As soon as the first line hit the mic I forgot how cold I was. I was at the always stellar Empire Control Room’s outside stage, seeing Riders Against the Storm (RAS) for the very first time and was immediately impressed. As the second song started, I couldn’t feel my face, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from singing along “Fuck my job; fuck these taxes,” when they queued the crowd to participate. Once I snapped out of their spell and took a look around, I noticed I had inched my way up almost to the front, and I was surrounded by happy, smiling, dancing, laughing, singing people, also entranced.
In a matter of minutes this husband and wife hip hop duo (Chaka and Qi Dada), who are both sweetly adorable, and the definition of authentically cool, took us for a journey with insightful lyrics about real world education, a celebration of the booty through dance, and a reminder that life is magic and that that very magic is inside each of us.
Whether the pair were punctuating in sync, bouncing verbal energy off each other, or just Qi Dada belting her soul out, (always dancing, mind you) they never missed a beat or a note. Their chemistry was a true joy to watch. It was easy to see that they genuinely love every minute of what they’re creating, and the crowd loves basking in that vibe.
Backing up all this wordsmith glory was an impressive arrangement of a band. Elliot Morgan got down with epically enthusiastic funk on the bass; John Deas kept a super smooth flow on the keys; Darin Layne brought out the dirtiest rock guitar licks; Dave Johnson was a complete monster on the drums; and Dario the Don added his own style of fresh beat on additional percussion. The sound ranged from soul to hard rock without hesitation, only proving that RAS knows exactly what they’re doing.
After a ton of smiles and fist bumps with the lucky front row, the couple led into the final song with a sweet dedication to a late friend. The show ended with a jam as Chaka and Qi Dada danced around the stage bringing focus to one musician at a time.
RAS showed us just how they earned the Austin Chronicle’s “Best Band in Austin” award two years in a row. Not only are they fun, but also fabulously smart. They are simultaneously the future of hip hop and a tribute to its roots. After finally seeing some of the best showmanship in town, I was only sad that it ended. 101X Homegrown hosted one hell of a party!
Photos by Scott MacWatters
-Gemmi Galactic, TipCow