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“All of my childhood was spent in the projects,” admits Cleveland, Ohio’s Ripp Flamez. From birth to 18, he called the notoriously dangerous Garden Valley Projects his home. Now in his mid-twenties, from an Atlanta recording studio, Ripp admits, “It wasn’t until I was 21 that I actually got to leave the state of Ohio. So I’m like, if I can make music with this much substance just being in one place, I can’t imagine how it’d be once I get out and see the world.”

Ripp Flamez and his music are now soaring beyond Northern Ohio. Songs like 2015’s “Wavez” have reached hundreds of thousands, driven by Flamez’ rich melodies, and deft blend of Rap and song. Creatively influenced by Drake, Ripp’s progression from project to project has been decidedly unpredictable. In his formative years, Ripp balanced an appreciation of the fast raps of Eminem and Ludacris with dreamy, over-produced records by Lana Del Rey, The Fray, and Florence + The Machine. In his mid-teens artists like Kid Cudi and The Kickdrums were driving a Cleveland music renaissance through fusions. Now with the baton, Ripp aims for the same.

Although he is jovial and a soft-mannered, the artist whose name was inspired by an accessorized high school varsity jacket has lived through plenty. Ripp’s father and brother served lengthy prison sentences. He watched his mother claw her way out of section 8 only to be evicted from the family’s first house. Claiming music is the only thing he has ever been good at, the singer-rapper says he connects his life to his art, “That’s what makes my music more genuine. I’m not sitting here trying to make things up. I’m just taking it one area from my life, and giving it to you in an interesting way. I could tell you my father died in prison. But if I give it to you in a storytelling song, it means more.” The artist who believes he achieves more evocation by not writing his lyrics down has proved it on 2014’s Day One and December’s Wave Forever.

In a city teased about its lack of sports championships and brutally frigid winters, Ripp Flamez and his demeanor are just what’s needed. The wavy blend of R&B, Rap, and Psyche is proud and fiery on the ears and the ego. He is clearly felt, having achieved more than one million streams. At a time when Midwestern multi-talents like Bryson Tiller, Chance The Rapper, and the ever-present Drake are driving direction of music, Ripp Flamez is on his own tear.

For most of his life Ripp was confined to the Garden Valley houses. However, right in Cleveland’s southwest, the curious youth spent his days across the street, in the adjacent pond and meadow. “I’ve seen a fox, garden snakes, deer; I’ve caught colorful fish—all in the projects.” He saw a world beyond, simply through exploration. As a grown musician, Ripp Flamez keeps his seeking spirit.