RONNYJ LISTEN UP ( Struggle Story || Interview )
“…Once we put it out, Chris Brown co-signed it, tweeted it, and put it on his Instagram.”
— Chris Brown (@chrisbrown) March 18, 2015
I’ve begun to notice a common theme with these stories. It seems that every musician, producer, and DJ who’s realized their success can remember a time when they were on the verge of quitting and conforming to society’s expectations. However, their resilience and perseverance is what ultimately led them to realizing their dreams. This rings true across all genres, and Ronny J is a true testament. Learn how he went from being a struggling college student to getting world recognition for his production in this weeks Struggle Story.
Q: Who are you?
I go by the name of Ronny J, AKA Ronny J Listen Up. I’m a young guy from South Jersey, but I currently stay in South Florida. I’m a music producer/artist/DJ, and I mainly work with an artist by the name of Denzel Curry.
Q: When did you start making music?
I’ve been doing music my whole life. I grew up playing drums and used to play on pots and pans as a kid.
Q: Why Florida?
5 years ago, I came down here for college at FMU. After my first semester, I realized that I didn’t like it, so I flew back to Jersey and transferred to Camden County College (End of 2011 – Start of 2012). That was when I first started producing. Back then, I used Reason and a desktop PC.
After that semester, I went to the Art Institute of Miami, where I studied audio engineering and met Denzel. The school wound up being way too expensive, so I left. Then, things got pretty rough.
I eventually lost my apartment and had to couch-surf for a while. I stayed with a friend’s mom, complete strangers, and even a so-called “homie” who kicked me out because of jealousy. To make matters worse, I didn’t have any family in the whole state. The only reason that I stayed down there was because of music and Denzel.
After that, I enrolled to Barry University via late registration. During that time, I switched to Logic Pro and was barely going to class. Then one night, I just remember being very angry so I started making hard beats to vent. Later on, I let Denzel’s manager listen to them. One beat in particular went on to become ‘Threatz’. I had to sacrifice a lot during that time, but now I’m incredibly grateful.
Q: Would you say that your sacrifices were worth it?
They’ve definitely been worth it. I’m not where I started last year, and I’m making progress. If I wasn’t, then I would’ve tried something else. Sometimes, it’s best to take a leap of faith. We all want to make our parents happy, but I think that our own happiness is most important.
Q: What would you say have been the biggest obstacles in pursuing your dream?
Being away from family for long periods of time, especially my mom. I’m a “momma’s boy”, plus she isn’t in the best condition health-wise. It still really bothers me.
Q: Have you had any doubters along the way? If so, who?
Honestly, if anyone doubted me I wouldn’t really know. My mom definitely didn’t doubt me. In fact, she believed in me 1,000%. My dad had doubts, but ultimately came around. Nobody ever verbally doubted me.
Q: Aside from Denzel, who are some noteworthy artists that you’ve worked with?
Yoshi Thompkins, SDotBraddy, Mike Dece, The Underachievers, Keith Ape, & Pouya just to name a few. I used to send beats to major artists, but it felt like a waste of time because they never responded. So, I just kept grinding with people I believed in and it’s paid off.
Q: I heard ‘Sun Set Freestyle’, do you have any other solo stuff we should look out for?
Definitely! I recently dropped ‘Ego’ which is doing pretty well. 100k listens in a month. And next month, I’m dropping Khemistry 51. Also, I plan on dropping a project called ‘Lost Files’. It’s a bunch of lost project files from old songs, hence the name. I felt like a lot of those songs had potential, but I didn’t want to re-make them. But I’m still not sure if I’ll drop it as a complete project, or just as singles.
Q: How would you describe your creative process?
Very organic. I don’t force anything, and I only make songs when I feel it. I prefer solitude, especially when producing and writing. It all comes from within, but only at certain times. So, I make sure not to waste time when it does.
Q: What would you say has been your “Big Break”?
‘Threatz’ was my big break within the underground music scene. I think it was the same for Robb Bank$, Yung Simmie, and Denzel too.
‘Ultimate’ was another ‘big break’, but this time it got the industry to notice. The story behind it was cool too. One day, we were all listening to Jamaican music and Denzel really fucked with their flow [cadence]. Then, we pulled up an old beat that I emailed him 3 years prior.
Once we put it out, Chris Brown co-signed it, tweeted it, and put it on his Instagram.
— Chris Brown (@chrisbrown) March 18, 2015
Sometime later, I remember feeling down as fuck one night. My friends were on their way to the club, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Right as they were about to leave, I got a tweet from DJ Carnage. He shouted us out for ‘Ultimate’! Ever since that, he and I have been like brothers. I even stayed at his place in when we met up in LA.
@R0NNYJ ultimate… wow — CARNAGE (@djcarnage) April 3, 2015
Q: If you could give advice to your younger self and other aspiring musicians, what would it be and why?
Never give up and stay consistent. Without consistency, you’ll never be on top. Consistency is key. Also, stay positive and keep a positive mindset. Otherwise, you won’t be as creative. I’d also say to believe in yourself more than anyone else does. I feel like that’s why so many people fuck with my music. I’ve sacrificed having a social life and tested all of this myself; it works. It’s so simple and there’s no secret. You’ve just gotta believe it, see it, taste it, have faith, and never give up.
Q: Anything else that you’d like to add?
I’m proud to announce that imperial will be dropping this month, but I don’t have a release date yet. In the meantime, be on the lookout for more of my solo stuff.
Lastly, I’d like everyone to know that you can progress! I’m not where I want to be just yet, but I’m far from where I used to be. Find your drive. Ronny J Listen Up
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