Travis “Civic” Rybarski released a five-track EP this month, and buzz around it is building.
So is praise for his considerable chops.
But the Tri-City native, who now lives in Olympia, doesn’t rap for the recognition or the accolades. Not by a long shot.
“When it comes to my music and this record, I want to give hope to people who can relate to my story,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Rybarski’s EP is called Upside. It shows off his lyrical dexterity and gift for vivid storytelling.
Take Strange Man, the opening track. On it, Rybarski paints a picture of himself as “a strange man with a crazy past from a different plane,” who’s striving to live a life of purpose.
He’d rather “affect lives than spread vibes” and would rather “give my day to you than pray for you, the action type.”
He also dives into the meaning of his nickname.
“The Honda Civic is split into two perceptions: ridiculed or driven by youth in a new direction. The human Civic is civil, fighting for unity, the civic center giving services to the community. The triple definition slipped into a simple name. Strange Man with a crazy past from a different plane.”
On the moving closing track, Take Me Home, Rybarski raps about tough family relationships and his love for his older brother.
“I’m sorry for every time I hurt you on the road, when you were the only person to walk it with me. When the ground underneath all shifted but you maintained the same aim with the odds against you,” it goes. “I love you for every sacrifice that you made to ensure that I had the life you wished for.”
Bryson Foster produced Upside, which features live instrumentation. Foster also sings on some tracks.
He said Rybarski is a special artist — one who cares deeply about each line, each song.
“His writing is really good. He chooses the right words — that mean what he wants and that have the right shape sonically,” Foster said. “He connects with the audience in a unique way.”
Rybarski, 21, grew up in the Tri-Cities, overcoming a difficult childhood to find success in the world of advocacy. He now works for the organization YouthSound.
He started rapping in middle school, quitting for a while before picking it back up around age 16.
He became known as a battle rapper, even starting his own league, High-Noon, which raised thousands for charity.
He connected with Foster after the producer spotted him on social media. They worked on Upside for two years.
Rybarski said he’s happy with how it turned out. He uses clean language on the EP so he can reach as many people as possible.
“My purpose is to share my story with people who need it. I want young people who could be inspired by my story to hear it,” he said.
Foster said Upside will appeal even to people who aren’t typically fans of hip hop.
“I think this record will challenge people’s expectations. It’ll make people think differently,” Foster said.
He added that Rybarski’s message of optimism — about challenging experiences having an upside — is vital.
He sees a bright future for the young artist.
“He really wants to make a difference in the world. He really wants to make a difference in people’s lives. He thinks about it,” Foster said. “He’s probably going to move on to be a mayor or senator or something. He’s going to do something really important. (His music) is a tool and vehicle for him to do what he really wants to do, which is create change.”
Upside is available on platforms including Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Bandcamp.
Rybarski is releasing a music video Dec. 26, directed by Justin Frick, for the song Strange Man.
To catch the video or stay up to date on Rybarski’s music, find him on Facebook under Travis Civic Rybarski.