The former Portmore Empire member said he was forced to pick sides when his ex-principal Vybz Kartel fell out with the musical prodigy 15 years ago, ending their winning streak of songs like Ay Ya Ay Ya, Thug Anthem and Bend Over.
“A the only producer that mi never waan diss,” Ryno said in an Instagram Live on Tuesday. “A the only producer that dem force mi fi diss… I rate that ni**a. That ni**a knew my voice. That ni**a coulda bring out the best Ryno, easy. So, Stephen ‘Di Genius’, mi neven lie to yuh dawg. Mi neven get fi work with the ni**a the way mi waan work with the ni**a cause you done know mi did over deh so, and anything was law to me. Anything the don seh at the time, was law…”
Much of Kartel’s heyday saw him working with select producers during different periods, with the Big Ship marking one chapter. They severed ties over claims of betrayal on both ends, chronicled on diss tracks like McGregor’s Cya Friend Again and Kartel’s Rifle Shot. Ryno would ultimately leave the Gaza camp, also falling prey to the betrayal rumour which has overshadowed his career.
Son of reggae stalwart Freddie McGregor, ‘Di Genius’ made his production debut as a pre-teen, bringing a fresh ear, new generation of talent and back-to-back hits to his father’s Big Ship label.
His relocation to The States to expand his potential is still spoken about in bittersweet tense. He’s become a more decorated musician and songwriter in genres like hip hop, pop and Latin music. The opportunity cost, from one angle, was the fading away of some of the newer dancehall acts he was working with before he left.
Despite the self-described negative trajectory Ryno’s career has taken since stepping out on his own, he’s grateful for the development he experienced while working with the Grammy-winning producer and longs to work with him again.
“Mi inna the dawg DM, big man ting…cause mi waan work back with the dawg star,” Ryno said. “Mi even want unno tag the dawg. A ‘Di Genius’ mi waan work with dawg… A the only producer that weh mi can seh was always a different chemistry… A dem man deh teach me how fi freestyle. Mi will just hum something and dem man deh seh, ‘It bad enuh. Go inna the booth, just record it’… By 20, 30 minutes, the song done. A the greatest producer that mi ever work with…”
He went on to praise the producer for teaching him how to understand different notes through keyboard lessons.
“Dem man deh teach mi how fi use mi voice and weh dem man deh a teach me pon the keyboard, mi nuh know sh*t weh di dawg a show mi… Mi just round deh a seh, ‘Hmmhmm, true’… But over a period of time, mi figure out and mi learn how fi use mi voice and it grow.”
He got a chance to reconnect with the hotshot four years ago in Florida, but missed it due to a “misunderstanding”.
“Dawg seh him a gimmie back a strength… The dawg seh him a come link up but the dawg seh him did fi link up from maybe round 4, 5, 6 o’clock, and mi nuh know, some form of delay with the dawg and by 9 o’clock, mi siddung up a watch TV a wait pon the dawg.”
The Real Stinga singer fell asleep, waking up at midnight to McGregor’s missed calls. He said he tried returning the call without success, deducing that the producer felt disrespected.
“The dawg think a style mi a style him… Think a call him a call me and mi nah pick up because him never forward pon the time… Mi message the dawg, mi call the dawg so til I weak fi mek him know, ‘Gun man, you know mi drop asleep?’… Di dawg nuh answer I all now.”
Ryno continues to record music, dropping his last single, Corrupt, three months ago.