Hip-hop legends build their empires upon authentic foundations. The outliers who enjoy longevity in the rap game never stop grinding and provide opportunities for the next generation.
Jake Ryan, known as The Raskal, is a Tucson underground rapper and that kind of emcee. The 15-year veteran says music is still “magical” especially while working with his favorite artists.
“I would say the best part about being in the music industry is actually making quality music,” he says. “And seeing other artists grow around you is a pretty amazing thing as well.”
The Raskal began impressing audiences on “R Dub!’s Rap-Attack,” a weekly battle that aired on KRQQ. He remembers grabbing the number one spot with a freestyle and holding the title for 30 weeks. Even though it’s been a while, R Dub! says, that the Raskal certainly left his mark.
“Of all the dozens and maybe hundreds of local artists we had on, he’s the one that I remember the most.” R Dub! says. He describes The Raskal as a “down-to-earth guy who loved music and loved his town.”
After all that radio success, The Raskal retired his undefeated crown and began his professional rap career. First, he set his blistering tour schedule and launched an independent record label, RuffLife Recordz. RuffLife is continuing to grow and has multiple artists signed-on from Arizona to California including Miss Licks, Lil Smitty, J Bone, Kozme, HiRise, Trilogy, Cess Loc, Plan B and Stamina.
In the future, The Raskal wants to transition from performer to producer. “I want to showcase talent, I want to bring-up talent and I want to build talent,” he says. “And I want to stay involved in the music scene.”
During the first three years of his career, The Raskal performed three to five times per month, he says, and at least once a month he would play a sold-out show at The Rock. Returning home was part of his touring routine, and he used the opportunity to feature other local artists.
It was a different time for independent musicians, he says. This was during the pre-Internet era. If you want to be remembered outside your hometown, hungry artists had to hustle and sell hardcopies of their music from their tour van, which is exactly how he sold his first album.
While he would eventually like to open a music venue, he also envisions opening a Tucson-based retail location for local talents. Not just for musicians, he explains, but an all-inclusive one-stop-shop for Tucson’s painters, clothing designers and artisans.
Fifteen years after bursting on the scene, The Raskal continues to produce classic hip-hop records—beats and rhymes. On July 24, he will release Trust No One, his second album to drop this year. The LP features multiple legendary rappers including Tech N9ne, Twista, Madchild, Hopsin, Bubba Sparxxx, Futuristic and others.
The hottest single on The Raskal’s new album is “Why” featuring Sareena Dominguez. This track perfectly captures The Raskal’s unique style and lyrical cantor. His rhymes are direct, vivid and additive-free, and Dominquez’s elegant vocals compliment The Raskal’s rugged wordplay, and reflexive metaphors. “Write with some substance,” he says. “Write something that’s going to be heartfelt, motivating or can appeal to the masses.”
The Raskal’s first release this year Street Bangerz Vol.1 was a collaborative effort with his longtime friend Mr. Shadow. The duo broke the iTunes top 100 albums, and the collection held its place at 92 for the first week. Street Bangerz contains 11 tracks of raw, West Coast warrior, low-rider anthems. Start to finish, the battle-bars and beats are scorching like Old Pueblo sunrays—Volume 2 will be available in December. You can purchase Trust No One on Friday, July 24 at Zia Records and download or stream the LP on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Spotify.