As my flight descended into Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first thing I noticed was a forest on fire. A patch of trees, a few klicks from Tulsa International Airport, was billowing smoke so high it wasn’t hard to imagine the stream caressing the plane’s underbelly. What caused the blaze wasn’t apparent or important. What mattered was its presence, smoldering, demanding our attention.
Tulsa is a city intimately familiar with fire. In 1921, the town’s Greenwood district—commonly referred to as Black Wall Street—was raided by angry white mobs who burned the bustling town to the ground in one of the deadliest race-based massacres in American history. Hardworking Black people lost their businesses, their homes, and their lives to the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The survivors who didn’t leave altogether rebuilt what they could and chose to bury the city literally and figuratively. Schools omitted the massacre from lesson plans; residents refused to speak about it. As decades passed, Greenwood’s history faded, becoming a bad dream many aside from local historians weren’t keen to revisit.
My trip to Tulsa was part of a four-day summit for Fire In Little Africa, an album organized by Tulsa’s burgeoning rap scene to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre next year. Thirty hours after my flight landed, all I could think about was the fire I saw through my airplane window. Greenwood was once brought to its knees by an inferno yet siphoned its energy and turned grief into a musical passion a century in the making.
As I stood in the Greenwood Cultural Center—one of two locations where Fire In Little Africa was recorded—I noticed these same embers emanating from a tall figure in a bomber jacket with light brown locs standing in the doorframe. He smiled at me and raised his hand for a dap: “What’s good, G?”
As we spoke, he constantly stepped back and forth, burning through the excess energy his wide smile wasn’t already consuming. He told me he had been invited to the FILA sessions and flew in from Atlanta to participate. Before I’d heard any music, his confidence captured my attention. Who was this guy? “They call me Chase,” he says, “and I’m here off risk and faith.”
ChasingRyan, 22, a producer and songwriter born Joshua Ryan Davis, thrives on the edges of comfort. Chase was born in Houston, Texas, but moved to Tulsa in the fourth grade after his mother, who worked for FedEx, transferred jobs. Chase grew up playing football, and music soundtracked every drive to practice. He and his mother would jam out to Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” regularly. “She would take us to get breakfast before school, and that shit was on the radio,” he says via FaceTime.
Even before he pursued beats, Chase was losing himself in the throbbing low end of Soulja Boy and Rich Boy. By the eighth grade, football lacked its initial pull. One torrent of Fruity Loops Studio later and Chase had found his true calling—and an opportunity to take a risk.
Beatmaking didn’t come naturally to Chase at first. When he played his first batch of beats for his brother, Matthew Crockett, and cousin, Parris Hoskins, they turned them down immediately. “[Parris and I] held him to our standard,” Crockett, who raps under the name M.C., tells me over the phone. “If I don’t tell you it’s trash, somebody else will so it might as well be [me].”
Chase didn’t let his brother’s blunt criticism get him down for long. He took music classes revolving around “how soundwaves and compression work” throughout high school and learned other tricks of the trade through YouTube videos. It’s wasn’t exactly five beats a day for three summers, but Chase’s new knowledge and confidence coaxed him back to FL Studio.
Chase’s family had a different reaction when he returned with new beats shortly after his high school graduation. “He made a beat at my aunt’s house; I don’t even remember the name of it,” Parris, who records under the name Parris Chariz, says. “I remember I heard it and I asked, ‘Damn, when did you start making beats like this?’”
As harsh as they were, Parris and M.C.’s criticisms pushed Chase to piece himself back together stronger than before. “One day in 2015, he took like five beats off of me,” Chase recalls. “That’s when I knew I was getting better. I was happy.”
His brother’s validation was all the fuel Chase needed. Over the next few years, Chase expanded his palette. He worked a job at AT&T to support himself while creating 50 beats a week. Chase also began singing and rapping over his beats while continuing to operate the World 45 collective, made up of M.C., Parris, producer Xanvas, and musician/engineer Dave “Medisin” Puletz, among others.
Parris saw Chase’s potential while recording Parris’ 2017 EP Wayne’s World. Parris was writing his way through depression at the time, and after a heart-to-heart with his cousin, Chase created the beat for the EP’s lead single “Ice Water.” In seven minutes flat. With the melody to go with it.
“As an artist, you kinda get offended because it’s like, ‘Nigga, I don’t need you to write my shit,’” Parris says, defensively. “But I heard it and had to digest it and hear him out as a producer. Then I started writing the song, and it came out [nice]. That’s just us being honest with each other.”
Chase’s budding confidence was transforming him from student to teacher.
M.C.’s faith in Chase truly blossomed during the creation of “TOWN,” the 2018 promotional single that united the pair with rapper Dom “St. Domonick” Fletcher. “It was 2 a.m., and I get a group text from Chase with me and St. Domonick,” M.C. remembers. “He sent us both the beat for ‘TOWN.’ He was like, ‘Y’all gotta do something to this.’ Keep in mind, Dom and I barely knew each other at this point. We was cool, but we weren’t really friends. We hadn’t made songs together, and I don’t just do collabs with anybody.”
Hours later, after arriving at his job at an apartment complex, Chase called M.C. about a studio session at noon, which he rebuffed until after speaking with his boss. “I hung up and walked into work and got fired immediately,” M.C. says. “I was not phased. I was like, ‘I guess I’m going to the studio.’”
When M.C. touched down at the studio, Dom and Chase were recording a different song and pivoted to “TOWN.” “I had heard of M.C. at first because of his brand,” Dom tells me, referring to the Town University clothing he’d been selling for several years. “After that, it was off the strength of Chase and Parris. I figured if Chase was this talented, his brother must’ve been on something else.”
M.C. and Domonick had only known each other for a handful of minutes before they created the song that would become Tulsa’s unofficial anthem. They wrote and recorded their verses in two hours with Chase overseeing it all.
“We were so intent on making sure [Chase’s] name was on that record, bro,” M.C. stresses. “We wrote the lyrics, and that’s cool, but that 2 a.m. text changed everything. What producer is texting two random artists at 2 a.m.? That’s A&R stuff. And for free? Crazy, bro. Chase has given niggas gold. Locals. For nothing but the love.”
After he embraced his songwriting skills, Chase set another goal, this time for Mood, his 2019 sophomore album: no samples, all original beats. The production across Mood is deep and lush, the most defined of his career. The lyrics—inspired by a breakup with a longtime girlfriend—were his chance to prove he knew how to write in his voice. “Because it was so personal to me, I decided to keep features off of it so it could be my complete thoughts,” Chase says. Outside of Medisin’s mixing and mastering, Mood is entirely written and produced by Chase.
Chase grabbed music by the reins before, but his ambitions were supercharged in 2019. Photographer and friend Addi B had just moved to LA and sold Chase on the wonders of traveling. Artists outside of Tulsa were already reaching out for beats, so after some serious thought, Chase took the most significant risk of his life on April 15, 2019.
“I told my mother I’m going to Atlanta,” he says. “She was like, ‘No, this doesn’t make sense, don’t do it.’ I told her I had to take the risk and if it doesn’t work out, then I’ll just come back. I took the risk with no job and no money. If I was gonna go out there, I was gonna hit the ground running.”
By late May 2019, Chase’s faith in music had led him to one of rap’s musical hotbeds. He had no backup job, so he got creative. He filled out applications for local studio internships and posted videos of his beats to Instagram. Artists like TayDaProducer and PutYaHeartInIt helped Chase shop his services around. As the calendar flipped to 2020, Chase had grown more comfortable sticking his neck out for music. A week before he was called back to Tulsa for the FILA sessions in March, Chase and his roommate Willis were invited to an impromptu recording session at one of the major labels.
“I didn’t know what it was for, but they were looking for us to do some ad libs for a record,” Chase clarifies. When he arrived, he learned he would have the chance to sit in on a writing session for one the label’s biggest acts.
In a month, Chase went from barely having cab fare to sitting in on a studio session for one of the biggest artists in the world. And then, two days later, he was on a plane to Tulsa, home. He was older and wiser yet no less energized. Being in the same room as a producer whose last nine months read like a Netflix series waiting to happen was surreal.
As Chase entered the makeshift studio in the Greenwood Cultural Center, DJBooth senior writer Yoh and I slinked in right behind him. The scent of freshly opened Fritos and the slightest hint of dank wafted through the air. The room was silent as Chase sat in front of his computer while Parris and fellow Oklahoma rapper Grand National recorded verses over a beat we couldn’t hear. As Parris and Grand Nat’s verses rolled in on warbling bass and crisp drums, Chase turned his head to look Yoh and me dead in our eyes. The music spoke for him more than words ever could. The fire in his eyes was burning.