Richard L. Figueroa
In the sixth grade, young Ricky Villarreal and his friend wrote a comedy rap song. It was a parody of “Independent” by Webbie. This was the first time Villarreal wrote a song and it wasn’t going to be his last either. The parody song was never performed anywhere or uploaded to the internet, as his friend didn’t take it as seriously as he did. He enjoyed the process so much that he began to take it seriously.
Today, at 24 years old, Villarreal, from the Southwest side of Chicago is best known by the stage name of theycallmericky. He has had over 60 shows around the city and he is ready to bloom in his artistic career.
When his friend, Miguel, showed the song “Stronger” by Kanye West to him, he was hooked. “When he played it for me it literally blew my mind. I was like, ‘what is this? This is amazing,’ and I fell in love with it. Before that, I was into wrestling and I used to draw comic books,” Villarreal said. He eventually drifted away from his passion for drawing and began to write music.
Villarreal began to upload music to the Internet, particularly on YouTube through 2007 to 2010. “I wouldn’t tell nobody. I wouldn’t tell any friends because I was scared they would roast me,” Villarreal said. Now, he regrets not showing everyone what he had to offer, as his fan base would be bigger at this point if he hadn’t hidden his music for so long. “I really wish that I would have never held my secret,” Villarreal said.
When he was a sophomore in high school, he stopped working on music and began to think about college and put music aside for a while. Then, in his freshman year in college, his roommate was a rapper and he influenced Villarreal to start writing music once again.
His stage name comes from the creation of his Instagram account back in 2011, theycallmericky. “I was trying to create something corny and unique,” said Villarreal. The name stuck as his artistic name and he began uploading music to Soundcloud a few years later. That is when he started spreading his music throughout social media platforms and began to attract a bigger following.
He described his genre to be a blend of hip-hop/rap and alternative rap. One topic his music talks about is self-reflection; he said he wants people to listen to his music and be able to help them realize that they’re not alone.
As of now, Villarreal has seven projects out on Soundcloud and a handful of singles on bigger streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Villarreal is set to release his debut album “Bloom” on all streaming platforms on April 18 and is having an album listening party the following day.
“I feel like everything I’ve been doing up until this point has been practice. I have been able to gather a bit of a listening. People are now checking in on me. I have worked hard from 2014 till now. Five years of just dropping songs… with this project, I feel like I’ll start thriving,” Villarreal said. With this project, he said he plans on flourishing furthermore in his musical career. He also said he plans on working harder and additionally keep on improving his craft.
Erik Salgado produced the first and last song of Villarreal’s debut album. “I felt like the vibe of his music was in the vibes of what I wanted to make and support. I’ve been sending him beats ever since. I’m blessed to have made it to his album… I really believe in the music Ricky makes. It feels good to see him continue to grow as an artist,” Salgado said.
“Music is like a blessing and a curse because I feel so fulfilled, when I’m working on music and when I’m performing. The fact that it’s a cutthroat industry and its very hard to make a living of it.” said Villarreal. His music is inspired by all the music he consumes. He said he looks up to artists such as Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Carlos Santana. Villareal also has a Kid Cudi, “Man on The Moon,” tattoo on his left forearm.
Villarreal has worked closely with another artist from the neighborhood of Logan Square, Jason Saldana. Together they put out a single, “Mexicanas From The Southside,” that was in the works for about four months and released in May 2018. The single took off and gathered over 50,000 listens on streaming platforms such as Soundcloud, Apple Music and Spotify.
Villarreal said how Saldana gives him that push in order to achieve perfection with his music. “He was really on me about my verse. Jason was like, ‘You know what bro it’s cool but you can do better.’ At the end of the day, you need that. You need that push because at the end of the day it’s going to be the best stuff you can possibly make,” Villarreal said.
Both Saldana and Villarreal came up with the concept for “Mexicanas From The Southside” as they were talking about Mexican culture and specifically, girls from the southside of Chicago. “Every Mexican girl at some point has had all black vans and a floral tank top … I want to uplift Chicanas. I want Mexican women and Mexican guys in general to feel proud about their brown skin,” said Saldana.
After Villarreal is done conquering the music scene, he said he has other plans for the future. He said he plans on writing scripts for movies as well as getting into stand up comedy. “I want to get music down first, it’s my love, it’s my main thing. From there I want to act one day,” Villarreal said.
After a flower blooms it pollinates, spreading its seed, this can be seen as a metaphor that represents Villarreal’s career. He has bloomed through hard work and determination and now it’s time for him to share the message behind his music.