Royal Ruckus raised a ruckus last year with their triumphal return, The Summer of the Cicadas double album, and now frontman Chunjay is coming back with a collaborative project with production by CookBook from LA Symphony, entitled World’s Okayest Rapper. Seven songs deep, the new EP talks about love, break-ups, positivity, and life on tour as a rapper. We recently interviewed Chunjay of Royal Ruckus.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did the project get started in the first place?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Oh my, well we started Royal Ruckus when we were in high school, and initially it was meant to be a joke. We initially just started as a fun recording project, but when people started asking us to play concerts, we were happy to oblige, and eventually we started being very deliberate in what we were doing. We put out our first record a couple weeks before I graduated high school.
Our involvement in the music industry has varied over the years. There was a time when we were very active in the “industry”—we actually lived in Nashville—but in the last couple years we are more of a Do-It-Yourself group, and to whatever extent we are in the industry is only lightly. We try to deal direct to the listener as much as possible.
- Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: For me, easy. Beastie Boys were the first major rap group to catch my attention. I think I was six years old. I was also into early Christian hip-hop, and loved PID and SFC. Incredibly influential on me.
But I loved music as long as I can remember, and I think I got my first radio at 4 or 5 years old. I listened to just about everything, but was particularly in love with rap music.
- Which artists are you currently listening to?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I’m digging the new Blackthought record, my homies in the crew Soul Providers have a new album they just put out, and used the same producer that I did on my new album, World’s Okayest Rapper. Eligh, one of the rappers on my new record, is about to drop a record of his own, and I absolutely love what I’ve heard so far from the project.
I’m also really enjoying the latest record from Taylor Swift, and I’m still jamming to the last few songs released by Sufjan Stevens. Oh, and my friend Carmen Toth has new EP out, and it’s incredibly good. I try to stay well-rounded, musically.
- What do you feel are the key elements people should be getting out of your music?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I hope people have a good time when they listen to our music. Hopefully it will make them laugh sometimes. Other times, I hope they’ll see their own experiences in our songs, and be able to relate to both the amusing and the serious elements of the songs.
- What do you think separates you from the massive crowd of artists emerging right now?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: It’s an interesting time to make music. The playing field is leveled in so many ways, so it’s really exciting. But it can be tricky standing out from the rest. I don’t know of anyone else really doing what I’m doing. It’s funny, it’s thought provoking, it’s positive, and it’s generally considered “clean” music, all of which definitely set our music apart from most of what is out there.
- Do you currently have a preferred song in your catalog, and why is it special to you?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Right now I’m really enjoying “Postcards from the Road,” a song from the new EP that I wrote while I was on tour. Each verse is written to a different set of loved ones, as if I were writing letters or postcards to them.
- Are your lyrics predominantly based on real events and personal experiences, or are they drawn from your creative storytelling skills?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: It’s a combination of both. Almost everything I’ve written has an autobiographical component, but to what degree it is autobiography is difficult to decipher for listeners. There is plenty of creative storytelling going on, and some liberties taken with details, but most everything is rooted in real events and experience.
- What would you consider a successful, proud or high point in your career so far?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I’m very proud of our album The Summer of the Cicadas, a full-blown, double concept album released February 2017. Alongside our amusing songs, we have a lot of heavy and contemplative material, spread over 30 songs. It’s our magnum opus, and the thing I’m most proud of that we’ve done.
- What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music so far?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: One time I was stuck in an elevator for three hours, and there was a Justin Bieber song on repeat. Worst. Day. Of. My. Life. Not kidding. Or am I?
- What key ingredients do you always try and infuse into your songs, regardless of style or tempo?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: One of the things I try to do 100% of the time is to write something relatable or amusing. I sort of shoot to be an “Everyman” emcee, just an ordinary guy that people can connect with and relate to.
- Tell us which of you does what in Royal Ruckus?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: So Royal Ruckus is currently me, Chunjay (Jamey Bennett), and my co-conspirator, Flatline (Michael Walker aka MPWalker). To simplify, the music tends to be his end of the deal, and the lyrics and vocals are mine. However, he writes, raps, and sings plenty of lyrics, too. I’ve always been the “front man,” even when we had deejays or other emcees in the group, so I have largely steered the group’s direction over the years.
- So do you produce the beats and write all the lyrics on your songs or do you collaborate with outside sources in any of these cases?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: For a normal album, Flatline is the default music composer, and I’m the default lyricist, but we both are actively involved in the whole process, so he’s generally the producer, and I act as a co-producer.
However, we love collaborating with other artists. We’ve brought rappers, beat makers, singers, and even full rock bands into the studio to work with us. I am currently working on a series of releases collaborating with other musicians and producers.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I love getting to the final mix of a project or a song and finally being able to just relax and enjoy a job well done. I only make music that I like, so I love getting to the end and just taking it in as a listener, the best I can.
Sometimes the amount of work going into promoting and sustaining an indie music career can be discouraging, but I love making music, so you just sort of embrace the things that are less fun as part of the package in doing what you love.
- If you had the opportunity to change one thing about how the music business works right now, what would that be?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I would have the music business pay me more money. To quote a rare line from Flatline: “Give me the money, give me the fame!”
But seriously, there are always things that are not great in the music industry. But it’s a market, and I think it’s up to the musician to determine what they want out of their career, and then go do the things required to get it. Rather than change the industry, artists should change themselves.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Hip-hop. Tacos. Life. Girls. Kids. Puppies. California. Beer. Fun. It feels good.
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with the new technology at hand?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Yes, absolutely. It’s indispensable for most artists. We try to stay active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, especially, as those are our favorite social media platforms. I keep hearing that email, believe it or not, gets the highest active response rate, but I don’t like sending out music-related emails very often, so I’m not sure.
- Tell us something about the making of your latest release?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Well, we recorded the whole thing in California. I felt like in this season of our career that we have called a cicada summer, we should return to our roots. So I went back to Cali (from Florida), and assembled a team of California-based emcees and musicians to fill out the album.
The only non-CA musician is DJ Sean P from Texas. But sometimes when you know a song needs a particular person’s touch, you just go with that person!
- What is your relationship with visual media? Do you think videos are important for your music? Do you have a video you would recommend fans checkout so they can get in to what you’re doing?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Visual media is important, and one of the sad things that to some extent is lost in our current streaming culture. For me, visual media starts with the album artwork, and too many artists don’t pay attention to this anymore.
We used incredible artists for the artwork of our latest records, World’s Okayest Rapper and The Summer of the Cicadas. You can read an interview with one of the artists here: https://summerofthecicadas.com/artwork/
Videos have become important to us the last couple years, and I think it really helps listeners connect with the song in a major way. All of our videos are posted at https://royalruckus.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/video/
Our new video is for our song, “This White Life,” and can be seen here:
- Do you prefer working and creating in a studio environment, or performing live in front of an audience?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: I love both. They’re just different. I think the content creation is my favorite, but I really do enjoy performing for others, and I enjoy building new relationships from concerts. Just hanging with people is incredible to me.
- What’s next on the upcoming agenda for Royal Ruckus?
Chunjay of Royal Ruckus: Going on tour this fall with another rapper, releasing several videos for World’s Okayest Rapper, and I’m working on a couple more 5-song releases to come out over the next year.
Thanks for the interest in Royal Ruckus!
Listen to the music: http://worldsokayestrapper.com
Main Website: http://summerofthecicadas.com
Secondary Website: http://royalruckus.com
Free music: http://noisetrade.com/royalruckus