Ramriddlz, the 23-year-old Toronto artist who rhymed "potassium" with "too much assium" on his very first song, is writing a novel. Well, it's an album, technically, but each song is like a chapter advancing the story of how a lighthearted dirtbag experiences true heartbreak for the first time and comes out changed on the other side. It's called Sweeter Dreams and it arrives on Aug. 17. Today, Complex premieres the official version of the title track and "Pop Rocks," both produced by his frequent collaborator Jaegen (also a co-producer on French Montana's "Unforgettable). To celebrate its launch, Ram will perform two shows in his hometown, on Aug. 18 and 19. (You can buy tickets here.) American readers, though, will have to wait to catch him in the United States, thanks to visa issues (more on that later).
Ram's music is lewd, goofy, and self-aware—"lighthearted dirtbag" is his perfect description, not mine. In 2015, his song "Sweeterman" and its high school party home movie of a music video launched a surprise musical career for Ramy Abdel-Rahman, the son of Egyptian immigrants who settled in the Canadian suburbs.
Drake offered his own interpretation of the song, polishing up some of the lyrics—"She don't sing song/She catch ding dong/She gon hit these high notes" became "she don't sing songs/ But if I go strong, she gon hit this high note"—buffing out some of the silly charm in the process and replacing it with the more convincing sheen of the seasoned ladies man. Both versions knock.
His parents weren't with it, but Ram didn't let that stop him from pursuing a full-time career as a lothario over the global sounds that prefigured Drake's More Life, especially dancehall and Afrobeats, with lyrics playing in a soup of patois and slang pulled from Toronto's melting pot. The upcoming Sweeter Dreams is his third project, after the P2P and Venis EPs. Complex spoke with Ram, who was fresh off a European tour, about Sweeter Dreams, visa problems, and having your heart broken.
How was the tour?
Tour was dope, man. It was sick selling out some shows where they don’t speak the same language as you. Definitely learned some foreign language. And they love me in UK. I would call it a second home, almost. Just knowing all the words [and] not even having to sing, you know? Just doing my dance moves. There was a lot of love out there.
Where you working on the next project then?
Yeah, had the opportunity to record all around Europe—made a couple songs in the UK, made some in Belgium, made one in Amsterdam. I went through some shit this year, you know. Definitely feel like I’ve grown, not only as an artist but as a person.
Emotionally, some feelings I haven’t felt before, and you’ll hear it in the music more so than before. I fell in love, fell out of love. Got my heart broken, broke some hearts. Most people don’t have an outlet and a way to express themselves, but I’m pretty blessed to be able to put whatever I want into my music and do whatever I want. Definitely some songs on this new project that are different than anything that I’ve done before.
Before this, I never really knew what emotions were, and I never really felt them before. It’s something different.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a lot of your initial appeal was because the music was fun—and funny, too. Now, it sounds like you’re describing a more serious tone.
Yeah. You’ll get to know a little bit more of me in a sense. A little less "ding dong, sing song," a little more letting the listeners in.
Does that make you nervous?
Nervous? Well, it came from the heart so I’m not too nervous. [The title track is] on some pure motivation shit. That’s when you’re feeling down, but it’s all good, you know? 2017, I’m trying to live the dream. I don’t know I guess if I can help somebody’s day by just making them smile or make them happy or make them feel positive—that was the goal of that song, at least.
Is any part of you surprised that you’re still making music, that this has become your professional livelihood?
Yeah, it’s pretty surreal. It happened out of nowhere. Even now, sometimes I wake up and... I kind of just live in my own world. I feel like it’s not real life sometimes. But it’s dope getting to get up and have fun, hang out with my fuckin' friends, travel the world, have people fuck with me in that way.
Are you making music full time? No other work?
Yeah, pretty much. I was moving a bit slow over the past month, because I’m releasing shit. But I’ve been compiling shit. I was definitely going through it. I’ve been kind of quiet, but definitely have a lot of content in the vault. I don’t do anything else. As of right now, I don’t plan on straying from music.
What’s going on with your inability to travel to the U.S.?
As of right now your boy Trump is making everything difficult for me to cross the border, but it’s just a matter of time. Just a matter of time really before I’m able to go back into the States. I don’t think anybody really knows that. I feel like the majority of my listeners are in the U.S., so I haven’t been able to really engage with them, or perform out there, but that will all be over soon, God-willing.
You’re a Canadian citizen, though, so what's the border issue?
It’s visa issues. With the whole Sweeter Dreams thing, it was like, Fuck, I can’t go to the U.S.— that kind of fucked me up a bit, so I was just trying to stay as positive as I could. I’ve been going everywhere but the U.S., traveling the world and creating dope shit.
Your sound has always been pretty global, partially by virtue of being from Toronto. What sounds have you discovered traveling?
I’ll go somewhere like UK and I’m Egyptian and I’ll be singing patois and going crazy, and there’s people from all different colors and shit. I’ll be speaking French, and I just do whatever the fuck I want to be honest. Some people will cringe, or some people will feel uncomfortable, but I do what I want. My last track, “Habaesha”—I pretty much literally say whatever I want. [But] I’m definitely not out here trying to step on anyone’s toes.
This is a sensitive time just in terms of the conversation around cultural appropriation and boundaries.
I’m definitely not trying to appropriate culture. I’m inspired by culture. I do what makes me happy. I kind of like going to a crowd and I’ll say some shit that will only resonate with some people, and kind of makes them feel special. Like, “Oh, he’s singing about us” or some shit like that. Just try and touch as many people as I can.
Like by playing on the word “habesha.”
I put “bae” in between it. And there’s one, two negative comments like “Ah, Ramz, he’s disrespecting this and that” but it’s definitely not that serious. Definitely just making some music that we can enjoy and not take that seriously.
Complex ran a profile of Nav recently, and in it he talked about using the N word on his first mixtape, and he told us he wasn’t going to do it anymore because he realized he’d overstepped his boundaries. Do you feel like it's possible to overstep certain boundaries?
I feel like saying the N word is definitely something different than using other languages. Because I’m not really saying anything too crazy. But I don’t think that word should be used. It just doesn’t have to be, there’s so many other words, right?
Are you single right now?
Single? Thing is, that's a serious question.
Yeah, but it’s an important factor in your music; you’re a ladies man.
Yeah, right? Before this, I’ve been known as the classic dirtbag. A lighthearted dirtbag. On this new project, there’s a little bit of love on there. I didn’t fully lose the dirtbag. He’s still there, you know? When I was making this music, I was going through a breakup. The tape is definitely where I was at over the past few months. I made every song in the past four months, pretty much before and after Europe. You can hear the heartbreak and you can hear me getting over it and then you can hear me like, Oh, Ramz is back.
Every song, in its own way, is like a chapter. It’s like falling in love, and “Habaesha” is pretty much saying I told her that I love her just to dick her, so it’s like, Oh, Ramz is just fuckin’ around. He was just fucking around, that was just Ram Rico Suave. He was saying what he had to say, you know? Then it’s like, Damn, fuck, this girl’s like, "Fuck you Ramz” and then Ramz is like, “Damn, I think I actually like this girl.” Then it’s like there’s me singing from a female’s perspective of what she’s thinking about. Before this, I never really knew what emotions were, and I never really felt them before. It’s something different.
You’re writing a novel. What’s the difference between the Ramriddlz character and you in your everyday life?
Well, the thing is, I’ve grown a lot over the past year. Me, this time last year, I was actually a cartoon character. It was one and the same. Even now, I’m the same person, but I have alter egos. If I want to go crazy then I’ll turn into Mr. Ramrod. Then there’s just Ramy, and he doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. He’s just a happy guy.
I’m trying to put my guard down, I wasn’t too worried about if this person is going to like this, or am I selling out by doing this? I’m just literally making almost a soundtrack to my life over the past two months. I think there’s a song in there for everybody. At the end of the day everyone’s just an outsider looking in. I’m trying to grow as much as I can and not look back too much. A lot of people want me to be like, “Ah, weiner” but I definitely didn’t lose my sense of humor, though.