|Styles Of Beyond’s Ryu: “Everyone wants to see a good ass-beating, regardless of social status.”
INTERVIEW By Coyote Duran, DoghouseBoxing.com (Dec 5, 2008)
When one hears the name 'Ryan Maginn', what comes to mind isn't exactly 'successful hip-hop star.' However, when 'Ryu' is mentioned, knowledgeable rap fans think Styles of Beyond; hard-hitting, underground hip-hop artists. Styles, composed of Ryu, Takbir ‘Tak’ Bashir, DJ Cheapshot and producer Vin Skully, have been recording since 1997 but have made a greater impact on the hip-hop world with their numerous collaborations (with Linkin Park, LP’s Mike Shinoda, The Crystal Method, Demigodz, The RZA and Apathy) throughout the genre; on the strength of having released only two full albums
(1999’s ‘2000 Fold’ and 2003’s ‘Megadef’) and one EP (2007’s ‘Razor Tag’ with DJ Green Lantern). As guest-members of Shinoda’s act Fort Minor, Styles gained some of their most valuable exposure; as evident from singles and videos such as ‘Remember The Name’ and ‘Believe Me.’ In fact, as of this writing, Styles of Beyond are anticipating a new distribution deal for their upcoming album ‘Reseda Beach’; since separating from Warner Brothers’ imprint label Machine Shop recordings (helmed by Shinoda and LP guitarist Brad Delson).
So, imagine this writer’s surprise when I found out Ryu was something of a fight fan himself. Being a huge fan of Styles and Fort Minor, I checked out Ryu’s My Space photo gallery and found a photo of him alongside former Undisputed Welterweight Champion Zab Judah. I did some prying and found, underneath the talent and alliterative audacity, a casual fight fan. The one you can enjoy a huge event with some or many- cold beers along the way.
And that’s why if you’re expecting a historian on the receiving end of these questions, stop reading now. Ryu, like many fans who get the privilege of taking in a super-fight or mega-event, just digs Our Sport just because he “wants to watch a good ass-beating”; which is something the Styles’ music is wholly evocative of. At the least, you’ll discover a fan who might be just like you. Read on, Howlers.
Coyote Duran: At what age did you start watching boxing?
Ryu: I think I started watching around five years old. My dad used to watch it a lot.
Coyote Duran: On a scale from one to ten, how would you grade yourself as a fight fan?
Ryu: Nowadays I would say about a five. Too much politics and not any good heavyweight fights anymore. The superstars are gone. Not to say that there aren’t any new superstars on the horizon.
Coyote Duran: Who are your favorite fighters; past and present?
Ryu: All time favorite, of course, is ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson. I used to like Gerry Cooney and (Brooklyn-based, Irish heavyweight) Seamus McDonagh because they were Irish. In recent years, I like Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton and Zab Judah.
Coyote Duran: As a celebrity, do you think it's wrong for celebrities who don't know anything about boxing to get really excellent, comped seats?
Ryu: Naw, not really. Everyone wants to see a good ass-beating; regardless of social status. It’s not realistic to think that Jay-Z and Beyonce are gonna sit in the rowdy, cheaper seats. Just from a security standpoint, it’s not possible. But I do think they should have to pay for them (good seats).
Coyote Duran: Why is there such a strong connection between hip-hop and boxing?
Ryu: I think they both share a love of competition. I also think a lot of rappers grew up tough; having to fight a lot. Just my opinion.
Coyote Duran: Do you watch MMA and UFC as well?
Ryu: Naw, I've seen like two fights. I’m not really into it. A lot of my friends are though.
Coyote Duran: How often do you watch boxing?
Ryu: Every once in a while. Pay-per-view kinda killed boxing for me; a little bit. I got sick of paying to watch wack fights. They need to bring it back to regular network TV.
Coyote Duran: As a hip-hop icon yourself, what goes through your mind when you see fighters like Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya cut albums or Floyd Mayweather Jr. put together a record label?
Ryu: I think they're just looking for cool ways to invest money. It usually fails because being a good artist takes the same time and dedication as a good boxer. Not everybody has what it takes.
Coyote Duran: Do you think these fighters understand what it takes to be a recording artist just because they have success in the sport?
Ryu: I haven’t seen any that I feel could become good artists. I guess anything is possible though
Coyote Duran: Are there any fights you're looking forward to?
Ryu: Ummm… I’m gonna watch the De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao fight and maybe (Wladimir) Kiltschko vs. Hasim Rahman. That’s about it.
Coyote Duran: Are there any particular young fighters you're looking at to be stars in the future?
Ryu: I’m not sure. I usually start watching when they become stars to be honest. I saw some good fighters in the Olympics though.
Coyote Duran: What was the best fight you've ever seen?
Ryu: Gerry Cooney vs. Larry Holmes. I still have the poster from that fight! Gerry Cooney was gettin’ his ass beat but refused to fall down. I've never seen anything like it to date. And Larry hits hard!
Coyote Duran: You have a photo in your My Space gallery of you and former Undisputed Welterweight Champion Zab Judah hanging out together. Is Zab a Styles Of Beyond fan?
Ryu: Yeah. I had done a song for Zab a while back when he was supposed to fight Shane Mosley. He would put the song on when he would train. He's a good dude and I appreciate the opportunity to work with him.
Coyote Duran: As a Judah fan and friend, do you think he'll ever gain substantial success since his loss to IBF welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey?
Ryu: I hope so. I think he has it in him. I would start by getting out of Vegas, buckle down and train in Big Bear or something. We will see. I wish him the best.
Coyote Duran: What flaws do you think the sport suffers from?
Ryu: I think pay-per-view’s responsible for a lot of the sport’s problems. A lot of people don’t want to pay to watch these fighters develop into just contenders. They need to make it free again.
Coyote Duran: Ever go to a boxing gym to try sparring or training?
Ryu: Yeah… I failed. I’m too lazy and I smoke two packs a day. One of these days, I’m gonna make a change and commit to training hard.
Coyote Duran: Ever get together with the rest of S.O.B., Celph Titled, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, Vin Skully or DJs Cheapshot and Green Lantern to catch the fights?
Ryu: Naw, we've never watched a fight together; mostly because we all live in different locations, other than me and Mike. But I don’t know if mike likes boxing…
Coyote Duran: Do you believe that any sanctioning body/alphabet group (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, etc.) has a legitimate claim to calling any of their representatives a 'world champion'?
Ryu: I don’t know. Unless they've (each titlist) fought every contender in the world, I would say not.
Coyote Duran: Do you think there are too many weight divisions?
Ryu: Yep. There should be three. Lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight and that’s it. It’s just less confusing for the average person and I think the title fights would mean a lot more. That’s just my uneducated opinion. I think the sport needs to be streamlined for the mainstream. Go back to the old days.
Coyote Duran: As a white rapper, do you see parallels with white fighters in having to go above and beyond to beat the stereotype and prosper?
Ryu: Naw, you definitely have to prove yourself at first as a white rapper; but when people see that you’re good, I think they want to work with you even more because they are surprised. White rappers still get the surprise factor but I think the playing field is pretty level in hip-hop. If you’re dope, you'll do well on some level regardless of race.
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