From The BX To BKK

Six years ago Ralphy.wav first witnessed (what seemed like) a random rap battle in Bangkok. Little did the Bronx born-and-raised producer know that it was the first step on a journey that would lead him to a career in music on the other side of the planet. “It’s been crazy,” he laughs. “At one point I had the top song on the radio in Thailand and I was broke.”

You’ve definitely heard his music before but maybe you never noticed it was his. Ralphy has produced for everyone from J$R to Pyra to Wonderframe. And he’s a man around town behind the decks too, DJing once or twice a week across Bangkok to get his musical fix, including last weekend at Future Factory’s soft opening. He also produces his own instrumental music, and whether it’s chill rap beats or smooth house music, it’s always dripping with soul.

Living overseas in Asia is something Ralphy never imagined as a kid; growing up he rarely left The Bronx. Manhattan was a whole different world for him even though it was in his front yard. “I used to just be in the hood doing regular shit, to us Manhattan was only a place to get shopping done. I didn’t know what I was missing out on.” When he was 21, he says he got a job on 5th Ave and it changed his perspective on things, including on music. “I used to be listening to the same shit everyone was listening to, but they had these crazy playlists at the store that really opened my eyes.” He started going to art galleries and meeting people from all over the world. “These Europeans knew more about the city than me and I’m from there!”

Eventually he started backpacking and in 2016 he stumbled onto a rap battle in a Bangkok park that he would later learn was Rap Is Now. “I thought it was the coolest thing and I wanted to learn more,” he says. He had to leave Thailand but came back soon just to find out who these rappers were. “I didn’t know any of them and didn’t know how to find them.” One day he was on Instagram and he found Norm Clothing. Once he learned it was owned by JayRun of J$R, he started producing for them. They were the first ones to introduce him to the rest of the scene, including local rap beast Youngguu.

“I was at Younguu’s place playing beats for him,” Ralphy recalls. “But even though he was feeling them, he told me straight up that I couldn’t make money off producing, which was deifnitely true back then.” Youngguu loaned him his first controller and encouraged him to pursue DJing. Ralphy even played at the original Blaq Lyte club when it was in Thong Lor.

It’s only recently that Ralphy has been able to earn most of his income from producing. Part of that is because the music industry is more mature here now, but also because he’s progressed as an artist. “Because of working with other people, practicing, and from DJing, I finally found my footing. My shit is hard now, I can be like, ‘This is what I’m worth.’ But I was producing for free for four years because I cared about music. It wasn’t about money, I just wanted to collaborate and make cool shit.”

Ultimately he wants to be a solo artist. “Everything I’m doing is so that I can make my own music. So that people get to know who I am and what I’m capable of. When I’m producing for artists, it’s mostly pop, but then you visit my Spotify and it’s the opposite. The fact that a producer can travel to another county and play nothing but their own music is crazy to me. That’s definitely what I want.”

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