One of the things I love most about music is its ability to unite anyone. It doesn’t matter what genre you find yourself in, because the reality is that music has the power to it that throws down all barriers and gives people something in common that brings them together.

I recently had the chance to sit down with a man whose dedicated his career to just that. His name is Ryan Haynes and he’s running headstrong with the vision to bridge two scenes he is extremely passionate about, hip-hop & EDM. With his career starting in Pittsburgh, he got heavily immersed into the scene, collaborating and creating opportunities for local artists and DJ’s to get on stages and be heard. From there, he went to manage and DJ Riff Raff and is now pursuing his own successful hip-hop/EDM project under the name DJ Afterthought. Ryan is one of the hardest workers around and it was very inspiring hearing his story, something that I think you’ll also enjoy!

Tell me about living in Pittsburgh and how it influenced you with who you are today.

“When I got to Pittsburgh I had just got out of audio engineering school and dove into the music scene. The scene wasn’t as big as it is now but it was really supportive at the core, there were a lot of people that wanted to make something happen in Pittsburgh. That really shaped my whole crusade and gave me different priorities rather than just doing music.

I tried to build a base for artists to be able to open on shows or even get into venues to even play shows. At that point it was just huge headliners and that was it, no local support at all. Venues weren’t accessible. Promoters came from out of town to throw these janky shows that essentially screwed over the bars and the venues because they would lose money. Local artists either needed to pay for a slot of sell enough tickets to even get on the bill. Making music from that base shaped ‘Afterthought’.”

Did you have a collective or group of people that you stuck with to help make a change and bring up more local talent?

“Absolutely. There’s a clothing company I’m heavily invested in called Daily Bread that was initially started by Mac Miller, this dude Bill and Alex. Right at the time I started to do things I connected with them right away. They opened a store front so we connected and started collaborating on all kinds of things. They were really in touch with the art scene and a collective of people from around the city, so by connecting with them that allowed me to have a relationship with all different kinds of people. It brought all of these people together for events that wouldn’t normally be together, and it worked!

Also, the guys at ID Labs took me in when I started to make my own music. They saw what I was trying to do and loved it. If it wasn’t for this core group of people, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now.”

You’re very passionate with this vision to bring hip-hop and EDM together. Can you fill me in more on that?

“Ever since I was young, I’ve been into all sorts of music. I’ve never felt stuck to just one thing. I used to sneak into raves when I was a kid and I’d also sneak into punk shows (laughs) I loved it all.

I know that I don’t have to be in a certain mood to listen to hip-hop or EDM, and when I make music I feel the same way too. Hip-hop and EDM is just easy, they go together so well. I just thinks it’s fun, it’s a fun concept. It doesn’t have to be crazy, It can be just as easy as the Lil’ John approach, but just a dope hip-hop guys who has good energy who knows what the crowd wants. If you add it up, it just seems like a no-brainer, why not just bring the genres together and have a whole set of it!”

How have you applied this with your own show?

“My whole thing with my show is that I have hip-hop and EDM tracks and I want to play the hip-hop tracks originally with the verses and hooks and stuff, but also just have the drops on them that the original wouldn’t have, and spin the shit out of all my EDM stuff. I want to do it all and have fun rather than just say “I’m just a rapper or I’m just a EDM Producer”. Plus, a lot of the EDM guys want to work with the hip-hop guys, and vice versa. If you’re having fun and you’re making good music, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the possibilities of collaborating with anyone.”

What are some things you’re most excited about with this Neon Black tour you’re doing with Riff Raff?

“I’m excited to showcase the music that I’ve produced and that I’ve performed in the past. Based on our last tours, we have had great turnouts in the cities we are playing and I’m really going to try and speak on it more, bring everybody together and see if I can’t start a little wave through that.”

What to you is going to make this tour different from previous tours?

“I’ve just never really performed my own original stuff aside from a club or festival. This time around, I have a full set of just my music that I can bring to the table and that I can show people ‘you’ve been listening to me talk about this vision, and here it is’. They can take it or leave it, but hopefully, they take it! haha”

You kicked off the year with your ‘Afterthought’ EP and then dropped a brand new album, Cool Blue Jewels, with Riff Raff a few months later. What can you tell us about each?

“I dropped the ‘Afterthought’ EP first which had the lead single Hustle Gawd you guys premiered that was the hip-hop/EDM cross over, so that’s where the basis starts.

The hip-hop stuff I’ve been doing with Riff through managing him and DJing for him has allowed us to collaboratively release stuff for a couple of years now. With this album, I was able to get a budget together for myself and more of a vision for myself of how I want to put together a project. Riff has always looked out for me and had my back, and he’s involved me in his releases, so it was important to me no matter what people think of him and his music, to make sure I didn’t exclude him from my project as well. He said “I’ll help you every step of the way with anything you need”, so I reached out to my people I had relationships with who have been there for a while, and pieced together the puzzle and I think the album came out pretty well.

I wanted to make sure there was a plethora of ingredients in it to make it more interesting for both hip-hop and EDM fans alike.”

Is there anything else  you’d like to say to our readers?

“I’d like to shout out to my management team at 24-8 Management and I want people to know it’s ok to still have fun when they listen to music and they still can express themselves. I feel like society as a whole has made music not fun or enjoyable for a lot of people, it’s just important to keep reminding people that this is something that is free and your right to enjoy so keep going and keep creating!”