RICCI RIERA – JUMPMAN
“Where do I even begin? I started collecting mad J’s and going ham”. WORDS: REMBERT BROWNE IMAGES: @RAYSCORRUPTEDMIND
A crucial figure in LA’s sound, Ricci Riera is shaping the next generation of greatness. Rembert Browne joins photographer @RaysCorruptedMind to bring insight into the world of a producer pushing the creative limits.
There’s a good chance even the avid hip-hop fan hasn’t heard of producer Ricci Riera. Such is often the life of those behind the scenes in music.
But for Riera, that’s all quietly changing — and not on accident, he’s finally ready to be out front. For the better part of this decade, Riera has been busy, crafting a unique sound and inarguably strong portfolio. He’s co-produced Kendrick Lamar essentials such as “Element” and “Cartoons and Cereal” and “M.A.A.D CITY.” He’s produced songs for Travis Scott and Drake. And he’s been nominated for three Grammys, both as part of production duo THC and as a solo act.
Both he and his sound are products of his environment. And after spending time with Riera, it’s clear how relentlessly proud he is of where he’s from, Los Angeles, California. Whether it was meeting him at a Jamaican restaurant and watching him eat oxtail while talking to the employees as if they were family or being unphased as someone was casually arrested in broad daylight on the block or driving me to his house and making a casual pit stop to pick up his mail, his level of comfort in this city is goals, as they say. But that level of calm and chill was not given, it was earned.
Musically, LA is having a renaissance of sorts. There were stretches, however, that were less explosive. But through it all, Riera never left. And as a crucial figure in the city’s sound and re-ascension in the hip-hop stratosphere, he’s finally beginning to get his much-overdue shine.
Browne: Everything about you screams LA. Tell me about your upbringing. What was your family situation like?
Riera: So basically, my mom and dad were never together. Like, I don’t even think they were boyfriend, girlfriend. So, I didn’t even meet my dad ’til I was like six years old. I had a weird relationship with him, to the point where I didn’t even like to talk about him.
Browne: The one thing I know about him was that he was a prominent piano player.
Riera: Living in the hood, people could come at you crazy, thinking you were rich because of what he did, which was definitely not the case. Me and him got cool once I got older, though. And my mom — she used to manage artists, she was on the business side of music. So music, it was everywhere, and I knew it was for me.
Browne: Was there a defining musical moment you remember, at a young age?
Riera: I was young, like eight. I remember I went in my mom’s room — it was like six in the morning, I woke her up, and was like mom, I wanna be a producer. And she was pissed because I woke her up, but she was like, alright, we’ll see.
Browne: And you gravitated to producing, even before rapping like most kids.
Riera: I would just be in my room, just listening to hella music by myself, and I just naturally would dissect the music and break down every instrument, and really pay attention to how it got put together. And that’s just how my brain works, you know what I mean? So it was cool when I got older, to actually have a chance to play around with some equipment.
Browne: When you started doing music seriously, what was it like in LA?
Riera: When I first started, LA wasn’t really popping. LA was like, in hibernation mode. Atlanta was like really on. But it was just dead in LA But then around 2008, 2009, you had people like Dom Kennedy, Overdoz, Skeme — there were so many people coming up. It was popping.
Browne: What would you say was your breakout moment.
Riera: I started working with Dom first, and we made a song, and it came out on his mixtape, and it was like lit. It was like the first time that we had a song that like everybody was listening to, you know.
Browne: I’m sure you felt that pressure to leave, so it must be nice to have not only had that hometown loyalty, but to see it paying off for the city now.
Riera: It was hard because there definitely was nothing going on. I remember when the first homie was signed, and that had everybody happy, you know what I’m saying? And he would pull up, come grab beats from me.
Browne: It’s cool that it was clearly a very collaborative time.
Riera: Yeah, man. Everybody had dope videos, dope artwork. Everything was so good, it appeared like they were signed, but they weren’t. You know what I mean? You know, I was just really impressed with the way that everybody was helping each other, because people was broke. And the shows were the most fun, because you would go to a Dom show, and Kendrick would come and come perform. All the homies would come support and vice versa.
Browne: And now so many people are killing it.
Riera: It’s so important to see that, in a place like LA, where you have that gang banging aspect. And when homies are able to put that to the side and people that’s rivals linking up, you know, just random shit that would never happen.
Browne: From Kendrick to Drake to Travis Scott, you’ve helped make so much good music. What are some of the things that creatively keep your inspired?
Riera: Animation, for real. I used to just watch it on mute, while I was making music. And I would really just go after the ones that were like, visually the best. And then I started turning the captions on. And then I started kinda like paying attention to the story. And then I was like damn, that’s actually fire.
Riera: Bro, it’s crazy. And I’m kind of new to it, but, I definitely, definitely get a lot of inspiration from that. Like, I’ve got a album that I’m working on, and it’s literally inspired by this picture that I found. Video games too, man.
Browne: With this ever-rising profile that you have, is it kind of crazy for you to get this Jordan co-sign?
Riera: Where do I even begin — Jordans are the illest shoes, period. Growing up — and still — I go crazy over Jordans. The patent leathers, the 13s with the Hologram on the side, the 3s, the 1s, even the 2s, the 4s, the 6s bro — like come on bro.
Browne: I remember the Christmas I got the 13s.
Riera: So you know what I’m saying.
Browne: I know exactly what you’re saying
Browne: You got hooked, didn’t you?
Riera: The 12s bro, it was just like an event. But growing up, I couldn’t afford them. And I used to just watch all the homies and just be pissed. But when I turned 18 and I started making my own bread — bought the low-top 11s, with the little vents in them? With the same colorways as the black cement joints? I used to wear those everyday bro. And then after that, I just built a crazy collection. I just started collecting mad Js and just started going ham.
Browne: Obviously you care about accolades and being recognized and stamps of approval, but what are your goals going forward? Like, now that you got to this point, what’s next?
Riera: I just wanna start signing artists and producing like entire albums. I mean, I’m saying let’s get back to old school where you do the whole project yourself. And just kill it. Have it go double platinum. And then also, with the DJ stuff, I wanna see more hip hop DJs take it to the level of those big dudes that are making 50 million dollars a year. And my guy Khaled.
Browne: I love Khaled.
Riera: Khaled is definitely a huge inspiration. You know I actually read his book.
Browne: Me too.
Riera: He’s one of the illest dudes ever bro, he’s one of the best. And he’s not stopping. And he knows how to produce people. And he actually knows how to make beats. And he actually knows how to DJ. He can scratch, he’s better than most. So yeah, I’m trying to have that type of career.
Browne: Speaking of Khaled, you’re also a DJ — how do you think that’s affected your ear for music.
Riera: I think it makes me better at knowing how to make turnt shit.
Browne: Do you like having a part of you that’s more front and center, since producers are typically more in the background — even though that’s clearly changed over the past few years.
Riera: Yeah man. You be in the studio all the time, watching all the homies go on tour, and doing all this shit, you’re like, damn, I’m trying to get a piece of that, bro. The first shot that I had was with Overdoz, they let me go on tour with ’em. It was wild. And after that, I was like, I could do this. Maybe I could do anything.