Rockie Fresh's Electric Highway (Warner)

For the past two years, Maybach Music Group has produced some of the game’s hottest new artists. Continuing the success that the DMV’s Wale and Philly’s Meek Mill received from stellar debuts underneath the imprint, a new voice from the MMG camp is ready to extend its dominance on rap.

Rockie Fresh is an artist who appeared on our top 10 hip-hop artists to watch in 2013 list for a good reason. The college kid-turned rapper adds another fresh perspective to a label that prides itself on versatility.

The 21-year-old Chicago rapper held a private listening session last night for his upcoming mixtape Electric Highway in New York City and left listeners impressed. Rockie briefly addressed the audience and spoke about “wanting to do something different” with this project.

The 3D Visual Listening Experience was anything but ordinary as the audience listened and watched the production.

theGrio briefly caught up with Rockie Fresh to discuss his new mixtape, Chicago violence, and what he’s learned so far from the MMG family .

 theGrio: How has signing to MMG helped you to grow as an artist?

My work ethic. The work ethic over there and the amount of records that Ross is recording, the amount of projects that Wale and Meek have put out, as well as Omarion and Stalley. These dudes are hard workers and you can see that on a consistent basis, so when I got my deal I really turned up my work ethic.

 What inspired you to release your music with an added visual element?

I learned a lot from movies. I dropped out of college but a big part of music is vocabulary and I learned that mostly from watching movies instead of school. With me being a visual person and having a different style, I felt like people would receive my message better if I added visuals. I wanted people to be able to see what they were hearing.

Electric Highway sonically seems to have a vintage 80’s feel- was that your objective?

Yes, I have a huge respect for the past. I think people appreciate the substance from back then. Also, I think life in Chicago now is in some ways similar to how I hear it was in the 80s. I really wanted to pay homage to the things I learned growing up.

With the overwhelming amount of murders occurring in Chicago right now, how important is it represent yourself well within your music?

I really just try to lead by example and make positive music that motivates young people to do different things. I talk about that in my records, I say “you don’t always have to move violent, you can move silent”. I think there’s a mindset that when you’re being positive that means you have to be lame and corny and I really want to represent something different.

What are your personal expectations for this year?

 I plan to do Electric Highway Tour Pt. II this year and I want to get an even stronger turn out than last year. Also, I want to get started working on my album. I have a lot of big plans for what I want my album to sound like, the feel that I want it to have, and I pray that listeners appreciate this music enough so I can really focus on doing that.

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Be sure to check out Electric Highway, which is set for online release January 21st, 2013.

Chaz L. Dawson is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who specializes in music, fitness, and fashion. He is co-editor of itstheratpack.com and can be contacted on Twitter @MVPCHEI