Life as the hottest rapper in the sleepy city of Mobile, Ala., comes with its perks. Nobody bats an eye when you drive your Escalade on the sidewalk so you wont be late getting to the club. And they dont notice when you illegally park your vehicle in between two police cars once you arrive. See, you can do things like that when your earth-trembling single, D-Boyz, is blazing local radio. 

But for Maurice Rich Boy Richards, 21, the ultimate goal isnt hometown VIP treatment its widespread acceptance. Out here, Im a ghetto star, he says.But Im focused on the bigger picture. 

Music hasnt always been so heavy on the rappers mind.As a student at Alabamas Tuskegee University, Rich Boy majored in mechanical engineering. Then Rich, who occasionally dabbled in music, dropped out of school and fully committed himself to producing. School wasnt for me, and I knew I could make it doing music, he says with a shrug. But trying to go the Kanye West route brought out family differences. My mother was supportive, but my grandfather thought it was a terrible idea. He didnt understand that type of thing. 

Rich Boy set out to prove himself by making beats and applying his gangster twang to them. Soon his hometown radio stations started spinning his indie track Cold as Ice. Then he had a chance encounter in early 2003 with Polow, a member of Atlanta rap group Jim Crow. Impressed with Richs material, Polow flew Rich to ATL and nurtured him into a full-time MC. By November of that year, Rich had inked a deal with Interscope and was soon recording with the likes of Mannie Fresh, resulting in his as-yet-untitled debut. 

Reminiscent of vintage Cash Money, the albums Fresh-produced first single, D-Boyz, is Richs attempt to put the Souths other A on the hip hop map. With a country-fried flow and buoyant beats tailor-made for any strip club, Rich Boy has all the makings of a modern-day hot boy. Even Fresh admits to a bit of dj vu when working with him. It rekindles that old feeling, he says. Ive been waiting for that to come along. An artist like Rich is a breath of fresh air. 

Still, Rich is a long way from enjoying even the fringe benefits of hip hops platinum club. Im on a label with Eminem and 50 Cent, Ive gotta grind to make my stuff standout, he says. Until then, small-town perks will have to do.