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UNCLASSIFIED: MUSIC

NOMAD Is the EP Ryan Hawaii Was Born to Make

NOMAD is the debut musical offering by London-based multidisciplinary creative Ryan Hawaii.

SAMUEL HYLAND

If Ryan Hawaii never entered a studio to work on music, his legacy would still be, without question, set in stone – both at home and abroad. At just 26 years of age, his eclectic, decades-long foray into the fashion industry has landed his work on the backs of Skepta and Cardi B, in the shelves of Selfridges, and at the table with Virgil Abloh. His optimistic outlook, as its own entity, has put career-altering seeds in the trajectories of acts like Slowthai and Rago Foot. Even when he has focused his creative energy towards making music alongside the Neverland Clan (the now-disbanded London hip-hop supergroup comprised of Hawaii, Daniel OG, Omelet, and Okimi), his revitalized afro-punk energy has put him on the radars of Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and an entire rejuvenation of London’s underground scene – without a single studio release to the group’s name.

The span of time between Hawaii’s departure from the Neverland Clan, and the release of NOMAD, has not been uneventful. When Sammy’s World interviewed the prolific UK creative this past March, he happened to be enjoying one of the most particularly chill days he had seen in some time; and, still, he was quite busy compared to the typical character: earlier that day, he had been in a skatepark in Hackney to accompany a musical friend of his to a video shoot; the jeans he wore were part of an ongoing collaboration with the Japanese denim engineering brand Edwin; one would draw the conclusion that somewhere behind the scenes, he was quietly crafting the rollout of his debut musical offering. 

Rewinding the tape, however, Ryan Hawaii’s pathway through the ranks of high art did not always entail the same stature and class as the one he seems to infiltrate more and more as the days go by. A majority of Hawaii’s childhood was spent in Catford, a dangerous, underprivileged, ghetto of South East London in which assaults, robberies, and murders were among commonly reported crimes. Growing up surrounded by such an environment molded him by grafting onto his inner being the most pertinent quality detectable in his output: resilience. Ever since he was subject to attempted muggings on several occasions spanning his childhood, his persona has consistently manifested itself into a go-get-it dynamism that bears no fear of creating for itself if nothing is offered on a silver platter. It’s a dynamic that is wholly epitomized by his emergence into the network of Virgil Aboh: it wasn’t like he was offered an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris Fashion Week to model Off-White before a mob of flashing cameras – he hijacked Abloh’s Selfridges installation with a posse of similarly-minded peers, was subsequently forcibly removed by security, relentlessly tagged the designer about the event on social media, and had an Instagram follow from him less than 24 hours later.

For any such approach to work over a lifelong creative journey, there needs to exist a near-infinite alve of hope deep down. NOMAD contextualizes Hawaii’s supply at a level that envisions his upbringing as an expansive desert – complete with violence, desolation, and melancholy – but still, at the end of the day, the water of hope lies at a greater extent within him than it ever will on the outside. Even in the desert, the high spirits of Ryan Hawaii can never thirst. 

‘OWN WORLD,’ the first track on the EP, details in-depth the pressing realities of a youth marred with criminal omnipresence. Yes, as the chorus asserts, the Hawaii’s slums were defined by both the company of gangsters, and the tightrope-walk of not wanting to end up in the slammer – but as he questioned in our interview this past March, must one