Local husband/wife duo Riders Against the Storm have always been clear on one very important point: what they do is bigger than hip-hop. It is a movement. They use their music as a vehicle to empower individuals, build community and raise a collective consciousness. Their music is not protest music, it is uplift music and coming out of an incredibly difficult year for race relations in America, they are unflinchingly, defiantly positive.
As incense and sage hung heavy in the air, that energy reverberated through the show they hosted last night at the Sahara Lounge. The main attraction was Oshun, a hip-hop duo formed by a pair of NYU students who have stormed Soundcloud with their sharp rhymes, sweet harmonies and and Nubian soul.
“It’s no mistake that power is coming to the surface right now, because we need it,” Qi Dada Ras said of the Oshun’s sudden rise early in the night. “We need that healing energy right now.”
Every opener on the tightly structured bill was excellent, but the Austin women were particularly stunning.
Blackchyl, who has a solo mixtape and a new album with her crew Mindz of a Different Kind due out this month, spit pure fire.
And R&B singer Alesia Lani was fabulous, sassy and soulful.
The evening also included a very moving tribute to Houston hip-hop artist and community activist Zin, who recently died in a car accident. (Read local promoter Matt Sonzala’s tribute to his former radio cohort here.)
When Oshun took the stage around midnight, the very diverse and tightly packed crowd at Sahara went wild. The young women, still in college, performed with stunning skill and poise, whether quick-spitting rhymes or raising their voices in sublime harmonies. Their music combines the new school hip-hop consciousness of Kendrick Lamar with the wildly, complex neosoul sound structures of D’Angelo. They up the spiritual ante by boldly mixing in elements of ritual from the earth-based West African Yoruba traditions and their thoroughly charming stage personas make their shows utterly entrancing.
Buzz around the group has been steadily building and a Leon Bridges-like rise in 2016 is entirely possible.
As Chaka Mandla Mhambi Mpeanaji from Riders Against the Storm said at the end of the show, “They call this the underground, but we are coming up.”