Interviewed by Matt O @boardinogilvie
How did you come up with the name MaestroRiko?
The name maestro serves two purposes: (1) I've moved away from being simply a beat maker/programmer. I wanted to make music big like an orchestrated composition because that's how I hear it in my head. The name was chosen to set a standard for what listeners can expect from me in terms of my sound. (2) Maestro means master or teacher so it's fitting that my life reflects the divine truth that we are the master or orchestrator or Maestro of our life's symphony and that's what I live to embody.
What motivates you to make music? What inspires you?
Inspiration, for me is so vast and multi-form. Life is definitely an inspiration. I believe that I am a spiritual being having a human experience and that excites me to be here. Music is just one way I express my connection and awareness.
Who are some of your idols?
My musicality was birthed in the church. Cats like Kirk Franklin and J Moss showed me the gospel ropes and groups like Hillsong United and Jesus Culture taught me how to set an atmosphere. Growing up a pastor’s son, we weren't allowed to listen to rap music but as a teen I got mixtapes from friends. At that point I was listening to Eminem, Jay Z, OutKast, and T.I. I wouldn’t really call them idols but definitely influences.
Why did you choose hip hop to express yourself? Why not another genre?
Hip Hop was an outlet for my brother and me. We used to take our Dad’s Sunday sermons and turn them into rap songs. We actually became really popular as the Christian hip hop artists under the name, N’Authority. I was raised to believe that truth is to be discovered and shared, whatever ones truth may be and hip hop granted me this expression.
What do you want your fans to take from your music?
I want people to see themselves in my music, even in me. I am no different from anyone else except that I have chosen to be the change I want to see within myself first and in the world. I want listeners and critics to feel, hear, and see love in all I do.
What do you hope to accomplish in your career?
I will wake people up because I understand that no problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness it was created.
How did you come up with the Free Hugs campaign?
Free hugs has been around long before I came about but I didn't know that ‘til I had a dream about it one night. I always make it a point to say that free hugs isn't my idea. I'm just an instrument going back to the point that I am no different from anyone else. If you see something needs to be changed ...change it.
Has it changed your life so far? If so, how?
Oh yes. I've been all over the country with this random gesture making people smile cry, scoff, and ask questions. Listening to people helps me understand how people tend to think. This knowledge can help you grow more compassionate through understanding or more reclusive. For me it's been a little of both because though I know people need love, they are typically grumpy and miserable so they don’t even see it. I'm learning to balance it all and also how to be the healer to myself that I am to the world around me.
What has been the response from strangers to free hugs?
The response differs based on where I am. But my favorite response is "lol...free hugs?" This is the most common one I hear. It's like people think it's funny or cute. I love making eye contact with people especially with the ones who want to hug but their left brain is giving them every reason not to. I thrive in awkward situations.
What's next for MaestroRiko?
More hugs. More music - deeper that's for sure. A deeper understanding of this experience we call life and more clever ways to express the love we are all so full of. I am working on a few new projects amongst these are an instrumental album called 432 (which a combination of meditation music with EDM ) I am producing a few artist as well and Free Hugs Vol.2. We also have tons of visual content for next year and will take free hugs in the road again.
Buy Free Hugs Vol 1