The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

INTERVIEW: Ryems, Rappin’ His Way Out of High School … Hopefully


Ryean Brock, who goes by the name Ryems, has been rapping for less than two years, but has already made a name for himself in the local NW scene. He just turned 18 years old, and is on his way to hopefully finishing high school, and absolutely becoming a household name in the world of hip-hop. When he entered my classroom as a preppy, straight A, sophomore with hopes of being the varsity quarterback, I never would have imagined that his life would take such a different route within such a short time span. Over the last couple of years, I have watched him take his writing and rhyming to an entirely new level – one that is destined for success. Check him out on Facebook.


TPQ: What are your earliest memories as a reader? Were there books that you remember being read as a child?

Ryems: My earliest memories as a reader were when I was only 5 years old. My mom would always take me to barnes and noble to get 3-5 books every week if I did my chores. Most kids my age at the time looked at reading as boring and stupid but my mom made it feel like an award. She made reading fun. It taught me how to be imaginative and creative. Books that I remember reading as a child was “The Series of Unfortunate Events”, “The Magic Treehouse” & I also went through a long phase of reading comics. Especially anything that had to do with Flash he was the shit.

TPQ: Was there a favorite reading moment? Maybe a light bulb moment where you realized that you were reading a text that would define your life?

Ryems: My favorite reading moment was a book I read recently called “Skate” by Michael Harmon. The book was a gift and I’m really into skateboarding so the title immediately drew some interest. As I got into the book I realized how much it related to me and my story. I grew up with no father figure, mom was barely home so skateboarding was an outlet for me to enjoy life with my friends the same goes for the main character “Ian”. I realized that I was reading a book that defined my life when the story takes a complete 360 and explains the life of a youngin with his lil bro, their boards and running away to find their father. That feeling of not knowing your father, no guidance, the stress, hard times, and struggles made it so easy to relate that I felt like the main character. The author was telling my story.

TPQ: Tell me a bit about the real you. What happened over the last couple of years that really changed your life from when you got to Evergreen High School until now?
Ryems: Honestly the last couple of years have played a big part of who I am today. The “me” before going to evergreen I always went to school, was an athlete, very family oriented, and was very set on going into the military after high school. I guess what changed me the most though is my parents divorce after the switch to Evergreen. My step dad that raised me since i was little had cheated on my mom and left me and my lil bro. I have never had to deal with something like this before and my mom had went in to the hospital for almost committing suicide. My lil bro didn’t know wtf was going on and all I had was my notepad to talk to. I then had to live with just my mom and lil bro. My mom and I would always argue..  Even before the divorce it was like this but this time it was worse. She started getting violent always hitting me, breaking my shit. So I finally just packed up a garbage bag filled with clothes and left early in the morning to school. I remember it being so fucking heavy ahaha. When i finally got to school the doors were locked still so i sat down against a wall and just started rapping in my head. All the experiences and shit that had been going on I just put them into rhymes and it sounded good. I had no pen n paper so i just kept saying it over and over in my head. Till I later ended up moving into my best friend RJ’s house where my studio was so i could record the rhymes i was thinking of earlier. The song I had made had so much meaning and power and I got a good reaction from when i posted it. Even people who didn’t listen to rap liked it. That is where i just said fuck school and knew from that day music was me. My notepad was my only friend i could tell anything and it was the only one that listened. I was nothing more than Rhymes  That’s why it’s my name today.
TPQ: You’ve had some challenges at EHS, can you talk about a few of those?
Ryems: Most of my problems through EHS were all in relation to my music. Being white and rapping wasn’t fully supported by kids that went to my school. Constantly had people who told me I’d never be a rapper, I’m trash, whole bunch of bs it would always fuck with my head but i felt it would just give me more people to prove wrong. That was when I had the great idea of posting a diss rap on Facebook calling out all the kids that ever did make fun of me. It felt food to release all that anger i had and finally made them understand what it felt like to get made fun of. I just did it better… haha. My plan didn’t go completely as planned though because one of the girls I called out had a big boyfriend … and sadly I did get my ass beat and get this.. I got suspended because I posted the damn song?? I’ve been in a lot of confrontations with teachers because they’d make rude remarks saying im going nowhere in life because all my eyes are set on is music.. My attendance really fell down because I’d always skip to write more music. Music was the root of all evil when it came to academics but in the outside world it was everything to me.
TPQ: Your grades slipped quite a bit over the last couple of years. What happened?
Ryems: I guess i pretty much answered that question above. Music was just simply the only thing on my mind that and smoking weed . If i wasn’t writing i was smoking I just didn’t care about anything else but that so id always skip, ditch school for the day, never really did homework at home. I had my mind-set with what i wanted to do the rest of my life.
TPQ: When you came to Evergreen High School as a sophomore, you thought you were going to be the starting quarterback for the football team. How does someone go from those aspirations, to the new dream of being a hip-hop star?

Ryems: I feel like it was mostly just because when rapping and the hip hop scene was really introduced to me I fell in love with it. I mean don’t get me wrong I loved football and had nothing but big goals that season. It just wasn’t the same feeling I had with music. I’ve sacrificed so much to just make it possible to record and it was just one of those things where there were no other options but to make this dream of making it big in music reality.  It’s really important for me to prove to my fam, friends, people who doubted me, teachers, and most of all me that I can do this. That I can be somebody and do what I love to do. I had a feeling and went with it.

TPQ: When did you decide you wanted to head toward rap as a career?

Ryems: I decided I wanted to head towards a rap career my sophomore year of high school.  I had switched from a school filled with red necks (hicks) to a school with the kids I actually had grown up with in elementary and middle school. Now being a sophomore with no car and nowhere to go at lunch made rap battles the thing to do. It was a way of attacking someone you didn’t like without getting in trouble and at the same time give a show for everyone at school! I still remember my first “official” rap battle. I called this kid out that I had beef with and told everyone to come and watch me battle him at lunch.  I was bumping my everyday Eminem playlist on my walk to lunch to pump me up, and had never been so nervous in my life haha. I was still the new kid at school! This was the day i get to be known as the white boy in the halls with mad bars or make a fool out of myself. When everyone met up he was chosen to spit first and he acted like he was too good for me, I was a “waste of time” to him. So i said fuck it and spit what i had to say and lets just say I did it well. Security ended up holding him back because i made him so heated he started throwing fist. That feeling was great haha. Ever since then I’ve been writing rhymes every day.

TPQ: You are currently a senior in high school. How has that helped, or hurt, your career path? How has the rapping helped, or hurt, your education?

Ryems: Being a senior in high school feels good man, knowing I can finally start making my own “adult” decisions feels good. I wouldn’t say it completely hurt my career path but it def has slowed it down a little bit. Going to multiple high schools, parties with friends in different areas of the city and rapping makes it much easier to get your name out as a growing artist. So socially yes school has helped my career path. Education not so much…. It’s so hard man. My love for music and wanting to be the best all round artist I can be, makes it hard for me to focus on my school work. Some may say my priorities are all fucked up haha but when you have a dream to be able to make it in this industry you have to give it your ALL. You have to live music 24/7 and school just doesn’t offer that for me.

TPQ: Do you remember your first lyrics? How old were you when you started writing?

Ryems: My first lyrics… Oh damn haha… As far as rap lyrics go it would have been my second semester of my freshmen year. I had to write a remix to any beat with a specific set of vocab words for an english project. At the time groups like “New Boyz” , “Audio Push”, and “Troop 41” were very popular at the time . I look back at that type of music now and realized what I was listening too was soooo WACK, but I ended up writing a remix to “John Wall” by Troop 41. It was so corny and off beat but I  think most artist can say their first rap wasn’t their best lol. When I first started writing I was in the second grade, I was girl crazy so I’d always go home after school and write little poems for the ladies and it worked almost every time.

TPQ: When did you begin to develop the style upon which you’d build your career?

Ryems: You know what, I still feel style wise everyday I’m learning where i want to take my career as an artist. I love music. I’m one of those obsessed music junkies so my styles influenced by a lot of artist, but I feel overall when it comes to style I want show everyone that when you hear that beat I’m going to attack it with a different style and flow almost every time. That’s partly why I go by Ryems. I’m all rhymes ,  I don’t want to spit the same as our “modern-day rappers” when I can show I’m diverse and original at the same time.

TPQ: Who were the lyricists that most influenced you when you were starting out? What was it about their work that made them an influence?

Ryems: Damn here comes the novel of my list of rappers haha! I’m going to try to narrow this down though. My favorite lyricists that influenced me when i was starting out was Eminem, DMX, Wale, Drake, J Cole, Big L, Hopsin, Dizzy Wright, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, School Boy Q, Yelawolf,  ASAP Rocky and some Wiz Khalifa the list goes on and on lol. Each individual artist stuck out in their own way to me and maybe that’s what I like about them so much. ORIGINALITY. Being their own artist ,creating their own sound and that they did it so well really was inspiring to me. It showed me i don’t have to be like your “everyday” rapper to go far with music.

TPQ: How long have you been listening to hip-hop? What other music do you enjoy?

Ryems: I’ve been listening to hip-hop for maybe 10 years. When I was younger my mom and step dad at the time were very strict about what music I was listening too. I always had to go to a friend’s house and burn Cd’s of all the music i actually wanted to listen to. I hated it! I was literally forced to listen to anything related to rock or the radio. No one likes the radio!? Other music i enjoy is punk rock time to time, such as Green Day, New Found Glory, Blink 182 that type of shit was always cool to me. Sometimes you’ll catch me listening to some soft rock but other than that its strictly Hip-Hop.

TPQ: Pigeon John told me that, to paraphrase, he feels as if 2chainz is the new Bob Dylan – the new voice of the people. How would you respond to that?

Ryems: hahahahaha personally I haven’t really got myself into 2 Chainz but my friends are constantly bumping his shit in the car and maybe what upsets me is that I see no art in what he writes. Maybe its just me? I feel like if for any reason he’s the “voice of the people” it’s because his image and the stuff he raps about is what’s popular right now. Its simple, its sex, drugs, money, and its easy to rap along to his songs. I feel most rap/hip-hop fans forgot that music is so much more than that, but i guess its up to people like me and other emcees and lyricist to change that over time. It’s all just a phase really..

TPQ: Would you consider rap lyrics to be the new Poetry? Why or why not?

Ryems: Rap has always been a form of poetry to me. What’s even more interesting is that rap is really just poetry with style and ease. You’re telling a story with metaphors, imagery, symbolism all contents of poetry with a twist of flow, style, and a louder voice.

TPQ: As the media visibility of rappers continues to grow, how do you feel that has changed the approach to writing lyrics?

Ryems: I feel this all just depends on the artist. Are you going to do whats easy? What sells? Or are you going to make the music YOU love? The music that reflects YOU as an artist?  As of now though I’d say slowly you’re seeing the approach to writing lyrics with a lot of originality and own style, artist like Kendrick Lamar, School Boy Q, Joey Badass, Flatbush Zombiez, The Under Achievers, Funk Volume and ASAP Rocky in my humble opinion are changing Hip Hop for the better by doing this.

TPQ: Do rappers need to write more mainstream lyrics because they are in the spotlight, or are they still able to write conscious hip-hop, and gain notice?

Ryems: Rappers I feel should never go into the studio and say “hey I’m going to write a mainstream song today” it just fucks up everything. It doesn’t reflect who they are fully as an artist. It just shows me they wanted to make their pockets fatter. If i ever had a song more “mainstream” it would be on accident but because a good majority of people RELATED to it. Conscious hip hop today anyone can gain notice! It’s just about networking, promotion, style, and of course talent. But good luck getting it heard on the radio.. That’s why artist that are strictly into conscious hip-hop use social net working to connect with their fans, blogs, and other artist/producers to gain notice. It requires more work to be able to do this but its worth it in the long run if you want to be successful creating the music YOU love.

TPQ: How do you see the hip-hop culture evolving over the next decade?

Ryems: I see the hip-hop culture evolving in the next decade to its purest form of when it was just starting. Even the style of the way kids dress from the 90’s is all coming back. Hip-Hop to me is just being recycled it went through its phases and its all just coming back to what it used to be. maybe with a little twist because of what we can do with technology now but overall that sound and originality that makes hip hop hip hop is slowly coming back maybe even better than it was the last time. Will just have to wait and see!

TPQ: Since we are The Poetry Question, I have to ask: What is Poetry?

Ryems: Poetry is the best form of putting words together to create a story that anyone can visualize and feel or relate too.

TPQ: And finally, if you could sit down for a dinner with one emcee, artist, author, dead or alive, who would it be, why, and what would you eat?

Ryems: Damn this is hard haha I’d have to say Hopsin though just because that dude is funny as fuck and is a real down to earth emcee and passionate about what he does plus unlike these other poser rapper/skaters (cough cough Lil Wayne ) we’d get to shred after we ate! But id be down for some McDonald’s I’m kind of balling on a budget haha.

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2013 by in INTERVIEW and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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