Live Review: Riders Against the Storm at Empire


Material: The Rhode Island-native husband-and-wife hip-hop act do so much more than create urban-inspired tunes that it seems an injustice to categorize them in one genre. Their music is complex and layered in exhilarating production as it builds upon messages of love and healing. Brought to life with energetic and confident performances, tracks such as award-winning “Holy Water” and electro rock-influenced “Satellite” focus on the vocalists’ delivery while being supported by lively instrumentals. Neither would work as effectively on their own, but do come together harmoniously to create a memorable experience, even for those who may not be avid R&B and hip-hop fans.

Musicianship: Passion flows from both lead vocalists. Qi Dada can deliver powerhouse vocals to drive a live performance while Chaka provides slick and meaningful verses, and while the husband and wife showcase evident chemistry, there is a great amount of support from the backing instrumentals. Just as alert as the vocalists is Johnson on the drums, who got the crowd moving and grooving. Arevena also brings a welcoming and intriguing touch on the bongos. The players come together as one entity on the tribal-sounding “Here We Come,” which put the overall concept of the act into proper prospective.

Performance: During the eight-song set, you could not help but catch Riders Against the Storm’s contagious love for music, rhythm and narrative storytelling. The crowd may have only been a dozen strong when the group took the stage, however, it continued to grow to full audience size as the set went on. You were able to forget about everything else except the meaning behind the music. At times it was difficult to fully understand what was being said—blame the small stage setting and overly loud speakers—but overall the hip-hip group put on an entertaining and captivating show, capped off by the slick and radio-friendly “In The Lights,” a strong and effective closing.

Summary: Riders Against the Storm are an Austin staple, winning Band of the Year for two consecutive years, and they showcased their achievement with a solid, fleshed-out set that highlighted their precise mix of urban, hip-hip, rock and electronic influences. The venue may not have been ideal to first experience the inspiring group, but they were still able to dominate the stage with a true love for musicality and a smile on their faces. The passionate and solid vocal performances from the founding members were enough to warrant a devoted following and possible future radio success.

The Players: Jonathan “Chaka” Mahone, vocals; Ghislaine “Qi Dada” Jean, vocals; Elliot Morgan, bass; Darin Layne, guitar; Jonathan Deas, keys; Dave Johnson, drums; Dario Aravena, percussion.

Venue: Empire Control Room & Garage
City: Austin, TX
Web: rashiphop.com

– Luis Gonzalez