On the surface, Los Angeles and its contributions to Hip-hop are seemingly one-dimensional – people can name check NWA and the rhetoric of Reality Rap and leave it at that. But those of us that understand the pulse of Hip-hop realise the diversity of Los Angeles’ various scenes and musical textures play out like a multi-faceted Tarrantino-esque movie. Storylines intertwine, experiences shared, life styles develop, characters and cultures form a tapestry quite unlike anywhere else on earth. A virtual rabbit hole of complexity and subsequently one of artistry. A world where prolific ‘gangsta rap’ icon Snoop Dogg can attend the same high school as Hollywood superstar, Cameron Diaz and no one but outsiders bat an eyelid.
Los Angeles native, Ryan ‘Ryu’ Maginn’s story in Hip-hop is one integral thread in the tapestry of the underground Los Angeles Hip-hop diaspora. “I got started while I was working at an import car shop in Artesia California. After the shop closed up at night, it would turn into a little meeting spot where everyone would come by and freestyle.” Ryu says of his inception “My good friend Redeem (RIP) recognized that I had some talent, and pushed me to do a radio drop for a local L.A. radio station 92.3 The Beat for a show called The Joint with Mike Nardone.”
“From there we formed my first group called The Brigade which consisted of group members Redeem, Gravity Christ, and myself. The group never released any music, but it was a launching point for my career.”
Subsequently setting off as a member of Styles of Beyond with Takbir, Vin Scully and DJ Cheapshot, together they crafted the critically acclaimed and immensely popular debut album, ‘2000 Fold’. ‘2000 Fold’ was produced in-part by Divine Styler – who rose to acclaim after his seminal debut album ‘Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light’ shook the status quo for the perceived ‘Los Angeles sound’ in 1992.
“I’ve Been Friends with Divine Styler for 20 years, going back to the early days of Styles Of Beyond. Divine used to live with Takbir’s family – [he] was basically Takbir’s older brother, and Tak’s [actual] brother Bilal Bashir was Divine’s producer.” Ryu explains “Bilal had a really nice studio in the garage where lots of artists from the area would record. (Divine Styler, House Of Pain, Def Jef, and others.) Divine who was already a popular artist and someone who I was already a fan of, decided to help us out by jumping on our single called “Killer Instinct.” He would produce our [12” only] single “Style Warz” as well as many more in the future.”
The S.O.B logo came from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, who later became a platform for the group to show their talent after 2004 as they combined forces to form the group, Fort Minor.
Jay-Z who had previously collaborated with Linkin Park on the 2004 album Collision Course, was the executive producer for Fort Minors’ The Rising Tied album which became Ryu’s first taste of Major Label and commercial success. Never the less, Ryu could not shake his passion for the rawness and creative freedom of the underground and the scene he left such a formidable imprint in during his formative years from demos, to cypher-jam sessions, to killing radio appearances on The Wake Up Show and releasing cult influencing albums like ‘2000 Fold’.
“[Working on a solo album is] a new experience for me coming out of group situations to now doing it by myself. However, my experience as an independent artist, and having the commercial success of Fort Minor as well as being involved with all aspects of writing, recording, marketing and releasing music, [it] has prepared me well to finally branch out on my own.”
Reuniting with Divine Styler on production was also a no-brainer for the San Fernando Valley Rambo as he explains “Divine Styler was instrumental in the development of the “S.O.B. Sound.” So it was a very natural process when working together on the ‘Tanks For The Memories’ album.”
He continues “We tend to like the same kind of beats and Divine’s production fits my style perfectly – He’s always been my favorite producer [and] I really wanted to take it back to where it all started, and work with all of the people who were there from day one.”
Bringing his career and his journey full circle in 2016 with is debut solo album ‘Tanks For The Memories’, Ryu has solidified himself as a lyrical pillar in the city, a veteran of the art and a lead character in the multi-faceted screenplay that is the Los Angeles Hip-hop scene.