2AM Ricky is Revolutionizing Hip-Hop’s Inclusion Culture


( ENSPIRE Music ) 2AM Ricky Releases “Listen If You’re Lonely” Album

ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabrielle Maya 

2AM Ricky is a cultural trailblazer with a new thought-provoking album called “Listen If You’re Lonely” which encompasses his Hip Hop and R&B alternative sound. The transgender rapper has a soulful melodic sound and is influenced by Andre 3000 Kendrick Lamar and Silk Sonic. If you have ever listened to his songs it gives off the creative edge of 6lack and Bryson Tiller. 

He was the first Black trans male artist to top the charts, in 2021 with his record  “Watchu On” featuring CeCe Peniston. It became #1 on the LGBTQ Urban Charts for 10 weeks. Some of his singles include “Hues” (2022), “Small Talk” (2022), “Cream” 2023 and the album “Carolina Boy” (2020). 2AM Ricky has collaborated with  Trevor Project, Bad Boys LA, and Baddies West. He was featured on platforms TransTech Social, Vanderbilt University, Black Trans Advocacy Conference, Speak Your Truth Today, and Out In Front. According to Canvas Rebel, “Listen If You’re Lonely” is not only some of his most vulnerable work but the most meaningful.”

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

ENSPIRE interviews 2AM Ricky about their career and love for Hip Hop and R&B, the new album, how they utilize their music as an LGBTQAI platform, self-care, and music evolution.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you kickstarted your career, what about Hip Hop and R&B gravitated toward you?

I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC, and have had a passion for music my entire life. I’ve always loved the freedom of expression found within Hip-Hop, and the way that emotions vibrate through each pocket as an emcee changes cadence. Albums like “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick” and “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” made me fall in love with Hip-Hop and R&B at an early age. My music career began in 2016 with the release of my mixtape, “Hiatus”, a project in dedication to Hesakahi McCoy, my best friend who was tragically murdered on the campus of North Carolina Central University.

Through the album, I was able to not only tell the story of what happened to him but build visibility around his case. Seeing how my music influenced others to seek justice for him helped me to understand that I was called not only to create great art but to make a great impact. Hesakahi would always manifest big dreams of me being an artist who used their platform to change the world, a dream that at the time, I didn’t even believe was possible for myself.

Your new album “Listen If You’re Lonely” is being considered a thought-provoking album, what do you want your listeners to consider while listening?

Listen If You’re Lonely” is a musical exploration of mental health, relationships, sex, and the daily realities of black men and those masculine presenting. It was inspired by the question, “If where you gave a black masc person a diary, what would we have to say?” I wanted to create a project that would not only be vulnerable but inspire my audience to search for the “lonely” places within themselves. We all have areas in our lives that feel “hidden” in the back of our minds and hearts and areas that we may feel unfilled, whether internally or within relationships. “Listen If You’re Only” not only combats some of the stereotypes and stigma surrounding black men but shows the intersectionality between black men and black masc queer communities while healing together through each song.

Explain the importance and how you utilize your platform for trans rights issues, diversity, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and mental health to the forefront.

Within Black culture, it’s very typical for athletes and rappers to be viewed as “superheroes” of our generation, often involved in both entertainment and community. As I grew both personally and in my career, I realized that there was a need for a “hero” of our generation, especially with the rise in anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ attacks. That is why it’s important to me that my platform is used to bridge the intersection of advocacy and entertainment through conversations, strategic collaborations, and community efforts. 

The subject topics of my music and even marketing materials are intentionally targeted to communities that are often overlooked and unheard. Behind the scenes, I help corporations, nonprofit organizations, and fellow industry professionals to develop language and best practices for transgender care and wellness, inclusive strategies, and provide harm reduction techniques and mental health resources for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC creatives and professionals. Being able to step away from the mic and work with politicians, community leaders, and industry legends to make a difference is what makes having a platform worth it.

What have been the highs and lows of being a music artist, how do you take care of yourself so you can produce top-quality music?

Navigating the music industry as an openly transgender artist has been a rollercoaster, but I’m thankful for every hill and hurdle. In 2021, I became the First Black Transgender Male Artist to land #1 on any music chart, with my single " Whatchu On (ft. CeCe Peniston)" peaking at #1 on the LGBT Urban Charts. While I’ve had many great wins, I’ve also had great losses, many of which were a result of transphobia and bias within the music industry. Although the industry has evolved with artists such as Saucy Santana, Lil Nas X, and Young MA, there was, and still is, a lack of understanding and acceptance for transgender and nonbinary artists within Hip-Hop culture. 

Being an artist can be a lonely journey, one that I and many others take without a team. I’ve never been under management or signed to a label, so prioritizing my mental health has been key to balancing life and music while pursuing my passion. I’m very intentional about separating my personal life and life as 2AM Ricky, and I believe that having that degree of separation is what allows me to continue to produce top-quality music no matter what I’m up against. I also believe that every music industry professional deserves access to therapy.

2AM Ricky “Listen If You’re Lonely” Album Cover

How do you envision yourself evolving as a Hip Hop/R&B artist in the future?

I believe that the best is yet to come for my career. One of my biggest inspirations is Pharrell Williams, not only for his creative genius, but for the way he’s shifted the culture through his mentorship, creativity, and selflessness. I know that Grammy nominations, plaques, and all of the typical goals are going to come to me because I trust the process God has for my life.

Ultimately, I see myself introducing a new era to the Hip-Hop/R&B culture, one that is inclusive and brings our superstars away from just social media and back into the community positively impacting the world with their influence. I want to continue to make timeless music, songs that will live from generation to generation, and I believe “Listen If You’re Lonely” is only the beginning of my musical legacy.

He became the first and only trans male model on the cover of Obvious Magazine in 2022. Other publications he has been featured in include This Is RNB, KAZI Magazine, New York Today’s “Hottest Artist to Watch”, MusicXclusives, and Roadie Music. According to USA Wire, “As an openly proud African-American transman, 2AM Ricky advocates for the community and has already left his imprint in music and on fans through his music. With every record relating a narrative backed by the visuals breathing fresh air into his audio, Ricky is a force to be reckoned with!” Hear the latest album “Listen If You’re Lonely” on Spotify. Follow 2AM Ricky for new updates on his music via Instagram. 

Related Articles: San Francisco Pride Parade 2023: A Resilient Celebration of Love and Equality Amidst Rising Challenges, NEW MUSIC: J Balvin + Usher + DJ Khaled Release “Dientes”