Riders Against the Storm Year

ATX hip-hop duo gets its science down

Shakey Graves’ Blues on the Green concert tonight was postponed until Aug. 22, and with it an opening set by local hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm – husband and wife team Chaka and Qi Dada. This week also brought news of femcee Jean Grae headlining the two-time Austin Music Awards Band of the Year’s second annual RAS Day Aug. 29 at Kenny Dorham’s Backyard.

Voodoo Hop? Chaka (right) and Qi Dada earlier this month at the X Games. (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Austin Chronicle: Even before you started rapping, who were your influences?

Qi Dada: I actually missed out on a lot of American black music because I was listening to Caribbean black music growing up. That came with folkloric music, voodoo music, and the different ways they combined where I’m from, Haiti. “Voodoo Rock” is voodoo rhythms with rock music elements.

AC: That’s actually a genre?

QD: Yeah, “Voodoo Rock.” There’s only a few people who participate in it as a genre, but it’s an immensely energetic genre. That and Compas [a style of merengue] from Haiti is a big influence of mine. Growing up in New York, we got exposed to everything. Being in Brooklyn during the Eighties and Nineties, music was just dumb. You’d go to Prospect Park and there was drumming constantly. Speakers were just out whether it was a block party or not.

Chaka: My first influences were writers like Ralph Ellison, books like the autobiography of Malcolm X. James Baldwin, folks like that were my first influences. The first rap I memorized was Kool Moe Dee’s “I Go to Work.” In that same time, it was [also] Public Enemy. Once [the] Native Tongues movement started, I really latched onto that.

AC: You don’t sound like Jungle Brothers or De La Soul, but that feel comes through in your music.

C: They’re definitely big influences. Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, P-Funk. I come from that generation of post civil rights, your parent’s records.

AC: Riders is following up its EP with an upcoming full-length. What was the synthesis for this new project?

C: Sometimes it’s hook ideas that we bring to producers and say, “Let’s work on this.” Sometimes it’s something that happens that sparks an idea, maybe even a visual for an album. It’s all coming at once. It’s very energetically based.

AC: How do you know “This is it, we’re done”?

QD: I feel like it’s the same way you write a sentence. It has all the components that make a sentence and when the feeling and the idea has been transmitted, it’s complete.

C: I don’t think we’ve gotten into our stride in terms of creating an album yet. We were mostly focused on live performance, pushing our identity and getting our identity out there in Austin and nationally.

AC: How do you feel about being in this grouping of local artists that take Austin wherever they go?

QD: It just needs to happen. I feel like we came here knowing that it needed to happen. Our push is that kind of diversity – the type of city that Austin wants to deem itself as and grow into. We have to be one of those types of calling cards to understand what exists here, because that doesn’t get promoted – the totality of what exists here.

C: The face of Austin music is changing. Regardless of whoever is in power, the gatekeepers, they’re going to have to catch up. I think we’re great ambassadors for that, because despite the reality that certain things get promoted, we’ve still been able to flourish.

AC: You’re known as a live-wire act. How do performances on the larger stages you’re getting onto now differ from doing a smaller thing, where the crowd reactions and energies vary?

QD: I had a mentor when I was doing a lot more acting in theatre, Sylvia Ann Soares. She told me that people react so differently. Just do what you're doing, then make a decision afterwards. Don’t let that dictate or affect your performance.

C: There’s a science to it. You have to have a balance between trying to go out and get something, and then also letting shit come to you. If you’re just going out and trying to grab everybody, you’re going to tire yourself out. You’ve got to hold onto your energy.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Riders Against the Storm, Chaka Dada, Qi Dada, Austin Music Awards, Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy, Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, P-Funk

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