Meet Rio Wyles—The Awesome Autistic Rapper And Breakout Star Of Light Up The Blues

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Light Up The Blues is an amazing new documentary that covers last year’s concert of the same name, headlined by Crosby Stills and Nash, to benefit Autism Speaks.

There are a plethora of stars involved but it’s one so far unknown talent that really steals the show—Rio Wyles, AKA SoulShocka—and Popdust has an exclusive interview with the 21-year-old up and coming rapper.

The film captures an awe inspiring night of music from established artists alongside three hugely gifted budding musicians who are all on the Autistic spectrum—including Wyles, who was diagnosed with autism as a young child and suffered a profound loss of language at age three-and-a-half.

Rio’s language slowly returned, but in an odd ritualistic, nonsensical way, causing children to shun him throughout his childhood and those close to him to worry that he would never be able to fully live an independent life.

But, how wrong they were—fast forward 18 years and Wyles is making his mark on the music world—receiving standing ovations wherever he performs—and in January of 2011 he received The Genius of Autism Award at Carnegie Hall.

Rio's recording career has also gotten off to a great start following a collaboration with Rev Run, a recording session with Dave Stewart, having won the Stand up to Cancer challenge and a super cool remix of Swoon alongside Timeflies and Adrienne Bailon.

Here’s Rio’s story in his own words:

Popdust: Tell us about your life Rio—from childhood to now.

Rio: Well, i grew up in Venice, repping Dogtown. Started to rap when I was nine or ten, perform when I was 12,13….In most ways I was like every other kid. I just had a hundred pound sack of challenges on my back.

Popdust: Tell us about your diagnosis and your journey with Autism.

Rio: It' s been hard. There were a lot of moments where i had stuff in my head and i couldn't get the words out….and, from time to time, I felt isolated. I just wanted to be part of the scene.

Popdust: What struggles have you had to deal with, what obstacles? How did you overcome them?

Rio: I had trouble saying what i was thinking, talking, expressing myself…and I felt isolated. How I overcome? Now, that's an interesting question.

For the  isolation, I listened to music….that’s always interesting company. The talking part? Meditation has been great…and lots of great people have worked with me.

Popdust: Who are your musical influences?

Rio: Luda, Bubba Sparxx, Eminem, TI, Boo-Ya, and J. Cole. I got a lot of influences….Oh, yeah, can't forget Bone Crusher.  And Biggie. And Tupac  [Laughs]..  Like i said, a lot of influences.

Popdust: Talk to us about how you write your lyrics—the creative process

Rio: I have different strategies…sometimes I lay down and just close my eyes and wait till it starts to come to me…and I hold it in my head, working with the rhymes. And when I'm working with a song, it' s always on my mind and  things will come to me -- pop into my head and i dictate it. But sometimes I work at the mike, and just start spitting….we take it down and see what's good -- worth saving.

Popdust: Which issues are closest to your heart and influence your music the most?

Rio: My struggle coming up in the game and in life with autism.

"For anyone who ever doubted me. This is for you, you know who you are”..That's an intro on one of my tracks. Pretty much says it all. And the economy, especially the struggle of the 99%. My tune “We Will Prevail" is all about that and more -- the landscape of what's going on.

You can listen to We Will Prevail here

Popdust: How did you get involved in the Light Up The Blues to Benefit Autism Speaks concert?

Rio: I was honored to do this last year with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The DVD is out there, so buy it—you'll be supporting Autism—and it was a great show. This year, when the talented M.C. Watsky jumped in, Kristen Stills came up with the idea of a mashup. I'm glad Watsky was game, and I was down.

Popdust: What are your plans for the future?

Rio: Travel the world. Do my music. I’ve got some great new material about to break….and more up my sleeve. Fall in love, hopefully…..I want to be known as a  great rapper. period. not just as an autistic rapper… Autism is just a part of me.  It makes me the guy i am. without it, who knows what or who I'd be.

Popdust: What’s your message for any autistic kids out there?

Rio: Don't ever underestimate your abilities and what you're capable of…. regardless of the obstacles in your way…..Dream Big, y'all.

Watch Rio Wyles’ amazing collaboration with Timeflies and Adrienne Bailon—then watch the Light Up The Blues trailer below—and download the entire documentary April 1st via iTunes