Joshua “Rikko 009” Kelley-Kapaj Finds His Medium Through Music

Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?

Hi, I’m Rikko 009. I make music for the most part lol, though lately, I’ve been trying to get more into production. I do most (if not all) of my own cover art either by drawing or digital collages. I try to be the embodiment of the word artist to the best of my ability.

I guess I get it from my family; all of us are artists; my grandfather was a writer, my grandmother is a painter, my mom is a photographer and graphic designer and if I listed all of my family members who are artists, I would never finish this section. In my music, if I had to pick just one genre I’d say it’s basically hip-hop, but I try to diversify that as much as possible.

I don’t really like to be kept in a box or a lane, not because it’s uncomfortable (which it is) but because I feel the world has too much to offer to stay in one place all the time. I’ve always loved music; it’s my way of expressing myself mainly because I’m not a big talker or emotion-displayer. I am very sensitive to the things that happen in the world, and I get very frustrated with humanity.

Music is my way of getting all that out and hopefully making the world a better place in the process. Someone once told me my music will save a life, and when I heard that it made me realize I HAVE to take this seriously because it could mean the world to someone.

What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?

I know I’m different because my musical background is extensive, to say the least. As a little kid, my mom forced me to play the violin. I hated it for the most part but secretly I liked the way the notes on the page could turn into music to the ears.

I made my way into a performance ensemble, and because of that I’ve been on some of the world’s biggest stages, examples being Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, and the Central Park Summer Stage, as well as on TV, all before I was 12. Eventually, violin got me into high school. In elementary school, I was also part of a percussion ensemble where my teacher spent each year teaching us about afro-inspired beats in the diaspora.

For my 4th grade year, the focus was Afro-Peruvian music; about 10 of us traveled to Chincha, Peru which is just outside the capital, Lima, to learn about beats like festejo. But I also spent my childhood listening to rock music, as well as all kinds of other music. My grandfather loved jazz (Charlie Parker and Lester Young) so I heard a lot of that because I spent a lot of time with my grandparents after school.

My mom had a huge CD collection. She made me a bedtime mixtape that had music like Mozart, Jobim, and Merceditas Valdez on it, and my dad had me listening to everything from AC/DC to Linkin Park to Heavy D. So I’m used to hearing all different types of music, and in my own music, I try to draw from those experiences.

Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.

I kind of always knew music was for me, even as a kid. The first time I recorded anything I was in my brother’s house on my MacBook in GarageBand over Chief Keef’s “Gucci Gang.”

I recorded my vocals on the headphones that came with my iPhone 5. But even before that, I was trying to make super complex beats that had no room for vocals. The more I recorded myself and the more projects I made, the more I fell in love with it. I guess because it was so similar to the violin and the music things I’ve been doing my whole life but yet so different because it had nothing to do with notes on a page or the classical element that always seems to creep its way into the violin.

But the first time I really fell in love and knew that this was for me, was the time I recorded a freestyle called “When I Lost It.” This is gonna sound weird but it spoke to me; actually speaking to myself meant a lot. I knew I had to keep going, no matter what happened, no matter what obstacles came into my path, I knew this is what I had to do.

Now here we are years later and I still have the same love and drive for it, so I guess that has to count for something right?

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?

Because everything is digital now, starting to make music with no money is a HUGE challenge, and because I’m so particular about my sound and the things I make, finding money to record everything was a MAJOR problem. And especially since I spend so much time on music, it doesn’t usually leave me with much time to do anything else besides work.

I was saving money to upgrade my equipment, but then the Pandemic happened, and funnily enough, that was one of the best things that could’ve happened. God bless UE because it helped pay for most of my equipment, including but not limited to my keyboard, a pre-amp, a compressor, a new mic because the other was starting to do weird things, and even my iPad which to this day is one of my best investments.

The iPad lets me draw freely, however, and whenever, but that’s a topic for a different day I guess.

Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business? Why these specific individuals?

Firstly, Kanye West because his musical production and the way he grabs inspiration from different genres of music are similar to how I work. The way he goes about his process is similar to mine I feel; sometimes it takes months, even years to finish a song to his standards and sometimes it only takes only a couple of hours (Just like me, YAY).

Second, I’d love to meet J Cole, because his flow is just crazy, and the way he touches on topics is really cool to me, and I find the way he writes to be unique.

Thirdly, Pharrell because his beats are CRAZY, I would love to see the things he samples and how he comes up with this light-hearted playful sound, for the most part, it’s kind of like floating, and that’s amazing to me.

Drop your social media links.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rikko.009

Vianka Petines
Vianka Petines
Vianka is a bright, savvy, and capable marketing publicist. She brings a breath of fresh air with a very sound approach to strategy and campaign development. We're excited to have her on the team :)

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