Rob Ryan, an unassuming local artist who would rather characterize himself as a “rapper on his way” than a rapper, had his third ever performance on March 2 at the Underground Coffeehouse. As a well-known senior at Lawrence, he is notorious for his energetic and social character both inside and outside the classroom. Ryan is also active in school organizations as his class secretary and as a hall council member. Ryan is such a highly recognizable and trouble-free campus personality that it may seem out of character for him to be so interested in rap.
Ryan showed up at his performance, Prose Unknown, sporting a mute green tweed blazer, a grizzly bear black T-shirt and jeans. The most “hip-hop” accessory Ryan wore was his pair of white DC shoes.
The night before, I interviewed Ryan about his interest in rap and his personal progress as a rapper. He displayed a fresh and honest personality not often found in the hip-hop scene. DK: What introduced you to hip-hop?
RR: Hip-hop can tell such a long story in such depth, there are so many words in one song that it has the potential to be able to get across a real message. There are so many styles though; it can also be shallow and be about gold teeth and cars.
DK: What drives you to create it?
RR: I’ve written poetry for a long time. My dad’s a poet and he taught me to always carry something with me to write in. My poetry never fit the lyrical style for bands, so I use it for my own personal free-styling and started messing around with beats. I’ve only been writing songs with beats for about a year.
DK: What is your style like?
RR: Lyrically intense and not as catchy as it should be. I’m still new at this and still trying to figure it out.
DK: Why is hip-hop important to you?
RR: It’s a pleasure that doesn’t go away. Everyone constantly has thoughts. It’s interesting to put them into organized lyrics and rhythms. It’s continuously an exciting process. I really like collaborating with other people, like I’ve done with Bryan [Teoh] and Pete Snyder. I would be excited to work with others.
DK: What do you hope the audience will get out of our show?
RR: I hope they pay a lot of attention to my lyrics. I put a lot of time into them. If you aren’t putting emotion into your music than it probably sucks. I wish I could make them more catchy for people to bop their heads to. Bryan Teoh makes my beats ********– they’re really high quality and I hope people appreciate that. I think they will like the song with Brendan Marshall-Rashid. It’s pretty catchy.
Prose Unknown drew a modest crowd, with many concentrated in front of the stage ledge. With just him on stage, the attention was all on his lyrics *********– and his lyrics were surprisingly serious. The audience strained to hear and make sure they did not miss a word; his tenacious tone escalated when he performed an anti-Bush song, which received great appreciation from the audience.
The most promising work was performed last with vocalist Brendan Marshall-Rashid. Placing vocals against a hip-hop beat provided great contrast to the usual rough rhythms. The interludes gave a contrast in tempo and texture which added energy and integrity to the song.
Undoubtedly Rob Ryan is a creative force with promise and determination. If anything, his curiosity to explore music and poetry will drive future collaborations and keep the audiences coming.