Hip Hop in Climbing: Part IX

This article also available as a podcast here.

Meet the Talent: Ryan Edwards

Ryan Edwards (he/him/his)

Peep the BOC shirt

MC Name: Ronin FM. “I do my music independently and I don’t need anyone or anything else to do it like, it’s like my thing. So Ronin is a Samurai with no master, that’s why I went for that. If someone puts my MC name anywhere that’s my website URL. [I am] more of a hip hop artist cuz naturally producing came to me a lot more naturally than rapping. I started rapping out of necessity. I produce more than I rap.” Ronin FM has been producing for 11 years and you can find his music on Spotify.

How did you get started in music? “I got a computer, I guess. I’d always been into music growing up. Drums was my instrument. I had always thought I could produce and stuff and didn’t know how to go about it. Then when I went to college that’s when I got my first laptop…I started messing around on Garageband and then I just made a ton of beats and then eventually switched over to Ableton Live which is a more legitimate software.” He went to grad school for music technology with an undergrad in architecture.

Who are your favorite MC’s?: “Pep Love. When I was in high school a big thing I was into was Cruz: like 8 person groups cuz it’s cool to hear a whole album where different members had a different approach to the subject matter of each song and they have different styles and stuff. Hieroglyphics was the group I listened to a lot in high school and when I heard their album 3rd Eye Vision, that’s the album that made me want to rap. And Pep Love is my favorite Hieroglyphics member. But then Living Legends is the group that made me believe that I could actually do it. Outside of stylistic influence Black Thought is another favorite from the Roots. In terms of current people: Kendric Lamar and Killer Mike.”

How long have you been climbing? “For 22 years but there have definitely been some breaks there. When I moved to New York City, ironically enough, that’s when I got serious about it. A lot of it was because of the community out there. I was mainly a sport climber growing up and then I mainly would boulder in the gyms to stay in shape. But outdoors it was always about sport climbing. I didn’t really seriously boulder outside until I was out in Grad School. I’m still mainly a sport climber when it’s not a pandemic.”

Have you ever rapped and climbed at the same time? “No. Maybe if I got into multipitch I could see that happening but when I was really serious about it, I was always focused on the send and pushing my grade and stuff. That’s all that mattered at that moment on the climb: hitting all the moves perfectly and making sure I preserve my energy for the crux and whatnot. I haven’t made a video merging the two. I’ve thought about it but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Probably eventually.”

Have you ever attended any climbing film festivals? “I’ve been to BAMF. I went to some of those because my parents are outdoorsy also. So whether I wanted to or not, I was at those.”

How do you feel about Hip Hop being played during a climbing film? “I have seen white dudes playing hip hop in their send, like boulder videos and stuff and I get the impression they just like the way it sounds and not really aware of the actual message behind it or anything like that. A lot of white people either aren’t aware of the message or they get the wrong message from it.”

What did you think of the video Hip Hop Gone Wild? “I think it’s kinda wack. It’s one of those things where their friends or whatnot might think it’s funny or entertaining, but I just kind of cringe when I see it because I listen to, like, actual hip hop. Whenever something is gonna have a wide audience or whatnot, I think there should be a certain amount of skill or seriousness that should be involved otherwise it just comes across as a big joke…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering what the audience is. If a bunch of white people see that they’ll probably think it’s funny but I mean like don’t play that for a bunch of black people [laugh]…I see the entertainment value in it cuz it can be funny and a joke, but people actually taking it seriously and think it’s revolutionary and the evolution of hip hop? There is something wrong with them, they gotta get their brain checked because they just don’t know anything about hip hop.”

How do you feel about the one Black person on the screen? “One black person endorsing something doesn’t make it ok. I don’t know the black dude in the video and I’m not going to call him an uncle Tom and stuff but there have been plenty of uncle Toms in American history who have probably been fine with field slaves being treated badly or fine with other black people getting lynched as long as it’s not them. That doesn’t make it ok. One black person saying it’s ok is definitely not the case…If you look throughout the history of Hip Hop, it has definitely been a black form of music, without a doubt.”

Any other thoughts?  “There have been some important white people in Hip Hop history like Rick Rubens’ a big one and the Beastie Boys and even right now LP’s doing big things like Run the Jewels or Killa Mike. They wouldn’t be able to exist or be successful without the work that black people put into the art form ahead of them or the support that they have gotten with black people while they were doing their career…Eminem wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of black people both before he got discovered by Dre and after Dre put him on. Depends on how they go at it and how they interact and how down they are with the community…Eminem starting I don’t think that was appropriation but I think more of his success and how he has been…how Eminem is the best selling Hip Hop artist of all time because of his appeal to white people, I think that in and of itself is appropriation. I don’t think that’s Eminem appropriating Hip Hop, I think that’s more of whiteness in America appropriating Hip Hop just through how economics and marketing work… I don’t think any white person doing Hip Hop is appropriation but how their perceived or treated by mainstream America can be or marketed is a form of appropriation. That’s not so much the artist: that’s a lot of the consumer and record labels doing that.”

Do you consider the film to be appropriation then? “Yea…She’s just doing it for fun of the video and I don’t think it’s always bad to have fun but again the marketing or manipulation from the consumer, I guess not a record label in this case, the film festival. That aspect of it is appropriation.”

Do you have a current album out? “When I was in my old apartment when the Coronavirus pandemic broke out, I actually got sick really early on and I’m pretty sure I had it…I was stuck in this room and literally couldn’t leave…Pretty much all I did do is make beats…pretty much made beats all the way up until Black Lives Matter protests started. It kind of documented the whole experience just because of the frequency I made the beats. It’s all in chronological order so each one has a different feel or theme about something I was either experiencing or witnessing going on in the world at that time. There was a lot of stuff going on at that time.” The name of his new album that dropped in 2020 is Symptoms of Systems.

What are your top 2 favorite tracks you have done? Top 2 on the last album in 2017 was Bacon (song about police brutality) and Profit (about the “lengths people will go to make a profit regardless of the cost of human life or how it impacts other people and their communities”)

Any big plans for other albums? “I needed to save money and get stuff done faster so I’m  just seeing how I can make something dope with more limitations and I think that’s in itself more Hip Hop than the last album I did. Hip Hop has always been about overcoming limitations whether it’s life stuff (like the neighborhoods you live in) or the hardships you’re facing or the access to technology or recording equipment. Hip Hop didn’t start out with state of the art recording equipment or studios and stuff like that. I think that’s definitely a big part of it: making something dope out of your limitations.”

Where can we find your work? Find his music at Ronin.fm “Go to it on computer, not on a phone at this time.”

4 thoughts on “Hip Hop in Climbing: Part IX

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