For the past year, Ronin Halloway has been hard at work on The Icarus Trilogy. Released a few weeks ago, the EP is a musical collaboration with JayBee Lamahj, with a visual component directed by Bradley Thompson. Icarus takes listeners through a journey of growth, power, and spirituality, all while giving Ronin and Jay a chance to flex their rapping skills as well as their creativity. Here, Ronin talks about how addiction and sobriety played a part in the themes of this project and how they’ve impacted his upcoming album, Pressure, due in June.
AF: When you were first planning The Icarus Trilogy were you planning it to be an EP or an album?
RH: I think we both always thought it’d be shorter. Especially toward the summertime when we realized we have this song and that song, and maybe one or two more.
AF: And you have an album coming out, too?
RH: The album is my solo album, entirely produced by SmokeFace, and that’s coming out in June. It’s actually four years old. It’s taken a lot. It’s only six songs long, now, but in the same way we did Icarus, it’s gonna be a very visual album. Lots of fantasy stuff. I’m a very David Bowie-inspired artist, I love theatrical stuff, and even making stories that people might not get yet.
AF: What made you name your EP The Icarus Trilogy?
RH: There’s definitely the mythology thing and the title track is called “Icarus.” It kind of teases at the stories I’m going to tell. Of course, the story of Icarus is he made wings from wax and he wanted to touch the sun and his wings melted. The chorus of that song is “Don’t’ fly too high you might end up burning” and really what’s interesting, too, is a common message throughout my music has been my journey with addiction and what that’s been in my life, what self-medication means. Especially now – I’ve started a journey of sobriety – I can look back through a different lens. “Icarus” touches a little bit on getting older, the uses of substances and trying to cope with the world around you. Then “Elijah,” the second song, is a song about being powerful—that was like the flex track—just rapping as aggressively as we both could. And then “Paul” is probably both our favorite song. It’s a very spiritual song, just kind of summing things up like, “Okay, we’re gonna move forward and grab life by the horns.”
AF: Will some of those same themes be expanded or explored in your upcoming solo album?
RH: Pressure – that’s the title of the album – is really dark. It’s very dark, almost industrial sounding, so I think people will get the Danny Brown influence, Run the Jewels influence, maybe even a little Death Grips. What’s gonna be cool and kind of important will be to try to portray it within the context of everything. The videos kind of inform and give you some of the themes I’m talking about. It’s gonna be cool. Moving forward from that I’ll be starting to explore still the intensity of stuff, but also my more whimsical side. It’s definitely a dark record. It’s definitely very vice-driven. But I think people will see, especially with the visuals, [I’m] not speaking on drinking to glorify it, [I’m] reflecting, and not necessarily in a sense of regret but just realizing the gravity of it. SmokeFace and myself decided to step into sobriety together. In the days we started working together it was a ton of partying, so it’s very interesting to now be in a space where we’re looking back on that in a different lens.
AF: For sure, and since the album comes from different times in your life, it’ll have different levels. What’s coming up after that?
RH: So my song “Fruit Fly!” was produced by my good friend Seventeen. We are working on something that’s gonna be like 2020 stuff, but like his sound—he’s like Metro [Boomin] beats, like Southside even. So I’m really excited to work on my melodic side, to work on my catchiness, while still being me and having room to lyrically chop it up.
AF: Who are some of your inspirations?
RH: Kendrick is huge obviously. But I always tell people my favorite emcee is Jay Electronica. He’s my favorite. When Jay raps he doesn’t do a lot of adlibs, his voice is so deep, he’s like a wizard [laughs].
AF: How did you get started rapping?
RH: I grew up as a musician, playing piano. I kind of stumbled into this, meeting people who were really good at freestyling. Then I wanted to get good at it, but it was still kind of a hobby. And then I started writing and it just snowballed, and now it’s my life.
Catch Ronin Halloway’s next performance at the Live on Short Vine Music Festival Saturday, April 6th.