For this week's Mahal, I drove around in a fancy car with Philadelphia's Rap guru Ryshon Jones. Ryshon's music has held a prominent role within his community over the last few years. His latest project, Hope Is a Dangerous Thing, is an album and poetry collection examining hope in 21st century America. As I cruised around Philly with Ryshon, I chatted with him about this latest project and his life in Philly.
VICE: How did growing up in Philadelphia influence you?
Ryshon Jones: It taught me to never know what to expect from anybody. Just the other day I was on my way to New York, and literally as I was on the bus, a guy got shot in his head in front of the bus while sitting in his car. Despite that, home is home. It's a beautiful place with tons of good food and new talent coming out and a great history in music.
How did you become a rapper?
My cousin broke into a car around the neighborhood back in ’98, and he found some cassette tapes with instrumentals on them, and the rest is history. I think the more I started to see how violent my city was as a kid, I naturally got away from certain things, and with that I found a love for music and expressing myself. I started to really hold on to the love and passion for it after a guy told me that my music helped him stop popping pills. Shit like that truly blows my mind, because these are raps I wrote in school, or in my room, to get out of my own problems or whatever the case may be. I'm happy my cousin stole those cassette tapes, because I don't think I'd be doing music if it wasn't for that day.
Your music is very cerebral. What do you dream about?
I dream of the most crazy shit all the time, and I'm one of those people that will wake up and say, “Wait. What are you trying to tell me, God?” I see what seems to be the end of the world in my dreams sometimes, and it creeps me out, because in the dream it feels so real. I've played Jay-Z my music countless times in my dreams before. A lot of things I see in my dreams come to life, and I can't make this up at all.
What is the idea behind Hope Is A Dangerous Thing?
Hope Is a Dangerous Thing started as a loose idea in the middle of working on my album Track 15. It was originally going to be a five song EP for the fans, but then after two weeks, I had more songs than planned. So, I said, “Fuck it,” and I told my engineer, Jairo, “Lets do it.” A friend of mine heard the project and said to me, “You're losing your mind in a good way, and it's showing in your music,” which is probably the most accurate way to put it. If Hope Is a Dangerous Thing is what losing your mind in a good way sounds and feels like, then I want to do that shit every two weeks, because that was fun.
Previously - Help Mosaic Man Finish His Mosaic Trail