Interview & Words by Lex Perry Ignacio @xelyrrep
Photos by Kris Villano @kris.villano
It all started back in 2002 as a 6th grader being influenced by Snoop Dogg’s Greatest Hits and Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory when a young Rjay Ty started to write his own lyrics. 4 years after that he decided to form a crew with frequent freestyle sessions as its foundation.
Originally, there were five of them but when they agreed to take their music interest to the next level, only three of them remained and thus the formation of the trio collective – Lyrically Deranged Poets or LDP which consisted of him, Alex Omiunu, and Raymond Abracosa.
The group commenced their music venture through MySpace with the use of a 1200 peso mic that was purchased from their saved-up allowance and beats that were downloaded through the Internet. The group eventually got booked in school shows and got their first ever break in by being invited to participate and perform in an annual hip-hop event called The Community which was spearheaded by Nathan J from 7 Shots of Wisdom and B-roc from Turbulence Productions. Along with the various artists in attendance were the likes of Francis M, Nimbus 9, Mobbstarr & more.
“At that time we were very young, excited and inexperienced. We were only 15 or 16 years old back then and were chauffeured by our parents to the venue. They even hesitated to drop us off upon arriving the rowdy parking lot filled with energy. One of the first artists that came up to us was Datu, he approached us and spat a freestyle, and then from there we started to meet other artists and collectives that greatly influenced us like the Audible MC’s and Stick Figgas.”
The group focused on making more music, doing more gigs and then eventually became part of FlipMusic. This is where Rjay started to do collaborations with other artists apart from LDP and started to establish his identity as an individual artist.
“The focus was really on the projects of LDP with FlipMusic, it just so happened that I was often in the studio. I recorded with BoJam and he convinced to me release a solo project so my tracks wouldn’t just be stacked on the side. We were able to create a 21-track playlist and came up with a mixtape that was called 11.11.11.
Actually it could already be considered an album then because of the number of songs and everything was original, there were no borrowed beats, and it was mostly BoJam and other friends producing, like Neil who was formerly Dj Spnz at that time.”
Not everyone comes to realize their dream at an early age, but even those who do don’t always start off with the direction that they want to take. Rjay was off to a great start and he was on his way to codify and develop his artistry, but on the midst of doing so, he was juggling his time being a student and a rapper.
Before deciding to go full time with his music career, the Pasay native was taking up Medical Technology at San Juan De Dios, and during the time he was about to take his practicum in a hospital, his family was also bound to live abroad. Being in a tough situation and knowing that he didn’t want to pursue a career in the medical field, he opted to drop his college studies and carry on with making music. In this transition, he landed his first job under Paradigm Entertainment in San Juan. From there, he went on to work at Ronac Art Center for Unschld, which became yet another vital point in his career given that this is where he was able to really delve deeper in the scene and know more about the culture.
“It helped me a lot because it helped me create bridges given that creatives and enthusiasts frequently visited the deck. I became roommates with George of Secret Service, and Dino from THE, we would go out almost every day and come up with whatever trip we can think of. I had my own salary and LDP was poppin’ at that time. At a young age, I was really overwhelmed, I was able to enjoy and learn a lot ahead of time”
He then proceeded to talk about his move to live in Quezon City with LDP. It was then he was accumulating more experience and experimenting if making music would be his sole source of income. He was recording most of the time, doing gigs and out of town shows like the Colt 45 Tour and Malasimbo Festival to name a few. But despite all of it, he added that there was still difficulty in relying on music alone to generate income.
“It was fun, but the struggle is there, we get booked to do gigs, sometimes we are out of town to perform but that’s not always the case since there are moments wherein we don’t have shows at all.”
With a similar story from his days in FlipMusic, he spends time working in the studio to finish his projects with LDP, but being the eager individual artist that he is, he stays to work on his own project but now with his producer and long-time pal Neil Raymundo who now dons the moniker Yung Bawal. The two kept on working with each other for more than a year when Yung Bawal had to leave for LA to finish his studies as a music producer. Regardless of the fact that they weren’t physically together, they still managed to keep in touch and update their work.
When Yung Bawal returned from LA, that is when they both picked up where they left off and completed their masterpiece after the total span of a whopping four years.
“When he (Yung Bawal) got back from LA after studying, he was able to apply the things he learned from there. A lot of changes were made in the previous tracks that we’ve already recorded and even in the mastering process, and that’s when we figured out that there’s so much we can do. If you listen to the tracks such as Faded, Bridge, and The Good, you’d be able to tell that it’s entirely different from the other tracks we’ve done in the past.”
At this point in time, Yung Bawal and the rest of his crew have been slowly reaching out to other artists of the same wavelengths thus the growth of the creative collective, Bawal Clan. After being formally invited into the group, they finally decided to make their work an official album – hence the production of Hit The Spot. The title originally coming from Yung Bawal’s studio called The Spot where they worked together to accomplish the album’s content and it became Rjay’s first official album and project as a solo artist under Bawal Clan.
Obviously, the album was the aftermath of the efforts of two individuals coming together as one to further sharpen and flourish their craft. It is their share and piece of evolution as artists and it is a playlist that tells the story of their journey from past to present. To sum it up, it is a testament that can attest and provide their fans and supporters of how they have been for the past four years and give them a breath of fresh air to let the people know on what and how their music is now.
“I’m really proud of the album. It is thematically seamless in which you could play track 1 to 12 without having to skip and realizing that each song isn’t entirely random, though it is different from one another, you’d be able to connect them and understand the story of my journey and what me and Neil have learned along the way for those past four years.
As an artist, you shouldn’t be afraid of change because it helps you evolve. Whatever you learn along the way, you should apply it. And if you’re into something, you should show that you’re really into it and not make any hesitations. You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment and try new things, because only then will you figure out what is and what is not for you, and if you do so, you get to know yourself better.”
Presently, Rjay spends three days of the week working part time for Progress, and uses his remaining days to make music, manage the household and Free Spirit, an accessory brand he runs with his girlfriend Aika and helps in the business operations of Unschld as he is now a core member of the team.
Aside from that, he also occasionally works with Sound Design in Makati to do some voice overs for various companies and characters.
LP: What is your brand/ identity as a rapper?
RT: Speaking from the inside, I know what I want to project, although I’m not so sure on how people see from the outside so I try as much to leave the labels behind and just show them what I’m really like, what I do on a day to day basis and what I go through in life. Nothing fabricated.
I just say it in your face, like if I rap about smoking, I really smoke, you can’t really hide that sh*t.
LP: At least it’s true and not about hypocrisy.
RT: Yeah, I can’t say that I carry guns around because I don’t really do that. I guess the worst thing I do and rap about is I smoking too much. In my defense that was a thing of the past, I mean I still smoke but it’s more controlled now compared to the way I used to smoke like a chimney back then! (laughs)
But it also comes down to the point where I write songs about the trials of my life, and I don’t really know how people see that, I just want people to see me as an everyday person as well.
LP: What do you want people to get out of your music?
R: When I speak about my mistakes, I want them to hear my thoughts about it too. So if there’s something wrong I’ve done within my life, I say it in my music and give them a sort of advice on what may happen if they happen to do something similar, I want to give them a taste of my reality and at the same time, be able to motivate people, especially with my album since it took us long enough to do that.
I want people to realize that if they really want to do something, they just have to keep doing it. That they shouldn’t stop no matter how long it takes, as long as they really want it. To just keep going man, I don’t want to go through time and look back thinking of the “what if’s”, if the opportunity and time is there, just do it.
LP: What separates you from other artists?
R: I get to pick up a lot of stuff outside of music. Other artists make music full time, I do lot of things on the side, man. It is where I draw inspiration. I know that a lot talk about their struggles as well, but it differs from mine and what I do because there’s a lot going on behind the music I make.
Really, it’s the listeners that could tell. I can’t really pinpoint but I believe that the energy and the people that surround you, molds you. It’s also because of who I interact with that differentiates me, as I have also been working with other artists and creatives for the longest time. I also think that I’ve been through a lot at an early age and I’ve seen a lot of things happen that people don’t really see on a regular basis. Spending most of my youth in Pasay then suddenly moving from city to city in a span of a few years teaches you a lot.
LP: What are your thoughts about the present scene and millennials trying to pursue a career similar as yours, or as an artist in general?
R: It’s good to see that kids these days are evidently interested with what’s going on within the scene. At the time that I was starting, there were only a handful of us and the market was niche. Today, the crowd is aware and they know a lot about music, streetwear and I guess the subcultures in between.
But sometimes too much of a good thing can lead to over-saturation, although I think it’s not really that big of a matter because I know through time, you’ll be able to see those who are really persistent and into it, and those guys will grow and stay no matter how hard it may be.
The scene is good, the awareness and attention of the people are there. You won’t have to force them to listen and there isn’t a better crowd than an attentive one.
LP: Next moves and future plans?
R: I’ll be having an album tour for a good month – a couple of legs in Manila, and a few outside of town. After that is when I’ll make my album available for streaming online because right now, the only way you can listen to the album is when you catch me playing live or if you buy the hard copy.
For now, it’s only available exclusively for those who have a physical copy since I want to give them a first-hand experience. It’s more of a personal matter for me, I know that it’s a disadvantage when it comes to promoting my music, but what I have observed in the generation of today is that everything is now online. I just want to bring back the element of surprise like back in the day when you buy a physical copy of the album because you’ve heard a few songs from the artist, like the album title or maybe attracted to the album cover. It’s always a deeper connection when you have to exert a certain amount of effort before receiving something in return.
I also have upcoming projects with Bawal Clan and producers from different camps. Bawal Tapes coming soon!
Also watch out for the return of Unschld. All of which will be unfolding little by little.
LP: Any artists you wish to do collaboration with aside from the ones you’ve already worked with?
R: I’m really interested to work with RH Xanders, who is also a member of Bawal Clan but is seldom in the studio since he has his own set-up at home and also is a part of a good number of bands.
He is deeply immersed in music, he produces, plays a bunch of instruments, raps, and sings. It just tickles my mind whenever I think about the things I can create with him since he is also a homie.
I’ve known him for a long while now but we haven’t worked together yet so maybe one of these days man.
If you want more of Rjay Ty (@derangedpoet) be on the lookout for the dates of his upcoming album tour that is currently being arranged.
Peep http://rjaty.com/ for more updates.
You may purchase a copy of Hit the Spot and his other merch at http://rjayty.com/shop