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WITF Music: RalphReal & The Family Jam

The York music scene, the impact of American Black music and roller-skating.

  • Joe Ulrich
Ralph Real and the Family Jam  Band performs in the WITF Music studio

 Jeremy Long / WITF

Ralph Real and the Family Jam Band performs in the WITF Music studio

Ralph Washington, a.k.a. RalphReal began his music career sneaking into open mics as a teenager. His love of music and performing led to being a band member for rapper Oddisee and he eventually began releasing his own albums of beats and instrumentals. RalphReal and The Family Jam is his soulful hip-hop funk project which brings together a talented group of musicians. They’ll be performing Sunday, 8/27 for The Wind Down at West Shore Theatre.

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Tell me how you got started in music.

So when I heard Stevie Wonder and I was like, well, who made that? My dad would be like, what? That’s Stevie. He playing on them drums. You hear that synth right there? That’s Stevie. And I’m like, he did what? It really did something to me.

I met a drum teacher named Mr. Clyde “BaTom” Lucas. He passed away some years back. And he would just have poster after poster of France and Switzerland and this jazz fest. And I was like, I want to do that. And he was like, well, you gotta pay your dues. Let’s do the Samba Rock one more time. So I started dabbling in keys, drum machines and synthesizers, making beats and then it turned into recording.

What is special about York?

York has a special place in my heart because it has a real drive with really talented musicians and artists and entrepreneurs and tons of people out there that really want to change York. I work with a friend named Peter Bottros, he started the Shine Music Program. I have bands that I work with there, kids that are doing amazing things there, creating beats, doing their thing. Brandt Kingsley, he has Pedal for Peace. He took kids off the street, put ’em on some bikes, and we literally showed them how to be a team. That’s the drive that I see in York.

Jeremy Long / WITF

Ralph Real and the Family Jam Band performs in the WITF Music studio

What motivates you to get involved with stuff like that?

You gotta pass it on. You gotta pass on the knowledge. But I always see something that I like from it. So I do it to not only pass on the knowledge, but get knowledge that I wouldn’t have before because these kids are creating all the time.

With Oddisee, you did a lot of touring around the world. What’s your takeaway from having gotten to hang out in different places that are so different from here?

It’s wild to see how much American Black music did for the world. You go to Asia and you can see people break dancing and wearing these Adidas suits and just like loving the culture.

Me as a Black American here, it’s like I get proud, I get honored. This is crazy what hip-hop has done, what jazz has done, what gospel has done, rock and roll. I see that people definitely understand the culture better overseas. They understand the contribution that we had towards music.

Tell me about the albums you’ve released. 

Oddisee and I have been doing instrumental albums for a while. Throughout that I’ve always picked up a lot of instrumentals myself that I really liked. Low-fi music started coming out. People really started looking at producers and seeing what they were coming out with. And I was like, I think it’s my time that I could put something out there.

So my instrumental albums are Tracknamestracks, Yojustridewithme and All Skate. And then Assorted.

Justgoridewithme, I wanted people just to get in the car, push play, go take a drive and just relax. But it’s a bold cover. It’s me standing like a Mad Max picture with a big car in back of me.

All Skate is dedicated to me skating. I love roller skating.

Are you one of the people that can do some fancy skating?

Jeremy Long / WITF

Ralph Real and the Family Jam Band performs in the WITF Music studio

Yeah we doin’ all our tricks. Shuffle skating. I’m from the Castle Roller Rink. And the Roll R Way in York. And people are looking at me like, yo, who’s this old man out there? I still rock it. I still got a little crew.

What does it feel like when you guys are jamming and you’re having a particularly good jam?

I think the brain just kind of shuts out. It’s a spiritual thing. It is church. It’s definitely that feeling of comfort, freedom, full expression. There’s been times prophecies have happened through music. That’s what’s great about us. We have a spiritual connection now where we can look at each other, I’m like, yeah, yeah, yeah, we got that.

I’m back on learning how to approach songwriting because I don’t be opening up no doors. Like I don’t want people to know my inners. I got a lot of hidden stuff in there. I need to start writing some more music that’s, I don’t want to say more dark, but that’s more heavy. More thought provoking. I’m gonna have to see a counselor for this. [laughs] I don’t know how this work.

What are you into outside of music?

Video games. Longboarding. Roller skating. Definitely going out to get a good whiskey, chilling with my good friends, my core bros, playing some chess, playing some darts.

Jeremy Long / WITF

CSmoke Williams of Ralph Real and the Family Jam Band performs in the WITF Music studio

What video games are you playing?

So, of course I got into the New Jedi. Okay. The new Star Wars game. That joint was dope. But then I had fun with games like Cuphead. It’s like a 1900’s cartoonish game. But then I play FIFA. Knockout Kings, a little Madden. I’m get into the Harry Potter joint. I definitely like the going and commanding and conquering.

Mario Kart?

Yeah man, come on. You gotta like Mario Kart.

Do you have a favorite character in Mario Kart?

I love rocking with the Princess. That’s my homie. Everybody be trying to pick Yoshi because they like his speed. But I’ll rock with a good Luigi sometimes, I’ll rock with a Bowser sometimes and knock people off.

Jeremy Long / WITF

Ralph Washington of Ralph Real and the Family Jam Band performs in the WITF Music studio

What’s a favorite local food place that you like to go to?

York? Granfalloons. It’s like a bar, like Cheers where everybody knows your name. Their cooks in there are amazing. My thing in Granfalloons is cash wings.

Now we have toss ups on steak night. Usually I go to White Rose in York. They got the $12 steak night. Perfectly prepared with your fries. But now Holy Hound got a steak night. And their steak is bangin’.

Lancaster …. Yorgos is popping. Their mussels, their seafood is amazing.

Gotta go with the Philly cheese steak spot, that’s Rob’s spot (The SteakOut). They serve awesome Philly cheese steaks and they got a new place called Hookers Seafood Joint. Roburrito’s … banging.

What are some other local bands or local musicians that you think are really interesting right now?

Spoken Musik is awesome. Wild Hymns is dope. Tuck [Ryan] is dope. Coffee With Lions, they’re like a punk rock band. Tate Koban, he’s a hip hop artist.

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