Creativity is not uncommon or foreign in the Black existence, yet despite its prevalence in our culture, there are so few who choose to embrace their creative energies and share their art. Black Art is powerful but Black Art is being limited. The politics of it is too much for the world to handle, so much so that our art is streamlined and labeled as reverse racism when we show our angst in our artistic expression. This project is an exploration of what it means to be creative in a space where making a living from your art is uncommon. It’s a breakdown and an analysis of the work of young creatives around me; exploring their struggles, their process and achievements. I want to show how much creative talent exists within our spaces so that other creatives who feel boxed in and forced to give up on their art have active examples of inspiration to draw from.
The second person I approached as a part of this project is a guy who the universe dropped in my path. He is just beginning to embrace the possibility of life as a creative and so in a way, this serves as a birthing or an introduction to this extension of himself. Ryan Taíno is a man who is exploring himself and doing so openly. His creativity is evident and I am pleased to introduce him to all of you.
Q: The name “Ryan Taíno”…explain where it comes from and what it means to you?
A: Ryan Taíno (Tie-ee-no) is an alias inspired bythe original ‘Taíno Indians’ of the Caribbean. Having never completed the type of complex DNA test that reveals your lineage, I have no true knowledge on whether or not Taíno is even at all in my blood. What I DO know, is that I come from a direct line of centuries worth of Jamaicanlineage and that the Taíno Indians were the first known humans to walk the land of “Xaymaca” – Jamaica as we know it today. The Taínos: a people of nature, a people of intelligence, a people of peace, a people of survival - abeautiful people. This serves as my inspiration: being a true child of God, the Universe and our Earth is how I will represent Xaymaca – with Taíno blood, or not.
Q: Music in terms of a creative career outlet is relatively new to you…Why did you decide to choose the path and was there always an underlying interest?
A: Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot to say, about a lot of things. I’m a deep, analytical thinker and my perspective is usually very different from the norm. Music is a channel for my perspective to the wider world.
There was definitely always an underlying interest too, just not with professional aspirations. As a child my two older brothers were always in the house doing something music related; one was a singer and the other was channelling his inner DJfrom early, so the house was always loud. I just wanted to be like them, so I used to sing the same songs one brother was singing and rap and sing all the songs my eldest brother would play. Once I got to primary school I took up Saxophone for a couple years and pursued dance pretty heavily, so the musical inspiration was always there. I even remember in secondary school days I would post lyrics on my status that I wrote over old Drake beats and they would get crazy likes from my school friends; I had something from early, but I never knew I’d want to do it like this until recently. In December 2016, my boy jokingly made me freestyle for him so I played along; “Bro, you HAVE to do something with this, you’ve got something good here”…so I went away, got to writing and the rest is almost history.
Q: If you’ve always had this interest, why did it take so long to figure out that you wanted to be a creative?
A: More than anything, my dreams and ambitions were elsewhere for most of my life. Until I was about 18, I had played football – and to a high level too – so my mind was only ever on being a professional in that sense. Besides that, my parents are Caribbean and placed huge importance on me doing well in school and going to Uni one day so that “the world could be my oyster”. I got it. I understood it. It made sense to me, so I followed it through. But something was missing once I stopped playing football; that burning passion to channel energy into a particular activity and achieve a specific goal was gone and I felt empty for a long time because of it.
The months following December 2016, flirting with channelling my thoughts & emotions through melody and stories diminished that feeling of emptiness, to the point where I can’t imagine how I could possibly channel all of my emotions without a musical outlet. I guess you could say my musical interests have always been stifled by other ambitions and responsibilities, but all that is over now – It’s about damn time.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re coming up with raps? Is it life experiences,people?
A: For me, when I write things down, it has to come from the heart and with freestyles it all tends to come from the heart anyway, given that it’s just what’s on my mind at the time I’m delivering the verse. But even more so when I physically write lyrics down it has to come from somewhere real; I can’t write it if it’s not true. One thing with music, though, is that people will listen to your lyrics and believe that THAT particular experience is your constant experience and MUST describe your life on a daily. I don’t feel like that: it could be something I felt for a single day, or a desire, or something I learned from somebody else’s perspective- it doesn’t have to be a big facet of my daily personal life. I’m inspired by things I can empathise with and/or understand because that puts me in a position to educate and teach. I’m aware that a lot of people look to music as a place to learn and hear fresh perspectives so I think it’s important I only talk about what I am able to shed a real, honest perspective on, rather than things I’m not well-versed in, just because that might be popular or whatever.
That being said, it’s not always ‘deep’ – I’m about vibes so you could hear me share a perspective on young black boys growing up in a world systematically set against them in the same week you hear my perspective on how the pretty woman who’s been watching me all nightwearing the red dress in the corner of the room is about to get this work. They’re both real. They’re both Ryan.
Q: How would you describe your creative process and when do you find that you produce your best work?
A: Honestly my life has been a madness, like all of us. Humans like to hear about what’s real, so I write about it; I just tell my stories in the most vivid, rhythmic fashion.
While I’m out during the day my head is pretty much always on music and new ideas, so a lot of my day to day interactions end up influencing rhymes here and there – I put these in my phone seeing as I’m outside at the time. Once I get home though, everything goes into my big Rhymebook – pen to paper always feels better for me. Inside my book I’ve got easily over 100 concepts for songs, melodic structures and stories to tell, detailed with particular rhyme schemes, tones, mood and the atmospheres I want to create for my listeners. Then last comes the beat: the beat has to match the concept, so I freestyle over it with lyrics inspired by it. This where the Euphoria sets in: finding the perfect beat to match the concept I created from nothing but a few thoughts is an indescribable feeling.
I’m a travel-writer: on a plane, car journey, train journey, whatever…that’s when I zone out of life and into music. Coach journeys are my most productive setting though; Ima be honest and say that there are times when I holla at someone to visit them in another city just because I want to take the coach to write on the way. To Whom It May Concern, it’s all with good intention: forgive me…
Q: Describe your sound. How would you say it’s developed from when you first became interested in rap to now as you are ready to introduce the world to your sound.
A: My sound when I first started was nothing more than raw talent that had no real form or direction – I was just good at spitting over different beats, whether grime, traditional hip-hop or modern R&B. A lot has changed since then…
My inspirations run deeeeeeep. Overall, I keep it Hip-hop: my favourite music on a daily to listen to is American Hip-hop music so it’s only natural that those influences affect my own creative process. I mean more of the Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Dave East type hip-hop though, rather than the newer Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert direction. Hip-hop influences mean my words have no filter, at all, so I say all I feel to say. At the same time, R&B’s melodies and delivery of romantic and sexual messages is something I’m BIG on so that comes across in my sound a lot in songs that are addressing my pursuit of or experiences with women; lyrically and melodically I’m tryna revisit the early 2000s a lil bit. I look forward to sharing these ones with the world especially because I think my delivery of this kinda vibe is different to how most male UK artists choose to do it currently – and I respect that style big time, but I prefer mine for me though.
Like I said though, the influences run deep. From Reggae, across Jazz, Reggaeton, Salsa, Slow Jamz and Hip-Hop, my music always takes a little bit from everywhere. Being multilingual gives so many options for metaphors, rhymes and overall sound.As I put more music in the public eye, I’m sure this won’t be hard to notice.
Q: I know you’re in University and you aren’t studying music... would you have liked to?
A: Not even in the slightest. I’m laid back; everything for me is about relaxation and going with my natural flow of energy. Having to take compulsory exams and tests to progress with music would’ve drained my passion for it completely. Imagine putting your all into your composition and your tutor gives you a dead grade because they “didn’t understand your angle”…miss me with that for a lifetime.
Q: Since you decided to get into music, how has that been received by your family?
A: Put it this way: after having written for a year, I finally showed my mom my music in December 2017. For my 21stin February 2018 she bought me a Saxophone to help me pursue the passion.
I’ve been springing my verses on family members randomly and they’ve all been really impressed and requested all kinds of follow ups - yes I’m that dude at the family gathering who corners you and then starts rapping, and you’re gonna listen and enjoy this Ryan Taíno sound today…
In all seriousness though, I couldn’t ask for a more supportive bunch, God gave me an incredible support system in this life and I don’t know what I did to deserve it. Thank you.
Q: How important is having a supportive base to you?
A: Crucial. I’m a deep-thinker. I have ideas for days, concepts for days, plans for days. I love having people there to bounce these ideas off of to get feedback. Coming with the ideas is never a problem, it’s the fine-tuning I appreciate help with and I love my supportive base for this.
It’s also good to have people there to let you know when you’re acting up too, or just on some general BS.
Q: What do you want people to know about Ryan Taíno and what do you want people to get from your music?
A: Everything. Life is all about self-discovery, and music is already helping ME to access parts of my own-self that I wasn’t aware of. This is all a journey and I want anybody who loves good music to be a part of discovering Ryan Taíno too.
There are so many small moments in my life, even on a day to day basis that I would love for somebody to be in my head for to experience exactly what I’m feeling, to see through my eyes, to hear through my ears. Music is one of those few universal energies that allow us as humans to transcend the physical bounds of our own minds and bodies to experience that which is lived by other beings. When 50 Cent got shot 9 times and felt like ‘Many Men’ were on his case, I knew how it felt to be 50; when Michael Jackson sang ‘You Rock My World’ I wanted moonwalk on my teacher’s desk and chase my crush through my school premises; when Santan Dave dropped his Blackbox I knew how it felt to be there for those prison visits; when Ray-J was in the rain singing bout his ‘One Wish’ I was ready to be in the rain too; when J. Cole screamed “This the sh*t I used to roll down Lewis Street with” I felt how he felt to live in New York living young & reckless; when Joe told his Mrs-to-be about all the things her man won’t do, I was screaming at the top of my lungs ready to steal somebody’s woman and felt the same way when Sisqó told the girl he was chasing the four steps she needed to do in to leave her man and be with him; when I heard Trey Songz sing ‘Inside part 2’ I was ready to…well, maybe those details aren’t for this interview actually…but you get my drift. This is exactly the experience I want to create.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your music in 5 years
A: I like how Grammys look, I want one. That won’t happen in 5 years but I definitely want one.
Within 5 years, more than anything, I want for my music to travel and allow me to travel with it. I want to reach people in Brazil, Chile, the US, Germany, Ghana, Australia, Japan and all the rest. The plan is to take Ryan Taíno to the world. Once the world knows Ryan Taíno, then Imma wipe the dust off of my Grammy speech real quick…
Yes, I’ve already started writing it.
Q: As a black artist, do you feel that it is difficult to carve out a career/life as a creative?
A: Actually no. Being black, a lot of what we go through as a people – both triumphant, positive things and the negative – is rooted in deep emotion and engagement with each other. I feel like being black in the time I grew up exposed me to certain realities that matured my way of thinking faster and developed my spirituality in ways that may not have otherwise been achieved at my age too. This makes creation of the art itself easier I think. We’re also in a time in which Hip-hop in the #1 Genre in the world – I’m ready to be a part of this. Of course become successful in an overall sense will take dedication and hard work but I’m more than happy to go full force right about now
Q: Do you feel like black youth are steered toward traditional career paths?
A: Yes 100%, but this is only natural in today’s British society. Black people in Britain, as far as wealth goes, unfortunately tend to be on the lower end of the wealth spectrum on average, so it only makes sense that our parents steer the youth towards careers which they believe will have a ‘safer’ or ‘more likely’ guarantee of income. I don’t think parents are to blame for having that mentality.
That being said though, I think it’s every parent’s responsibility to listen to the passions of their children: if your child actively wants to pursue a non-traditional career path, support that dream and chase it with them. I think it just takes understanding on both sides. Life is about enjoyment and having an amazing time while we get to be here on Earth, so that has to be the focal point before anything.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: In all aspects of life – love, friendship, family, dreams – be honest. Be honest with everything you do, with everybody around you and, most importantly, with yourself. Honesty brings clarity, and clarity brings an unmatchable inner peace. Life will move in exactly the way it is meant to when we’re honest. God’s timing, God’s positioning.
Love deep, Love hard, Love long & Love strong.