“My confidence isn’t me thinking I’m better than anyone. It’s me knowing that I’m working my ass off to perform the best I can in every way. I know why I’m here.” Jacobi Ryan
His name is Fresh and he from Lawton! Nah, scratch that – he is (now) Jacobi Ryan from Lawton, Oklahoma. A lyrical emcee “turnt” entrepreneurial wealth builder, dope podcast bringer (shout out to Tha Rap Broadcast), here for the kids like he created that Wu-Tang spirit – he got visions man! And, 2019 will be the year Jacobi Ryan unleashes his creative energy in a major way and I am here for Jacobi Ryan’s latest EP and the “fiddy two weeks” worth of singles that he’ll also be unleashing on us (via his Formerly Fresh/52 In 365 campaign) . It’s been nearly five years since Jacobi Ryan initially graced our pages, however with all this new creativity in the works, the new name change, he is about start letting the whole world know his name – this two part Q & A interview is long overdue. I sent him the questions and Jacobi answered. And, it WAS a cool back and forth process, so please enjoy every bit of Jacobi being Jacobi. Read on…
Q: First off, thank you so much for doing this Q & A interview and thank you for blessing us with your music as well as gracing the pages of TGSofHH over the years! Tell readers a little about yourself… How did you get your start in rhyming?
A: In 8th grade a couple of my best friends wanted to rap on the “White Tee” Instrumental – I told them no. That weekend, we were chillin’ and they started recording to the instrumental by putting a computer mic up next to the stereo and rapping live. By the end of that night I laid my verse, the rest is history. Lol!
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an emcee?
A: Of course we talked about this a bit about this last message, but to answer the second part, I got the Puff Daddy and the Family “No Way Out” album in 3rd grade I believe. Got a new stereo too. When I got that, that was the moment. That was it. Without a doubt. In high school I threw out like 3 mixtapes and had a studio at my crib where the homies would come chill and record and play video games. Our main thing was basketball so I wasn’t too focused on music at that point. I spent a lot of time doing it (rapping) for fun w/o really respecting it. When I came back to it in 2013 I’d learned from that and knew that this was what I wanted to do. So here we are.
Q: The first time you graced the pages of TGSofHH, was when you released the visuals for “Perfect Notes” from your “Empty Venues” project. One thing I noticed about you is that you had this ultra confident demeanor of a well seasoned veteran emcee. I’ve also noticed that same genuine (not fake machismo) demeanor in a lot of your lyrics and videos. Like, you could have shown up at say, the Heiro vs. Hobo Junction Battle back in the day and would have been quite comfortable being the Lone Wolf in your own crew. Is this confidence that you exude driven by your faith and your upbringing?
A: Man, I really appreciate you for rocking with me since forever firstly. I greatly appreciate your continued support. Crazy, that was damn near 5 years ago now. IDK if I’d say it’s because of my faith and upbringing. I’m sure it plays a part and factors in. But, there’s a lot to it. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. And I spent a lot of time alone working on my craft, going to shows, and getting to know myself. In that I’ve found peace in my solitude. I don’t need for much. I’m just driven and understand my purpose. And, I’m faithful in the Creator and the universe. I’ve just experienced too much alignment and enlightenment with the Creator to not be confident. I’ve sacrificed a lot. I’ve risked a lot. I’ve worked a lot. Everything I’ve done since 2013 has been strategic in laying my foundation and paying my dues and mastering my craft. I made myself earn the right to be confident in myself – true confidence, not arrogance. I’ve laid my foundation – I’m good. This is the next step. To continue building on it. I’m in this for the long term. Shit could not pop off for me for a cool minute. I’ll be cool doing my shows and working on my craft. I’m at a place now where I don’t need anyone’s validation or approval. For anything. And, I think everyone should get to that point in their own journeys. My confidence isn’t me thinking I’m better than anyone. It’s me knowing that I’m working my ass off to perform the best I can in every way. I know why I’m here.
Q: And, what have you done to cultivate your growth and development as a lyricist and an emcee over the years?
A: I made myself a lot more available for inspiration. I wear headphones everywhere now. Have been for the last couple of years. Because, of that I can listen to beats all day and write things down when I get inspired and brainstorm when I’m not. I’ve learned the value of your subconscious and I’ve tried to be particular in what I allow in. I don’t believe I’m responsible for anything I write. A definition of genius reads as a sort of divine spirit. I believe that makes sense. I can’t control when I get inspired. And I write my best work when inspired. That’s something else using me as a vessel. And, I just try to be open to it and respect it. This shit is really personal for me if you can’t tell lol. I also took every opportunity I got over the past 3 years to perform and work on my live performance and delivery. Since putting out three projects in 2014 my goal was to simply master more of my craft by building a brand, notoriety, and a demand by improving my live performances and really focusing on my writing. My goal was to serve a waiting demand with my next release, as opposed to releasing and then trying to garner demand. People have been asking about a project for a couple years now. It’s been a long time, but it hasn’t been with no thought – trust. Focusing on my live performance has really made a huge impact on my confidence too. I’ve been in mad different crowds, messed up all kinds of ways, and tried different things so I’m really comfortable in my performance wherever I’m at now. A lot of people criticize the mentality a lot of artists have – trying to play any show they can whenever they can – saying it saturates the market and people get tired of you. I don’t think their wrong at all. I think different people have different visions. I’ve seen my last 5 years and even now as my offseason getting ready for the season or tryout. I’ve been willing to take whatever to work on my craft and I’ve found that since I write so much I’m able to adjust my sets alot to avoid too much stagnation. And, that seemed to have paid off a lot. Both internally and for my brand. A lot of people have seen me grow a lot and I think there’s a level of authenticity and respect that comes with that that can’t really be earned any other way.
Q: Who are some of your musical influences?
A: Bob Marley, Lil Wayne, Hov, J Cole, Nipsey, KRIT, Puffy, Kendrick Lamar, mad other cats too but you know how that go lol!
Q: I see you reppin’ your city a lot as well as the other artists that hail from Oklahoma. I’ve listen to some of your tracks with WeRdoZe, Joey Sativa and Jim Conway to name a few – and all are dope artists. How has the Oklahoma hip hop scene influenced you and your music?
A: Gotta’ rep my city. Lawton forever. But, yea those are all the homies. I have great respect for those cats and how they approach their crafts. The OK Hip Hop scene has just inspired me. I’m big on the saying “Iron Sharpens Iron”. There are a lot of cats I met since coming here to OKC that are hella dope at what they do on a consistent basis. That shit be inspiring yo. To see ya’ homies out here really with it and getting to it. That pushes me, and I think it’s valuable for everybody. Coming from Lawton we don’t know anything but Lawton. We stay to ourselves and the rest of the state stays away. So being a part of how people in OKC say the Hip Hop scene has grown so much is really dope – I’m just grateful.
Q: Do you feel Oklahoma is a hip hop creative gem waiting to be discovered?
A: I definitely think it’s a creative gem waiting to be discovered. I just don’t know if anyone is looking. Or willing to. I often go back and forth between two ways of thinking. The first is staying in OK and growing via internet and frequent trips to events and mixers to build a national network while benefiting from the low cost of living OK offers; not to mention hopefully piggyback off of the growth of the OKC economy and community – who knows what could happen in the next 15 years. And, the second is just getting up out of OK and going somewhere I know there’s a market for my work at and bringing it back to the crib once attained. I’ve gone back and forth. I originally planned to be in OK for two years after college then go to a bigger market. But, things changed and chances were taken. I’ve actually been having a couple of conversations with some good friends of mine I respect a lot about whether I should stay or go and I think a change is definitely possible. But, nonetheless, the talent here is crazy. B-boying, battling, everything. I had no idea niggas in Oklahoma was out here like this when I came here. In Lawton, we were getting made fun of for trying to rap, in OKC it was a real life supportive culture that had already been built in my eyes.
Q: What is your creative process like? Do you look for inspiration or do you allow it to just come through?
A: I let it come. Some songs take me 30 minutes to write. Others 30 days. Others 2 years. I just try to make myself available for the inspiration. The more I’ve consciously chosen to do that the more inspired I’ve become. I can kick out a verse when I want to – no problem. There’s just a high likelihood that I’m going to which I could change something at some point and it won’t sit right with me long term. At this point I’m only trying to make music I’ll be proud of myself for making 30 years from now. Shit I can stunt with my children with if the time comes lol!
Q: In today’s digital music age what would you say are some of the challenges that you face as an independent artist?
A: Infrastructure. Business models. Strategy. Time. Instant gratification. Clout chasing. All things I think are huge challenges that we could go on forever about but I’ll keep the details to this one. I think the relationship between supply and demand can be a real challenge for artists. I believe we either supply a demand already created or we create a demand and then supply it. I try to be of the second option. But both sides really make sense to me, depending on what your intentions and goals are of course. If you supply the demand already created it’s a better investment of time and money because it’s almost a proven strategy. There’s just so much more competition in it and also likely to hold a shorter lifespan due to its mass appeal. On the other hand, creating a demand has no proven methods. You gotta find that shit and it may never even come. But if it does and if we find it, that shit is gold I imagine. To authentically express yourself with only the intentions of saying what you feel you need to say, not what people tell you they wanna hear or you should do – and have people pay to rock with it because they can relate and connect in an authentic way is dope to me. That’s big business to me. Value. Authenticity. Mutuality. Profit.
Q: You’ve used exclusive content marketing also before. What have you learned about your fan base by using this strategy? Have you had any crazy fan requests?
A: Yea, I’ve been sending a free song to anyone who signs up for the mailing list. It’s worked well. That’s one thing I’m working on improving in myself though I need to be more analytical and disciplined about going back and analyzing results of my campaigns. The strategy itself has been great getting people engaged for sure though. My subscribers went up when I offered them something in exchange for their joining the list. I think that was a big part of it. Providing value is my bottom line pointblank. In everything I read, value is where the leverage is – profit too. So, always offering something – whether they use it or not – seems to be a good idea in marketing. I haven’t had any crazy requests yet. But as I develop and experiment marketing strategies I’m sure I’ll have some stories soon. Ask me again in a year or two lol!
Q: You have also changed your name from Fresh to Jacobi Ryan – your first and middle name, which I think is dope. Why the name change?
A: Yes, yes. So it was a tough decision. I’d actually been thinking about it for a couple years now. The main reason is Fresh was such a common name that I was getting lost in the sauce on Spotify and Apple Music and services like that. So I researched how to fix the problem and federally trademarking a name that common is just too costly for me at this point. I also don’t wanna be getting called Fresh when I’m 40. But don’t trip though, I still answer to Fresh and go by it. I just feel like Jacobi Ryan embodies where my art is and where it can go. I always loved my first name so I wanted to incorporate that once I started to find myself more & more in the art I made. Jacobi Ryan just feels right to me. I had to be Fresh before I could be Jacobi Ryan though fasho’. Issa process.
Q: I’m being serious/not serious here -but what’s the new “tagline” for Jacobi Ryan? Or is that still in development?
A: Lol still the same – Jacobi Ryan, I’m from Lawton – until further notice.
Q: Next to “Perfect Notes” and “25/8”, “Sunsets, Skylines, Night Skies” is one of my favorite tracks, – that track is such a beautiful vibe. Out of all your projects – “Retros & XOs”, “Retros & XOs 2” and “Empty Venues” what is your favorite track and why? Pick one. LOL!
A: Haha thank you yo’… That’s my shit too! That’s a tough question. A big reason I haven’t dropped in so long is because I want to be able to be proud of my music in 30 years. I love what I’ve dropped so far but, I’m ashamed of a lot of that work because I’ve grown so much since it and can do so much better now – it’s part of the process though. With that being said, from what I’ve dropped so far out of my projects, my favorite joint is either “Poor Man” from “Empty Venues” or damn near all of “Retros & XOs 2”. I’m really proud of “Retros & XOs 2” fasho’.
Alright, look for Part 2 of the Jacobi Ryan Q & A. In Part 2 Jacobi answers more questions about the his new EP “Regardless” and gives us insight into what he has in store for 2019. Again, for those exclusives Jacobi, that you now know you need, visit Jacobi Ryan’s page at www.thefresherair.com. And don’t forget that the “Regardless” EP is now available on all streaming platforms!
Photo Credit: Beechum Photography