Hip-hop. Jazz. Soul. Experimental.
You can’t put Rippy Austin in a box. And he likes it that way.
Current USC senior Rippy Austin (or Garret Rountree as you may know him) dropped his debut genre-bending EP Patiently Waiting in December. Entirely written, produced, performed and even packaged by Austin, the album is a labor of love. “I had a hand in everything I did, from the production to the writing and composing, to the artwork. I had to do my own branding and packaging and market my stuff.” Says Austin.
At first glance, with the triple hyphenate of rapper/singer/producer, it is easy to classify Austin amongst the likes of Drake, B.o.B. and similar top-40 pop/rap fare. However, Austin’s debut combines traditional hip-hop tropes with experimental synth sounds and smooth jazz guitars, making it quite unlike any material out there. The musician gushes, “I love not being able to be confined—being able to do my own thing.” And confined he is not.
When asked to describe the diverse E.P. accurately, Austin replied “It’s very eclectic. It’s very melodic. There’s a lot of music in it, a lot of free rhythm in it and you just have to be as open minded as possible and just listen to it. It stands for me doing what I love.” Austin credits his nomadic childhood with nurturing his innovative style. He reflects, “My style is different, so I can’t really say one (experience) that defines it. But because I’ve been able to live and see so many places, I kind of draw from everywhere.”
The eclectic EP is undeniably original, which can either entice or isolate the audience, depending on the listener. Those craving a break from the major-chord, pop-infused rap records on the charts will relish Austin’s offbeat, unique sound. However, Austin’s experimentalism often means that there is no distinct chorus or hook on songs. A prime example of this free form style is on the song “L.O.V.E.”, one of seven tracks on Patiently Waiting, which simply features Austin freestyling various phrases over an ambient beat without any distinctive structure or melody.
However, Rippy, who started producing as a meek 7th grader inspired by the likes of Snoop Doog, is capable of combining his ear for the experimental and his talent for classic hip-hop production. When he does so—like on tracks such as One Day and, to a lesser extent, Ms. Jackson—he shines. Patiently Waiting’s finest moments occur when Austin allows strong melody to be center, rather than ambient experimental sounds.
It is this strong recipe that easily makes the song “One Day” the highlight of the album. This standout track featuring B9 and Versis seamlessly combines Austin’s offbeat ear for ambience and minimalism with traditional hip-hop and top-40 sweetness, making it the most palatable and enjoyable for the public at large. True to Austin’s sound, the hook doesn’t slap you in the face. However, that is the style that he tends towards. You won’t hear any roaring choruses on Patiently Waiting. However, you will hear jazz guitars, neo-soul and experimental synths, which is not something often said of a hip-hop record. This is what sets Austin apart from your typical aspiring rapper/singer/Drake rip-off; his ear tends towards unusual sounds and experimentation.
The EP also features a cover of Outkasts’ popular 2003 release “Ms. Jackson”, which Austin strips down and simplifies. The ethereal track combined with Austin’s smooth vocals on the chorus and clean flow on the verses makes for a very interesting and oddly relaxing take on the Outkast classic.
According to Austin, the cover was actually a happy accident. During the writing process, he was writing over a beat he had earlier produced and he had the Ms. Jackson melody in his head. He reveals, “I thought it would be corny if I used the same lyrics, so I tried to substitute and do something else with it, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t working. So I thought, why not just use Ms. Jackson? So I just went and wrote a verse to match it.”
Ms. Jackson and One Day are the standout tracks on the sometimes-confused, always-unique debut effort by Mr. Austin. However, with some more time to hone his exceptional sound, Austin will surely find his place in the music world.
And Austin assures us, there is much more to come. “I specifically made Patiently Waiting to be somewhat of a teaser. It’s just to draw you in, get a feel for what I do. There will definitely be a follow up EP soon.”
Patiently Waiting is available for purchase on Austin’s bandcamp at rippyaustin.bandcamp.com.