In the landscape of modern music, it’s more important than ever to stand out. For local hip-hop artist Pive (Ryan Mullane), that isn’t so difficult. From the moment you first encounter Pive’s debut album, “I Will Forever Be,” it’s clear that he isn’t your everyday rapper.
The album’s cover is poised and cool, with smoke-filled air and a shiny black piano. Mullane is seated at it, in jeans and a black button-down shirt, his hands on the keys. “I’m probably going to be the only rapper out there that likes dress clothes,” Mullane said. “That’s just who I am. I didn’t want to change that.”
Mullane also stands out for his voice. He raps in a deep, vibrating baritone, giving his verse a weighty, hefty feel. But he floats on the beat, his words also airy and dynamic.
“I started writing music when I was 10 years old,” Mullane said. He found rap music early on and “fell in love with it right away. And then I fell in love with the beats. And right then and there, I became a hip-hop fiend where I just studied and studied and learned different flow patterns.”
So, this debut is, in a sense, 21 years in the making. The studying, the work and the passion of those years come through in the result.
“I Will Forever Be” is driven by Mullane’s love of beat and verse. For the former, he scoured thousands of tracks in search of the right foundation for each song. “My beats are more cinematic. They have a building and a bridge almost like an act of a piano, opera or show like that.”
And when the right touches aren’t present, Mullane adds them, tailoring the beat to his liking. Then it’s on to the lyrics, for which Mullane draws on a vast set of influences.
“Some of the songs are a little underground, like Tec N9ne, some of the songs are a little bit Eminem, and some of the songs are a little more radio-friendly,” he said. It all depends on the content and the feel, which guide his lyrical decisions.
The various feels and contents of “I Will Forever Be” cover a vast range. There are club hits, serious, pensive reflections and everything in between. At the same time, the album is united by its consistent dependence on storytelling and message.
“No one’s bringing a message or bars or lyrics into their music. So that’s what I’m trying to bring back. And I think people are yearning for that,” Mullane said. Take, for example, “Girlfriends Dream.” It tells the story of a girl falling in love with the narrator through his music, demonstrating the power that a song can have over a listener.
Even “Music Lives,” Pive’s most radio-ready track, has a sort of arc, as Mullane examines the importance of making and releasing music in his own life. The song is upbeat but mellow, drawing as much on the hype moments of music as on its profundity.
“Music Lives,” and other tracks from the album, have seen radio play across the country. Seeing the success of his debut, Pive went right back into the studio to start work on the follow-up, and he already has the first track lined up for release in the coming weeks.
“In the Light” (out Sept. 10) is Pive’s most overtly personal track to date. It confronts mental health, suicide and the shortness of life head on, as Mullane speaks to a friend he lost. “It’s everything I wanted to say to her that I didn’t say before she left.”
It’s backed mainly by piano and violin, drawing out the track’s emotion as Mullane weaves memories and reminiscences into a sorrowful but beautiful piece.
“I want my music to help you no matter what situation you’re in. If you’re having a bad day, I want to bump that song and uplift you. If you’re having a good day, I want to have ‘Intro the Circus’ or some other record like that.”
“In the Light” is a promising follow-up from Pive, a demonstration that he will make the most of the traction he has gained with his first album. With a unique brand of hip-hop and the passion to back it, Pive is sure to go as far as he chooses. Stream his debut album “I Will Forever Be” now on Spotify and follow @PIVEIWillForeverBe on Instagram for updates on upcoming releases.
Julien A. Luebbers can be reached at email@example.com.