If you’ve been active or just lurking in the hip hop communities on BandLab, you’ve probably listened to a track or two from rap heavyweight Ryan Walton. He’s a name we’re familiar with on BandLab – his tracks appear on numerous Collections and playlists on our Explore page, which our team here handpick daily. More recently, he’s wowed us with his lyrical chops and his scintillating way with words and that’s why he’s a four-time winner of our monthly contests.

Naturally, we were keen on knowing more about Ryan and how he flexes his musical muscles. We caught up with this super passionate rapper and he tells us all, from moonwalking on people’s doorsteps to rapping in the shower.

Tell everyone on BandLab a little about yourself and your music.

The name is Ryan Aaron Walton. I was born in Fontana, CA but I was raised in San Bernardino until I graduated high school in 2007. I moved to Chico to further my education at Chico State California because by then both my parents had passed away.

From there I studied abroad in the United Kingdom for a year where I got my first independent record deal with EP1 Records. It quickly dissolved after my producer Big T was brutally stabbed to death in his home. I was not in Europe at the time. I returned home and some years later I started my own family when I had my first son.

My music is just as out of the ordinary as my life. It all comes from the moments which shaped me and is delivered as how I grew from it. My songs start with hip hop even though I was raised on the oldies like Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson and the greats. I was in choir in high school at my church and was on a slam poetry team so that’s where a lot of my R&B influences comes from.

Being in the UK influenced many more of my agent sounds like Electronic and Drum & Bass. I started my own rock group called Desperate Moments where I paid for and recorded my first EP at a recording studio there and we sounded like Rage Against The Machine but my rhymes where much fatter I would say.

The songs I make are the struggle and inspiration that I daily face and the music embodies most of it because it’s what’s kept me sane and in control of my predicaments. My music is everything to me.

Do you remember the very moment you decided you wanted to rap and make your own music?

As a little kid I used to dress up like Michael Jackson for Halloween a few years in a row (may I add that when I was 8 or 9 I would moonwalk on people’s doorsteps for candy). I loved music before that but it was the showmanship that drove my charismatic nature.

In high school, my friends and I would miss the start of our periods because the security guards would have to break up our freestyle circles.

I used to be a beat boxer, but I wanted rhyme too – to show my clever and witty side.

What or who are your inspirations when it comes to your music? 

My biggest inspirations in the rap game are never gonna change. While people loved Jay-Z, I was a Big L fan. He was your rapper’s favorite rapper. I used to listen to his radio freestyle where of course he ate up Jigga. While Jay was skiddly boppin and coming off pretty mediocre, Big L was defining a culture. I’ll never forget when he said, “I’m so ahead of my time my parents haven’t met yet.” I think that one bar set the lyrical tone for all my raps. It’s still today single handedly the most iconic bar ever said in the hip hop culture.

I use my music to define these same type of moments. When you listen to my music you come for some things you’ve not heard before and that’s why I have such a big following. The inspiration is endless – from Old Dirty Bastard, to Lil Wayne. I’ve listened to almost every rapper, street rapper, battle rapper, singer, and musician I can because you learn from so many.

You’ve dropped a few EPs on BandLab already. Could you tell us about your latest one “Rapperbilia 2 EP”?

Well here’s the idea and concept. I wanted to release work that is exclusive on BandLab. I started this idea to propel my listeners outside of BandLab to either have to join or to listen in and spread the word. This works well for me as the artist and the BandLab community.

It’s really my way of giving back and saying thanks to BandLab and the community for showing big time love.

Onto the EP itself, I think of memorabilia like a collection or items that come from a particular moment or big events that one lives through and that’s the inspiration. Rapperbilia 2 is the ongoing “collection” of events that either myself or someone I know have gone through and at a level everyone can relate to.

Songs like “Back To The Money” and “Wow” are all about making your own way and defining yourself through any setting while being the individual you want to be and having a plan to do it. My first Rapperbilia was a lift off point with an edgier outlook, but I wanted this time around to have that mainstream feel and classics like “Bang My Line”. That phrase itself just means to call someone, but the song itself has a larger than life sound and feels a lot like Lil Baby’s biggest single “Drip Too Hard”.

What do you aim to communicate with your music and your lyrics?

I aim to communicate my range through my sound. It can be street – it can be decadent, it can be soul, it can be something different for the different individuals that hear it. Music is forever changing and growing, and so are the people who listen to it.

I hope to communicate the love and struggle that I deal with daily in my lyrics, but hopefully, that resonates with listeners finding themselves in that same situation or come to the music to grow or learn a new perspective. I hope I deliver the message of the streets I grew up on, to the jargon I learned in my travels around the world that I want to share with my audience.

My music is my expression and I just want my subjects to be loud and clear so that those who do want to understand take something away in a big way, either about me or the outlook they have for themselves.

You’re definitely one ultra-passionate musician with a solid work ethic – what keeps you motivated to keep on creating the music you make.

The driving force in some way is failure. The failure of not being exactly where you want to be.

When both my parents passed away it gave me an otherworldly drive. I love to create and can do so for hours. Once I find something or someone that inspires me, I just can’t stop finding new ways to express myself. I try and keep a happy balance because expression is all about that moment and the inspiration

After all I’ve been through, and being a new father I want my child to see the dedication I have and that anything worth it, you have to work for. I’ve been doing that for over a decade. I’ve seen record deals, hung out with famous stars, and even song wrote for Berner on one of his collab albums with my friend B1 the PackBoys. I’ll keep finding ways to define myself until I get to where I want to go. Again it’s all part of that struggle to have success and the road required for one to succeed. The driving force in some way is failure. The failure of not being exactly where you want to be.

Tell us a bit about your creative process. How do you come up with your lyrics and how do you make your beats?

I’ve heard quite a bit of music so when you’re listening to someone tell stories all the time, you get good at telling your own. At a point when I wasn’t listening to anyone for a while and that gave me time to find out what my sound was. Rappers like Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana and the mixtape scene played a big role in how I shape my rhymes and consistent cleverness. All in all though, a magician never tells you how he does his tricks though right?

Never in my life will I claim to be a beat maker nor do I make beats. I specialize in rapping and leave it at that. I think a problem in the game today is that it’s hard to be really good at just one thing – I don’t just want to be an average joe at everything. I like it when beatmakers like Swizz Beats freestyle, but I love it when he put on aspiring artists like Cassidy. Now Hustler comes out and it’s a classic because you have people from their respective world dropping a bomb that can’t be diffused.

All my beats come from the resources and friends I’ve gained over the 10 years being in music. I have friends like Nabeyin with music credits on albums like Drake, so I stick to the rapping while I let the distinguished producers allow me to shine. I can be more creative that way and get more work done.

How did you discover BandLab?

I used BandLab sometime before to record a small freestyle once but I never saved it and after recording I deleted the app because it was taking up to much space on my phone! I had way too many photos at the time.

Maybe five or six months later when I had more space again I was on the App Store looking for a way to express myself and I downloaded BandLab again. I checked it out a bit more this time and saw the limitless control I could have in an environment of people just like me. I saw some users had tens of thousands of followers and I knew this should be where I start.

Then I recorded everything using BandLab, my iPhone and a handsfree headset to record my three-part mixtape in less than two weeks. It was three mixtapes with 20 minutes worth of content, hip hop and R&B. The collection got almost 100 likes and that was before there was an R&B channel on BandLab. I felt I really defined the genre before it got big and I’m proud of that. Don’t expect another one though so BandLab may be the last place anyone can find recordings of me singing the entire album!

How do you use BandLab? Can you describe what a session on BandLab looks like?

So it always starts with the beat. If that beat doesn’t hit you in a way you’re inspired I pass it up. It has to immediately become something I want to be creative with or I leave it alone.

Again the moment is important. Once I’ve got something I know I’m working with, I’ll freestyle some ideas and write them down. Things come to me quickly so once I jot down a chorus the verses take no time at all.

I usually write everything before I record because I believe in the one take and keeping the recording sounds as much of the same as possible. That’s why my music sounds the way it does because it all happens at one time with the proper preparations. I make sure I know most of the words before I record. But not too much to keep certain moments unexpected and genuine.

Once everything is ready to my standard I stand in my shower with the curtain pulled and door locked so my son can’t get in and I record solely off BandLab with my Phone. I do all the production myself and mixing all on my own. Everything is done by me except the beats from start to finish.

Recording all depends on the beat but I build it out in layers because I always anticipate how I’ll mix the final product while I’m recording not after and that’s the trick. I’ll hear a layer that should get an effect and I’ll already hear it as I’m rapping and that’s why music sounds different from most artists in the hip hop community.

Once I’ve laid it all down, I mix and listen for levels, pops, and overall sound. I do this until I feel the mix is complete. It’s just a moment and I realize there are much more coming so I don’t get lost in one track and that’s a part of the work ethic.

Counting the losses and using what I’ve learned makes the next track more exciting, and most of the time, better. I have my processes down and established, so most of my recordings maintain a certain level of quality. I usually drop the track unless I have one of my producer buddies master a downloaded mix straight from BandLab.

Tell us about your set up – do you have any specific gear that helps you record your sound?

My set up consists my iPhone 5s, a handsfree headset that came with the phone and BandLab. That’s it and that’s all. No specific gear besides that and I get pretty good quality music for what it’s worth.

I think that’s a problem in music today – musicians are defined by their equipment. Everyone thinks they need to have some big studio setup. But what they don’t realize is artists like OutKast recorded their hit album out of their homies’ mother basement man. I go into this with that same mindset. I can always re-record everything in a studio once a label signs me and pays for that. But for now, I’ll stick to my little guns and bathroom because it’s working for me. It just costs me my phone bill and a free app to make as much quality noise as possible. Over 30,000 plays later I would say I’m doing just fine with what I have. This way I’m allowed limitless creativity in a place where I always feel comfortable.

I rap in my pyjamas sometimes because you can’t control when you’re feeling creative but I can make sure I’m always ready to create, again contributing to my work ethic and how I can get so much done.

I’ll stick to my little guns and bathroom because it’s working for me. It just costs me my phone bill and a free app to make as much quality noise as possible.

Give all your fans on BandLab a sneak peek into your next drop on the platform.

My next drop is either going to be another freestyle for my SKY mixtape or another track installment for Rapperbilia 2. Man, if you guys would stop dropping a contest every month I can get some more work done! Haha! I’m just playing, but really I enjoy giving out free music for the community to listen to. A part of what separates me from other artists is I take the time to do stuff like that for my listeners and they see and respect that.

Rapperbilia isn’t even released yet so all you BandLab users keep checking in weekly to see if Rapperbilia 2 is further formed. And that’s the beauty of it – when you come to my BandLab page, you can listen to my prior works that are either genuine sounds, contest winning songs, free material which you can download or exclusive material that isn’t out yet and that’s what you should expect.

I want to encourage and inspire users the way I first was by other BandLab users. You can create a following for yourself starting exactly where you are today.

Two first places and two second places with leading play entries, 9-time hip hop Channel inductee, 2-time Top 40 inductee, Editor’s selection and People’s Choice – all in 5 month’s time defines that in ten months the possibilities are endless. I’m looking for label representation so until BandLab or any major label signs me you know where to find me at.

Photo credits:
Cameron Parker aka @thekiddcam