Written By: Ms. In The Know of Houston TREND
The forces behind what makes a man are more than just external influences. For Ryan Brock, otherwise known as O.N.E., the ability to evolve into the man you see today came with his fair share of struggles. O.N.E. states, “Most people are money driven, power driven… Women driven. It takes more than those things to accomplish growth as a person.”
Derived naturally, his talents and love for music were inspired by his mother, R&B singer Helen Brock. Originally a singer himself, O.N.E. didn’t uncover his ability to rap until the 7th grade. Entering a T.A.A.S. Test competition, his fellow student body and teachers were so impressed with his winning rap, his favorite teacher Trey Myers made a call that O.N.E. would never forget. Myers had connections that allowed for Erykah Badu and her brother to come to his school to hear his performance. Because of O.N.E.’s profound accomplishments, before graduation, his school held a going away party in his honor. During the celebration, Badu’s producer presented him with a platinum plaque because they were so impressed with his talents.
During high school, O.N.E. continued to nurture his rapping abilities. He would end all his raps with the phrase “ONE” and every time he got ready to rap, students would say, “Here comes ONE.” And eventually it stuck. He added a personal touch, initially spelling it WHONE, but decided to drop the WH and turned his name into an acronym which means One Not Equal. He went through countless R&B groups throughout high school, but by the completion of his junior year, he realized most of his fellow group members were only singing to become popular. Their hearts weren’t in it as his was. And because of that, he decided to dismiss his musical aspirations and focus on college. He enrolled in Prairie View A&M University and studied Management Information Systems.
During his freshman year O.N.E. was housed in the same dorm with musical talents such as Dorrough, DJ Murk, and C. Stone. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before his musical fire was rekindled. Initially, his primary focus was battle rapping. Because of his lyrical strengths, O.N.E.’s main intent was to prove that he could crush any opponent rapping. Not long into his freshman year, he and DJ Murk did a mixtape collaboration. It was circulated around campus and DJ Murk achieved instant notoriety. But, because of his musical talents, O.N.E. decided to make his battle rapping phase short lived. He noticed the inability of those types of rappers, even at the height of their careers, to become legitimate artists. O.N.E. knew that he had the ability to become more than a battle rapper and also didn’t want to fall within the stigma associated with them. Because of this, O.N.E. focused on branding himself and his musical abilities.
Deciding to leave college with a 3.7 G.P.A. during his junior year, O.N.E. put all efforts into his brand. He stated, “The O.N.E. brand has taken off rather quickly, allowing for several types of business ventures. Opportunities including clothing lines have been presented to me and as much of an accomplishment as that is, right now all I want to do is focus on my music.”
And focusing on his music, his growth and coming of age are what inspired him to release his current project aptly titled “Spirit Driven”. He explains, “For me, the name Spirit Driven came from an inner drive and feeling of having to do everything within my career myself. This project has been a long time coming. I worked on it for about a year and through the ups and downs, it’s FINALLY here! Everything that went into this project is me, from the hooks, to the verses; I built this project from the ground up. It became a culmination of me growing up within the industry and in life itself.”
For O.N.E., Spirit Driven is more than just rhymes, lyrics, and beats. Even the distinction of calling it a project instead of an album gives way to the thought and detail his music holds. He explains, “The title is the catalyst and every song pertains to that title.” Comparing his own work to that of Tupac and Common, O.N.E. admits, “My work is more than just catchy phrases or words thrown on a beat. I believe music should have a purpose. It should be something the masses can relate to. Something more than just songs that fall within a wave of what’s popular and when that wave subsides, the artists are never heard from again. My music is timeless.”
Inspired by artists such as Lupe Fiasco, O.N.E. says Fiasco’s concepts invoked him to push the envelope to be different. Especially being in Houston, He concedes, “Houston has been branded. Music legends in the city invented a classic ‘Houston Style’ of music which denotes ‘swanging, swerving, and drank sipping’. And because of the majority of the leading Houston artists all encompassed that style album after album; Houston’s musical originality quickly fizzled.” He added, “There are Houston artists that have substantive material. You can’t brand Houston as being ONLY about those things. After all, it’s NOT what everyone in the H does… I don’t do those things…”
Houston’s music industry needs balance and the underground music scene has a lot of up and coming artists that are starting to tip the scales. He selected several of these artists to help complete his project. He stated, “Reaching out to artists for features is like a calling. When I’m creating, I can hear particular artists for certain songs. Same goes for producers.” His music reflects his life. His struggle. His accomplishments. O.N.E. says, “I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. I can relate to the person trying to make a come up. I am that person.”
When listening to Spirit Driven, those correlations are evident. Music is an art in itself. But the art of being able to compose thoughts into a product that fulfills and encompasses your vision is a task that most attempt, but few achieve. In so many ways O.N.E. has indeed proven why he is. One Not Equal.♦