I've been obsessed with music my whole life. I don't remember a time that I didn't walk around with a binder full of lyrics. Even when I was in elementary school, I always had a binder in my backpack. Not a notebook. A binder.
I used to sit in class and write lyrics. I would get in trouble with my teachers for that. Then they would read my lyrics and be surprised. I wrote about things from a very adult perspective: what it was like to deal with responsibilities when you’re stressed out, what it’s like to deal with a lack of love or neglect.
To make money, I used to sell lyrics to the local rappers around town. I’m from North Carolina, and a lot of people there do cyphers, they do rap battles. Sometimes I would hear my lyrics being used in battle. It was a great business as a kid. I kept a shoebox of cash stashed in my mom's closet.
I wrote my lyrics under the name Ricky. I was a young girl who, at the time, lacked the vocabulary to explain that I identified as male, and I didn't want anyone to judge my work based on my gender. I just wanted them to get the fact that my lyrics were dope. I’ve kept the name Ricky ever since, but I recently added “2AM” before it. So my stage name is 2AM Ricky.
The first project I put out professionally was a mixtape called “Hiatus.” Some of the songs told the story of my best friend Hesakahi, who was found dead on my college campus, and expressed what we (his family and close friends) believe was the true cause of his death. I incorporated recordings from witnesses and some I had of my best friend’s voice. Those songs sparked several conversations at my school and around the community about student safety and justice.
Also around that time, I started my transition. I discussed that in some songs. I’ve been very open about my identity. My music opened the door to conversations with my university about supporting trans students on campus.
My music is meant to spark conversations. I want to make an impact. I see it as a cycle: I release music, use the music to start conversations, and then use my platform to make a difference.
I’ve achieved a lot so far. I'm the first Black, openly trans male artist to top any recording chart. I have a record with CeCe Peniston that went No. 1 on the LGBTQ Urban Charts. It's called, “Whatchu On.” It’s about queer empowerment, queer freedom.
I've also led DEI trainings at corporations. I’ve helped organizations with their social media. I love that I've been able to utilize my platform as a recording artist to advocate for inclusivity in spaces along with political, educational, and community leaders. Honestly, when I think about what I want to achieve, I don't view it as, “What can I accomplish?” I view it from a perspective of, “What door can I open for somebody next?”