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|Born||Maurice Ryan Toby
November 26, 1976
Willingboro, New Jersey, U.S.
|Occupation||Singer, Actor, Artist, Songwriter, Musician|
Ryan Toby (born November 26, 1976) is an American soul singer, songwriter, producer, and actor known as the baritenor in the group City High. He is also best known for playing Wesley Glen Ahmal James in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.
Manager Marvin Thompson introduced Toby to then RCA Records A&R Director Kenny Ortiz, which eventually lead to a meeting with Disney & Buena Vista/Touchstone Pictures Executives. The company was looking for young actors/singers for their upcoming project titled Sister Act II: Back In The Habit (starring Whoopi Goldberg). Landing a principal role at 16 years old, the talented singer/actor was featured on the accompanying soundtrack. He wrote the rap part to the much loved single “Joyful, Joyful” which also featured newcomer Lauryn Hill and was a featured soloist on the single “Oh Happy Day”. After filming, Toby was put in touch with Jazzy Jeff (of The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff fame) and was invited to Philadelphia. Jeff and Ryan bonded and he was asked to sign to his Touch of Jazz Production Company. It was during that time that Will Smith visited with Jeff. Smith was working on his upcoming album titled Big Willie Style. Smith heard Ryan and wanted him to work on his album. The music/rap turned into Smith’s hit single “Miami”. Ryan received writing credits for “Miami”, “Don’t Say Nothing”, “I Loved Her” and “Candy”. The album sold over 20 million copies.
While enjoying the success of working on the Will Smith project, Ryan ran into his old manager Marvin Thompson again. Thompson was working with an artist signed to Wyclef Jean’s Booga Basement/Interscope Records label. Jean invited Ryan to sign with his label when his deal with Jazzy Jeff was no longer in existence. Ryan was partnered with Robby Pardlo by Thompson. Nevertheless, Wyclef heard a female voice on some of their demos, Claudette Ortiz. Wyclef decided that he wanted Ortiz to join the group so he could create another Fugee’s. Ryan, Robby & Claudette named the group City High. The self-titled debut album released in 2001 garnered a Grammy Nomination. The albums sold millions worldwide and the threesome toured for approximately two years.
In 2003, once back in New Jersey Ryan connected with Super Producers Vidal Davis and Andre Harris. Dre & Vidal were working on songs for platinum plus recording artist Usher. The threesome collaborated on several tracks and three were chosen. “Caught Up”, “Superstar” and “Follow Me” made the 2004 chart-topping Usher album titled Confessions. The album was an instant commercial success in the United States, selling 1.1 million copies in its first week. Over eight million copies sold in 2004. The Confessions album has been certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and, as of 2012, has sold 10 million copies in the US.
Early and personal life
After working on the film Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, Toby attended college at Grambling State University and he also had a daughter. He later on found love with fellow City High member, Claudette Ortiz, after the band split. They had two sons and married in 2004, but divorced in 2007. Toby eventually moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and continued to pursue his music career of writing and producing. In 2011, he embarked on a new sound for his music and artist development and also found new love as well.
Ryan Toby is currently working on a new album coming due for a fall release. He's writing for established artists, as well as new upcoming artists, in the U.S. and Internationally. He also regularly teaches at a local music school. Toby is devoted to giving back to the music community in any way he can. Toby has written for Mary J Blige, Brian McKnight, LL Cool J, Ruben Studdard, Joe, Amerie, New Edition, Ginuwine, Charlie Wilson, ll2, Monica, Tyrese, Kevin Lyttle, Mario, Chris Brown and Darius Rucker (of Hootie and the Blowfish), to name a few.
- Concepción, Mariel (September 2006). "Lost & Found: Yesterday's Stars Today". Vibe. p. 213. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- Lowe, Herbert. "Standing Tall, In And Out Of Character Ryan Toby, 17, Wants The World To Judge Him 'Not By My Money, Not By My Status.'", The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 26, 1994. Accessed October 31, 2015. "'Honestly," said Toby, dressed in jeans and a white crewneck sweater in his parents' living room in Willingboro, "I think he (Ahmal) just started wanting to know more about his heritage and . . . was rebellious in that 'I'm going to do something different than what my friends are doing.'... A student at Willingboro High School, Toby began his singing in school and church choirs."