If you’ve been a follower of the Seattle hip-hop scene, then the name RA Scion is likely to ring a bell. If you haven’t, his is a name definitely worth remembering.
Ryan Abeo, aka RA Scion, first came to Seattle more than 10 years ago by way of Louisville, Kentucky, and later Zambia, Africa.
“Seattle has made me who I am as an artist,” he said. “When I first moved here in 2001, I would go to open mics … with a djembe drum and just start banging on the drum and rapping over the top of it because that’s all I had in Zambia.”
It didn’t take much time for Abeo to realize that what he was doing wasn’t working. “It wasn’t well received,” he said. “It just didn’t make sense for a white rapper to go to an open mic with a djembe drum. I was immediately checked on that.”
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In the years that followed, Abeo adopted his moniker and linked up with another local rapper, Sabzi, to form the acclaimed duo Common Market. For five years, Common Market turned a lot of heads with the release of their self-titled debut in 2005, Black Patch War in 2008, and Tobacco Road in 2009.
After that, the duo decided to call it quits, but Abeo has since debuted five solo pieces, including his latest — Sharper Tool; Bigger Weapon — which came out in March.
His new work was made in collaboration with local electronic artist Vox Mod, but it didn’t begin that way. Originally, Abeo tapped New York producer Rodney Hazzard to assist him, but then things took a decidedly odd turn.
“I was ready to do my next project, so I hit up Rodney and told him to send me whatever you got,” Abeo said. “We ended up with a complete album, 14 tracks that I thought sounded phenomenal … then we put the album out and management comes back and says, you got to sign this contract.”
For Abeo, a fiercely independent artist, the prospect of signing any paperwork with an outside entity was unacceptable. “I didn’t like the whole thing,” he said. “So I pulled out and the album just went away, it disappeared.”
So Abeo turned to Vox Mod to make something out of the lyrics he’d already laid down. “I gave Vox all the vocal files on the album and made the beats around the vocal files,” Abeo said. “We reverse engineered a rap album.”
With his latest record finally in the hands of fans, RA Scion is now focused on delivering in front of a Bumbershoot crowd for the fifth time.
“It means a lot for me to play this year because it’s rare for any festival to continue booking an act that’s played there multiple times,” he said. “Seattle is so rich in talent. There are so many people who could fill the same spot that I’m filling this year, so I’m extremely grateful, humbled and honored.”