Mu$ty Boyz: The Passion Project Gone Right

Abraham Recio and Ryan Santos. Photo by Alexis Nettles.

Abraham Recio and Ryan Santos. Photo by Alexis Nettles.

The reasons for not pursuing a passion project are endless, from fear of failing to the uncertainty that comes with unwelcomed criticism. For Abraham Recio and Rhyan Santos, none of the above were regarded as issues because what started as a joke landed them collaborations with prominent up-and-coming artists and opened doors that allowed them to quit their day jobs. Together they form Mu$ty Boyz, a project that has evolved since 2013 and is celebrating its fifth anniversary soon.

Despite the layered chains that hang from their necks and multiple rings on each hand, Abe and Rhyan appear humble. Their appearance mirrors the pictures of their Instagram account, yet their personalities point more towards easy-going than cool.

“I’m used to being behind the camera,” Ryan points out while Abe aids him with the placement of a jean jacket against his shoulder.

“I’m tired,” says Abe. To no surprise, neither cares to hide a hangover acquired from a previous night of partying.

Mu$ty Boyz started as an inside joke among a group of 10 to 11 friends. It was what they called themselves as well as the name of their group text. According to Abe, they were like a crew that brought a party wherever they went.

Abe had just started filming when he told Rhyan about an idea of a collaborative project that included a blog but he felt that he had some catching up to do, or in his words, get to Rhyan’s level. Abe added:

“Rhyan said, ‘Dude, fuck that. Let’s do that right now! He hung up the phone, called me 20 minutes later and said, ‘I just got our Gmail, our Twitter, our Instagram… our Yahoo.’”

The idea was shared with supportive friends who pressured them to take the project seriously, so while Abe perfected his craft at California State University Fullerton, Rhyan was on the road doing tour management and developing relationships for Mu$ty Boyz.

What originated as light-hearted documentation within their group of friends developed into endless content and became a career. Rhyan commented:

“We have collected some pretty crazy life experiences and some emotional road rash. What’s funny is that I feel like we haven’t released a lot of our good stuff, it’s just sitting there but we look at it so much that we get tired of it.” Abe added, “You’re always your worst critic. I guess that’s the beauty of it. People are so conditioned to be told what to like and we’re not telling them to like us, we want people to do research and look into us ‘cause the people who fucking know us, show us love.”

When asked what factors led to a strong following, Rhyan turned to Abe and asked humbly:

“Do we have a strong following,” then added, “I don’t know, I guess that in a way, a lot of people relate because I’m pretty sure they hang out like we hang out but [most] don’t document it for promos. We make it with our friends, it’s organic so it must remind them of the things they do with their friends.”

The connection between Abe and Rhyan is apparent, they complete each other's sentences and seem to communicate with facial expressions alone. Moreover, they speak of how they challenge one another to promote the growth needed to succeed both individually and collaboratively. Rhyan confessed:

“I invest my faith in people who I think have a lot of potential. I’ve always believed in Abe, still to this day. I think he has the most beautiful work and most beautiful fucking mind. Honestly, I am inspired by him all the time. I don’t think that I have ever told him that.” to which Abe replied with “No, he hasn’t. That’s how it is though, both of us work in that cadence… I see Rhyan as a competitor but in a different way- like something to strive to."

The duo mentions time management and emotional stress as smaller obstacles that they face to this day, but it was the expectations that come with being first-generation Mexican-American/ Filipino-American that interrupted their progress the most. Getting their parents to agree with their lifestyle was difficult, Rhyan’s mom compared him to Abe and asked why he could not follow a more traditional path and attend school while pursuing his passion. Despite parental oppositions, fate shifted gears in their favor. When Abe graduated and Rhyan returned from a tour, they both landed a job with the same artist.

Still, it has not always been a smooth ride for Mu$ty Boyz. Last October, they were involved in a frightful traffic accident near Nashville, Tennessee while on tour with world-renowned artist, Cuco. The near-death experience left emotional scars to match the physical ones, but both Abe and Rhyan view the unanticipated speed bump with a silver lining. Abe considers the accident a wake-up call, he stated:

“Shit is not promised, you just gotta go hard. The accident slowed us down but it will ultimately be the reason we become even better and stronger.”

Mu$ty Boyz express an appreciation for being able to make a living off of their passion. They stress that what they do does not feel like work, and it is apparent since it resembles a compilation of family home videos and photo albums. They credit their upbringing and culture as a big part of their success. Abe expressed:

“Our culture is 100 percent the reason why we are successful because we have our fingers on the pulse of a community that was not represented for the longest time. We don't live in the cool part of L.A., we're in Norwalk and the border city of Anaheim. We're a product of Mexico and the Philippines and I feel proud of that, especially right now because it's like a big 'fuck you' to all those people who think that we're lazy."

"We're creating art that their kids are buying. Their kids are fans of our friends and they have to learn that we just want a piece of that too. And for a band like Cuco to get so much love and support from a tight knit community, it's fucking crazy. I get teary eyed at their shows, still, just because we'll be in Indonesia... Jakarta... and people will sing in Spanish. They go hard for that kid. This is the shit that I feel good about so I'm happy with what I am doing and that's all I know.”

Most recently, they directed Cuco's music video for Summertime Hightime featuring J-Kwe$t, they also DJed at this year's Coachella and Tropicalia.

While finding a suitable title for Mu$ty Boyz is complicated (they are listed as "Community Service" on their Instagram account), their enthusiasm and versatility contribute to an infinite amount of possibilities. As Rhyan stated:

“Whatever you want us to do, we’ll do it. We’re like a service, a party service.”