I’d get up there and make a few songs, but I didn’t take it as serious because I had a whole lot going on in the streets.
Do you think that when you get out next time, the focus is going to be entirely on music?
Rassy Bugatti:Oh yeah, hell yeah. That’s going to be my main focus right there: I’m only focused on my music, my family, my n****s. My main focus.
Obviously, the album title comes from a pretty legendary story. Can you talk at all about why you decided to bounce on the bail and not show up? What was the decision behind that, and why did you decide to go that way?
Rassy Bugatti:I went that way because I had ended up getting arrested. After I found out about the million-dollar bail, I ended up getting arrested for a gun charge after that. When I first got arrested, they didn’t have gang enhancement on me, but then when I got arrested for the gun charge, they tried to show up at court and throw the gang enhancement on me. They was going to revoke my bail and take it away and shit, so I figured it out – I ran.
What’s it like having your lyrics being discussed in court and having these gang enhancement charges that are obviously bullshit? What’s it like being able to not fight against those?
Rassy Bugatti:It’s bullshit because they really using one of my homie’s old videos against me that I ain’t even in. They’re using his lyrics against me, I wasn’t even ever in that video. I was only 14 when he made that video, so I guess they’re just trying to use it because we from the same area. I guess they’re trying to use it to get a win
What made you decide to start rapping once you got to jail?
Rassy Bugatti:Some of the homies was still out there, when I first came in. Drakeo and them was still out there, and they was telling me how “Sorry Sussie” song was going up, and they was telling me how they was still out there doing shit, so I just sat down and put everything together like, “Fuck it. I might as well start taking this shit serious.” When I get out, it can for sure go somewhere, so I felt like putting the pen and the paper together, putting shit together. I be on the phone while they in the studio, doing certain shit. That gave me a little motivation, keeping it going.
Are you going to be checking in on the new album once it comes out? Are you excited?
Rassy Bugatti:That shit feels good. I’m going to be checking in on it all day. Me and Drakeo was just in a cell together, and police be on some bullshit, so right now, I’m up in here by myself; really ain’t got nothing to do. They got him in high-power, K-19, so it’s boring in here all day. I ain’t really got nothing else to do.
What’s your goal for the release? Do you just want people to hear it?
Rassy Bugatti:We need new fans and everything. I want the world to hear it; I want everybody to know what’s going on, and we need it to just open up a little bit more for us.