In The late 1970's Deanna Lynn bore the first of her 7 children -- a son whom, she recognized early in his young life, had an extraordinary gift for creative writing. From his early years in grade school, throughout his entire trip through junior high, high school, and even a brief stint in college, he was praised for his choice of words and the wording used in his writings, and for having the vision to creatively take any form of literary art to the next level of artistry. Whether it be a poem, a speech, or writing a mere story, he always shocked and amazed his teachers with his thought process. Settling for the simplest way to say any certain thing in writing was just too easy and boring for Rico. That, in turn, caused him to push himself to a more thought-out creative writing process, which has most definitely carried over into his music!
Deanna saw in her son Rico a gifted and talented writer. But what she also noticed was that Rico possessed an incredible ear for music. Deanna recalls that, from a very early age, Rico sang, hummed and pointed out the smallest details in music. Whether it be a background vocal, harmony, or instrument that even adults couldn't recognize, or vocals, harmonies and instruments that didn't exist in the song but would have fit or made the song better, Rico recognized them, sang them , or acted out the instrument that would have fit. He was brilliant!
Growing up in the lower income sections and projects of Cincinnati , Ohio, Rico loved sports, writing, and drawing. He excelled in all 3. But, the love of his life was and still is music! Music always occupied the majority of his day. Singing, dancing, listening to music, and watching music videos was the highlight of each day for Rico. His mother Deanna (a music lover and aspiring soul singer, herself) who , at the ripe age of 15, used to sneak into clubs to sing with her older sister's boyfriend's band (but soon abandoned that dream to raise her young son and his future brothers and sister), loved music so much that she recorded multiple VHS tapes through the years -- hours and hours of music videos -- everything from BET's Video Soul with Donnie Simpson, to MTV's Yo MTV Raps! with Fab Five Freddie, Dr Dre and Ed Lover. There was never a day in the home without music playing. Even at times when the cable got cut off, there was always music videos playing. Their family woke up to music and it carried on through out the day.
Early on, as a young dreamer, Rico frequently envisioned himself as a megastar -- as did most young boys and girls -- similar to the likes of Michael Jackson and later, the boy bands of the 80's and early 90's. He loved R&B, soul, gospel and hip-hop. But then, in 1988, his uncle recorded him, his younger brother, Brittany, and his cousin, Ira, in his mother's living room performing LL Cool J's 'I'm bad' on video. Rico, being the oldest of course, was LL in the video. When he saw himself on tape, that was the first time he really considered being a rapper and seriously doing music. That's when the dream became a vision.
Throughout The next few years, as hip-hop struggled to the top, the explosion of child hip-hop acts like So So Def's 'Kris Kross' and Michael Bivins's 'Another Bad Creation' ('A.B.C.') further solidified the idea that someone like him could make it. He thought "Hey they're kids like me...If they could do it, why can't I?". In 1990, while in the 5th grade, in addition to using the boys bathroom in elementary school for its main purpose, Rico used them in two other alternative ways -- one, as the place where he regularly fought the bullies of the school, and two, as the place where he first battle-rapped and performed in any fashion other than when he and his brother Brittany performed their favorite songs for their mother in their living room (which Deanna had them do frequently) . Although the rhymes he recited weren't his own (they were the lyrics from a "Young MC" video that he watched all the time), he figured out nobody knew the song and used it to win battles. He was bitten by the reaction and admiration he got from the crowd as he out-rhymed and out-styled his opponent. In 1991, Rico wrote his first original R&B song and hip-hop rhyme and joined his first hip-hop group, 'The Cash Money Brothas' (named after the film 'New Jack City' and a neighborhood stepping crew named 'B5O'). Music had taken over!
Rico's first songs were never presented to anybody outside of his mother because he hadn't yet learned the art of beats and measures and bars and hooks, so he knew they weren't ready for display. Disgruntled and discouraged, he laid down his pen. He remained a fan of hip-hop and listened to as much hip-hop as possible. Although his mother Deanna was a music lover herself, she wasn't a big fan of hip-hop. And, at that time, gangster rap was what Rico's generation was listening to -- but not in her home. The only time he heard the songs that weren't radio edited was around the hood from someone's car or house, or when class mates would rap them at school, or whenever he was able to hang out with his older cousin Ray Ray, who listed to hip-hop from mostly the west coast and down south.
At this point Rico had never owned his own hip-hop tape, until, while over Ray Rays, he heard a 90 minute dub tape of Houston rap legend Scarface's 'The World is Yours' on one side and on the other side was Ant Banks' first album and MC Breed's 'The New Breed' album which featured hiphop legend Tupac Shakur. Throughout the tape there were many different MC's to listen to. There where 3 albums on one tape. But, the two artists who stuck out to young Rico were Scarface and Tupac. With their straight forward, real and emotional rhyme schemes, they seem ahead of and better than anybody in their class. Rico latched on to them and the two icons became two of his favorite artists, and still are, to this day. So overtaken by what he heard, Rico stole the tape from Ray Ray and hid it from his mother under his mattress. Sometimes, he would get caught listening to the tape and Deanna would take it and hide it, or flat out destroy it. He'd have to make dubs of it or steal it back from his mother. So, he found a new hiding place under a drawer in a desk in his room that she never discovered and now nothing could keep him from hip-hop!
In the fall of 1994, after deeply studying Tupac and Scarface's ability to covey exactly what they felt, what they thought, what bothered them, what made them happy, sad, angry, etc.,....in their music, he finally picked up his pen and he never put it down again. Rico convinced his crew that they should rap also. He form a group he named 'OGTL' ('Outlaw Gangsta Thug Lords'). Being that Rico still hadn't sharpened his rap writing blade, he started learning by rewriting his favorite artist's song, putting himself in the songs and switching the story to fit him, eventually learning how to write his own stories and rhymes and not lean on what he had heard. By 1995, a friend, and later fellow group member, showed Rico not only how to count music (beats and measures), but also how to loop the instrumental part of any song and make it long enough to rap over on a karaoke machine. He could now start recording himself and his own songs -- ones that he had written, himself-- and perfecting his voice and performance. Rico grew in leaps and bounds and was years ahead of most of the rappers he came across in the city because he practiced so much in private. Practicing in private prompted everyone that heard Rico and his music to encourage him to keep doing what he was doing. They would tell him that that one day he would be great and to never give up because he was going to blow up, just wait and see.
Rico's grades in school suddenly dropped due to the fact that, instead of doing classwork, he was writing raps in class and, instead of doing homework, he was rapping with his crew in the streets, working a part time job and selling crack on the side. Music and money where now the most important things in life to Rico. Rico masked his street life and hid it from his mother by not getting what he thought to be too deep in the streets. With a job, music, and him not being sloppy enough to bring the streets home, Deanna never suspected that her eldest child by the age of 14 began smoking weed, drinking beer, having sex, and selling drugs behind her back. After all, he was a good child and always loved his mother. He helped with the bills and basically helped raise his younger brothers and sisters when his step father left the home in 1994. There where many times that there wouldn't have been a Christmas, birthday or sometimes even school clothes for the younger children in the house had it not been for Rico's help. He loved his family dearly and would do anything for their good. That was the man Deanna created.
By the fall of 1997, while watching Princess Diana's funeral, Rico and a friend formed a new group called 'The World's Finest Royal Family'. It was time to step it up a notch, so he scouted out a studio and started paying for studio time. That created another task to tackle...Since he didn't know how to make original beats, all he could do was imitate the sounds and tell the engineer how he wanted the beat. Thankfully, he finally came across an accomplished musician by the name of Elliot Slaughter, who was able to better hear what Rico imitated. Rico remained a loyal customer at Elliot's studio until 2001 when Rico and the Royal Family were fortunate enough to get their own studio, where they could work and perfect music to no end.
As of recently, Rico Champion is not the drug dealer or thug that he once was subject to be. Instead, he's a well-rounded, real-life man who loves people and whose greatest ambition is to see people be progressive in their mind, body and spirit. He's brutally honest and overtly out spoken. Not to mention he's the livest cat rocking a mic around these parts! And, whenever he gets to where you are, he'll still be one of the illest MC's alive or dead. Why wouldn't he be? He studies the greats!!!!!!!!
Over a ten year time period Rico Champion and the underground label, movement, and crew he branded "NATI BOY" has recorded over 400 songs, pushed out over 15 projects city-wide, won multiple contest performed at every night spot in the city, and gotten local radio air play. Loved by his fans and respected by his peers, Rico Champion has worked with everyone in the city that has made a name for themselves and has helped mold and develop every artist around him. Rico strives to help maximize the potential of everyone around him.
Loved and hated for his bitter honesty and musical integrity he dubbed himself Grizzly Jones after he and N ATI BOY's grizzly bear slogan and mentality in and out the booth for success and progress; and after music legend and icon Quincy Jones for Rico's intuitive musical vision and leadership. Rico Champion is the embodiment of the I refuse to loose heart of a warrior who will not give up die until he's done doing what he came to do and nobody can derail him in any way!.
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