Community has always been a huge part of the musical experience, but it’s a hotly contested topic in music these days. Over the last couple of decades, the experience of listening to music has become more and more isolated (think about people walking around town with their ear buds in, or downloading their music from home rather than buying it at a store). It’s no coincidence, then, that festivals have become increasingly popular in recent years – music fans are craving that communal aspect of their listening.
Austin hip-hop duo Riders Against the Storm understand this essential desire of the music fan. Back when Tiger Lily and her husband Chaka Mpeanaji first met in Providence (the place, not the state of being – though they might argue over the semantics), they began making angry protest music. From those days, they have evolved away from the anger toward a more communal, celebratory vibe in their music. While not every song on Riders Against the Storm is a completely joyous affair from a lyrical perspective, the music is undoubtedly upbeat. People seem to respond to community.
The music itself on this five-song EP is top-notch. The beats are comprised of anything from the piano-driven funky R&B of “Ghetto People” to the Rage-inspired hard rock of “Satellite.” The beat that most impresses me is the one for “Everybody Wannabe.” It’s a layered musical bed that draws from all sorts of 90’s rock and pop. The echoing synths recall the “Macarena” or Ace of Base, the main hook of the title phrase sounds like mid-period Liam Gallagher singing over a Chemical Brothers track, and Mpeanaji’s last verse is passionately delivered over a hard rock wall of guitars. It’s an impressive track from start to finish that Mpeanaji completely owns with his delivery.
And yet the best track all around is opener “Holy Water.” It’s built on a bouncy piano riff that will draw in music fans of every stripe while leaving enough space to showcase the duo’s excellent flows. Lily and Mpeanaji demonstrate consistently across this EP that they are excellent lyricists. It’s a strong statement of purpose that should translate well to the live setting, where RAS will undoubtedly continue to celebrate the coming together of all different kinds of people under the power of music. In a video interview from a few years ago, the duo doesn’t seem to be able to articulate why they chose to move to Austin over anywhere else. With Riders Against the Storm, we don’t have to ask why; we just need to consider ourselves lucky that they are in our community.
The official EP release party is on Tuesday, July 2 at Stubb’s Indoors, and is the afterparty for the Kings of the Mic tour (featuring De La Soul, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Ice Cube).
– Carter Delloro