Rap has become a huge part of our generation’s music library. From artists like Future and Drake, to Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar, rap has taken world affairs and social conflict into its arms.
I was able to run some questions by up-and-coming rap artist Ryan Christensen, known as “Ricky Conaway.” Christensen is a Toms River, New Jersey native who has been on-the-scene locally for about three years now.
Jaiden Campana: Why did you come to love rap and want to be an artist?
Ryan Christensen: Music has always been a huge influence for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an interest in making my own. I think it’s one of the purest forms of expression. Rap drew me in the most. The lyrics, the beats, the culture. Everything. I’m in love with it.
JC: When did you have that “oh wow, this is what I want to really go after,” moment?
RC: Around 2012 it really dawned on me that rapping is what I was meant to do. Though it took me a very long time to build up the courage to let people hear my music, I always had my mind on it. Once things fell into place, everything was off and running.
JC: Who are your influences, both musically and generally?
RC: Musically, my biggest influences are J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Eminem. The list could go on and on. Outside of music, CM Punk is a huge influence on me. The way he carries himself is something I study tremendously, I can appreciate someone like that.
JC: What is the reason behind the rap title of “Ricky Conway”?
RC: To be honest, I hardly even remember choosing my rap name. It was probably back around 2011 that I came up with it. I’ve had plenty of them prior to Ricky Conaway, all too embarrassing to reveal. One thing I do remember is that I wanted to keep the initials of my government name, Ryan Christensen. Ricky Conaway stuck after all of these years.
JC: What do you try to bring to the table when you write up lyrics? Is it more having fun/being serious?
RC: When I write lyrics, I try to be myself in every way I possibly can. Sometimes I want to have fun, sometimes I want to be serious. It all depends how I’m feeling at the time. Most importantly, though, all I want to do is be authentic.
JC: Would you say being authentic is something that the rap game seems to be missing? Nowadays, it seems like guys can just throw a beat on and repeat one word and make money.
RC: That’s something that seems to be missing in music these days, especially rap. Even in people, in general. That’s one of the most admirable qualities someone can have.
JC: What have you done to promote yourself?
RC: In April of 2015, I released my first portion of music on Soundcloud and YouTube, titled “Attention Everybody.. (Vol. 1.)” Twitter has played a major role in getting myself out there, as well as YouTube. Building relationships with others that share the same interests as you plays an incredible role in promoting anything. On November 25th, I’ll be performing at The Bamboo Bar in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. I’m super excited about it. I’ve got a lot in store for those attending.
JC: How do you feel about the power music? Not just rap, but music as a whole.
RC: Music has the power to change lives. Both for the artist, and the listener. A lot of the younger generation flocks towards rap as an escape, as an outlet to their day-to-day lives. Sometimes it’s refreshing to get lost in your favorite song, to change something about yourself, to take a look in the mirror and reflect on yourself. Music does that, despite the genre.
JC: So, would you say sharing thoughts in an artistic manner is the best aspect of music?
RC: Yes. Absolutely. Being able to freely express your thoughts is one of the best things about art. It’s your art, no one else’s. Your unique perspective. Music can reflect world issues so beautifully, in it’s rawest form.
JC: Who are your favorite artists that can bring a world issue into the public’s eye? (like Kendrick w/Compton, Macklemore w/ gay and equal rights)
RC: Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore have done a tremendous job at bringing important world issues that often get swept under the rug, to light. When an artist is passionate about an issue, the listener can feel it. J Cole does an amazing job at portraying his thoughts on world issues, especially the BLM [Black Lives Matter] movement. I love everything he is doing. Same goes for Frank Ocean, YG, Vic Mensa, all kinds of artists. People are listening, the influence music has is beautiful.
JC: What are some things that you have learned from about yourself through writing music?
RC: Writing music has taught me a lot about myself, things I never knew before. What I can express, how dig I can deep. It’s essential to my daily routine at this point. Performing is indescribable. I can’t think of anything parallel to performing. I believe that you don’t really know yourself until the pressure is on, and the lights are shining.
JC: You have to be a great student when it comes to public speaking. How do you become so comfortable putting your own content out there, and performing in front of people?
RC: The thing about performing is that it isn’t necessarily a natural thing for everybody. It wasn’t for me, at first. It’s something you have to grow accustomed to, which is similar to nearly everything in life. You have to make adjustments, you have to come accustomed.
JC: Lastly, what do you tell people when you present your music, and what is your message to those that are going after rap and music in general as well?
RC: When presenting music, or any kind of art, it’s important to be as comfortable as you can be, regardless of the situation. No matter how long that takes. Again, it’s about making adjustments. Things aren’t always going to fall into place the way you expect them to, and that’s okay. If everything went the way we expected, life would be boring. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and getting used to things you haven’t experienced before is something I think everybody should undergo. Being yourself is something I preach to everybody, especially with music. When something isn’t authentic, people can see through it. Nothing is going to be perfect at the beginning, working hard is the only way to progress. Most of all, you have to believe in yourself. People give up on their dreams too quick when things don’t go as planned. Keep pushing, keep faith, and remember to breathe.
Christensen recently released his new [explicit] mixtape on September 23rd, 2016, titled “Drugs I Don’t Do, Women I Don’t Know, and Money I Don’t Have.” Listen to it here on youtube: