Behind a white picket fence on a flower-lined street off of Lakeside is the house that serves as a meeting ground, studio and office for rap group Keyringz.
“We just trying to put the streets behind us,” said member Myke Nyte.
“Let me put it this way,” said fellow member JBond. “If the streets was a S&P 500 Company, I’d be a millionaire right now.”
Nyte became a father at 18. He says fatherhood has focused him, turning him away from the macho gangster lifestyle toward the goal of being a better businessman for his family. JBond, also a family man, just wants to put his old ways behind him.
The group’s original name, Keyrings, is a portmanteau that stood for Key Revolutions and Gangster Shit. The self-described high-energy rap group soon decided to change the name to a friendlier arrangement—Keyringz—which stands for Key Riders and International Gz. The name is also a metaphor for their outlook on the world, for seizing opportunities when they present themselves.
“Whatever door there is, I’m gonna unlock it, bro,” Nyte said.
Nyte, originally from the Phillipines, met JBond, who comes from a Puerto Rican family, as an 11-year old. The two immediately struck a bond over break dancing, and pursued it as a way to elevate themselves above their hardships. JBond’s mother was a nurse who worked late nights, struggling to support the family.
“I didn’t have to look for trouble as a kid, trouble came to me,” said Nyte. “I don’t idealize violence.”
Nyte discovered his ability to rap in an unlikely place. The Moana Pool used to host rap battles back in '96. There, Nyte was able to hone his abilities in a competitive way. He likens the experience to boxing, a skill that needs a workout. He admits he was often put in his place by more experienced rappers, but he believes defeat only strengthened his resolve.
“It’s not how you fall, it’s how you rise,” he said.
New friends Nyte and JBond fell heavily into rap, following in the footsteps of their idols: Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugz and Dr. Dre. Third Keyringz member 24K is the youngest member of the group, joining much later. He jokes that while his fellow band members present the best raps, he wraps the best presents.
Coming from a Hawaiian background, 24K said he picked up some of his courage by rap battling himself in the bathroom mirror as a kid. Now, he practices his flow every day, even taking a moment in the middle of our interview to step aside and work on his bars.
The members of Keyringz say that Reno is what made and formed them, but they aspire to be more than just a local act. A school counselor with connections in Los Angeles put together Nyte and JBond’s first concert at age 13. More than a decade later, they became winners of the Reno Hip Hop Awards for Best Album Artwork and Best Music Video.
Though the members of Keyringz claim to stay away from violent behavior, their persona in their music videos is very much in line with hip hop’s penchant for guns, girls and money. But the group insists that they are just playing parts, like characters in an action movie. JBond’s name is, after all, a reference to the iconic spy James Bond. Keyringz is focused on making Hollywood-style videos.
“Gimme a script, and I’ll play it,” Nyte said.
“Keyringz ain’t gonna stop till we hit the top,” JBond said. “We gonna break the hinges of the door.”