Ryan Larrañaga will perform music from his first LP with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe artist Michael Mendez and The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota.
Some rappers find inspiration in money and fame. Ryanito found inspiration in a sci-fi movie from the 1960s.
“2001: A Space Odyssey — watching that movie ignited that initial spark that I was put on this planet for a greater purpose,” says Ryan “Ryanito” Larrañaga. “I realized my destiny is to guide people with my music.”
On Friday, Sept. 21, Larrañaga will perform his first worldwide LP, “The Cosmic Guide” (2007), with longtime collaborator Michael Mendez of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. As if hip-hop and musical theater weren’t enough of a musical variety pack, they’ll also perform with The Pops Orchestra of Bradenton and Sarasota.
This is the first time a hip-hop musician will perform onstage with a 65-piece orchestra in Florida. And in doing so, its organizers hope to begin to change the public’s perspective of hip-hop and rap music.
Larrañaga is the co-founder of Art, Rhythm & Culture Festival, an organization that aims to express the many facets of urban culture through hip-hop music. The organization does this is through large arts events and programs such as Arts, Rhymes & Kids, during which Larrañaga and other musicians go into local elementary schools to teach young people about songwriting and the history of hip-hop.
When he was about 27 years old, Larrañaga met Mendez. It was around that time he realized Sarasota had the potential to become a hotbed for contemporary art and culture. The city isn’t there yet, he says, though he thinks events like this concert, “The Cosmic Guide Experience,” will change the trajectory of the local art scene’s future.
“Hip-hop culture hasn’t blossomed in this town, mostly because people haven’t given it a chance,” Larrañaga says. “(We’re) giving it a conscious perspective. We use hip-hop as a positive tool instead of how it’s portrayed (negatively).”
“The Cosmic Guide” is an LP he wrote in the future tense, and about half of the songs include Mendez. Larrañaga’s lyrics talk about the ills of society, the future of creation and encouraging people to realize they’re part of something bigger.
The collaboration with The Pops grew out of an initial partnership on the 2017 song “Streetlights.” Their sounds blended in a unique way, and Larrañaga decided the groups needed to offer the dynamic fusion of sound in a live concert format — especially because he predicted it four years ago.
Even though his peers told him it would never happen, Larrañaga says he always knew he would perform hip-hop with a live orchestra, and he was confident in the positive effect it would have musically.
“It brings a fuller sound, a more universal sound where you’re being backed by 65 instruments versus just 10,” he says. “It brings a dramatic effect to it … a synergy that is undeniable.”
“The Cosmic Guide Experience” will also feature musical acts by alternative rock band Foolish Mortals and hip-hop/rap artists Monteasy and Cliz. There will also be a live painting by St. Petersburg-based muralist Zulu Painter.
The event will also be filmed live as part of a Netflix documentary that his team has been working on for a little over three years.