'There's conviction and confidence in the laid-back delivery ‘cause I believe the shit I say and it’s real experiences….'
Evan Dale // June 22, 2021
It seemed a fitting place – a tomato garden – to take photos of Nashville’s Ron Obasi. Not just any garden, but that of friend and producer, Coleman (@mixedbycole) whose lady boasts an unendingly green thumb. Drenched in sun, resonant of growth, teeming with life, and quietly calm, the setting was a reflection of the subject. For those that don’t know, Ron Obasi is a mellow human with a mellow, oft-melodic rap delivery boasting a thought-provoking dichotomy in the work ethic endured and the real life lessons explored in his art. A central, rising name in a central, rising hip-hop scene, Ron Obasi is a must-know for any fan of hip-hop, lyricism, and introspective anthems not only in Nashville, but in hip-hop at large.
RNGLDR: Let’s talk Nashville. As an artist who is part of a larger scene undergoing a creative renaissance, towards what do you attribute the recent growth of the city’s creative culture?
Obasi: Well, I feel like it's different things or variables that go into the growth we see now. There were plenty of people and creatives before me and right now that have poured into what’s stable enough for us to grow on and expand - cultural growth and coverage wise. Then there's "fate". Perfect timing type thing. I believe TN is a sacred ground for music starting all the way back with Blues & Music City origins, so it was only a matter of time we get our just due lol. That’s how I feel.
RNGLDR: In many ways, Nashville’s hip-hop and Neo-soul centric underground has been at the core of everything happening in the city’s creative renaissance. As a part of the city and of that core, can you speak a little to the origins of what we’re seeing now, and how the foundation was built for Nashville to continue to put out such talented artistry - particularly artistry circling its hip-hop center?
Obasi: Yea man, as I said our origins and foundations are part of music history in itself. The city has always had the talent, and there’s been plenty of effort towards the foundations. Just a different climb and climate here considering what people only saw "Music City" as from the outside looking in or how they've twisted it. Now that it’s all expanding and being highlighted, you just can't deny what we have here and are a part of anymore. The connections & collaborative stuff also helps keep it growing.
RNGLDR: From the outside, a sense of community and collaboration seems to define a lot of the reasons why Nashville continues to churn out such rising and influential art & music. What is it about such a wide-ranging scene that allows Nashville an identity defined by not only by differences from other scenes and differences between artists in the city, but also by a sense of collaboration and mutual support between everyone?
Obasi: I feel like it works because it’s just natural. People really know each other from childhoods, or they’re actually related. Close friends before music, all types of shit. So, it bleeds over in what the overview or reception is. Folks really want the best for who they're creating around and not forcing it. From my point of view – whether it be within their respective circles or peers we really draw inspiration from and just want to create with.
RNGLDR: A lot of that artistic collaboration is obvious when you start to look at the web of creative collectives that make up the Nashville scene. So, let’s talk Third Eye & Co. Tell us about what the collective is, and how it all got started.
Obasi: You'll hear me credit Chuck with this a lot because ThirdEye origin and idea really did start from him. He had a vision and a bunch of other things just lined up to make it happen. Starting with the guys co-owning, and then the other creators around that selflessly poured into it so the machine could do what people hadn't seen done or set examples. The collective itself was to be the in-house machine. Whatever people seek at labels or with budgets, we had/have everything we need to produce quality and highlight each other.
RNGLDR: Obviously, the teams you surround yourself with are comprised of some insanely talented individuals. Did everyone come together because of a mutual love and skillset circling music, art, and culture? Or has everyone known one another for a while, using collaboration with one another to constantly inspire and improve as artists and musicians?
Obasi: Both! Like I said in an earlier answer, many of us really know each other and connected in some insane ways! Sports, family, school… directly or indirectly. The music, artistry, etc. has been a product of those relations and also been a bridge for creating some close friendships as well.
RNGLDR: Starting with one of those frequent collaborators, SECK, who has filmed and directed not only many of your visuals, but of other talented artists throughout Nashville and beyond, what is it that makes a director working with smaller budgets and smaller teams than many others in larger positions in music, so bold, innovative, and ultimately influential on a larger audiovisual spectrum?
Obasi: It's really just credit to SECK and those alike honestly. Its only "low budget" cause most of us in the hustle phase but Seck's visuals are clearly worth top dollar. Just that selflessness to grow each other's brands and goals I believe. And being others’ creative guinea pigs really.
RNGLDR: On the subject of SECK and your collaborative projects with him, what is your favorite SECK-directed video of yours, and why?
Obasi: Man, it’s gotta be ‘Dreamer SZN.’ Because of how Seck came up with the idea to tape his phone to the ceiling at the last minute cause his camera wouldn't hang, and then the location was special. Wrote the song on the couch in the video in that apartment a year prior. So, it was just like full circle on camera. Beautiful when videos or the art can capsule a time like that.
RNGLDR: And aside from your own videos, what’s the SECK-directed visual for another artist that you could call a favorite? Why?
Obasi: ‘Woods Freestyle’ [taken from Friday Special] by Jordan Xx. Bro, the creativity. The colors, commentary, the raps, they don't miss honestly.
RNGLDR: On the Subject of JORDAN Xx, we feel like he’s one of the most talented up-and-coming names not only out of Nashville, but in hip-hop at large. What do you think about his sound that is so unique, and yet so refined for such a young artist?
Obasi: Man, I don't think dude from this planet. He just gifted man. Some people just have it. Also, I can attest to just the work he's put in and how inspired he gets from everything in this shit - he just got unlimited range imo. Willing to master any sound he like. Also, plenty of vulnerable and polarizing, but beautiful writing. And we benefit as the listener every time.
RNGLDR: You and Chuck Indigo have also worked together. As a rapper who often plays with your melodic abilities, what can you learn from artists like Chuck Indigo who operate more as vocalists that tend to flex their rap ability? And do you think that has an effect on the seeming seamlessness of your work together, like You Ain’t This Good?
Obasi: Funny that Chuck is the artist you brought up cause it’s his flexibility and versatility that’s helped me not hold back from stretching my own voice or flow. Of course, there's bigger artist to admire but I put a lot of work in with bro so it’s been steel sharpening for me. Way better cause of bro. Also, another reason the shit we do together sounds so flawless, we've put it countless hrs together.
RNGLDR: If you could point to one other particular Nashville talent you think not only us, but the rest of the hip-hop world should be focusing on, who would you want to shout out, and why?
Obasi: Shit man, that’s tough. But I’d say Jxdece without biased. SYA was/is one of the best projects I've heard, and believe me when I say it just gets better & better.
RNGLDR: Let’s take it back to last year with what was really your first full-length release / album, Sun Tapes. You ask a lot of people through the project what the sun represents to them, but coming from you, why did you want to focus on the sun as such a central theme in your debut?
Obasi: It was all inspirational & divine man. Just a spiritual path that ended up being shown in the music. I wrote S.U.N.Z. coming back from ATL my first time on 85 South and it just didn't stop after that. Plus, I wanted my people specifically to see the symbiotic relationship we have with the sun and how to use it in our processes - or how I was finding the sun to be important in mine and what it represents to me.
RNGLDR: The project itself – orbiting that central idea of the sun – came out to be one of the most well-curated and unique projects to come out of hip-hop – not just Nashville hip-hop – in 2020. Can you walk us through the creative process of curating your debut album, and how, aside from length, it differed than other projects you’ve put out in the past?
Obasi: I don't even like calling it an album bro, honestly. Wasn't created to be one at least. It was a 2-month span of pure writing and expressing myself and thoughts after I wrote S.U.N.Z. I was working on other shit when it hit me and then I had like 3-4 sessions of all songs that just struck gold, at Coleman's studio, at $hrames studio, and at Chuck's studio that it just all became cohesive like that. Just like the EP’s or projects before, it was just answering the creative call. Then Kelsey & Nique helped and came up with all kinds of great ideas to help me bowtie it. Put some intention behind the message, and then it became what it was - Sun Tapes. Hopefully that’s a good answer.
RNGLDR: A continuation of the sound that you’ve been establishing for years, Sun Tapes highlights your ability to in one moment, pen intricate, thought-provoking raps while also delivering them with a mellow, understated delivery. How do you think your signature auditory aesthetic speaks to your truths as a man outside of music?
Obasi: I don't really have a straight or definitive answer for that other than that’s just how my truths come across on record, or how they're delivered. Plus, the sonics up until this point haven't really called for a drastic change in delivery so I flow with that process. But of course, there's conviction and confidence in the laid-back delivery ‘cause I believe the shit I say and it’s real experiences.
RNGLDR: Most recently, you dropped your For The Faithful collection on SoundCloud. The four-pack of loose singles does a great job of showing just how refined and focused not only you are to your craft, but Nashville as a whole seems to be. For The Faithful bleeds with a lot of professionalism and finely crafted uniqueness, yet you call the tracks loosies. By that logic, is hip-hop maybe not easy – but just incredibly natural for you? And when did that all start?
Obasi: Hell nah it ain’t easy. That'd discredit myself and any other artist doing it. Even though we get to a consistent point that makes it look easy. The loosies were from when I was making the other project I had lined up before Sun Tapes came into thought, so I let them fly for the faithful listeners on Soundcloud. Hence the title. It’s natural and it’s work ethic. I come from music, starting with my pops - but you still have to carve ya own voice and path. Tell your own story.
RNGLDR: Speaking of starts, who are some artists that inspired you to pursue a path in rap when you were just getting started? And how do their respective sounds infiltrate your own sound to this day?
Obasi: Definitely my pops from the very beginning, like I said he had me in the studio young. Some more influences would be Wayne, Cole, Rick Ross at the start. First album I got for my birthday was a Ross album and it made me want to keep rapping. Same with finding Cole in highschool and so forth. Most of the influence when I went all in comes from Cole with the introspection, penmanship, etc. Soul filled instrumentals choices too.
"Hell nah it ain’t easy. That'd discredit myself and any other artist doing it...."
RNGLDR: On the subject of inspirations, we run a series called Collab Elation where we explore hypothetical collaborations that we want to see in music. So, if you could collaborate with one artists past or present, who would you work with, and why?
Obasi: Man, too many to consider. I’d like to say Nipsey Hussle at the moment. Just really had aspirations of getting that one in before the passing, and even now. Never got to meet him or anything, but I know as far as music and frequencies go, we could've made some fire.
RNGLDR: We also run a series called Dream Venue taking the reader on a narrative journey culminating in the ultimate live show. So, with live concerts returning to the normal calendar post-pandemic, as the artist performing, what would be your Dream Venue?
Obasi: I've never even thought about a dream venue man. But I’d love to pack out Bridgestone arena, right here at home. In the city. That would be legendary
RNGLDR: And with a lot of life beginning to return to normal, you’ve also made some big steps recently with the founding of Supreme Radicalz? Can you speak a little to what made you start it off, and what inspired the first collection?
Obasi: Supreme Radicalz has been in the works for a minute, for sure. About a year prior to the introduction. Blessed to finally show it and continue the growth with it. It's multimedia and the inspiration is to in-house produce all relative ideas and stories we think of. Not just for myself but for others. Through music, film, books, gear, etc. The introduction collection was literally just introducing it. I know some people just think it’s a collection of clothes for now, but no. Way bigger intentions in mind.
RNGLDR: And what is the ultimate vision for Supreme Radicalz?
Obasi: I really want the vision to be received and understood as the rollouts and executions continue, so I won’t go into detail. But again, the intent is to build our own – for our own – through every art form imaginable and preserve information and stories.
RNGLDR: Lastly, what’s next for Ron Obasi, personally and creatively?
Obasi: More To Do the EP - the summer drop. Fire music, I’m excited. Also, still in the process of getting the music I did with 85 South. So, it's plenty to look forward to in the meantime. There's other stuff as well but what fun is it to reveal it all, lol.