During the Summer of 2016, when I worked with Roseville Music Group, a company owned by Ramon ‘!llmind’ Ibanga, Jr, as someone who secured media coverage for its business owner, I met a handful of people, who are active in my life today. Happily, Ryan Staton is one of them.
From time to time, I would see him at the Herkimer Place Brooklyn basement studio. We were cordial like we both tend to be with everyone, at the start of our friendship. I didn’t know much about him, but I knew he looked like someone of importance. Maybe, he couldn’t actuate his weight in that era of our lives, because he wasn’t keen on it yet. But like most things, I knew it was just a matter of time.
Notably, he would cover KING Z3US (stylized as ‘KING Z3US’), a Harlem, New York native recording artist/also part of the infamous ‘Ferg’ family who was represented by the independent record label. We attended a performance by the artist at the YouTube Space in the Chelsea/Meatpacking District area together. It is one of the vivid moments I remembered from the genesis of our amity. In fact, it was one of the funniest nights ever! However, I think it wasn’t until after I set up for the esteemed journalist, editor and podcaster Shawn Setaro came by the studio to interview !llmind for Forbes, that Ryan approached about co-writing a film script with him. Before then, I hadn’t any experience with writing that sort of literature, but I am good at expressing thoughts through writing and helping others do the same thing. I was up for the challenge!
Ryan’s first film script is intense. Thus, our bond started to thicken. Over the course of the time that we spent together, giving characters names and jotting down scenarios that mirror real-life, I had the chance to understand his way of thinking, his problem-solving skills, and where his love and passion for storytelling derives. I’ll admit. When we talked, I’d hear tiny pockets of uncertainty about the future, but we’ve all been there. It’s when you know something will come out of it because you’re working diligently, but you aren’t absolute on when or how. That’s normal and natural. Moreover, as my close-knit community of industry professionals have come to know, I have a resolute, inexplainable gift of foresight. It’s not like a Miss Cleo prophecy, though, respectfully. (RIP) I see a path. Then, I get on the pavement with you, to help you get to that place if allowed.
Today, Ryan Staton has accomplished many incredible things in the entertainment industry on the film production side. He’s worked with the everyone, legendary and newer folk to the scene, on a consistent basis. I’m unsure what we’re able to share, here, on this website, so I will not be that person. To get a better idea of his lifestyle and associations, you should visit his Instagram profile. Yeah, I like it better that way. What I will say is that ‘Saturday Night Live’ has been good for GRUNGECAKE’s ‘Person of the Month’. The firsthand experience with the variety show brings him closer to his dream and signifies who he is as a creator. You’ll see.
On a personal note, the significance of publishing this piece, today, is special to me because it marks the three-month anniversary since we met our newest friend. Oh, life is such a beautiful thing when you allow it to be. Now, for the sake of continuity and beauty, read our interview below. It’s the first extensive lense into Ryan’s heart and mind, to date. We are honoured to have him as our ‘Person of the Month’.
How long have you been at fulfilling your dreams?
To me, fulfilling your dreams is something that you want to do and you do it. I’ve been fulfilling my dreams my entire life. From the projects in Brownsville, to me moving Down South at the age of 17, to the navy, to being in film production, every phase of my life has been preparing me to fulfil my dreams. And those dreams will fulfil my ultimate dream, to build Brownsville up of how it should be. Cause there’s a little boy or girl who doesn’t know there’s something bigger for him/her beyond those projects walls.
How has your neighbourhood, or your childhood, contribute to the person you are today?
Never ran. Never will: 😀 I smile because when I think about who I am today or that saying, it brings me back to my childhood. I’m proud to be from Brownsville, more specifically Van Dyke Projects. It’s about the only neighbourhood in Brooklyn people still will not go to, like in Lion King when Simba asks Mufasa what’s that “shadowy place”. Mufasa replies by saying, “that’s beyond our waters, you must never go there.” Yes, Brownsville is edgy, rough- look its Brownsville but there’s a lot of love there. Someone once asked me where I’m from (Yams, that spot we ate at after coming from the listening session in Williamsburg) and I said Brownsville. She said, “Oh you Brownsville? I couldn’t tell by how you dress and everything.” I usually get that reaction cause I physically don’t wear Brownsville on me but it’s definitely a part of my core. As my dad used to tell me and my moms showed me, “Just cause you were born here doesn’t mean this is who you are. You’re in the projects, not of the projects.” Being born in poverty, there isn’t much so you make the most with what you have. No pool, thought that was only at the billiards, play in the fire hydrant. No sugar, get a cup and ask your neighbour to borrow some, we’ll give it back next week, thank goodness for also having a village! My dad would take all the kids out of the neighbourhood and walk them over the Brooklyn Bridge, take them to DC to Coney Island, just to get the kids off the block and spark their interest outside those brick walls. My dad was adventurous and free-spirited so that fostered me to have an imagination bigger than what was in front of me. So my sense of pride, love, community, trust all while staying on my P’s & Q’s and having that edge, all contribute to who I am.
It’s one thing to reach a pivotal point, and accomplish a goal for yourself. It is another thing to live it out in public or to celebrate each moment on social media. Subsequently, appearing to be successful in the eyes of others is a gift and a curse. A gift because people can see how your life has changed and your connections. A curse because everyone who has eyes isn’t cheerleading for you to win. Overall though, to you, you are just ‘working’. To others, you’ve become a supreme being because of your access. How do you deal with your new career heights when it comes to the people who’ve known you from the time before now?
Ahh, yeah, just be myself. Funny thing is, the people who I’ve grown up with or who has watched me reach new heights in my career before now, all knew this could be possible. I never stray too far from home, cause home is where the heart is, and my heart is in the people that love me. It’s easy to be me, it’s draining to be someone else so whether I’m a billionaire or a bum, they know exactly who they’re dealing with. Growing up my dad and brother strongly encouraged me to be my own person, to do my own thing, regardless of what anyone else is doing. I learned it’s hard for someone to tell you how to do your thing when it isn’t their thing. And a good amount of my friends were in the streets, some deep, so the peer pressure was present but I always did my own thing and they respected it. It’s no different now except everyone is rooting for me. The difficult part about reaching these new heights is I’m not always going to be available for my family like I used to. It eases my mind when they understand and support me. It’s bigger than me, it’s about us and they get that.
Are there any perceptions of business, or following your dreams that you’d like to share with people who may want to follow in your footsteps?
If you choose to follow in my footsteps, you have to wear a size 10 and a 1/2. In all seriousness, I have a couple of guidelines that helped me. I would stand in the mirror and brush my hair, watching my waves come through. One day after brushing my hair, I stopped and started staring at myself. I looked myself right in the eyes, after a few seconds I became uncomfortable and started looking at my waves again. It was at that moment I realized I needed to know who I was and how I looked. After that, every day I’d stare into a mirror was until I became comfortable and then I’d make different facial expressions, that helps in the long run. (chuckles) Sacrificing, and sacrificing a lot. I’ve left events before they got to the main event, no money for laundry so wash my draws in the tub before I go to bed, working during the summer while your friends say they’ll pay for your ticket for a vacation. I said yes to everything, even if the turn around from job to the next was only 3 hours. Think smart, so I don’t have to work hard but put in work. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve heard it from coach Bill Parcels, Do Your Job. Always remember the reason why you’re there. We’ve heard a lot of perceptions but one that comes to mind is getting rest. You can’t perform at your best if you’re not taking care of yourself. Look at how many celebrities end up in the hospital. I’m not with using all 24 hours in a day stuff, people paved that way for us. Thanks.
You’ve been to the Lomography Gallery in the West Village. Are there any styles of cameras that piqued your interest more than the others? What are your thoughts on film photography in 2018?
Oh man, Lomography, love that place! I love the Diana Instant Square Camera Flash. It has a modern day look with old-school flavour. I love film photography. You can physically touch it. The faces people make when you hand them a picture of themselves, it’s priceless. Most digital photography stays on your phone, and you never get to enjoy it. Film photography is just a better feel.
You’ve come into my life at one of my many turning points; at a time that I experienced one of the most impactful losses of my life. And through our connection, I’ve realised that we’ve both endured and lived through significant losses. What has lost taught you about life? About friendship?
Yea, that was rough. It has taught me to cherish breathing. I lost my dads physical in 2009, and I watched him take his last few breaths. I sat on the floor of Cape Fear hospital and spent the last 15-20 minutes with him. At that moment, I was in complete awe of how precious breathing is. How the song says, “Another day, just breathe.” I added that to all my blessings so I could never stop counting, there’s never any time to complain.
Ironically, GRUNGECAKE is something that everyone doesn’t know about yet, more people from around the world are learning about what it stands for, and its significance. When you first learned about it, what were your initial thoughts? What are your thoughts about it now?
Ironically, huh? (chuckles) When I first learned about GRUNGECAKE, I was trying to figure out who you were. Whenever you make something there’s usually a correlation between the art, or curation, and the artist. I loved that you were a voice for the unknown. I was like, ‘Aight, cool. She has something real.’ Now, I know that GRUNGECAKE is the “troof”. I love how you care about the artist as much as the art, and how you respect both to not let one of the two, give a bad representation to GRUNGECAKE.
I know that you are a man with depth and untold stories. Based on what I know about you, there isn’t a particular triumph that I can say that ‘this defines him’. To you, to date, what do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Mmm… to date, my best accomplishment is.. I was in El Salvador, playing baseball. During my time in the Navy, I got assigned to the USNS Comfort for 4 months and were out there doing some humanitarian work. There was a baseball game between us and the locals. I must say, although a 3rd world country, some of the happiest and genuine people I’ve met. Man, they whooped our ass! They had uniforms, big guys that could run, they were throwing all types of fastballs, we even played in this old baseball park, dugouts and all. Even their family was in the stands. I think the score was like, 17-4. I did score a run. After the game, we all gave amigo hugs, slapped hands, they started drinking beers celebrating their victory over us. They must have known they were going to whoop our ass. A bunch of little kids swarmed me, wanting my hat. I knew that was going to happen so I actually bought another hat with me. It was my World Series Yankee special edition hat. It had all 26 championship rings, this was before they won their 27th ring that year, with the years stitched in it. I gave it to a little boy that got trampled. He was covered in dirt but when I put that hat on his head, he smiled you saw all his teeth. All his friends cheered him on, even lifted him up. It was great.
I’m a reader, but not in the traditional sense of someone who reads for entertainment. I’m a person who likes to read for informational purposes. With that noted, many years ago, I frequented a website called, ‘The Art of Manliness’. It reminds me of you. You’re a man’s man, a gentleman, ambitious, well-dressed, and kempt. You are someone who cares about himself and others. What other traits do you have that you believe make you who you are? What makes you special?
Wow, what a compliment. Thanks, Yams! Just doing what I love, it keeps the blood pressure down. I think I have quite an advantage, from conception, too. I was asked to be here, I was made out of an act of passion. I’m a product of birthday sex. (LML true story.) What makes me special is how I think. I’ve travelled enough of this world to know that these thoughts are mine, ’cause they’re a collection of this universe.
What do you find most beautiful?
That’s tough. Between nature and women (chuckles) whew, I’d say the birth of something. In particular, a woman pregnant. There’s nothing more beautiful than that, too me. I’ve sat next to the ocean as it sat still, witnessed the sunrise in the west and set in the east, crossed the equator, twice, fought off a plague of ladybugs, communicated with dolphins in Africa, saw sand as far as my eyes could see, been to the continent of Eurasia, danced with women in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Africa, Colombia, Israel, Spain & Antigua, and nothing is more than beautiful than a woman with child.
I’d like to thank !llmind for the opportunity to work with him. It started lasting relationships. Above all, thank you to WiFi OG (also known as DJ Prince) for initially inviting me to the studio. You are a gift that keeps on giving.