Atlantan RAHBI likens himself to Prince, and takes musical inspiration from artists as diverse as Grace Jones and Lady Gaga, the late Rick James, and gospel singers The Clark Sisters. His aim: To combust stereotypical ideals of black male artists and their music. This weekend, he opens for New Orleans bounce music queen Big Freedia at Atlanta’s first AFROPUNK Festival, an offshoot of the celebrated 10-year-old Brooklyn music event.
RAHBI landed the gig after the festival issued an open-call audition for new artists in Atlanta. In the past, he has opened for Erykah Badu, Bilal, and Janelle Monae, and his future plans are even grander. “In five years, I see myself touring consistently, releasing new albums, winning a Grammy Award, having a clothing line, doing cartoon voiceovers, and performing on Broadway.” Below, four more things to know about the up-and-coming artist:
He competed in AFROPUNK’s The Battle of the Bands to earn a spot in this year’s festival. Every spring, the festival issues an open call for new artists to submit audio and video for a chance to perform, and then the artists must encourage their fans to vote for them via social media. Those with the most votes have an opportunity to perform live in front of a panel of AFROPUNK representatives. “I had heard about AFROPUNK and wanted to be a part of this legendary festival that highlights the alternative black artist,” says RAHBI. “I got the most votes of any artist who competed in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and New York City!” Atlanta band Samurai Shotgun also competed and will be performing at the festival.
When he’s not on stage, he teaches musical theater. “I want to inspire kids to believe in themselves before they start thinking ‘boys do this and girls do that.’ I want to inspire them to be free and creative,” he says. RAHBI, who teaches at the Youth Ensemble of Atlanta, also studied there as a kid. He continued doing musical theater in college at Georgia State University, where he received a degree in music management. He says those roots inspire his performances, which often include outrageous costumes and a stage full of actors.
Back in the mid-1990s, he was in a boy band called 4th Avenue that was signed to LaFace Records. Though the group had a single, “Going Crazy,” they never released a full album. Still, he says the experience taught him a lot about the music industry. “I saw how they told us ‘you’re going to sing the backgrounds, you’re going to sing the leads, you’re going to be the sexy one,’ that was me. They gave us [clothes] to wear, all of the songs were presented to us—you don’t get to think for yourself. They get you young before you know who you are.”
His EP, The Golden Child: Trimester 3…Hello World, drops on October 3. AFROPUNK attendees can expect to hear music from the new EP, which RAHBI promises will feel “just like your favorite song.” The performance will feature dancers, actors, his background singers (The Pretty Ladies), and Atlanta-based musicians The Band of Brothers. “The songs [reflect] my journey toward knowing that my life has purpose. Hello World is a rebirth of my self.”