After releasing his sizzling debut EP, Games We Play, in 2020, R&B artist Ryan is poised to leave his mark on 2021 too. The Brooklyn-born rapper and artist grew up taking the train from his home in the borough’s Cypress Projects to Manhattan and now sees his face on billboards of those very same trains.
It’s a reminder to the young artist of how much music has been part of his life from since he was a little boy. Ryan’s mother wanted to be a singer and was set to work with Quincy Jones, but instead became a teacher in order to have time to focus on raising him. Her favorite artists, from Mary J Blige to Jodeci and Usher, filled the home he lived in. “My mother is the person who introduced me to R&B,” Ryan tells American Songwriter.
“From as early as I can remember my mom would always have great music playing in the car, cleaning the house, anywhere that music could be played,” he says. “Before she birthed me, she had the opportunity to sign to Quincy Jones, but she chose to raise me and continue her studies at Brown University. I could tell you so many ways how she has influenced me and my music.”
With the foundation for his love of music laid by his mother, Ryan went on to study more—picking up some battle rap skills after surfing the internet. “All it took was one encounter and I was instantly hooked,” he says. It’s that influence of battle rap that Ryan uses to infuse his music with a crispness, even though the songs he sings are steeped in 90s-era R&B.
Ryan’s debut, Games We Play, shows off his style, as well as his mission to get people to feel good, and keep coming back for more of his brand of R&B. The album debut also marked his signing to StormTroopers/RCA Records, a feat that transpired after Ryan began meeting all the right people. One day he’d been delivering water to a recording studio and ended up discovering he was at Diddy’s recording studio, Daddy’s House. Ryan struck up a friendship with Diddy’s son, Christian, a.k.a. King Combs. Soon he was meeting industry titan Wayne Barrow, who introduced him to his business partner, Mark Pitts, and was well on his way to making his dreams of releasing music a reality.
After receiving encouragement from Chris Brown and Jeremih, Ryan put out his first track, “Real One,” in 2019. It soon found an audience and to date, has helped him earn 1.3 million streams worldwide and counting. Shortly after, he started working on the Games We Play EP, using relationships as a springboard for the tracks. “This project was truly a way of me reflecting on my life in the different phases of love interests,” he says. “The first record written off the project was “911” on September 10, 2019. The very last record recorded was “Aye Mami,” recorded on June 7th, 2020.”
Ryan released the music video for “9-1-1(Emergency)” highlighting his promise to always be there for a special someone in any kind of emergency. “‘9-1-1’ was just a clever way of me saying I’m there whenever she needs me,” he says. “I did have somebody mind,” he admits, about the song’s subject, but adds “that’ll remain secret until further notice.”
In the time since he started working on the EP, Ryan’s process has changed somewhat. “Like anything else you do in life, I just got better with time,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with maturity and life experience. I used to want to sing to girls about how fly I am in a more braggadocios way, but now I truly want to sing them from a different angle. I started meshing with rap flows with a R&B melodic format.” He looked to his own favorite artists, apart from the ones his mom introduced him to, to model his sound on, from Nas to Usher.
“My creative process usually comes from two different methods,” he says. “Usually I come up with my songs in the car whenever I’m driving. I hear the beat and mumble the melodies that come to mind and whatever feeling I get dictates the lyrics of the song. The other method is similar just instead I’m in the recording booth going line to line from the head.” Whatever way he decides to express himself, Ryan is always ready to jump in the ring