Riders Against the Storm (RAS) introduces their newest creation, Flowers For the Living.
By Monica Godinez
Flowers for the Living, the latest album from hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm, can be described as animated, otherworldly and contagious. RAS incorporates sounds native to their previous works, yet most of it is largely new and redefining. New, zestful sounds coupled with highlighting local Black artists once again showcases how distinct their music is. RAS electrifies their audience with their songs and artistry. The duo joined Austin Woman to discuss their influence, experience and journey as a family group dynamic that led to the creation of yet another riveting album.
What influenced your sound on Flowers for the Living?
Qi Dada: We were exploring House music. Chaka was primarily into the House [style]. House played a big influence on the song “Flowers for the Living.” The vibration of that song was infectious, [so much so]that it became the title for that track and the title for our album. I found my sound in the South African House genre called amapiano. Samthing Soweto created an authentic South African record that we really appreciated, and that was very motivating to us.
What should we expect with the album?
Qi Dada: One song [incorporates]Tejano-psychedelic hip-hop rhythms. There’s Soul music, Trap music and House music. This album features various producers, all who offer [varying]distinct sounds. This album is immersive and authentic. We have a song called “Richard Simmons.” Simmons was an aerobic director who got people moving. There was a power in [his commitment]to help those who were struggling and shunned [in]their lives. This song is an homage to Richard Simmons. It features a contemporized ’80s freestyle rhythm. That is popular [among]Puerto Rican individuals in New York.
Chaka: In terms of favorites, [“Richard Simmons”] would be the song that is up-tempo and has the potential to reach a large audience. It is very fun. “Magik2” is a song we have been performing for years. We wrote it in Austin in 2011. We recreated the original sound with Billy Blunt. Qi has been manifesting [this sound]for a while; she wanted to incorporate this rock element.
Qi Dada, tell me more about your personal influence on this album. How would you define your personal sound?
[This album] is a continuation of the fact that Chaka and I know how to find a thread over any kind of landscape. It is an extension of the fact that we can be our authentic [selves]in any environment. [The album] speaks to the fact that there is something universal that finds us all at some point. It creates an environment where we can all party and leave so much of our constructs aside so that we can just be in that space together. The album promotes universality, the opportunity to present yourself undiluted. We created an artistic space that allows [artists]to make something universal without [dilution]. Our sound is immersing. That is part of our signature; [I will] be myself, but I also invite you to be yourself with me, to be a part of us.
Have you gained any inspiration from other local artists in the community?
Qi Dada: [Austin’s] current Black talent has influenced me. Most of them were featured in the “Flowers For the Living” music video. These are people who inspire us artistically, musically or creatively. They are the main influence; I have heard echoes of them feeling inspired by what we have been doing. We see how great they are doing and how they are coming up, so it motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Qi Dada, you have been in music for more than a decade. How would you describe your experience with navigating the hip-hop realm as a woman? How has the landscape changed in the last decade?
I think one of the main things that has been exciting for me is the resurgence of women in hip hop. This doesn’t get spoken about enough. People have started to acknowledge that. But for a very long time women, particularly black women in hip hop, were void. They were not there. I grew up with all kinds of different women rapping, rapping [about]all kinds of different things. They were all different; they were futuristic. There were various women in [hip hop]but still only one or two of them were at the top.
Now, we have various women in this realm, and that has been such an exciting thing for me to see. There is a large array of women in rap; there is so much visibility! I am so happy to have been around that. For me to be recording and coming out with music right now and to know that women can be expressive is something that I have always been drawn to. I like to talk about raunchy things, highly scientific things, spiritual things. I like to tell jokes, to tell stories, to have my emotions really show up in my lyrics. To be in that landscape and to be coming out with music is really important. I am really happy to see the world and our community be embrace[ing]of a husband and wife duo. The world is really open to it all and really embraces it.
Riders Against the Storm has a fruitful year ahead of them. Flowers for the Living is one of many projects they are embarking on in 2021. It is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the strength and power of Qi Dada and Riders Against the Storm. To continue celebrating Black voices.