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Interview: Q&A

We talked to Vancouver singer-songwriter Raiel about establishing his artistic identity

While the West Coast music scene is heavily filled with trap-influenced R&B, there are few artists who are confidently executing other avenues of the genre without falling to the tempts of conformity. As he’s continued to work quietly under the radar this last year, singer/songwriter Raiel released his debut EP just shy of a year ago.

Muse did something that not many other R&B projects were able to accomplish, and delivered emotionally vulnerable and introspective reflections that broke away from current genre trends. The subject matter was more personal, the music was more melodic, and it comfortably embraced its’ obvious uniqueness. Until recently there was little known about the man behind the madness (and what he had brewing for 2017). We had a chance to catch up with the Vancouver artist to talk about his identity, his creative motivations, and how he’s kept a strong focus on originality and authenticity in his music.

We talked to Vancouver singer/songwriter Raiel about establishing his artistic identity

Raiel: Q&A

HipHopCanada: Thanks for speaking to us. I really feel like your last EP, Muse didn’t get the full credit that it deserved when it dropped a year ago. How have things progressed for you since you released that project? 

Raiel: To be honest, when I released Muse I went in with no expectations. It was really a personal letter in music form. But I think the idea of “getting credit” can vary between artists. Yeah for sure, it wasn’t marketed well enough and all of it was really done independently, but I think over-all I believe it reached the right people. Those people either made a conscious decision to dive-in to my world and some simply chose to skip pass it. Either way I’m cool with it!

I’ve definitely grown more patient and a lot pickier about what I put out under my name. The EP started simply as a form of self-expression that eventually turned into a stepping-stone. All in all, I’m really happy that I was able to experience a lot (even the downs) thanks to it. It was all necessary.

HipHopCanada: There’s a lot of different opinions out there on being an artist from Vancouver. How do you feel like it’s affected you musically, if at all?

Raiel: I think that there’s a lot of different opinions towards being an artist, “period”. Vancouver has something amazing happening in its’ scene and there’s an abundance of great talent most definitely, but like a lot of other cities, there’s a lack of individualism.

Some would prefer to ride waves, and some create theirs. Personally, I’ve had my share of falling into pressure based on what people “thought” I should sound like or how I should carry myself. In the end, I chose to be real by expressing my own experiences – a story that is mine to keep. And a bonus is if that shit ends up giving me and my friends that ‘stank-face’ every time we hear a lick or if it makes us get up and groove too… then fuck it, I’m good with that! Like the great Sade said, “You can talk about stuff and sing about stuff but if you don’t live it in the end then it’s all fake.”

HipHopCanada: For most, I feel like a first project, whether it’s an EP or album, really ends up being a means to identify yourself to your audience. What did you want to say, or maybe establish, with Muse? 

Raiel: Like I said before, Muse was an open letter. I was never great at expressing vulnerability in person so I did it in a way where people would understand where I was, emotionally, in a deeper and less convoluted way. But I guess what I wanted to show was that I’m simply human – that I’m not afraid to say what’s up when I feel it and not be apologetic about my emotions. ‘ Cause let’s be real, it ain’t always about the flex or showing you don’t give a fuck, or sleeping with the baddest bitches or having money, smoking dope…that shit’s way too over-saturated. I want to be able to answer the question “Who are you, really?” if that ever arises. I went through something real fam, here it is, and that’s what I’m about.

HipHopCanada: Without giving too much away about what you’re currently working on, have your goals as an artist changed from what they initially were when you started making music?

Raiel: Well I’ve always had particular goals that never changed, and one of them is ‘knowing myself’. I want to make sure that I continue being ‘me’ throughout this journey; nothing fabricated. I want to be able to inspire in every aspect, may it be through my music or just who I am not as Raiel.

But you know I do admit, I used to be naive when I was a lot younger. I used to depend on others for my success, took hard work for granted and never had a patient bone in my body. I used to surround myself with groups of people who were absolute poison and cared about fuck-all. Overtime, I simply grew tired of it. Isolated myself, and worked on my craft and on self-acceptance like being comfortable with showing my vulnerability and accepting my flaws. Since then, everything was replaced with blessings on blessings on blessings in the form of fruitful events, and people that I now would die for. So, let me put it this way: “New Year, New Music, Same goal & Same damn self.”

HipHopCanada: One of my favourite tracks that you’ve released is “un.titled” – because it’s always felt touching in its’ vulnerability to me. What is your general approach to songwriting, and is it easy for you to disclose the personal aspects of your life in your music?

Raiel: Thank you so much! It really means a lot! “un.titled” is definitely a personal favorite of mine. The song is actually 3 years old already! Can you believe that? It was made out of frustration after being heart-broken, quitting my job and taking a spontaneous flight to Los Angeles to record the damn thing. (Shouts to the big bro Travis Atreo and my boy Isaac Shah for helping me bring it to life). It’s truly such a blessing to see it continue reaching new audiences everyday, I have no words for it.

I don’t really have a formula on how I write. Honestly, I’m a day-dreamer. I conduct in my head. I see an idea or a situation with different scenarios and I draw my ideas from that. I write what I think of with no format, and I hum or sing when I work or walk down the street, or when I eat. Unorthodox I know, but it is what it is.

But on how it all folds together and how literal I disclose the personal stuff, well… it’s not particularly easy. I mean, I can choose to sing or rap about something and make it dead-literal…but to be honest I really like speaking in riddles or coming up with weird-ass metaphors just so that people end up scratching their heads going “wait, what the fuck?” Not that it’s new or anything, but I’d prefer to leave people to their own interpretations when they listen to my music. It’s a lot less selfish that way I think.

HipHopCanada: What track are you the most proud of creating, and why? 

Raiel: I don’t like picking favorites ‘cause they all bear such great significance to me… but if I were to choose at the moment, it’d have to be Track #5 on Muse – “Letter To…” featuring the brother Isaac Shah. I usually take my time when it comes to writing and the particulars, but this literally took not even a day to write. I just showed my mans what I had, he sat in silence and just started going off on his phone writing lyrics. It turned out so well that I said “That’s it right there. Nothing more, nothing less!” and we ran with it.

And it was all because we just knew each other’s vibe and ‘cause he just knew what I was going through. You ever see Key and Peele’s Obama segment featuring his “Anger Translator”? It’s literally that kind of connection. Fucking amazing I tell you.

HipHopCanada: What’s something that your fans and audience would be surprised to know, and do you feel like there are any misconceptions about you as an artist?

Raiel: I’m an avid listener of music from the 30’s up to the 80’s (90’s onwards is a given). But if you knew me well enough, you’d know that I’m an old soul. Hmmm, oh and that unfortunately, I can’t name a single Uzi song to save my life. I know Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” featuring HIM, but I literally stop before his verse. *Cue (Bryson Tiller’s – Sorry Not Sorry)*

With regards to ‘misconceptions’, yeah I feel like there are. Not many people really take the time to know who I am, what I value, and so on. I think society has a habit of labeling someone off of first impressions or the one-honest-to-God-unfortunately-negative thing about you. Then again, why lose sleep over the opinion of sheep?

HipHopCanada: Have you always known what kind of sound that you wanted to create, and do you feel like it has changed at all from Muse?

Raiel: I never really know for certain what direction a particular song or project takes, but in terms of the sound(s) that I go for (when it comes to creating), I work around the type of space that I’m in mentally and emotionally; like I hear in color or something.

But no doubt! There’s been a ton of changes, but it comes only as I grow wiser and as I continue broaden my musical palette. There’s still so many opportunities to try different things and I haven’t even started yet, trust.

HipHopCanada: We know you’ve been quietly working on something new to give your fans. What kind of reflections can you give your fans about what you’ve got in the works?

Raiel: All I have to say is that throughout this hiatus, I’ve been straight up living. I’m at the outside looking in – constantly observing, and learning. There’s been a lot of shit I’ve been patiently waiting to get off my chest for a while now and this project will showcase a big chapter of my life and my personal growth. I just want to say ‘thank you’ to every one who has stuck around since day one. Blessed to have your undying support. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We’re steady strapping up, and when it comes… It’s gonna be one hell of a ride.

Follow @RaielMusic on Twitter.

Interview conducted by Kira Hunston for HipHopCanada

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