Friday, 20 June 2014 10:53

Inside Rick Chyme's Idea Factory

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Rick Chyme Rick Chyme PHOTO: Brian Mariner

It was only a matter of time before hip hop consumed Rick Chyme's life.

The rapper, (real name: Patrick Cleland) got into the genre through basketball, which he played from first grade through college at Western Michigan University.

"Basketball and hip hop, those cultures intertwine, so that's what it was," Chyme said. "So it was an inescapable thing that I was going to be around this music."

The music's influence only grew stronger. Chyme's interest in becoming a basketball coach soon switched over to music. When he graduated from WMU, he went to New York to work at Def Jam.

"By the time I was in my last year of college, I no longer wanted to coach," he said. "I didn't think I wanted to be an artist, but I wanted to work in music on the business side of things."

He figured the best way to learn was to get an internship at a label, which is how he wound up at Def Jam. The label, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, has signed high-profile artists from DMX to Beastie Boys to Rihanna, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez and more.

He spent a year and a half at Def Jam, working closely with artists, and even spent time on Jay Z's documentary, Fade to Black. Around this time, though, he knew he wanted to be on the artistic side of the music instead of the business side. He had the business skills -- his next step would be to work on his art.

"At the time, I had an idea about how everything works, but I was an infant as an artist," Chyme said. "I had this knowledge, but I couldn't use it because my art wasn't ready. It was like working backwards."


Establishing Rick Chyme: The Artist

In 2005, he said goodbye to Def Jam and moved back to West Michigan to strengthen his work as a hip hop artist. In 2006, he met his music partner and best friend, Jason "Nixon" Burke, at a Billy's Lounge open mic night. A fellow hip hop artist and producer, Nixon and Chyme started collaborating immediately on songs. The two spent long hours working together, a strategy both of them say determined the success of their partnership.

"We'd get together, then we lock in for a long time and see how much music we can make," Nixon said.

"We probably spent about 60 hours per week together, so that formed how we work," Chyme added.

The two released a couple of albums early on, then spent roughly three years on Chyme's latest LP, 5iveit, which was released digitally last summer. Physical copies of the album, along with the 5iveit EP, are set to be released July 19 at Founders Brewing Company.

5iveit wasn't the duo's only focus during those three years, however. The two are constantly working on multiple projects at once. One notable project is called "Your Songs," where people commission Chyme, Nixon and other collaborators to write a song that details a part of their lives. The project has been in the works for a few years, getting attention solely through word of mouth.

"We're collaborating with non musicians, which is pretty awesome," Chyme said.

In the fall, Chyme hopes to release an album from one story in particular: a woman who chronicled her abusive relationship through journals. She wanted those journals to be turned into a composition album. Chyme and his team obliged, having Chyme vocally represent the male and female characters in the journals.

"It's more about that individual connection. If the person doesn't want anyone to hear it, we won't let anyone hear it."


Connecting Through Hip Hop

Chyme's goal as an artist is not getting the fame, glory and money from his work, but connecting to people through the music.

"He makes you feel good about what you're doing. I think that's important for what he does -- taking the spotlight off him and making it about other people," said Nicole LaRae, community relations coordinator at WYCE and venue manager at The Pyramid Scheme.

One of the most recent examples is his 2013 ArtPrize submission, "The Art of Freestyle." He freestyle rapped for 17 straight hours, attempting to beat the 16-hour -30-minute Guinness World Record. He completed all 17 hours, but his record is not officially recognized due to glitches in the verifying process. To Chyme, though, those 17 hours were less about breaking a record and more about connecting with people throughout the day.

"The cool thing was it became not only about what I was rapping or some record," he said. "It was about people coming together and helping make something happen."

To prepare himself for freestyling for 17 hours, Chyme practiced in his basement. He was able to get up to six hours without his voice going out and called it good.

"I thought if I could sit there and do that, my voice will hold out," Chyme said. "It's a waste of time to sit here, rapping about the ceiling, so I just stopped training and counted on the people down at ArtPrize and the volunteers."

Throughout the 17 hours, Chyme interacted with people on the street. Some familiar with hip hop, others not. But everyone around him got a taste of hip hop, which was his goal.

"People came out and they helped me push through the hard stuff," he said. "There was a guy who spent 13 or 14 hours helping us that day. It was a crazy amount of energy. It would have been boring if I just stood there by myself for the whole time."

As for taking another crack at the record? Chyme says that's no longer his goal. He completed his real objective: connecting with the community.

"I don't have an artistic desire to do it [again], but if someone were to put up a large amount of money for charity, I would do it for 24 hours," he said. "I would do it again for a cause, but I don't have a burning desire. Songwriting is much more important to me."


The Idea Factory

Chyme's current focus is not just releasing hard copies of 5iveit and the 5iveit EP. Currently, he's working on renovating an RV to be used as a mobile venue. While the RV will serve its purpose while touring, Chyme also sees it as just another way to connect with people. During those travels, he has plans to do a podcast with Nixon, talking to people they meet who are passionate -- not just about music, but about virtually anything.

"Because it will be mobile, there will be guest hosts," Chyme said. "The podcasts will be conversations about passion. That's what we say now, but who knows what they'll turn into."

He got the idea for a podcast from interviews he set up during the Electric Forest music festival.

"Having conversations with people about things they're passionate about made me realize how much I enjoyed it," he said of the experience.

Chyme also talks about getting a GoPro camera to take along with him. He has plenty ideas for this item, ranging from a reality TV show to potentially a scripted TV show. His main goal is getting the RV set up so he can go out and pursue these ideas.

"He's like an idea factory," LaRae said about her friend. "Anything he says he's going to do, he does it."

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