Rayners Lane-based Ryan Baker – known by his stage name Young Soul – began writing and recording music in 2011 when his schoolfriend Shannon Powell died aged 14 after suffering from a seizure during athletics.
He told the Observer: “That was when I first turned to music really. It just seemed the best way that I could express myself at the time.
“The response I had from the track was amazing, and since then music has been my life.”
The talented lyricist, who cites Michael Jackson as his biggest musical influence, uploaded a video to video-sharing website YouTube as a tribute called RIP Shannon Powell in the wake of Shannon’s death.
In it he rapped: “She was a stunner in many ways and a perfect woman, and that’s why people love her, miss her and still want to hug her.
“Everyone goes for a reason, and one day we will see you and that day will come soon, but now we have got to make her proud.
“We will meet again in the sky, reunite for life.”
Since then 17-year-old Ryan has been producing his music either at his home studio, or at The Wealdstone Centre, which has led him to releasing his first mix tape, It’s A Gift, featuring nine tracks.
The thrill of performance is not the only thing that Ryan embraces about music. He is also a dedicated technician.
He said: “Over the last couple of years I have seen my music progress and have began building a fan base which is great, but I also love developing my home studio.
“It’s not just performing that I love, but producing too.
“Something I would really like to do in the future is teach young people how to produce music and help them find their own voice in that way.”
He has a YouTube channel racking up thousands of views and a Facebook fan page littered with young people telling him that he is their inspiration – so what makes Young Soul stand out from the crowd?
Ryan, who studies music production and performance at Uxbridge College having attended Queensmead School in South Ruislip, is setting out to shatter stereotypes of hip-hop and rap music.
The teen tells the Observer that the genre is driven – at the top level at least – by a celebration of materialism and ego which does not interest him.
“That’s why I don’t describe myself as a rapper,” he said.
“I just see myself as a musician. What people like Kanye West do – going around acting like an idiot – I think that is all about image which I’m not interested in.
“When I perform, I try and bring a positive message out of it.
“That’s why a lot of my music is about self-belief.”
He was recently asked to do a tour of schools around the country – including Harrow High School in Gayton Road, Harrow – performing for students and talking to them about how drugs and alcohol are barriers to getting to where you want to be, preaching the message: Dream, Believe, Achieve.
“It was a really positive message to bring to the children,” Ryan said, “because if I think about who has influenced me the most. It’s been people like my dad and youth workers at the Wealdstone Centre, they have been my inspiration.
“I don’t want anything other than to bring people together through music – music that can be for everybody.”
Young Soul regularly takes to the stage at Lighthouse Bar in Northolt Road, South Harrow, a non-alcoholic youth bar run by charity Project5000 who aim to provide a safe and vibrant venue for young people in Harrow.
You can connect with Ryan on his Twitter page @officialsoulkid or watch him perform on his YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/OfficialSoulKid.
His mixtape It’s A Gift is available for free download online via the website www.hoodtapes.co.uk.