Fort Worth rapper T-Ryde is straight off a gig with Struggle Jennings, Waylon’s grandson. T-Ryde, whose real name is Jerry Hammons II, writes his own lyrics in a style he refers to as underground, double-time rap, and his music left quite an impression on Jennings.
“Struggle just really liked my music, liked my sound, and wanted to bring me out on the road with him,” Hammons says, adding that the two have also collaborated on a country rock track that will be on his upcoming LP, which he’s hoping to release in June.
Hammons, 22, says he started his carer as Texas Ryda, but soon realized that he didn’t want to limit his playing field to just Texas, so he shortened that to T-Ryde.
He’s been determined to make a career in rap since he was 15, when he first began writing. Eminem was his biggest role model. “Eminem appealed to me because he was, you know, a white guy, and he was the underdog,” he says. “That appealed to me, who I was.”
Hammons has done “real-world work,” as an electrician and laying insulation to pay the bills, but the focus of his life “has always been music.”
While Hammons and Struggle both rap, Struggle fuses Waylon’s songs into his music at different intervals. For instance, in “Outlaw Shit” Waylon’s voice strikes a haunting, tender and grandfatherly tone amidst scenes of violence: "Don’t you think this outlaw shit has gotten out of hand?” Rap artist Yelawolf also chimes in on the track.
Struggle is an outlaw rapper, and for that, he takes some flack in the comment section of his “Outlaw Shit” YouTube video. “Don’t you think this rap shit on country has gotten out of hand?” writes one commenter. “Nowhere near as good as Waylon,” says another. Nonetheless, Struggles’ “Outlaw Shit” has more than 8 million views.
The music video also resonated with Hammons when he came across it on YouTube. “It was about drug dealing. It was just kind of appealing,” he says. “I’ve been a [Struggle Jennings] fan after that video.”
Hammons’ father was in and out of prison, he says, and both parents were on drugs when he was a kid. He periodically stayed with his grandparents before he moved in with an aunt in Fort Worth.
“I was a knucklehead,” he says. “But they still took real good care of me. They put me in school, raised me.”
Later, Hammons’ dad cleaned up and his parents got back together, but Hammons says that’s when he began his own downward spiral “skitzing, writing songs and rapping” for about three years.
He eventually quit doing drugs, he says, but started selling them, which earned him more than a year in jail. “It was a simple weed deal,” Hammons says. “But there were three people there, so they put organized crime on it.”
Before doing time, Hammons says he had done two national tours and a major festival. His upcoming EP, Cloudburst, consists of songs he wrote in jail, beating out a rhythm on the table and snapping his fingers. It’s different from his last release, he says: Some of the songs are about his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Skylin, and the heartbreak he experienced with her mother.
Hammons’ manager, Ryan “Sco” Pagan, says he linked up with Hammons after the rapper ran into trouble on his first tour. They first met at a music competition where Hammons won first place and Pagan came in second.
“I was just blown away by him,” Pagan says.
When Pagan learned that Hammons had his jaw broken while on Venice Beach, he offered to tour with him as sort of a body guard, but that later morphed into a management opportunity.
“I believed in him enough that I put my music aside,” Pagan says. “I know he’s going places, and I know he’s got the talent to make this work. We just kind of learn together.”
Pagan, 33, says spending the last few years with Hammons, watching him develop as an artist and take his talent in a healthy direction, has been a positive experience.
“He’s not just out here singing about selling dope, machine guns and pimping women,” Pagan says. “He’s talking about dreams and things you can achieve.”
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Hammons sees hip-hop as having different lanes which aren’t generally crossed over. But since his fans don’t eat the same thing or read the same thing, he doesn’t want them to be forced to listen to one music genre either.
“I just want to mix everything,” he says. “I don’t believe you should be stuck in one type of thing. That’s why I call my thing Free Mindz Muzik, because I don’t want it to be contained.”
Hammons and Pagan talked about how the music industry has changed, with people selling their music online and not always wanting to sign with a label. Today, music is only half the deal, they say; the rest is mostly image.
“I’m still trying to grasp my image … just trying to be true to myself and tell my story,” Hammons says.