Steelo Brim Talks Transition from ‘Ridiculousness’ to Rapping – American Songwriter

MTV’s hit comedy show Ridiculousness, which showcases viral videos of stunts and accidents, has been on the air for 12 years now. Alongside founder and co-host Rob Dyrdek, Steelo Brim has been a fundamental part of the series, as his off-the-cuff humor and shining personality have helped the contemporary spin on America’s Funniest Home Videos become a 21st-century dynasty.

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On top of Ridiculousness, though, Brim has also worked in radio and as an A&R in hip-hop spaces, along with previously hosting the Wine and Weed podcast with actor Chris Reinacher (which Brim has recently discussed bringing back soon). Together, Brim and Reinacher brought A-listers onto the show like Quinta Brunson, Michael B. Jordan, Teyana Taylor and more.

But, leveraging all these top-notch co-signs and industry connections galore, Brim has been focusing most of his attention in recent years on a serendipitous rap career. Spawning as a lockdown hobby during the COVID-19 quarantine, Brim quickly re-realized his deep passion for music, falling “in love with the muscle and exercising it each day.”

In 2022, he released his first full-length effort Eldorado Excursions, which included a wide array of notable feature artists like Fabolous, BJ The Chicago Kid, Vic Mensa, and more. Preferring to call it a project instead of an album, because it is solely “a collective work with my peers,” Eldorado Excursions was made possible by Brim’s genuine appreciation of the art form that is hip-hop, which he says is the reason why many on the LP wanted to collaborate with him in the first place.

“I’m very transparent with people when I’m a fan of their work,” he says. “So I’d hit [the artists] up and let ’em know, ‘We got to connect. We’ve connected before but this time we got to connect on some music.’”

Following Eldorado Excursions, Brim put out two singles in 2023, the first being his June collaboration with Curren$y titled “Yellowtail Sashimi” and the second being “Margiela” with Nate Runnur. As time goes on and he continues to hone in on his craft, writing songs every day, Brim is more convinced than ever that this rapping pursuit is worthwhile, regardless of any naysayers.

“Sometimes people look at you and you’re decent at one lane, and they say, ‘Well, you can just stay with that lane.’ Or it’s ‘Pick a lane,’” he tells American Songwriter. “And you’re like, ‘Damn, I don’t have the right to be good at multiple things?’”

Thankful for the “healthy delusion” he possesses, which he defines as “being aware of your surroundings, but still having a goal that others may perceive as not feasible,” Brim is looking forward to putting out even more singles in the near future, which could eventually lead to another project.

Earlier this summer, Brim sat down with American Songwriter to discuss his rap ambitions, and what’s next for him as a musician. Check out our conversation with Steelo Brim below.

American Songwriter: You’ve released two singles so far this summer, “Yellowtail Sashimi” with Curren$y and “Margeila” with Nate Runnur. How did those come together? Are they part of a bigger project?

Steelo Brim: “In my head, it’s all building towards a project, hopefully. But right now, it’s just some records I wanted to get out. I want to keep growing that fan base. As a multi-hyphenate, this is a whole different fan base for me. The biggest takeaway for me has been slowly growing it, versus trying to grow too fast or go about it in a very manufactured way and not feel organic. But yeah, all of them are building towards something, I guess.”

AS: Do you feel like this is you building a whole new fan base, or are you trying to convert people who were already familiar with your work in other entertainment mediums?

SB: “You know, as you do more and more stuff, you will convert some people, you’ll have fans that follow you places. But, this is still a whole different thing than what I’m known for, for most people. So it is building a different fan base. And I believe it’s a different fan base. Our Ridiculousness audience is very specific and very particular. I don’t know that I’m necessarily producing music that mimics that or reflects that. So it’s always a little hard that way versus trying to just add on to what you’ve built. You’re letting people know that, ‘Yeah, I’m multi-layered. There’s a different side of me.’”

AS: I know that before you got your gig with Ridiculousness, and maybe even during that time, you had been working in the actual music industry with radio and A&R. What did you learn about being an artist and working with other artists in that period of time?

SB: “You learn a lot of patience. All this stuff, it takes patience, it takes persistence. For me, the takeaway was my ear. I always knew I had a decent ear. I always gravitated toward certain talents and certain sounds. I would always be the hands-on A&R. Even with managers, producers, and songwriters as well, I’d always be hands-on with them on what I thought things should sound like. And my personality kind of always matched that. I didn’t even come out to LA to do Ridiculousness, I came out for music. 

“When I even thought about coming back to music it just felt like I had unfinished business, even though I had already built this rapport with so many people and built these relationships with so many people. I wasn’t utilizing them. Ridiculousness allowed me to amplify that and get in a little quicker with some of these relationships, honestly.”

AS: When you put out Eldorado Excursions last year, was that your first stint with writing and getting into recording?

SB: “No, I mean, if I tried to do it before it was legitimately in the funniest, passing way. But, when I would be with my producers, they would always joke and say, ‘Man, if push comes to shove, we could always just make Steelo an artist. He could kill it.’ Even though we were joking, there was kind of this serious undertone of, ‘Would you be down?’ And I would always shy away from it because there was always this false imagery growing up where if you felt connected to a rapper, you’d instead be like, ‘I don’t wanna be no rapper. I don’t wanna be viewed as no rapper, I’m more than that.’

“I always wanted to help people and I was really good at helping people take their vision to the next level. So that’s all I wanted to do with it. And then from there, as I was hearing my cousin who was interning with me for a year, he is a very talented songwriter, he was doing music here and I just fell in love with it all over again just hearing it from other room. I was like, ‘You know what? We’re in the middle of a pandemic, things aren’t really moving, I’m gonna go ahead and just play around and see what happens.’ And from there, I fell in love with the muscle and exercising it each day.”

AS: Where did that narrative of you potentially being a rapper stem? Were you free-styling in your downtime?

SB: “I used to rap in high school a little bit. I used to freestyle. I actually used to battle rap with my boy, the producer B Major and all these dudes from Detroit. My brothers and my cousin were in a rap group with these dudes. So that was my first introduction to like, ‘Oh, I’m rapping a little bit, playing around, because I’m just around it. And we’re creating a family.’ So yeah I would freestyle in high school, but all for fun. All in this comedic way still, because that is what my roots are, I guess. Comedy. But again, there was this undertone of like, ‘You’re not bad, actually.’ ‘Hey, you’re not horrible with words.’ And I’m a writer as well, I write television and film. So those things kind of came easy to me. My mom is a writer as well. So these things were kind of passed down to me. So I knew like, ‘Hey, I could do this.’ It was just me getting over that hump of me being in my own way, of constantly being concerned of what others think versus living for you.”

AS: A lot of the roles that you’ve served in entertainment since you broke into the industry have been either fun-loving or comedic. Do you feel that you have to turn that aspect of yourself off when you’re making music? Or do you want to try to incorporate that kind of comedic value?

SB: “It’s been a struggle. You want people to take you serious in whatever you do, but not too serious. If your personality is someone that is comedic or fun, then you want to be that. Tyler, The Creator said something about him having to stop being funny for a while because people were asking him, ‘Oh, aren’t you the dude from this?’ He actually did Ridiculousness as a guest three or four different times and he said at one point he was stopped on the street and told, ‘Hey I know you from Ridiculousness.’ And he did not like that. Because he was like, ‘I’m a musician. I do so much more.’ But, once he was able to break through that barrier and get past that hump, he did realize that his comedic timing and everything is all a part of who you are.”

“So yeah, coming into it I didn’t want to necessarily come in and do a Lil Duval-type song. I love Duval and he had a hit record, you know? He caught one. But it’s not necessarily how I want to catch one. On top of that, I think I probably just respect the craft of it too much as I worked on the other side of it. I didn’t come in wanting to play a game versus doing something that was for me and felt fulfilling.”

SB: Music-wise, what do you want to do next?

AS: “I’m just gonna keep dropping records. Any artist in general feels this way, for sure, but I feel like I’m one record away. You’re trying to create moments. You want people to pause for you and see what you got going on. I don’t think that I make bad music, or else I wouldn’t be doing it.

“But I got some songs on the way. I got one my boy Camper. We just did a record together, it was amazing. Me and Larry June have another one on the way. Me and Guapdad [4000] have done some work. Me and Vic Mensa just did another one, which I love. But yeah, just continuing to build that fan base and that catalog. I got a couple of singles which I’m really, really excited about. Just gotta show people that not only did he start doing music, but he has put in his actual 10,000 hours and he isn’t cheating the game. I’ve been blessed to have a little studio set up in my house, and I go down there each day and write. That makes me happy. It makes me feel free. I’m hoping to just keep laying good music on people.”

Photo by Emilio Sanchez / Courtesy The Chamber Group

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