“I put in so much work, and that’s exactly why I’m so confident and can say I’m the best at what I do,” says a poised Ronny J of his abilities. He is quick to refute any attempt at labeling him and prefers to be known as an “overall creator.” Growing up in New Jersey, it wasn’t until his second attempt at college down in the Miami area that he discovered his gift as a producer around 2012.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the 25-year-old has become the architect of a distorted sonic, which has exposed the rising South Florida hip-hop scene to a global audience. Ronny J inked a deal with Atlantic Records last year, which puts him in prime position to continue to grow his brand until he “can go around the world on [his] own.”
The prolific beat maestro has produced hits for emerging artists such as Smokepurpp, Lil Pump, XXXTentaicon, Denzel Curry, Ski Mask The Slump God, Bhad Bhabie and more. Ronny J unveiled his anticipated debut mixtape, OMGRONNY, last Friday (Feb. 23). The project is a mixed bag of 11 dynamic tracks featuring many of the artists he’s worked with in the past, but also some tuneful vocals from the Lil Wayne-inspired artist, who carries multiple songs himself.
The in-demand producer has big plans for 2018. “My production is going to be everywhere. I got so many placements coming out nonstop.” Billboard caught up with the Miami transplant, who was draped in a red Palm Angels tracksuit, Gucci headband and matching Louis Vuitton sandals with a waist bag to cap off the icy jewelry-dripping fit.
We tapped into the mind of Ronny J to find out the formula behind crafting OMGRONNY, growing up in the church choir, playing in his high school marching band, having a relationship with Good Work Charlie, renting a goat for his album cover, and Astroworld studio sessions with Travis Scott.
Congratulations on OMGRONNY. How do you feel the reception to the mixtape has been so far?
It’s been more love than hate for sure. There are definitely people like, “Stop rapping and stick to producing!” Little do they know, I don’t even look at myself as a rapper. I’m just a creator, overall. I’m not even trying to claim that title, so I’m not tripping on that.
What were some of your early influences in music growing up in New Jersey?
I remember being five years old and always taking out the pots and pans in the kitchen and setting them up in the living room and acting like they were drums. I was banging on them and not even realizing what I was doing. My mom and dad just saw I had a passion for [music] and they started buying me drum kits.
I started going to church at a very young age. I was in the choir at first for a little bit. Then, I got into playing drums for the choir. As I got older, I kept playing drums and in high school, I was in the marching band my freshman and sophomore years. It was amazing. We used to travel, too. We would travel during football season and there was hella bitches, so it was fire.
Good Work Charlie was my best friend growing up. We went to the same high school. I would have a girl and he’d f— with the friend type shit. We used to do that all the time, it was fire. His mom actually put me on my first airplane to Disney World. We don’t talk as much, we’re both busy, but that’s my bro forever.
He’s the reason I started producing. He inspired me to do it. We both have the same background and I see him doing it early on and he was killing it. I was like, “Yo I could do this shit.” I needed a way to make some type of money so let me hop on this.
How about your introduction to hip-hop?
I remember the Clipse, [Lord Willin’] was the first little CD I bought with “Grindin.” I remember around that time I would always bang on the tables doing the “Grindin” beat when that was mad popular. I spent a lot of time watching music videos on MTV Jams. I spent my summers watching those and I got into Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and all that. So by middle school, I was like, “Okay, bet. I can listen to rap music.”
Then, you go down to Miami for college?
Yeah, I went to four different colleges. The first school I went to was Florida Memorial University and it’s an HBCU — all-black college — and I went there for a semester. I didn’t like it so I had to come home since I didn’t have anywhere to go so I came back to [New Jersey]. I had to be in school because my dad didn’t really see [music] popping off like that. I was like, “Alright, f— it. I’ll go back home be in school and take that semester, but figure it out and get the f— out again.”
So I figured it out and came across the Art Institute and started going there. That’s when I met Denzel Curry and all of them. The second time I went back to Miami was when I really started getting back into music. This is like 2012, 2013. My first semester I wasn’t producing and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was doing Criminal Justice.
What made you want to take music seriously the second time around?
I just saw it taking off for [Good Work Charlie] and I believe in myself and knew I could be good at it. I’ve been doing music my whole life. It does help, me playing drums. I put in so much work and that’s exactly why I’m so confident and can say I’m the best at what I do. I made sure I put in that time and I’m only going to get better. Even if you don’t f— with anything I got going on, one day you will because I’m going to keep getting better and better.
Why did you sign with Atlantic Records and how did they shift the idea behind OMGRONNY?
I signed around Memorial Day Weekend of 2017. I was already comfortable with the whole staff and team. I remember I was out on tour and I got an email from Atlantic, “Hey are you going to be out on this side in Los Angeles.” I was like, “Yeah, I got a show.” I was in the area, had the show and pulled up to Atlantic. They were like, “Hey bro. We’re not trying to hit you over the head on some industry shit. We just want to get to know you.”
We started talking and kept meeting up, but [Republic Records] was trying to sign me, so it was kind of a bidding war between a couple labels. Basically, Atlantic’s offer topped [Republic’s] and I already knew the staff so I was comfortable with them. I met with Julie Greenwald and all that.
Basically, I had the whole idea for the project before I signed a deal. At first, it was supposed to be all of my production and all of the dudes from South Florida who are popping — everybody I’ve been working with, this is nothing new. I’m not even from there, but I felt it was only right to give back, show love and do it for the fans.
I end up signing to Atlantic — I was already making my own music — as an artist so it made sense to hop on the songs as well and be creative with it and have fun. I’m always recording shit on my own.
I’ll be in the studio with [Ski Mask The Slump God] and he’ll be like, “Yo bro, hop on this.” That’s how “Costa Rica” happened. He wanted me to hop on and put a hook on it and I did. I started doing a verse and [Ski Mask The Slump God] was like, “keep going.”
Is rapping on your own something you’d want to do more of?
It’s not even anything I really think about. I never wake up thinking, “I gotta rap more than make a beat today.” I don’t try too hard. I want things to come naturally and organically. I just do it when I do it. I might not make a song for a whole month, you never know. I am though because I always make shit and I’m working hard. I’m going hard so the results are going to be positive.
Let’s get into OMGRONNY, where and what time frame was the mixtape recorded in?
All over bro. Just Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. Mostly over the past year. Some of the songs are older that I had in the stash, but I wanted them to be out in the world and I felt that was a good way to do it. That’s why you hear in some songs I don’t have ‘Oh my god, Ronny’ in every single song because I want people to also see where I came from. I just didn’t come out of anywhere. I’ve been doing this shit, but now people are starting to know what I look like. I just know I’m new to a lot of people, but I’ve been doing this and shit takes time.
Why did you use a goat for the project’s artwork?
That was fire. I just felt like it was a genius idea. I forgot whose idea it was. I’m always super high in L.A. and that was where we came up with it. I’m always with people. I had a lot to do with it. I got a real goat, bro. My homie looked it up and handled that and I rented the goat for the whole day. I just knew nobody has ever done that so I was like, “Let me do some shit nobody has ever done right quick.” Check that off the bucket list. Now if anyone ever does it, I did it first.
Honestly, I’m not going to lie, the goat made me so mad when I first got around it. The same I just bought some brand new Louis Vuitton boots and they just came out and weren’t even on the floor yet. They told me, “I got something in the back for you.” And they brought them out. I was right next to the goat taking a picture and the [goat] just literally bit my shoestring off. They’re aggressive like that. Once they have something in their mouth they don’t let go.
I just picked it up and it had to be done. That goat was heavy as shit. The thing about these goats is that they don’t really react. They’re in their own world. After that, I was mad as f— trying to figure out how I can return them, but once I got home I realized they had an extra pair of shoestrings in [the box] so I was like, “Hell yeah.”
What would you say is your favorite track on the mixtape?
I think it’s “Ohshi.” I like that vibe a lot. When I’m alone, it’s a different vibe. I’m not thinking about anyone else because it’s only me. When I made that song, It wasn’t only me, I was with five of my boys in my crib and I was recording shit every single day for a whole week straight. I really f—ed with that beat. I knew I had to attack it and I wanted to sauce it. I came with the, “YSL on my face give me brain” and I had a pair of YSL shades on too.
Walk me through the creative process behind the tape’s opener featuring Ski Mask The Slump God, “Thriller (Forever).”
I did that verse last summer. That was some shit I had in the tuck. A lot of these songs were made in my crib and I feel they have potential and it’s just a vibe. I just want it to be out in the world and heard. I want people to accept it for what it is. If you rock with it you rock with it, if you don’t you don’t.
You seem to rap a lot about luxurious materialistic items. When did you develop such a high taste level?
Yeah, I’ve always been into fashion, but not OD to where I’m into weird shit. I started my own clothing line when I was 15-years-old. It was called Rockstar Band Camp and the main logo was a star holding a pair of drumsticks and it turned to I’m A Star and then Sono La Stella, which is “I’m a star” in Italian. I used to sketch out mad shit because I can draw, too. I was moving around a lot and lost my sketchbook, so I kind of gave up on that.
How did “Audi” with Smokepurpp materialize, I know that’s your favorite beat you’ve crafted?
It’s my favorite beat, we made it at this dude named Trap’s house. It used to be the trap where everyone would link up. If you rapped, you probably going to come through there. One night, [Smokepurpp] was already there and I pulled up and we made some shit at the computer desk right then and there. [Smokepurpp] was like, “I’m going to rap on it.” He sent it back to me the next day. I ended up losing the whole entire beat file so I couldn’t even make a drum kit out of it. It’s done, but it’s my favorite beat ever.
I saw you’ve been in the studio with Lil Xan and you guys teased “Tik Tok,” when is that releasing?
The last time I was in L.A., we linked up again and made a lot of music. I think that’s going to be the name of [the song] but there’s going to be a feature on there too. I think it’s going to be on [Lil Xan’s] album.
You co-produced “Boomerang” with Don Krez for Wifisfuneral. What’s your relationship with him like?
Me and Don Krez go way back. I used to live out west in Miami kind of far away from everything and he used to live in Kendall, FL. where it was lit at. It’s about an hour away. I f— with him because he used to drive a whole hour with barely any money or gas and he would pick me up just to get me out of that environment. We were broke as f— sharing dollar cheeseburgers, so Krez is like family. I’m willing to help him out with anything. That’s all that was, working with my homie.
What did you think about living in the ULT House with Denzel Curry and other rappers and kids?
Me and Denzel almost fought, it was all type of shit. There’s a lot of Rated R stories out there I can’t say. It was a crazy experience. I honestly used to hate it at first because I would sleep on the couch since I didn’t have a room. There were mad people always there every day and I kind of like having my own space when I want it. It was really me sacrificing. I always knew it wouldn’t last.
I stuck it out until somebody moved out with a room and took over the room because I started making more money. I kept leveling up and around that time we made “Imperial,” which was pretty big for [Denzel Curry]. “Ultimate” was going crazy with the Bottle Flip Challenge. That was amazing and that was the first time I saw a decent check. It was like a clubhouse. We would literally throw parties or have the tattoo dude come through and tattoo us. [XXXTentacion] moved in there for a bit, too. I was there for a good year.
The ULT house was a safe haven for Creativity
— ZELTRON 6 BILLION (@denzelcurry) July 19, 2017
Do you have any issues with producers not getting enough shine?
I don’t really care. That’s not what it is for me right now. I don’t really complain. I’m just going to keep working hard until I don’t have to introduce myself. I’m going to keep working hard until I’m where I want to be. I’m not going to complain about that now. I did feel like that at one point. I wasn’t going on tour with them and my music was all over the world, but I’m stuck at the crib. It was like I cared, but I’m going to go so hard until I can go around the world on my own. My whole shit is like a brand and it’s only growing.
I might have more fans outside the [United States] honestly. I could probably go anywhere. I could for sure go to Brazil. I got mad fans in Brazil in South America. I was going to go a couple weeks ago. I posted something about going there asking where my fans at? So many people messaged me from there. I just started thinking back — I have been seeing Brazil pop up a lot.
Who have you recently worked with that you were just like, “Wow, I’m in the studio with them?”
Travis Scott. It was fire.
With him you never know, because he works on so many things in one session. We might start a song and do ten seconds of one song, then [Travis] will do whole other song and spend an hour on that. Then, probably chill and watch some baseball. He’s always working, though. He’ll be in the studio at 10 AM. It’s crazy he’s hella focused.
He’s really in there bro. You would think at his level he’s not working as hard, but he’s really working hard and he cares about everything that goes on. He cares about every sound and everyone that’s around him. You can’t just be anyone up in [the studio]. I remember one time I walked up in the studio and [Travis] was like literally asleep on the couch and nobody else was in there. Shit was crazy.
Are we getting another album this year?
Yeah, it’s going to be way better quality. I could really drop another project right now if I wanted to. I’m going to let OMGRONNY simmer. My production is going to be everywhere. I got so many placements coming out non-stop. OMGRONNY takeover.