Roro

01/28/2014 14:23 No Comments

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Roro
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
In Japan: 1 year
Identity: Recording artist / music producer / songwriter

Hailing from Orlando, Florida, Roro came to Japan in 2009 to challenge himself and breakout from the hiphop scene back home. The producer, rapper and songwriter started performing at the age of seven and producing music at twelve, following in the footsteps of his father – a famous producer and hip hop artist in the early nineties around the Miami Bass Era. Roro now lives in Fukuoka City with singer and songwriter Risa Kumon, after a few years of on-and-off living in Okinawa. Fukuoka’s pace suits him compared to the slow, chilled atmosphere of Okinawa. He’s on stage four times a month and produces tracks for artists worldwide under his label R2 Records, launched in 2012. Roro finds producing others artists’ music as rewarding as working on his own material – he’s in it for the love of music. In the past year Roro has opened for Soulja Boy, Chingy, toured with jazz legend Hino Terumasa and DJ Honda, played at clubs and weddings in Fukuoka. When he’s not in the studio or on stage, he watches films, enjoys local foods, and hits Fukuoka’s night spots. He just released his latest single “Doesn’t Mean I’m Lost feat Risa Kumon” on iTunes, and will launch his full EP in early 2014. See Roro perform “Doesn’t Mean I’m Lost” at the Valentine’s Party on Feb. 14 at Hotel With the Style.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from?
Well I’m from Orlando Florida. I started doing music at the age of seven because I looked up to my father – He was a popular producer and hip hop artist around the early nineties – around the Miami Bass Era. So I looked up to him and I started doing music, rapping in a group called the Five Little Shorties. We did many shows and even got a chance to perform on national TV on the Jenny Jones Show. Then I started my solo career around twelve. From then on, I spent years doing solo production with many artists. Then I got a call about doing a charity event in Okinawa – and that’s when I flew to Japan. I met Risa there and we started doing music together.

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You’re a producer, rapper and songwriter. What came first?
Rapping and writing came first. Producing came around 12 and 13 when I really made the decision that music was what I wanted to do for life.

When did you become Roro?
Roro is actually a family name. My uncle gave me that name, because my real name is Rolandis so everybody called me Roro for short. It just kinda stuck with me over the years.

How did your father’s success shape your attitude and aspirations in the the hip-hop music world?
It shaped my attitude a lot. I always watched him practice and produce music and he never tried to be just average. He always gave it his all and tried his best to stand out from everyone else. So I realize that’s how I am. I always try to find ways to recreate myself with my music.

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And did he have an influence on your style?
Yeah, I think so. His production, way of thinking and his soulful melodies inspired me to become the artist I am today.

After your first trip to Okinawa, what brought you back to Japan?
I just wanted to do something new. I wanted to see new things, have a new experience and meet new artists and people. When I first came to Japan I loved it and was inspired by the culture and people so I wanted to come back… and I ended up living here. [laughs]

So when did you come back to Japan after your first trip?
I went back home for a little bit after the Okinawa event, and then I came back to Okinawa a few months later in 2009.

How long did you live in Okinawa?
I was back and forth for a while. Then around 2011 I decided I wanted to stay. I came to Fukuoka last year in February.

What made you decide to live in Fukuoka?
Okinawa is great, I mean we’ve still got a place there to go back to, but it’s just chill. It’s kinda like Florida. Florida is kind of a retirement state and Okinawa seems that way too. So everything is slow, it’s chill, but I kinda wanted something faster. Tokyo is way, way too fast, and Osaka is kinda the same thing, but Fukuoka’s in the middle. So I think Fukuoka was perfect to come and start something.

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How often do you perform in Fukuoka? Do you have any regular spots?
I perform pretty often. I usually have a show four to five times a month. I don’t have a regular spot I perform at, so it’s usually at different venues.

Who is your audience?
Everybody. People from sixteen to sixty. I think that working with my partner singer/songwriter Risa gives my music a fit for everybody. She does jazz, R&B, acoustic, dance and I do hip hop and a mixture of different genres so I think people of all ages can enjoy it. I’ve seen a lot of people over fifty or sixty come to the show and they liked my music… same with teenagers. So age or race really doesn’t matter.

How is the reception in Fukuoka compared to your home country?
I think I’m received well. Even though my songs are in English, if it sounds good to people they will accept and like it even if they don’t understand it. The only difference from my home country is that they can understand the lyrics in the States, but it’s kind of the same anyway. If it sounds good they like it.

Do you get much feedback from the fans or people at your shows?
Yeah, I get a lot of great feedback. One of my purposes with doing music is to inspire, so to see people come up to me and tell me my music inspires them make me happy and motivates me to try harder. I’ve even had people come to me crying after my performance because they were moved by it…

Ha, that’s amazing.
Yeah. I was really surprised too!

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Do you find any advantages or disadvantages of being a foreigner in the music/rap scene in Japan?
The advantage is there’s not many people doing it like I’m doing it here. The disadvantage is the language barrier and adjusting to the cultural differences, but I love Japan so I just have to learn Japanese and that won’t be a disadvantage anymore.

What are you doing that’s different from others?
I think it’s my production, lyrics, concepts and the fact that I not only can produce hiphop but a variety of different genres.

Are you mainly a live performer, or a recording artist?
It depends. If I’m booked for a dinner party I may perform with a live band, but if I’m booked for a club event then I’ll perform over a prepared track. It all depends on the venue and event.

Your latest work is collaborative with singer songwriter Risa Kumon. Can you tell us about your working relationship with Risa? Do you perform live together?
I started off producing for her but we now work together on a lot of production and different projects. She also sings on a lot of my music so we perform together sometimes.

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Do you collaborate with other musicians often?
Yes, I’ve worked with lots of other musicians; sometimes for performances or sometimes just for live sessions and collaborations. Risa and I did a video with a Japanese guitarist called Toshito Tsushima in Okinawa, for example. I’m also in the process of working with some artists, dancers and DJs in Fukuoka.

How would you describe your style?
Well, I feel like my style is a lot of different things put into one. Since I’m a producer and fan of all types of music, I try to incorporate that into my style. So you never know what you’re going to get from me. I feel when you put titles on people you strip them of their potential so my music has no title. I’m not a one dimensional artist so you’re going to get a variety of different things from me. It all depends on what style fits the song and message at the time.

What are your musical Influences?
I have a lot of influences: my Dad, Charlie Chaplin, Prince, Ray Charles, Dr. Dre, Bob Marley, James Brown, Tupac and many more. If I named them all I’d be talking for days.

Do you play any instruments?
Not physically *play* an instrument, but I can play it just enough to get the sound I want – I used to play tenor sax in middle school, a little bit of piano, and guitars as well.

When did you launch R2 Records?
2010 was when we decided that we wanted to do it, but we launched it officially in 2012.

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And what do you do on a day-to-day basis for R2 Records?
We produce, We perform, emcee at parties, write and engineer.

So artists approach you with tracks?
Yeah, and we put them together and make them sound better, engineer them. I guess since I’m from the States, people want that sound so they come to me for that USA flavor sound and production.

Your latest single “Doesn’t Mean I’m Lost” was released on iTunes recently. Tell us about it…
Doesn’t Mean I’m Lost is basically the story of a guy who’s going through hardships, trying to tell people that no matter what you’re going through or how hard your problem may seem.. you’ve gotta keep going and never give up.

When can we expect to see the release of your upcoming EP “Road to success”?
It’s coming out this year. I was trying to get it done in January, but it may be late February.

And what can people expect to see from that?
They can expect a lot. They can expect music that’s gonna inspire them, music that’s gonna make them wanna dance, that’s gonna make them happy, that’s gonna motivate them.They can expect all types.

Do you have a favorite track?
Yeah. I like all the music but my personal favorite is the track “Livin’ for the Light”.

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When you’re not in the studio or on stage, what do you like to do?
I like to watch movies, travel, sightsee in different parts of Japan. I also like to eat.

What types of food?
There are too many good foods here. I like soba, taco rice, takoyaki, sushi, Nagasaki sweets, Kujyukushima Sempei… you know the cookie with the peanuts in it? It’s a Sasebo snack.

What are your favourite things about Fukuoka?
There’s a lot to do here. There’s so many things you can get into.

Any areas you like?
Um… I like this area (Oyafuko) – it’s a pretty fun area by night. I also like Momochi, and Daimyo.

Do you go out to many nightlife spots to hang out when you’re not performing?
I go to Club X, Bar Face, Phase 3 Lab-z, Proud and many other places. I love hanging out at other spots as well but those are the main clubs and bars I go to when I’m out.

When you perform live, do you rap over recorded tracks? Is that how it works?
Most of the time I do it with a recorded track or DJ but when I perform with instruments and musicians then its different. It all depends on what type of show it is.

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Do you have any career highlights or favorite gigs?
This one gig we did in Okinawa, it was called “Wassup Okinawa” and it was a big outside event. I liked that one. Also the event we did a couple of months ago with Hino Terumasa the jazz musician and DJ Honda. We did a short tour with them. It was pretty fun.

What advice do you have for other foreigners aspiring to perform rap (or any other music) in Fukuoka?
I would say follow their heart and be themselves. People like something that’s different. If you sound like someone else, people might like it but at the same time… you’ll have longevity if you do it from the heart. That’s my advice. And it’s been working for me so far.

What are your medium-term goals?
My medium-term goals are to make my EP release successful and produce and write for more for artists.

Great! Thanks for the chat, we look forward to the release of your EP & your show on the 14th!
See Roro perform “Doesn’t Mean I’m Lost” at the Valentine’s Party on Feb. 14 at Hotel With the Style.

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Roro Official HP: http://www.roromusic.com
Roro Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/RoromusicDotcom

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn182, Feb. 2014)

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