Ronny J is fucking ready. The Miami-via-Jersey producer has been perfecting his sound since 2012, although "perfecting" may be the wrong word to use: His beats sound like they're disintegrating. They're cacophonous, fractured. The production sounds like it's deconstructing in real time, but its aggressive presence is unmistakable. It makes you feel something: Desperate to get away, curious enough to make it through, or voracious to hear more. And a lot of people want to hear more.
Ronny took the dark, murky sound of Raider Klan's South Florida scene and pushed it into a sonic wasteland that The Youth™ are now diving into with reckless abandon. Over the past few years, he's produced twisted bangers for XXXTentacion, Lil Pump, Smokepurpp, and Ski Mask the Slump God, who all sprung up from Florida, the most buzzing state in hip-hop. “I felt like I have a lot to do with the whole scene down here,” Ronny told me over the phone. “Like, I'm head honcho of this whole shit, production-wise.”
If you turn on the radio or find yourself out in the club, the odds are high that you will hear a Ronny J production. Aside from being XXXTentacion's right-hand beatmaker, he's become the person to go to for an in-your-face single. If you need an example, look no further than Bhad Bhabie's “Hi Bich,” which erupts from speakers almost like it's intended to blow your shit out. Or “Ultimate” by Denzel Curry, which sounds so thunderously victorious that it became the soundtrack for a viral bottle flip challenge. The internet be internetting.
Ronny J's full-length debut mixtape, OMGRONNY, is named after one of his most well-known producer tags. It dropped this Friday, Feb. 23, and features the most recognizable names from Florida's current scene. Ronny talked with Complex ahead of the project about what to expect from it, what drives him to make such aggressive music, and his favorite beats that he's ever produced.
How long have you been producing?
I’ve been producing since like 2012.
I know you're a vocalist as well—which did you take to first?
I was definitely producing way more than doing vocals, but I always get ideas here and there. But I was definitely producing more.
You have a signature style. Where do you get it from?
I basically get it from just putting thoughts in my head to want to be different. I think about it so much to the point when I actually do create, it just automatically comes out different, because I want it that bad. In the beginning stages, I would also give different elements that people are used to, like trap. You feel me? Everybody knows trap. I would make a beat and I would make sure that I'm making what I want, but I would also give them what they want. Until now, where I can do anything because I have everybody's attention.
It's all a process. I definitely cannot say, “Oh, my sound came from listening to Tupac or Drake.” Nah, none of that. I don't want to be like nobody. I'm an aggressive person on the inside, so that's how it comes out. That's just how the music comes out, just hard-hitting everything. I got soft stuff, too. Everything isn't super, super hard. But that's what people want.
Yeah, I would say that's what people want. I'll never forget the first time I heard one of your beats. It was a jarring experience, but I wanted more.
That's fire! Yeah, exactly. It's like a drug, you want more. Like, “Whoa, this shit just hit me in the chest.”
When I first started listening to your stuff, it was probably summer 2016. I was going through some shit, like some emotional shit. And just the hardness and the aggressiveness of your production filled a void that I had. Do you have kids that tweet you or come up to you like “Yo, this did something special for me”?
Definitely. I get a lot of DMs. People are telling me, “Yo bro, you helped me get through that.” But now it's to the point where a lot of DMs are about everyone's problems. But if I ever meet anyone in person, I'm willing to listen to what anyone has been through. And if I helped you out, that means a lot to me. That means that I'm healing people. It's cool. It's amazing.
Have you always pushed your sound to the edge?
I never looked at a book and the book was like, “This has to be like this,” and did that. I literally would just watch YouTube tutorials on how to maneuver around inside the program. And once I figured that out, I would just do whatever: Whatever I felt like, whatever made me feel good, whatever I felt like was art and dope.
So yeah, I feel like I was always pushing shit to the edge, always going against the grain. That's why I have the sound that I have now. This type of shit doesn’t just happen overnight—somebody having a sound and shit like that, you know what I'm saying? My sound is like super real, super organic. All my fans, all my following, all of it is so real. It took a while to get to where I'm at. I'm 25 now.
So you're from Jersey, based in Miami, right?
Do you feel like coming up in Florida influenced the way that you produce?
Kind of, actually—you want to know why? When I first came to Miami, I was fucking with Raider Klan and their whole vibe was super dark. At that time, they were the ones blowing up in Miami. And I really wanted to work with them so what I'd do was, I was doing what I wanted and also getting into dark shit because I wanted to get shit placed. So maybe that is where some of the dark stuff comes from. The whole aggressive part, I don't think that comes from Raider Klan. That just comes from within me.
That makes sense. I definitely understand the Raider Klan influence, but they were more trill, deep, slow—you're more like high energy and intense.
Yeah, exactly. That's exactly why. That's my twist that I brought to it—the high-intensity type of vibe. That's basically what created “Threatz.” When I made the beat for “Threatz,” honestly I was having a very bad day. I remember the exact night: I was in my college dorm room at Barry [University]. I hated the school, I hated going to class. I didn't even want to go to class. I was only there so I could have somewhere to stay and sleep. But I was making mad beats. It was probably around Thanksgiving, I wasn't able to go home. I ain’t have no money. Everything just sucked. I just made hella beats. “Threatz” was pretty aggressive for back then. That's for sure one of those beats where it’s like, “Whoa, this is not allowed. What is this?”
Was “Threatz” your first major hit?
Yeah, that was for sure my first big song.
How did you link up with XXXtentacion?
Basically, I was staying at this house called the ULT House. Me, Denzel Curry, a bunch of us lived in it, and it was just mad people coming to the house every single day. It was funny because we actually threw this party, and basically X and Ski [Mask the Slump God] tried to come to the party—they were trying to perform at the party at our house. And we were like, “We don't know y'all.” So we ended up not letting them in and they just left. It’s funny because that was the first time we met them. And then they ended up coming back again like two weeks later, and Denzel was trying to talk to them, give them like a pep talk or whatever. And me and X ended up making a song that same day. Two weeks later, X ended up moving in with us. Then the rest is just history.
And how did you link up with Bhad Bhabie?
I linked up with Bhad Bhabie through my boy Jeff Vaughn. He works through APG, which is affiliated with Atlantic. They were just interested in my style and I guess Bhad Bhabie was somebody whose projects he was working on, and he was just like, “Yo, I want you to be a part of it.” So I ended up giving them beats and they chose one: “Hi Bich.” And it ended up being what it is. Honestly now, it’s at the point anything that I do with anybody ends up being a single. So it's like if anybody wants singles, you have to come to me.
I'm a drug, you feel me?
That's how a lot of people are popping off right now. You hear that Ronny J tag and you know it’s going to be something.
And I don't want people to get it twisted. I'm humble about my shit. But I worked for this. So since I worked for it, I can talk about it, you know what I'm saying? It'd be a difference if I didn't put the work in, and I'm faking, acting like I'm somebody that I’m not. But nah, I really worked to be this high demand. It's only getting crazier. This is just the beginning. A lot of people that are in the industry, they're trying to figure out, “Oh, I don't know—should I do it? It's not radio.” It's like, I already got the vibe. I'll link up with people and I know what it is. It's like, the more time that goes on, the more people can't deny it. I'm a drug, you feel me?
What is it like producing for people who are kind of ruffling the feathers of the culture right now?
Like who? Who would you say?
I mean, people feel some type of way about X. People feel some type of way about Bhad Bhabie.
Oh, yeah. I don't care. I don't care what nobody says. I'm going to the top. I don't care about what nobody is talking about. Neither do they. When I'm with them, they're never talking about what nobody is talking about. Like, X doesn't care. Actually, maybe he does because he puts some of this stuff on his IG story. Like, he be in his feelings or whatever. But not when I'm with him. We don't talk about nobody else. We just make music. We talk about whatever is in front of us. We talk about us. We ain’t really talking about nobody else. I accept X for who he is. Everybody can't deal with somebody like him. But I accept the lil’ girl, Bhad Bhabie, for who she is. She's doing her thing. I respect what she's doing. You gotta get it how you get it.
As the person who’s literally laying the foundation for people to rap over, then the song explodes and they get a bunch of shine—do you feel like you're getting enough shine right now?
A lot of times, for the longest, a lot of these niggas don't even @ me. And I know them. You can put that in the interview, I don’t care. Because I will call them all right now and tell them. They already know. But I'm applying so much pressure. Like, look how I'm coming. I'm not your average producer. When I step in the room, you cannot ignore me. Period. You feel me? So who would really want to keep promoting somebody that brings so much to the table?
So I understand that, and that's what it is. I'ma get it on my own. That's why I do my own artist thing. And I don't ask nobody to post nothing. If you fuck with it, you do. If you don't, you don’t. I'ma get to where I need to be regardless. All this shit is destined. It's not like I'm waking up like, “Oh please, please pick me for beats!” Nah. I literally made all of this happen. I put in the work and now it's all unfolding. It's cool. It's so much, it's overwhelming, but I want more. I need more of it.
Speaking of more, your tape that's coming up, OMGRONNY—what can you tell me about it?
It's basically a compilation of a majority of the South Florida artists that I've been working with for years. The reason why I did it was, I felt like recently all of us started getting deals, looks and stuff like that. So I felt like I have a lot to do with the whole scene down here. Like, I'm head honcho of this whole shit, production-wise and all that. So why not just gather all these people, put them all on one tape, and put it out for the fans? That was the whole idea of it.
But then I ended up signing to Atlantic as an artist. Then it's like, “Ronny, why not put your vocals on there too?” So now my vocals are also on there. So it's really just like a compilation type thing. You're getting three little things: A song that is my production and my vocals; then you're getting songs with just your favorite artists and my production; then, you're getting songs with your favorite artists, my production and my vocals. Nobody is doing that.
Yeah, that's true.
What would you call that? I would say that's three little things: “Oh,” “my,” “God.” You feel me? Everything is “Oh my God.” Everything gotta be outrageous. Like this Louis Bag I got on, it's one of one. Everything gotta be like, “Oh my God.”
Yeah, you definitely have a persona. What are some of your favorite songs that you've ever produced?
“Audi” is my favorite beat ever.
“Audi” is fucking great.
The thing that sucked about it is, I don't have that drum kit. I lost that whole entire file. I don’t know where it's at. So I can never use those sounds again.
Yeah, over. It hurt my heart. But I kept making more shit, so it's all good.
Anything else? I’ll tell you that I really love “Sippin Tea.”
Yeah “Sippin Tea,” second favorite. I remember making that, too. I literally made that in my bed. I was probably in my boxers in my bed.
Yeah, straight up. I just remember I made the beat, I was playing it on my KRK speakers at the time. This nigga X had just got to the crib, so he just heard me making the beat and walked in like, “Yo, I got something for this.” And then it ended up being a little diss or whatever. We just laid that shit right there. We sat on my bed and we laid it down right then and there. That's how we did all the music—in my room. Like, even with Pump and them. “Flex Like Ouu,” in my room. We wasn't really going to studios or nothing like that.
So yeah, I would say “Audi,” “Sippin Tea,” and then “Ultimate.” “Ultimate” goes crazy. “Ultimate” changed my life, matter fact.
It changed my life because of the little bottle flip thing that went viral. Honestly, I never really felt like I got all this clout off this shit. It wasn't really that. I just really enjoyed seeing other people enjoy the music. I'm not fame hungry or nothing like that. I just want to get the bag. I want people to know who I am because of my shit. I don't do this for no fame. Like at all. Oh yeah, also “Ultimate” changed my life because that was the first time I got a decent check or whatever, from an Adidas commercial.
What legacy do you hope to leave behind with your music?
That's a great question. Basically, I just want people to know that you can literally be whatever you want to be, as long as you put in that time and that energy and as long as you stay focused. I feel like to be successful, it's not even just music. I want people to be inspired through the music, but to be inspired within whatever they want to do. You don't have to hear my music and be like “Okay, bet! I'ma produce now. I'ma make beats.” It's already so many of that. Do what you want to do. But right now, I want to gain people's attention so that later in life, I can share the truth.