If you grew up across the street from Les Paul — and if he once compensated you for shoveling his driveway by giving you a signature guitar — you might say the gods of music success and creativity would be due to later smile upon you. Such has been the case for Ryan Haynes, better known in hip-hop circles as DJ Afterthought ... although as Haynes will tell you, the gods won't do you any good without the hard work.
In just two years, Haynes (a New Jersey native now living in Pittsburgh) and business partner Jordan Lyles have established one of the more reputable promotional teams in town. Their Elevator Music Team recently partnered with Opus One Productions and began booking shows at Mr. Smalls; it also represents producer Tree Jay of the Most Dope Family, and Prince Rock, who will be releasing a Tree Jay-produced album in June. Haynes is also a minority partner of Daily Bread, a Pittsburgh-based clothing line often sported by hometown hero Mac Miller.
Haynes doesn't stray too far from the performance aspect of the business, either. On April 20, he was in Denver for the Cannabis Cup (a festival sponsored by High Times), representing Elevator Music Team as well as DJing the performance breaks of a show headlined by Action Bronson.
With all of this success and hard work, some might take it as a sign that Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene is on the rise. Haynes and Lyles would agree.
"I saw the scene firsthand a year ago," says Haynes, "and I'm optimistic" about where it's gone since.
That's not to say that it will be an easy ride getting Pittsburgh recognized as a hip-hop town. Haynes laments the competitive nature of hip hop, and says Pittsburgh is no exception to that rule. "The one thing we need is more support from within the scene itself — more people working together and working harder."
"With limited opportunities," he adds, "there comes this power struggle, and everyone just starts to look after themselves instead of the community."
"We just want to put Pittsburgh on the map," Lyles asserts. "And we want to do it the right way."