Coming straight from the land of Monstas, it’s Ravage, who you may also know as MeccaGodZilla of Monsta Island Czar fame, or maybe you know him as Ryu Black. Whatever name you know him as, you know this cat is a talented producer. Or maybe you know him as a great MC, or maybe it’s graphic artist skills that got you all hyped up. You should catch on to what I’m trying to convey here, this is one talented cat. Fresh off his American Monsta remix project he did for the American Gangster LP, which was one of the better ones may I add, Ravage just finished up an instrumental project that dropped toward the end of last year which was in my top 5 instrumental albums of the 08 season.
It was a pleasure to talk to Ravage, who I’ve gotten to know a bit over the past few months through various emails. Not only is the cat extremely talented, he’s just one nice guy. We talked about a variety of topics, from MIC, his influences, and his views on production and hip hop in general.
New Video from the Erroars album “Follow”
song name: “Chun Li” by RYU BLACK ft. MegaRan, Masia One and DJ Sarasa
album: Perfect 天
And an Exclusive!
song name: “Crystal Cheeks (nympho citadels)” MeccaGodZilla ft Kwote Scriptures
album: Syntax Erroars (the date TBA)
WYDU: What’s good man, how about you drop a quick intro to who you are for those on the Rip Van Winkle tip?
Ravage: Peace Trav. I’m RAVAGE the MeccaGodZilla aka RYU BLACK. I am an emcee, producer and graphic artist … I am also an activist.
W: The name RAVAGE is an acronym, what does it mean exactly and how did you come about with the name itself? What is the significance of it?
R: To ravage means to destroy..in this case, conventional ideas. I focus doing my thing artistically which many times goes against convention. I like to challenge myself as much as possible. Keo of the X-men who is from M.I.C as well, gave me the meaning to the acronym which means “Restoring Artistic Vision And Growth Everywhere.”
W: You’re involvement in the culture runs long and deep, with being a “jack of all trades” of sorts with involvement in pretty much all four of the elements at an early age. How did those early days effect you as an artist in the present?
R: The memories and experiences are humbling & I’m thankful to grow up the way I did. I definitely appreciate where I’m at now because all the experiences shaped who I am today and I feel knowledgeable about what I’m doing with hip hop now.
I learned to do some graff and some bboying when I was very, very young at my babysitter’s house. She had 2 sons both older than me. The eldest was in junior high and he would come home with a cardboard box and show us how to dance, he was nice with the handspins and footwork! The ill thing was before we got started, he gave us the markers so we could get busy on the cardboard with the graff. I was mad young so I only learned the bubble letters style! Haha… My hands were still not steady because I was a child so some of the complex graff was too difficult! 6 years old you know? I like what I learned though and will still freak the hell out of some bubble letters!
In the early 90s my father took me to see Juice and that’s when I felt it necessary to get tables to learn and understand the DJ element. Years after bboying, drawing, always messing around with the turntables and vibe to various hip hop releases (always being around the rhythm) I got into making beats. The beats were so abstract at first and people couldn’t rhyme to them, so I started writing to them because I fully understood them haha…
I would like to elaborate more but I’ll save that for another time. To be where I’m at right now is so rewarding because I’m still evolving as an artist, getting better everyday! I will try to incorporate everything, all elements that’s I’ve learned to broadcast who I am to the world properly. I can’t wait.
W: Late in the 90′s, you started hooking up with significant artists in the underground scene, such as MF Grimm and others. How did you get your start as an MC and how did you hook up with the likes of Grimm?
R: It was actually late …1999!
My situation in college was really tough while I was up in Boston, the pen started flowing during the classes I just couldn’t connect with. I wanted to change my major but the school wouldn’t let me. It was beyond frustrating.
I ventured back to NYC and transferred to Hunter College. While there my friend Omowale came up with the Hip Hop Advocates Club. Him and my friend Rob were going to emcee battles and always freestyling. I was around the NYC underground scene because of them, simply listening to how they flowed. Rob and Omowale were nice and always encouraged me to spit.
The Hip Hop Advocates Club gave us the opportunity to brainstorm about how to hel
p indie artists that aren’t signed to major labels. Omowale recruited me and 5 other students and after a few months of brainstorming, he came up with an idea to make a hip hop union. It was so far off, like we were young as hell. How bout the union came into fruition and it was great because we were so young, we were all like 20, 21, around that age. Not waiting for anyone, we just did it ourselves by simply our own will do do something! So we got together and created a non profit hip hop union where the goal was to offer free healthcare, legal help and a way to get artists more shows. Omowale was in touch with m1 of dead prez and m1 took me under the wing and gave me mad phone numbers to call to get the word out about the union. That taught me how to communicate on the business level and not be afraid to reach out to anyone regardless of their “status.” At the end of the day there was a mission to be accomplished and the people I was nervous to build with at first were just great to build with. They were regular people too just like me.
I remember one day I reached out to an artist I really wanted to work with named Rodan. Through Rodan, I met M.I.C and when MF Grimm came home, he reached out to see Rodan. I was always running with Rodan at that time so I rolled with him and that’s how I met MF Grimm ….and that’s it. From there, I just stayed in contact with everyone.
Rodan always encouraged me to rhyme and I am sure he knew that his unconventional way of emceeing was a huge inspiration to me. So even though I wasn’t spitting or recording for a while, I was always writing and making beats.
W: As you mentioned, you were/are a member of the Monsta Island Czars, which has a pretty large following and a fairly star studded cast, how did you get involved in that group?
R: During the time when I was recruiting artists to learn about G.A.ME, I reached out to Rodan and gave him a beat CD. 1 month later Rodan selected 2 of my beats to finish his album called Theophany. So we started working together.
Those times were crazy in a good way. Me and Rodan were running through NYC on some incredible missions yo; so many funny stories! Rodan introduced me to the M.I.C crew, and I just kept building with cats. Things evolved from there…Thank you Ro!
W: How difficult was it working with that many cats and trying to get things to go in one direction? What exactly was your roll pertaining to the group and how did you feel about it?
R: When you work in a group, many times everyone is just walking in different shoes. Their day to day life situations are just “different” from everyone else’s you know what I mean? Like the crap I can handle day to day might be too much for someone else to deal with and vice versa. In addition, sometimes the egos, if everyone is not on the same page, can really, really get out of control. This can hurt morale and progress of the whole. I guess this can be very difficult. When things are on the same page though, it’s a lot of fun, which is the way it should be!
In regards to my roll with M.I.C. hmmm, I got to make beats, rhyme and do some artwork for album covers and booklets etc (see Rodan’s Theophany and Megalon’s A Penny For Your Thoughts, MF Grimm’s American Hunger and more!). It was a way I could get my graphic skills out there since I was still developing my art as an emcee.
W: Of course I have to ask, what is in the future for MIC? There have been rumors that they are no more, then some more saying you guys are still together, care to clear some of that up for us?
R: You know what Trav? That is a great question. I think when it comes to “business,” artists might try to shoot to get their plan rocking within a 5 year period. If that time is running and nothing is getting done, for whatever the reason,then it’s time to re-evaluate and try a new direction.
Once your get knighted into the crew, you are M.I.C until the crew kicks your a$ out. Some of the czars still run with the M.I.C stamp and some don’t want to be apart of it.
To see if brothers will ever get along or build collectively is definitely that jackpot style question. I do know a handful of czars are on the same page and we are working together on music right now, and encouraging each other. There are so many different projects we are all working on, many of them are solo joints o keep the vibe out there…to keep hitting the market with new music.
Life is way, way too short to wait on someone to get on the same page with you. Many of the czars are pushing out solo ideas and collaborating with artists on an international level. Shouts to Japan, France, UK, Germany, Brazil and everyone that opened their doors to build…I think this is great!
W: How do you approach MCing and producing differently? Do you enjoy one aspect over another? Do you want to be known as one first over another?
R: I can’t say I like one skill over the other. I actually want to be known for excelling at both.
For me, making beats is as easy as exerting energy hitting the heavy bag or shooting hoops. With beat making, you can just channel out whatever the soul feels at the time and just get it off. This can probably be more related to basketball, and depending on who your playing against, you can play with finesse, or get down and dirty in the paint and horse the situation on some classic Barkley/ Olajuwon sh*t. When approaching beats, the music can be super hardcore, or really mellow; something you can vibe to and get lost in, it just depends on my mood. To date, hours of listening to other genres and digging helps fuel all the music I make.
When it comes to writing, wow, in the past I couldn’t write if things in my life were stressful. Now that’s changed and I can pretty much get the ideas out easily. My pen game feasts off beats but I can still pen pretty well if there’s no beats available to write to. Many times the beat helps the words formulate properly so it’s easy to come up with a concept to write to. Since I’m in the mode to create albums, I am almost never writing without some kind of beat in mind. This is cool because if the beat doesn’t exist, I can simply make the music I’m thinking about and then spit a rhyme to it shortly after…
W: As a producer, you just released your first solo (almost) totally instrumental project, Erroars. What kind of concepts and ideas went into this project and how did the final project come out compared to the initial idea you had before you started it?
R: The concept for “ERROARS” hmmm… Well, basically we know an “error” is a deviation from what is normal or ‘correct.’ A “roar
” is to utter a loud cry or howl, as in excitement, distress, or anger. The instrumentals are all a combination of this idea.
When I released American Monsta, the Jay-Z remix album on January 1st 2008, that album got 25,000 hits on mp3.com and over 10,000 downloads, probably way, way more downloads by now. The majority of listeners loved it and commented on the beats, which was cool because that album is a remix album with all Jay-Z American Gangster vocals featured on my beats.
Initially some of these beats were going to be on one of my future solo album called “Syntax Erroars.” Many of the other beats I shopped to bigger named hip hop artists. I didn’t finish “Syntax Erroars” yet and some of the artists I shopped the other beats to never got back to me. Instead of these beats simmering on the burner in a back room somewhere, in my mind I’m like I am going to have to serve these up on some hot food come and get it steez because I wanted the world to get a taste of where I’m at artistically.
I figure the beats are a way people can vibe to who I am and what music sounds like in my mind and soul in addition to keeping my buzz out there. Say if I don’t survive to see tomorrow, I wanted my music to be out there for people to enjoy forever. I think this project came out the exact way I wanted it. It starts off slow, and hits a certain pocket for listeners and takes them high, low, high and low until the finale.
W: It seems like with the explosion of “bedroom producers”, there are a lot more instrumental type albums out there such as Erroars. What makes an instrumental album worth listening to with replay value such as Erroars does?
R: Nice! Thank you for the props in regards to “replay value!” When it comes to bedroom producers hmmm…. there are different things people are going for when making instrumentals. Ideally, I feel all producers want to take you into their personal realm and get you to just flow to the music they’ve made.
I feel like the “ERROARS” album is my realm that is actually a collection of sounds that I can vibe to when making more kinds of art via different mediums. This might help other visual artists as well, they turn it on and zone out. Next thing you know they start making some incredible things graphically.
Pete Rock’s got so many beats like this… you just listen and boom, you’re in another world… with the sounds and the drum, just zoning out. Not mad, not even happy, just vibing…
My instrumental album, “ERROARS” is like this. The beats will take you into another realm. Halozzz is one of the instrumentals I feel like people will just take off on some rocket sh*t too.
W: What do you hope to accomplish with the album?
R: Ideally, I know what music did for me when I was sick as hell in the hospital, dying. I will never, ever forget that time. The music brought me back to life and it was purely hip hop that helped me heal. It was Escape from Monsta Island, Lauryn Hill’s Acoustic album and Only Built for Cuban Linx. All of those sounds fueled me with the drive to survive along with the help from my mother, father and key relatives and 4 friends. I am thankful for the music and the family because both healed me.
I want people to zone out to “ERROARS” to the point where they love it, and tell others about it. Maybe they will always have it in the rotation! I hope people in every continent enjoy it! Hopefully it will open up more doors later for more work, you know? Some people have made tribute videos to the music (shout out MIX and RMX2)!
W: You’ve produced for a lot of your MIC partners, any other MC you are going to be producing for in the future or would like to?
R: Shoot… I am still tripping of making the hidden track on Eric Bobo’s (of Cypress Hill’s) Meeting of the Minds Vol. 1. The emcee known as “keen” totally looked out and was like “RAVAGE I want that beat you made and I’m gonna reach out to Bobo to add djembe drums to it…” I’m still high off that, because the Cypress Hill crew put out some vinyl which was one of the 1st pieces of vinyl I ever copped in the 90s! haha.. I loved them and always had respect for what they brought to hip hop.
In the future, I would like to work with m1 of dead prez. I really respect m1. I really, really like Masia One’s emceeing and spittsville. Her tenacity as an artist, being so outgoing is like dwarfing the drive I’ve seen in my favorite artists. Of course not riding, but her grind is remarkable. I think the people that know about her and understand her music are great people with good ears. Lol. She’s got a dope style! We talked recently so it’s going down, I will get her more beats. Paralleling Masia One is the artist the introduced me to Masia, her name is DJ SARASA aka Silverboombox. This sista is RAW, with the scratches and she’s making beats now! I got to work with her on some music recently and we are connected to make even more. I want work with Dashah, he’s done some work with Ill Insanity and he is nasty! Also, this emcee with such a dope flow… Sim-E! He comes from a great family who are also in the industry they encourage both me and Sim-E to go get it! He’s from Brooklyn. His flows inspire me to rhyme. He’s really dope and he makes beats too. There’s quite a few more I want to work with, many of them are indie artists that are just as good as the major artists out there. I want to try to work with some major artists but ultimately help my indie brothers and sistas build up to be stronger artists. So I will keep going with the indie grind and make it strong to the point it will be major to conventional standards while still being indie all day ere day!
W: What kind of equipment do you work with in the lab?
R: I couldn’t afford the mpc, sp or any other type of hardware for a while. I always had a computer so I learned how to rock on the computer back in 1999 with a $30 program. I upgraded a bit and have a keyboard with midi that I use to trigger virtual instruments in cubase from time to time. Sometimes I don’t even need cubase but it helps me to take ideas to the next level if I feel like making ultra progressive songs with very lil repeating parts in it.
That $30 program I’m talking about.. shoot.. it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me and it actually was out right when hardware cats were hating on fruity loops early 2000. It’s cool because depending on how the beat comes out, some think it was made on the mpc
I actually am thinking about and MPC 1000 soon, so well see. I’ve been making it happen on the PC though so I may never change cuz the style ain’t broke yet, s
o why fix anything or change?
W: I ask this of just about any producer I interview, what is your take on the whole software vs. hardware issue?
R: Sometimes people are extremely talented and just cannot afford anything so, I feel like whatever you can get your hands on, just master what you have, and be innovative with what you have and what you make. I don’t knock analog style gear or the software kats….it’s 2 different tools that both can help you make something incredible.
Some people buy tons of gear, and don’t even use it all. Some have tons of it and don’t know how to use it. It’s interesting to think about sometimes. I feel like if the music is great, then it’s cool.
The equipment via hardware or software is here to freak, so just freak them sh*ts!
W: As we mentioned, you also rhyme under the name Ryu Black, which if I remember right, was a video game character…or am I totally off on that?…..You also have a track dedicated to Street Fighter II. What’s the fascination with the video game culture and how does that play into your music?
R: In junior high and high school, we played basketball after school and then swung by the video store, deli or Laundromat to play that Streetfighter II, Neo Geo (Sengoku/King of the Monsters) and more! Ryu was one of the main characters in that game!
That game was super popular in the 90s and it gave us a way to socialize more and prolong going home early haha. If you got really nice in the game, you’d be one of the kats that would take out everyone that put a quarter in the machine during lunch time and after school. Talk about a great way to lose your lunch money battling in the virtual world…shoot… Some kats with Ken and Ryu were very smart players, damn near unstoppable. LOL
Ryu’s character is similar to one of the Kyokushin legends. After researching more about what Ryu stands for, I felt like it’s only right to rock this type of style as an emcee for an album because humility, virtue, strength and discipline are what I strive to continue to have in me.
In regards to the music, I dedicated a song to the SF2 game because I appreciate what the creators did and I did spend many years in the dojo as well. In addition this game revolutionized the fighting game market. I was getting bored of rhyming with mad serious concepts all the time. I wanted to have fun with making music that reflected what how I’m living each day. Life is tough as hell but maaaaaaaad fun too. So I was like yo… let me drop jewels that are serious but have way more fun with how I’m creating it and relaying the message.
I chose to 1st make a love song for the only girl in the SF2 game named Chun Li. When the creators made her, they made her super hot! Lol.. they knew exactly what they were doing! I feel like with the direction I am taking on this album, I might help revolutionize some things too!
My friend Random actually did something similar before me and made an album dedicated to Mega Man. He rhymed as Megaran for that project. To date it gets major, major props and write ups and it is INCREDIBLE. When I heard that SF4 might come out in 2009 I thought maybe I should try to make a RYU BLACK album where I dedicate a love song to Chun Li and rock the mic in honor of the game. Before even trying to write the album … I made sure to build with Random to get his opinion and okay. I told him I didn’t want to bite at all with what he’s done because he still to this day is rocking that Megaran style and he is excellent with putting it down! I asked him if he would mind if I go in on a RYU BLACK album. He was 20000% supportive and we agreed to make the Chun Li song together and shortly after Masia One and DJ Sarasa helped us finish it. To date Chun Li is my favorite out of all the songs that I’ve ever made.
In a nutshell there is much about me, martial arts, videogames and music that is interconnected and when I’m in that zone the inspiration hit a maximum it was only right that I start making music to reflect that.
W: Do you have any major projects in the future as in solely an MC coming up in the future?
R: OH YES.
I am 90% done with my 1st solo album on the emcee tip. This album is the RYU BLACK album called “PERFECT.” This pronounced as “Perfect Ten” but it means Perfect Heaven. So I’m playing off the dual meaning of it
I am about halfway through an album with a really great producer from Japan named A.I. the Platinum Limb. The album is called “Platinum Stealth.” So far those songs sound incredible! I have to finish up the S.I.M (Strong Island Monstas) album with my friend, Sim-E. That album is about 80% done, it’s coming out crazy and we got Sean Price on the same track with Rodan of the Monsta Island Czars. I can’t wait till the artwork for that single is done, shout out to Q Dangerous for looking out! There are more great features on that joint too! There is an album I want to do with Hiden Beatz of Japan called “Audio Assassins” and he’s be patient with me too so I can’t wait to really start going in on that. Hiden Beatz has some great tracks as well, so I am gonna start really getting that done.
W: Your involvement in hip hop hasn’t been limited to just a producer and an artist, you’ve also Exec. Produced an album and done some A&R work as well. How important is it to have people who know and understand hip hop in those kind of positions? What was your experience in those positions?
R: It’s very important. In order to get your music to the highest point possible on the indie level you have to know your business and different aspects of how to get a release out there! I got to A&R Hasan Salaam’s first album with the help of his manager at the time Amir, and an indie label. That really helped me understand how artists need to be treated in order for them to reach their maximum potential. On the executive level, that release showed me how much goes into promotion and if there’s no money, what it takes to promote an album.
Hasan is so humble, it was great to work with him. I’m an artist myself but I know when someone else has something that’s powerful and ready for the world, I will get on my A&R steez and help them get to where they need to be so they can continue to push for the top…I’ll definitely change from producer/ emcee to A&R to help!
To me Hasan is one of the best jewels that’s come out of the metropolitan area. Shouts to Hicoup, because without knowing this emcee Hicoup, I would’ve never met Hasan or Amir, so thank you Hicoup.
W: How do you perceive the hip hop culture currently at the end of 2008? What kind of things that need to be improved on or changed for the culture thrive in the future?
ne thing is I don’t hate on hip hop. I know there’s different ways people perceive it. Some people don’t even think what emcees do and create is actual music. That bothers me but it’s cool, it’s their silly a$ opinion.. lol. When it comes to commercial artists, I don’t knock them either, there are some I pay attention to because I like what they do. Contrastingly there are many others I don’t even tune in to read, listen or see what they’re doing because I personally can’t relate to it. I think hip hop, because of where technology is at, is all over the planet and we see this in the way kids dress, dance, spit, everything. I am happy it’s all over the world. I love it!
In regards to improvements, hmm this is difficult, but the way hip hop is perceived is still kinda weird. I feel like I just want to see a way for some of the really talented artists I know on the indie level to reach the masses the same way commercial artists do. The media is still pumping to the masses 1 tiny piece of what hip hop culture is about. There’s so many elements to hip hop, why haven’t the turntablists really gotta some incredible media shine? Or bboys and bgirls for that matter.
Within hip hop, I feel like all the artists can just continue to build with each other, all the dancers, graff artists, djs and emcees. Party with each other, work with each other even more that you are now. Get up in each others videos, have fun and work together if you aren’t already.
W: What kind of projects do you have going artistically (on the visual level)?
R: For now, I am focused on emceeing so I have to put the visual arts on hold until I am done with all the solo albums I am set to complete for 2009. Maybe late 2009 I can do something else. Below is an image of what me and my mentor Urban Envy teamed up to do for this event called Art Around The Park during the Howl Festival:
W: What does the future hold for RAVAGE/MeccaGodZilla/Ryu Black? What can listeners expect?
R: The RYU BLACK album is something I am very passionate about and I am sure, the way that the album is written, it will put listeners in an incredible zone. It might make people who haven’t even thought about leaving the USA want to get on a plane and leave and travel the world. The album is a world warrior style album and it’s a really good piece of work. I feel like the listeners will be the ones to say it is great so I hope for that.
W: Any last words for the readers out there?
R: Peace to my family and my nephew, my lady Mina, Junclassic, Monsta X, Mez & Canei, A.I. da Platinum Limb, miss U-key, hiden beatz, bonga, Vudu Sudan, damali, shadagga, Sim-E, Selboogie, Masia One, DJ SARASA, my fam Random, Marianne (God Bless you family), d-pi, Mio and all of my friends that believe in me and build with me. To all my friends that are currently helping me on the RYU BLACK album and the other albums to come. I give thanks.
Life is very very short yo. There is no time to live in fear what so ever. Make sure you get the jealousy and hate out of your heart, if it is lingering in there. It’s real ugly to have that in you. Be brave and believe in yourself, and make a mark in history. I don’t strive for admiration, but I strive to inspire. Staying patient, humble, strong, and positive are some of the keys, so exercise those as much as you can and be water all day every day.
Grace and peace Trav..thank you fam
-RYU BLACK aka RAVAGE the MeccaGodZilla