Many people definitely remember Ryan Toby’s (@ryantobyryan) breakout role in the 1993 film “Sister Act 2.” He starred as the talented Ahmal in the film, and everyone remembers the scene from the school’s assembly when he killed it during his class’ performance of “Oh Happy Day.”
Aside from that, he continued to reach massive stardom throughout his career for his singing and songwriting skills. We also know him as 1/3 of the Grammy-nominated trio City High. They released their hit song, “What Would You Do,” and “Caramel” back in 2001.
Since then, Ryan has been writing and producing for some of the industry’s top tier artists including, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Will Smith and a host of others. He’s also be dropping his own music, as well as working with some of his own artists. We caught up with him to see if he thinks there will ever be a City High reunion, his upcoming projects, his thoughts on today’s R&B and much more.
Many people remember you from your role as Ahmal in the film “Sister Act 2.” What does it mean to be a part of such as classic film?
It means so much to have been apart of Sister Act 2. Many people don’t know that the film itself wasn’t a “box office” smash but ended up becoming a cult classic on television for the last 25 years now. At least once a day someone is either recognizing me from it or asking me about it.
What’s one of your fondest memories from being on the set of that film?
One of my fondest memories of being on set was when Whoopie went to bat for me because I hurt my ankle the last week of filming and the producers didn’t want to give me any days off to rest. LOL. Whoopie was NOT having it! She made them write an alternate ending just in case my ankle didn’t heal up in time. We wound up going with the original ending after I bounced back. Love her so much for that!
Aside from having a successful acting career, you also have an extremely successful music career. Many people know you as 1/3 of City High. Being a part of that group, what was the biggest lesson you learned about the music industry?
Being a part of the Grammy Nominated group City High was a wild and wonderful experience. The biggest lesson I learned was to make sure you know how to diversify your talents. Don’t just be a one trick pony. If you sing, learn to write. If you’re a writer, learn to how to engineer and record etc. That way no matter what happens you’ll always know how to get a check.
Now I l know you and your City High group members are family and in the spirit of a lot of groups getting back together. Do you think there would be some kind of City High reunion in the near future?
I don’t foresee a City High reunion happening anytime soon. Although it would be great to rock some stages and perform our classics for the fans.
Aside from your own music, you have written and produced for a number of well-known artists, and are behind a lot of well-known songs. What do you enjoy most, being behind the scenes or being front and center?
For a long time, I loved the limelight in the front. Then as I evolved in my career I became more infatuated with writing, producing and being behind the scenes. After doing that for so long I find myself now falling back in love with singing and performing my own material as an artist again.
What direction would you like to see R&B music head within the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, it would be great to see love songs come back to R&B music. Everything these days is all about the turn-up and the party, which I love too, but I believe we can’t “live” at the party. At some point, you have to deal with real life and love, setbacks and disappointments. So to hear songs that reflect more of those real emotions and vulnerability would be awesome. There’s a new breed of young artists who are doing it now and I love that.
What upcoming projects that you are working on that our Roommates can look forward to?
Besides the new music that I’ve been releasing as an artist, I’m excited to be in the studio working on Usher’s new album as well as Chris Brown. I’ve also been doing a ton of songs for the Fox T.V. shows “Empire” and “Star.” I have my own artist Kaui (@kauistopplayin) that I just completed a project on through my company Red Vision and a slew of new dope artists I’ve been working with.