I hate being late for meetings. When I walk into Maketto, I find him hovered over his MacBook adorning his Beats by Dre headphones. I walk over to him and we exchange our normal greeting, a dap, and a hug. He and I go back for years. He doesn’t give me shit for being late, he’s way too chill and laid back for that. I ask him what he’s working and he says beats, flatly. Then he explains, “I don’t know why I’m working on beats right now, it’s not even my thing. It’s just something I do to pass time when I’m bored at work.” When he’s bored at work he makes beats, and they aren’t even his thing. When I’m bored at work I scroll through Twitter or Instagram.
His LinkedIn profile says his name is Oliver. I call him “Rev” (short for Reverend), because of his on-demand foghorn-like voice. The world, however, will know him as Ronin. When it comes to music, everything has a deeper meaning, including his name. The way he explains it, “Ronin is an individual from the Edo period in Japan, whose master had died. Being a samurai, you’re sworn to protect that person and without a master, you have no purpose so you either commit Hara-kiri(suicide) or you become a masterless warrior.” He further explains, “the translation of Ronin, at least philosophically, described a person without shape. They were like water, they just flowed.”
His music taste is fluid and isn’t restricted to a genre, period or sound. “I like Soundcloud rappers,” he told me with a laugh, but he was serious. Artists like Tommy Genesis and Princess Nokia are in heavy rotation for him right now. Perhaps it’s a respect for the grind of making music and trying to cut through the noise that makes him enjoy these artists. After all, he’s just like that SoundCloud rapper, except he’s producing the music and making remixes to some of your favorite artist.
He’s been around music his entire life. He comes from a family of classically trained musicians and singers. He even plays piano for his local church. But his immersion into music production came when he lost his job a few years ago. “I had a gig and a whole bunch of us got let go, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went over to a friends house one day and he was messing with a beat machine. I heard something and asked to try it. We put something together that was kinda dope and I said I’ll come back. And I kept going back.” The last time he played on a beat machine, he told me, was playing on Fruity Loops in high school. Once the music is in you it doesn’t leave you.
Ronin could teach a master class on music composition. He’s one of those people who can listen to music and hear something an average person could not. He describes music the way a sommelier describes the subtle flavor notes in a rare bottle of wine. I asked him to describe what his music sounds like. He tells me, “it’s atmospheric with a lot of electronic tensions.” Then he tells me the story of Istanbul and Beyonce.
“The first track that I thought was really dope was when I traveled to Istanbul. My friend who I was visiting forced me to listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade. I was avoiding that shit, I don’t know why, I just didn’t want to like the album. My friend played the track called ‘Pray You Catch Me’ and I asked her to play it over and over again.”
He had his friend send him the audio file and that night he didn’t sleep.
“I stayed up until 7 am in front of her balcony trying to rework this track. When I played it for them in the morning they all got quiet, and they were like, ‘where the fuck did this come from? Who are you?’”
His friends had known him for a long time and never knew he was musically talented. The world may never know of his talents either. “I am a terrible salesman of my own shit,” he tells me. “I want things to stand on their own, I don’t want to have to oversell. I just want people to press play and like what they hear.”
Listen to his latest here.