Chicago emcee Rufus Sims ended the second half of last year with a barrage of releases. The final chapter was his eagerly anticipated LP, House Arrest. House Arrest was one of 2023’s best albums. The album showcases Sims’ colorful street tales over soulful and thumping production.
House Arrest is produced by H.N.I.C. Logic, DJ L, Chase Davis, GoldHaze, and Kid Breeze. The 12-track album features appearances by Kid Breeze, H.N.I.C. Logic, Ju Jilla, Jae Haze, Zamn Zaria, Tree, Gq Tha Teacha, Tax Free Shaq, Gabriel Alexander, Panamera P, Josh K, GREA8GAWD, and Vel Nine.
Rufus Sims spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about becoming comfortable in his own skin, having patience with his career, and his new album, House Arrest.
TRHH: Why’d you call the new album House Arrest?
Rufus Sims: It was like a metaphor for locking in. I had caught a gun case and was on house arrest for two years. Within that process I just start recording differently — probably more than I’ve ever recorded. I charted a couple times on the iTunes charts. I don’t know, I just kind of took a different approach at that point. I just start taking the consistency approach, stopped complaining about what I didn’t have get things done. House Arrest is just a metaphor for locking in.
TRHH: So, how did catching the case change your life?
Rufus Sims: Well, with the background I got they were offering me a lot of time. Music always has been therapy for me. They were offering me like 9 years, and man, at some point it got kind of dark. I ain’t gonna lie, I feel like the music kind of got me through it. It kind of made me look at things on the brighter side.
TRHH: How did you end up getting house arrest after they offered you nine years?
Rufus Sims: Well, I was fighting the case, so.
TRHH: Alright, so you had a good lawyer, okay. There is a song on the album called “Interrogating Baby Boys” that’s real clever. What inspired you to give people game that might end up in that situation?
Rufus Sims: Oh, just for some of the mess that’s been going on in Hip-Hop. These guys that represent streets or street activity and then when everything hits the fan they get to telling on each other. So, I was just giving some old school game like, just keep your mouth closed. I feel like a lot of my music is just like kind of coaching, or giving game, or guidelines.
TRHH: It reminds me of Too Short, but on a different level. He just gave a different kind of game. Who are some of the emcees that inspired you in that way?
Rufus Sims: Jay-Z for sure, Kanye, and of course you know presently, J. Cole, and Kendrick.
TRHH: You dropped Bond Hearing, B4 House Arrest, and then House Arrest back to back to back. Why’d you drop so many projects in such a short amount of time?
Rufus Sims: Bond Hearing, originally a lot of those songs were House Arrest. I felt like certain songs like Dime Bags Past Time, Lone Wolf, definitely could have went on House Arrest, but it was kind of like a feel thing and a cohesive thing. So, once I got House Arrest where it was I kind of just took the leftovers and made Bond Hearing. It’s just in the legal process when something happens you go and have your bond hearing, so I kind of just ran it like that.
I’m not signed but there is a label that I’m loosely associated with and they end up hitting me up like, “Bro, we love how killing the underground Hip-Hop scene, but you don’t got no trap music laying around?” I used to do a fusion of trap and Hip-Hop, so I got this little old CD, I sent them like 12 old songs and they loved it. They were like, “Man, this sounds like the mentality they got you put on House Arrest,” and I was like, “Kind of.” They were like, “Come on, man, let us release this,” I’m like, “Alright.”
So, I let them release it. I got like four videos I didn’t put out from B4 House Arrest because by the time the label did what they were gonna do we already had our date for House Arrest. So, House Arrest was already uploaded, but they didn’t care. They was like, “Man, this is its own thing.” So, I didn’t really push B4 House Arrest on people too hard. B4 House Arrest was basically a project that was sitting in the cut. I wasn’t going to put it out — they requested that. Bond Hearing was songs that didn’t make House Arrest.
TRHH: The song “Enough” seems like a hit record to me. Is it based on a true story?
Rufus Sims: Loosely it’s based on somebody I know. The first part I’m kind of just kicking game and talking about me a little bit. On the second part of it I’m talking about somebody real close to me that I know in the streets that was like a real kind of powerful, money getting person. They kind of went through that. It was kind of something that was well-known where we were.
TRHH: Why’d you change your name from Weasel to Rufus?
Rufus Sims: That’s really my dad’s alias and I just felt like where I’m at now in life I was ready to establish my legacy. Just build and leave my own legacy. He’s done that for himself and I’m just at a different point in life of maturity. When I was younger the name represented one thing, but I was always representing myself. So, I just feel like I’ve matured and I’m just comfortable with my own skin.
TRHH: On the song “Nowhere” you have some slick lines like, “Life’s a bitch, but I studied my bitch A to Z,” and “on top of my bills like Claire Huxtable.” What’s your writing process like when it comes to lines like those? Do you jot them down as they come to you, or do they come to you as you’re writing to the beat?
Rufus Sims: Both. Sometimes I might try to write and don’t really feel it and I come back and something that I thought wasn’t so hot it’d be lines that I could use sometimes. I actually just write and it’ll just come to me. It just flows out of me and then sometimes I make it at the mic, too. When I make it at the mic I don’t write it. I’ll write it, but not with a pen and pencil per se. It’s just like kind of punching at the mic and thinking real fast. I make some my best music at the mic, honestly.
TRHH: Really? Just freestyling?
Rufus Sims: But it ain’t really freestyling, I’m thinking really fast. Jay-Z has said before that it’s like an exercise and I get that. I surprise myself every time I do it because I be thinking it’s gonna be trash and I make some of my best music just trusting myself. It’s almost like playing basketball. If you’re a shooter what, you just gonna pump fake all day? You shoot it, you hit it, or you don’t. Baseball players, the best players in the world they bat like 33% or something. So, it’s just like, get out your own way, I feel like. That style helps me to get out of my own way.
TRHH: It’s kind of like not thinking and just playing type of thing.
Rufus Sims: Don’t think, react, yep. I feel like you learn that damn, the training that I’m doing works. When I was on house arrest I never recorded so much. Hundreds of songs, so many videos, but the reps raised the talent level.
TRHH: At the end of “Court Cases” you said, “Got my name coming up in next level conversations/All I gotta do is stay consistent and stay patient.” How does it feel to be mentioned in conversations as one of the next wave of great spitters, and how hard is it for you to be patient?
Rufus Sims: It definitely feels good to be mentioned in the next upcoming crop. It was something that I envisioned and I’ve been putting work towards the last few years, so to start gaining some headway, it feels great. Staying patient, I don’t know, on one end it’s like just enjoy the ride and enjoy everything as it is, but on another end it’s just like, bills are due. Most people in life are more familiar with mainstream music or they might not be the most familiar with underground Hip-Hop. I definitely get a lot of opinions from my family or immediate family about me rapping still and they just don’t get it.
Sometimes you gotta block a lot of people out because they don’t listen to what we listen to. That doesn’t mean that we’re not growing though. So, yeah being patient could be a task at times, but kind of where I’m at right now I’m just appreciating things as they come. We could be rich tomorrow and then we would still have problems to deal with. I’m just being appreciative and feel blessed to even have the opportunity. I’m just trying to show my kids that if you really, really work hard towards something you want you’ll get it. It’s like a lifelong lesson I’m teaching them.
TRHH: What do you hope to achieve with the House Arrest album?
Rufus Sims: I hope to just inspire the youth, some of the misguided streets, just whatever your goal is, whatever your focus is, fully locking in on it. To the point where you might even have to sacrifice a social life, or kicking it for a second, the bad habits or whatever it may be. Cut those things out, really lock in, and strive towards your purpose. You gotta ignore the noise and all the distractions. House arrest gave me the chance to really get away from everything and everybody, and I just kept the mindset going forward.
Purchase: Rufus Sims – House Arrest