Erie rapper Rozei moving up

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Carter Perkins spends the early morning hours locked away in his bedroom. Like many aspiring music artists, the area has become his makeshift studio.

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The 21-year-old Millcreek Township native occasionally posts his melodies under his artist name “Rozei” on the streaming service Spotify. Perkins issued his latest release Nov. 29 with a song titled, “Ooo La La.”

As each day passed since the song hit the streaming world, Perkins noticed a different trend. Other works of his hit more than 1 million streams — total listens of 30 seconds or more — over the course of a few months.

“Ooo La La” reached 1 million streams in three weeks. Today, the song has totaled more than 15 million streams across all social media platforms with two-thirds of those coming from Spotify.

“It was surreal watching the numbers grow as fast as they were,” Perkins said. “Once ‘Ooo La La’ dropped, people were sending me video snippets of them listening to the song. It was all fun to watch.”

The whirlwind came to a crescendo as 2020 arrived. Seeing the song’s rising popularity, several major recording labels reached out to Perkins. He made one trip to New York and two to Los Angeles. One label, Atlantic Records, set itself apart in Perkins’ eyes.

“Once I walked into Atlantic, they treated me like I was family,” he said. “They welcomed me in. I met the president and CEO. They were super stoked to have me around, so I thought, ‘This is it.’”

Hobby evolves into passion

Perkins recalls receiving a MacBook as a Christmas gift from his father, Thomas Perkins, and creating music became his hobby. The following year, Thomas Perkins gave Carter a microphone to replace the Apple headphones he was using. The hobby was evolving into a passion.

The 2017 McDowell graduate did not participate in band while in high school. Carter Perkins typically kept quiet about his talents — only performing when coaxed at family gatherings and school lunchroom tables.

Over time, Perkins’ studio setup grew as he made it a point to invest in his work. Today, he has an L-shaped desk outfitted with a personal computer, two monitors and other recording equipment.

“I wanted to get better and keep getting better from where I was,” he said. “I always want to improve from every song. I honed in and, over the course of five years, I slowly improved and invested in myself and my studio. It became an addiction.”

The addiction had a firm grip on Perkins during his first year as a student at Penn State Behrend. Perkins had plans for a pre-med biology major but found himself missing class. He was spending the majority of his time working on music in his dorm room.

Ultimately, Perkins did not finish his first semester. He does not rule out returning to the classroom, but he chose to take a chance on his talents.

“I wanted to keep pursuing this,” he said. “I had a feel in my gut and felt like I had to weigh my options. School will always be there.”

Recording his first hit

Operating with a perfectionist mindset, Perkins admits that he does not enjoy his own music at times. However, when he listened to “Ooo La La” for the first time, he believed he was on to something special.

“I’ve had a few experiences when I was recording in my room, jumping around, thinking, ‘This could be it,‘” he said. “But with ‘Ooo La La,’ I found myself repeating the song. That never happened before.”

Perkins sent the song to his uncle, Timothy Temper, who has worked in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years. Temper, a talent manager, creative agent and music executive, confirmed that his nephew was on to something.

″(Carter) would always send me music,” said Temper, who is now his nephew’s manager. “But he had some growing to do on his own before he needed someone like me to step in and take him to the next level.

“When I heard ‘Ooo La La,’ I immediately knew that the song was crafted extremely well. He really grew into himself artistically and found an artistic identity and a sound that worked for him.”

Upon release, the song gained traction all over social media. Listeners added it to YouTube playlists, which pushed more traffic to Spotify. Players of the popular online game Fortnite accompanied montage videos of their gameplay with “Ooo La La.”

This led to a collaboration between Perkins and prominent gaming organization FaZe Clan on a music video and the release of that production coincided with the Atlantic Records signing announcement on May 4.

The video was shot in a board game store as directors aimed to keep with a gaming theme.

“Since the song was blowing up in the gaming community, FaZe Clan wanted to get behind it,” Perkins said. “I was so excited to shoot the video. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.”

Family ties

Some of Perkins’ success can be attributed to the support system around him. His older sister Ashlyn used to goad him into singing for family. His uncle saw the talent in Carter but did not pressure his nephew into focusing solely on the music business.

Parents Thomas Perkins and Christian Graziano were concerned when their baby boy decided to leave Behrend, but they both saw the confidence and happiness that music gave their son.

“I was scared,” Graziano said when Carter quit school. “The entertainment business isn’t easy to get into. But, he was constantly in his room working. He started coming out of his shell. I’m proud he took the leap to do this.”

Thomas Perkins remembers the transition his son made while at college. Carter did not have formal music training, but the prouder he was of his music, the more his passion grew.

“He really became engaged in it and focused on his craft,” Thomas Perkins said. “Carter drove himself to where he is today. He is 100 percent responsible for this. This is his hard work, his drive and his passion for something he loves. It’s a great story about following your dream.”

His stage name, Rozei (pronounced like rosy), derives from a nickname given to him by his great-grandmother. During early childhood, Perkins’ ears and nose would redden from cold weather and other factors, earning him the nickname “Rosy.”

While trying to come up with his new moniker in late 2018, he glanced down at his great-grandmother’s wedding band that hung from a necklace. That triggered his new name, which he modified into a fresher look.

Future plans

For now, Perkins will keep recording in his bedroom. Having spent a month working in Atlantic Records studios in California during the winter, he hopes for a move to Burbank. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed those plans.

“I’ll definitely keep a setup here at home when I come back to visit,” he said. “But being an artist is a lot more than making music. It’s networking, meeting new people and building new relationships. It’d also be nice to get some professional studio time in.”

Working in his home studio, though, has not hindered his creative juices. Self-quarantine has kept him in his element — zoned in at his home studio.

“I have well over 10 songs done in this time,” he said. “In my opinion, they’re all better than ‘Ooo La La.’ My mindset is to make the next song better than the last one and I think they’re all significantly better.”

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