Ryan Bowers is an MC with a lot of great things: skills on the mic, skills on the skateboard, collaborations with DJ Premier and Krayzie Bone, and a brand new mixtape we're premiering called Owtsider. A San Diego native, Bowers has overcome a lot, including not letting the tumor he currently has in his chest derail him from signing with Nick Cannon's label, touring with Tech N9ne and Strange Music and sharing managers with E-40. While you may remember first seeing him years ago being coached by Homeboy Sandman on MTV's Made, after the cameras stopped rolling, Bowers' self-determination helped continue to make his hip-hop aspirations a reality.
We spoke to Bowers about his new mixtape, discovering his tumor and working with legends.
OC Weekly (Chaz Kangas): Your first exposure to many was your appearance on MTV's Made where Homeboy Sandman coached you into being "made" into a rapper. What made you want to continue pursuing hip-hop after the showed wrapped?
Well, the show ultimately got me so embarrassed that I was like "Fuck that, I'm not going to be known as 'The Made Kid.'" All the plugs and studios were not fucking with me after the show, so all the studios I went to for free with MTV were not trying to take my calls or charge me ridiculous rates, so I bought my own studio equipment for my bedroom and locked myself away for two years and just recorded every day. I taught myself ProTools on YouTube and shit, I recorded hundreds of records before I even stepped into a real studio again.
I spent two years mastering my craft before I even stepped out, and I was booking shows and opening up for whatever headliners would come to San Diego because I had cool relationships with the promoters. [Promoters] that my sister knew when I was young who I had known for a long time saw I started to rap. I would go out to shows and look for the promoters. The first time I did that, it ended up being someone I'd known since I was a kid. He gave me my first big shot, and the first person I wound up opening for was Schoolboy Q, and that was before he was really cracking so there was maybe 300 people in there. I had my little buzz in the city and consistently would sell like 70 pre-sale tickets every time, so these promoters were making bread off me. I was handing them near the money they were paying the headliner. It turned into a situation where I didn't have to sell pre-sales any more and they would throw me $500 every time I'd do a show. Right out of high school I was making $500-$600 a month. But I sold 70 tickets to like five shows before I ever saw a penny.
What were your parents' reactions to being successful at music so early?
They were supportive and stoked I was doing shit. My mom would always come out to shows. She was on another level and would expect a lot more. I have a show tonight, she's trying to come. My mom is way more turnt up than me.
At what point did you discover the tumor in your chest?
Summer my junior year, going into senior year, [after a party] my heart was going crazy. It was going super high, my Dad was checking my pulse. That's when the thing on my chest really first popped up. At first I thought my rib was bent. Then it felt like a crack in the rib was just turning into a lump and wrapping around that.
The biopsy is next. I met with an orthopedic surgeon, and the next step is the biopsy. After that, regardless of the biopsy, I'm going to have a gnarly surgery. I'm supposed to have that done ASAP, but they're waiting on my insurance to approve it.
How did you wind up getting the attention of Nick Cannon?
My homie Ryan Anthony was interning with him, he's from the same city as my. My friend was playing a record one day in the studio and Nick walked in and said "who is that?" My friend said "it's my crazy white homie." He showed him some pictures of me skating and Nick said 'This kid is dope, I want to meet him!'" He called me on Ryan's phone at 2:00 AM one night and said "Yo, this is Nick Cannon!" and I said "No, the fuck it's not," he was calling from Ryan's phone and I didn't know he was working with Nick. He asked "When can you come to LA?" I said "Shit, I'll be there tomorrow." I went down, we met, he was super interested and shit, and we went from there."
The mixtape features DJ Premier and Krayzie Bone. What was it like linking up with them?
DJ Premier is one of my favorite living producers, and Krayzie Bone is my favorite rapper. I used to listen to hella Gang Starr shit at the skate park, and my mom's favorite rapper is Krayzie Bone too. So, when I met both of them, I was kind of star-struck, I couldn't believe I was in the room with these dudes.
The other day, I was with Krayzie at his radio show and my mom called, so I handed the phone to Krayzie and said "Yo, it's Mom, talk to her real quick." He picked up the phone and said "What's up Mom, it's Krayzie Bone!" It's a cool moment to be sitting with your mother's favorite rapper, and then being able to hand him your phone to talk to her. He's really taken me under his wing and talks to me frequently. It's cool to know there's some cats in the industry that aren't pieces of shit.