Zoning out is easy when coasting on the intergalactic, space-age waves emitting from RIDERS AGAINST the STORM (RAS). The charismatic husband and wife duo of Chaka and Qi Dada disperse uplifting, East Coast party vibes laced with techno-funk saturated in Haitian folklore causing hip-hop fans from Tokyo to Fresno to chant RunRASRun.
RAS have brought long overdue credibility to Austin’s hip-hop scene. However, to consider RAS simply a hip-hop band would be an unjust understatement. The three-time AMA “Band of the Year” champs stand at the forefront of Austin’s progressive hip-hop movement and are using their voice for more than delivering dope rhymes.
Since arriving in 2010, RAS have raised over $20,000 for local organizations and charities through their art and performances. Most recently, RAS helped raise over $1,000 through the Social Sessions performance for Ballet Afrique, a contemporary dance company in East Austin that allows young women unique opportunities to dance and learn to respect their bodies.
RAS also hosts Body Rock ATX, a party held the first Friday of each month. They are currently preparing for their third annual RAS Day, a family-friendly festival that provides a half-day of workshops focused on movement such as yoga, African dance and martial arts and a second half dedicated to enjoying live music.
Individually, Qi Dada teaches “Team Big Legs,” a female empowerment class that teaches women how to find their feminine power through movement while Chaka works with gifted children to help teach artistic outlets and mold creativity.
Chaka and Qi Dada are artistic philanthropists who are changing the game beyond the boundaries of their local community. Fans get down for RIDERS AGAINST the STORM not only because their music is insightful, thought-provoking and crowd bouncing, booty sweatiful. But, more importantly, because RAS speak a vibrant voice that ignites passion and instigates progression. RunRASRun is the movement we all need to get down for.
TMI recently had the luxury of talking with Chaka and Qi Dada. Here is what the vibrant couple had to say.
TMI: What are some advantages as well as some of the challenges of working so closely with your spouse?
Q: Definitely the advantages of synergy and having our audience see something they don’t normally see or may not believe in. A lot of people may not think it’s possible to have a union like we do or that it can emanate that way. I think that’s something that’s really positive for us artistically and socially. And then, you know, the typical difficulties you would imagine…just being individuals and being able to separate ourselves and have space.
C: It can be a challenge to make time for each other when we have so much to tend to on the business and music side. There’s always something to prepare for and I think the challenge is getting that stuff out of the way and moving it off of the plate so we can just enjoy each other. But, we’re pretty good at knowing when we’re getting overwhelmed and it’s time to take a break
TMI: Why do you think Austin has had difficulty establishing a strong and independent hip-hop identity?
C: When we first got to Austin it was hard to find a place for hip-hop and for us to do what we do. I think Austin, in general, lacks industry. There’s no Rolling Stone or Vice Magazine. There’s not a huge media outlet that connects people on a national level. Plus, hip-hop as a genre, is not as popular in Austin as in other big cities. But, I feel like that’s all changing. We were recently part of a team that put together Austin’s first hip-hop festival that did really well. And there are local artists and groups coming up that are going to be known nationally. It may take a second. But, there will be plenty of hip-hop coming out of Austin.
TMI: RAS recently wrote, “We take the responsibility of making a brighter way for the generations that will follow us.” Is that essentially your mission statement?
C: It’s definitely a part of our mission statement. Our name comes from Sweet Honey in the Rock and in ‘Ella’s Song’ they talk about passing the torch to the young who will run against the storm. We feel like not just musically, but spiritually as well, we have to think about seven generations down the line…our grandkids grandkids.
TMI: The two of you met as artists and community activists while attending college in Providence, RI. Are you still avid community activists?
Q: Essentially, our roles as community activists and how we decide to define those have shifted. We used to be on the ground and much more directly involved with different communities and that has changed. But, we feel like our spirits and the way that we’re wired was designed for other things that still support the needs of communities. We understand that the community is the whole thing. Yes, there’s the physical needs of the community, the material needs, the political needs. But, there’s also the spiritual needs, the comradery that’s necessary to make the community strong. We found that we were more aligned with that and we realized that the art we were making had an incredible impact…just as much as anything we were doing on the political side.
C: We’re not trying to necessarily lead anything. But, indirectly through the power of what we do we bring a lot of people together and they tend to stay together and form unions and businesses indirectly through the energy that we create. People thank us for that all of the time and we are most proud of the energy that ripples out from everything we do. The way we feel like we inspire change and motivate, it’s indirect. But, it’s something that’s unique and powerful that we provide.
TMI: Would you consider yourselves philanthropists?
C: That’s definitely a goal for me. That’s something that I want to be, fully. We just did a fund raiser for Ballet Afrique, a dance company started by China Smith that gives young women opportunities to dance that they normally don’t have…and to love their bodies and see themselves on stage. We’ve done fund raisers for all types of organizations. Since we’ve been in Austin, we’ve raised around $20,000 for different organizations through performances and events.
Q: Yeah, and with that being said, as part of our desired message it’s always part of a particular narrative. We’re focused on making sure what is here is highlighted so that the community at large understands the rich culture going on in a city like Austin. But, we have to make sure the narratives are supportive of the vibrant things that are taking place.
RIDERS AGAINST the STORM are currently touring. You can catch them at the dates and locations below.
6/1 – Houston @ Satellite Bar
6/2 – Atlanta @ The Drunken Unicorn
6/5 – New Orleans @ Gasa Gasa
6/17 – Solstice Festival – Austin
7/16 – 7/17 – Float Fest – San Marcos River
8/27 – RAS Day – Austin @ Kenny Dorham’s Backyard
Written by: Doug Leach (Doug@themusicissuemagazine.com)
Images by: Fuzebox Photography (Linda@themusicissuemagazine.com)
Wardrobe Stylist: Rachel Chadwick
Location: The Sekrit Theatre