Eleven years after his first collaboration with Lil Wayne, Kevin Rudolf is letting it rock again — this time with "I Will Not Break," whose video is premiering exclusively below.
The track marks something of a comeback for Rudolf, the New York-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer whose credits in addition to "Let It Rock" include a tenure as a Cash Money Records gun-for-hire with three albums of his own. He spent a few years in Nashville, where he co-wrote and played on Keith Urban's "Little Bit of Everything," before moving back to Miami, where he's renewing his artist career with "I Will Not Break."
"It does feel like a reboot," Rudolf tells Billboard. "Nashville is a great town, but I felt like my home base was in Miami; I just came back for one day and thought, 'This is where I have to be.' And whenever I do something with Wayne it just feels, like, destined. There's just a chemistry. I don't see him that often, but there's just something about the combination that always feels like it's destined to be. I don't know how to explain it."
That said, Rudolf did not have Wayne in mind when he first came up with "I Will Not Break." It wasn't until a mutual friend took Rudolf to the Hit Factory to visit Wayne while he was working that the two came together again. "The first thing (Wayne) said to me was, 'Do you have any new music,' and I was like, 'Well, I got this one track I think would be perfect for you…'" Rudolf recalls. "He was in-between situations with not being able to put out music at that time, so I went back the next night and he gave me a verse and I took it back and just finished it and decided to put it out myself."
Both the defiant "I Will Not Break" and the animated, image-rich video address Rudolf's return to his musical roots, the latter invoking Kintsugi, a philosophy about repair. The clip ends with a childhood photo of Rudolf holding a guitar beneath a current image of the artist. "I wanted a video saying something about where I came from and what I had gone through and where I am now," Rudolf explains. "It's about having whatever experiences, whatever scars, whatever life experiences I had been through. What you see are pieces of me coming together, coming full circle with that image of me as a child. That's where we came up with that Kintsugi concept about broken pottery and it being repaired and lined with gold, which is what's represented with me at the end."
"I Will Not Break" is intended as a beginning, however, and Rudolf plans to be releasing more songs and accompanying videos — some continuing the characters he introduced in the new clip — on a regular basis. He anticipates having a dozen songs out before compiling them onto an album, most likely next year. "I realize my thing, musically, is going into darkness and triumph. That's the theme I'll stay with — what connects with my fans and what feels the truest to me," Rudolf says. "A lot of the songs I grew up on were like that. I've always loved those triumphant, empowering songs. I was never a love song person."
Rudolf has also started work on a memoir, tentatively titled Holden Caulfield In a Hip-Hop World, which he says will begin with his first move to Miami during 2006 and the experiences that followed. "It's a very internal, emotional journey through all of that," says Rudolf, who's about three-quarters of the way through it. "It's not really the kind of book there this happened or that happened; It's a really internal journey that echoes back to my childhood and what I was feeling at the time. I think it'll give any fans of mine a lot more insight into my story."