Rip City Rick channels hip-hop's past and present to connect genres and generations

SU senior Ricky Laubenstein shows promising future in the music industry as a rapper, singer, and producer.

While most high school seniors struggle to make a decision on where to go to college, Ricky Laubenstein, also known as Rip City Rick, was performing as the opening act for rapper and hip-hop mogul Ludacris.

Four years later and blazing to the top of "Buzzing Artists" in Hip Hop Magazine's November issue, Rip City Rick is showing great promise for being a musical success beyond life as a student in Syracuse University's prestigious multidisciplinary Bandier Program.

Photo: Elizabeth Kahn
Ricky Laubenstein works in the recording studio at the Belfer Audio Laboratory in the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University.

Ricky recorded his latest EP, or extended play, titled Rise & Shine, last summer while living in Los Angeles and he is currently working with Duck Down Music on releasing new music and videos soon.

"I'm trying to use samples of what I grew up listening to, to connect genres and generations," Laubenstein said when attributing The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, and The Clash as his musical inspirations as a kid.

Growing up with older sisters, Laubenstein has always been a singer, but later found rap music through his friends. While doing both singing and rapping can be risky for artists, Laubenstein said singing, especially, allows him to "show emotions more than just using words." Being a versatile artist allows more "expression, feeling, and authenticity," according to Laubenstein, which is what the 21-year-old artist is all about.

"Whenever I hear a beat, it just invokes some type of feeling that makes me want to write it down. It's almost like an impulse," Laubenstein said.  "I'll write a whole song in three minutes because I never sit down and [have to] think about it, its just the initial reaction to when I first hear the beat."

Finance senior and Kappa Alpha Psi Treasurer Teniola Seriki has booked Rip City Rick to open for several artists including Juicy J, Dom Kennedy, and Young Jeezy. 

"His sound takes you back to older hip-hop artists," Seriki explained. "His flow isn't as elementary as up and coming rappers nowadays," he added.

Although Laubenstein prefers to not put himself in a specific genre, he is inspired by the "melancholic beats of James Blake and Bon Iver," which is evident in his Rip City Rick & Flosstradamus mix, a mixture of alternative, raw hip-hop with melodic beats mixed with trap music.

A random passerby would never know that underneath Laubenstein's Polo and backwards hat, there's a talented producer, singer, and rapper. With a contagious smile and a strong drive to succeed, there is no denying the potential of Laubenstein's vision to be at the top of the music scene.

When he's not writing and producing new songs, Ricky serves as a teaching assistant for audio engineering and recording classes in the Bandier program. He also will collaborate with other students if he likes their music. 

"I don't record stuff I don't believe in," Laubenstein firmly stated.

Q & A with Rip City Rick:

NH: How did it feel to be featured in Hip Hop Magazine?

RCR: It was great to see my name in something tangible.

NH: What is the message behind your music?

RCR: I don’t think my music has a specific message. I just think...when I listen to rap music it amps me up and inspires me. Like when I listen to 50 Cent I think I am way cooler than I actually am. I listen to 50 Cent, Snoop Dog, Kanye, or old Jay Z, (and) I just think I am way cooler than I actually am. I just feel great about myself and give me confidence to do whatever. And that's why I love rap music and hip-hop. So I wouldn’t say my music has a specific message but I would say I want to make music that makes me people the way I feel when I listen to 50 Cent and Jay Z. Just give people confidence and inspire them to just kill it.

NH: Where does the name Rip City Rick come from? What inspired that?

RCR: I just came up with a name that's eye catching. It makes people think for a second. It's kind of weird though because the name took on more meaning after I found out my dad used to be called "Rip." I didn't even know that until after I came up with my name. So it kind of has more meaning now. I can't use Slick Rick because that's another rapper. I just wanted something that would be eye catching on the Internet.

NH: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

RCR: Key Wayne. He producers Big Sean and his beats are so melodic and catchy. I feel like I would sound really good over them.

NH: When's the next time SU students will be able to see you perform?

RCR: Looks like I'll be having a few shows (this) semester so keep an eye out.

In the meantime, check out Ricky on Instagram and Twitter.

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