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  • Madasa Media

Riders Against the Storm: Flowers For the Living

What many local artists fall prey to is sounding like local artists. As in they have a very distinct sound that never really moves them past sounding like music specific to their region for their region, never going beyond the status of "local legend." Perhaps it's experience, perhaps it's vision. Hell, perhaps it's just time. But Riders Against the Storm (RAS) never sounds like they're specific to Austin. Not that being obviously from one city or another is a bad thing. Oftentimes that does lend authenticity to an artist's sound. However, it also limits them to being so niche that no one else can relate unless they're from that particular place.

RAS is a group that simply speaks hip hop, a language and dialect that transcends the confines of city, state, country. It's a universal patios spoken by those born and bred in the culture of it, no matter where they've cultivated it. With Flowers for the Living, we get an album that is absolute expression and celebration of the movement of hip hop. The message of hip hop, the power of it, its influence. Of course, digging deeper into the duo, you realize that they're entire existence is steeped in community (the foundation of hip hop).

Theirs is a style that's completely about love, nurturing, honesty. Truth. Each song on Flowers... has an ethereal melody wrapped around it, music that allows the duo to express themselves with emotion, unadulterated energy and purity. From the audacious bravado of tracks like "The Ones" and "Black Girl Payday," to the miraculous beauty in tracks "Red Lights" and, of course, title track "Flowers For the Living," there's an underlying elegance, smooth nectars washing each track in their sticky decadence. Radical beauty even at the most bombastic. The album never settles for a singular sound, flowing seamlessly from boom bap to two-step, deep house to electro ("Is It?" and one of my favorite tracks on the album, "Richard Simmons"). Those who worked with RAS on the production opened the album up, allowing it to stretch from one end of hip hop to the other and back.

But let's not mistake the beauty of the music for softness. Jonathon "Chaka" Mahone is a true MC. A man who lets his pen talk...loudly. A ferocious delivery that even in moments of extreme tenderness brook no arguments. That sharp tongue and heavy wit is authentic to who he is. An activist, leader and a man about his community, Chaka walks the talk and vice versa, living in his truth and giving it to the world for it to deal with or run from. (No matter the choice, he's going to forever do what he does best.) Ghislaine "Qi Dada" Jean is an entire queen on the microphone. A honey teardrop in her throat. Smooth delivery her words swim in like honeysuckle. A wordsmith who seems to pur lyrics as if from a marble bowl filled with blessed waters.

Flowers For the Living is an album to listen to when you simply want to feel good. When you want to exist in Black skin without having to think about the weight of the violence that brings. A celebration. A ceremony to give every Black man, woman and child their roses and sunflowers while they're here to bask in their scent.

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