This Chicago-Born Star Is the New King of Latin Trap

As the genre expands, Ryen is at the forefront of the players defining its sound.

Why you should care

Because he's at the forefront of defining a new sound.

Ryan Lara was fighting himself. He’d found success with an independent record deal for his electro-pop band but felt underappreciated. As he put it, the label consisted of “a bunch of grown men who would yell” at them, tarnishing what he felt was the dream.

“I took a break from music,” the 25-year-old Chicago native says of that uncertain time in 2016. “I started to question, do I really want to make music, or why do I want to do music? I feel like I lost that little kid in me.” 

But estrangement from the very thing he loved most became the breeding ground for Lara to become the next big thing in Latin trap, emboldening him with a creed that would mark the rest of his career: “I don’t make music if I’m not passionate about what I’m touching.” 

My ear has always gravitated to pop melody, but I get my swagger from the hood shit I used to listen to. 

Ryen

During a three-month hiatus, Lara was able to rediscover his love for music as well as a new passion to create. After assembling a team, switching the “a” in his name to an “e” and merging his Mexican heritage with his American surroundings, the artist now known as Ryen was born — and the timing could not have been more perfect. 

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With Latin surpassing country to become the fifth most consumed music genre in America and with the U.S Hispanic population reaching a record 59.9 million in 2018, Ryen has found himself on a collision course of talent, preparation and opportunity. 

On the strength of his 2018 debut effort, 24, Ryen has garnered more than 300,000 total streams on all platforms and 17,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, with “Bailar” being his biggest song to date. He’s collaborated with established artists like Nio Garcia and Rockie Fresh, all while shopping for record deals. But most of all, Ryen is breaking the mold for what it means to be a “Latin trap” artist. 

At its inception around 2014, Latin trap was nothing more than Spanglish versions of the sound taking over the South in the 2000s, with Dominican DJs like DJ Flipstar remixing popular trap songs. As that sound traveled to Puerto Rico and other Spanish-speaking areas, it evolved from remixes to original songs, incorporating reggaeton and other influences.

“Latin Trap is gritty 808s [that heavy bass you feel thump through your chest] and a true representation of the ‘urban’ sound that was born in Puerto Rico,” says Carlos Castellanos, an artist manager and curator for the YouTube American record label Latin Nation. “I like to see Latin trap under the all-encompassing ‘urban’ term, which really holds artists like Ryen who can go from Latin trap to [Jamaican] dembow, dancehall and then back to reggaeton.” This diversity of sounds allows Ryen to occupy the red-hot genre of Latin trap while resonating with a broad fan base.  

Born in the northern Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park, Ryen’s music taste came from a different place than that of his peers from Latin America and Puerto Rico. His eclectic palate ran from DMX and 112, to ’N Sync and Ricky Martin. “My ear has always gravitated to pop melody, but I get my swagger from the hood shit I used to listen to,” he explains. 

His dad “went to the grocery store and never came back,” so Ryen was mostly raised by his grandparents as his mom worked around the clock to provide. And because of it, Ryen never steered far from his Mexcian heritage. In fact, even though he was born in the U.S., Spanish was his first language and he didn’t end up learning English until the first grade.

And that’s what you get when you listen to his latest project, 24. The 808s and Spanish sound like typical Latin trap, until Ryen introduces melodies and pop inclinations — mixing English and Spanish in his lyrics.

Still not satisfied, Ryen says he’s currently in album mode, sitting on at least 1,000 tracks that he’s put his heart and soul into. But the music alone will not be enough. Diego Arroyo, Ryen’s former manager who has known him since his electro-pop days, says it’s going to take networking. “For years he didn’t work with anyone, collabs or anything, but he needs to and is getting better at being open-minded,” Arroyo says. “There is always room for improvement, and if we were able to sit with some of the best songwriters in the genre, they would make records sound 30 times better.” 

Just two years into his new moniker and vision, time is still on Ryen’s side. So too, at last, is the passion.

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