Feature photo by Tafari Photography
In my last interview with Rahsaan in 2009 –following the release of his Chirstmas album The Ultimate Gift— we discussed the weighing reality of sexuality and gender expression and how it potentially inhibits ones career especially in the heteronormative R & B world.. He spoke openly about the reconciliation of his faith, his sexual identity and musical insertion of his being.
This time, we meet a freer, less restricted, Rahsaan who is anxious to let you meet his “soul” and take you on the journey of his latest sonic combustion–somewhere near Mars. We are introduced to his multifaceted interpretations of love, life and discovery.
How is it being back in Chicago again?
It’s cool. I always like coming to Chicago because it is always comfortable here and the support is always here. I’ve been here for live shows and I’ve recorded here with Steve Hurley (Grammy-nominated club and house DJ) on some of my albums and recording with him I stay at his house, it’s like being with family. I’m glad to be here.
Talk about …
Did anybody ask you questions? On twitter [For Me]?
So you’ve been looking at your tweet trends? [Laughs] A few people did—on twitter and facebook—and I’ll get to those later. We’re here at this fantastic restaurant Norman’s Bistro [in Kenwood Chicago] and we’ve had an opportunity to listen to some of your new music, will you talk a little bit about that and what audiences can expect?
It’s definitely a progression as well as a continuation from where the Christmas album left off sonically, production-wise. It’s always about love you know; love pretty much is always the inspiration for my music and what I write. I’m just excited for it to come out and to see how it’s received.
Is there a title for it yet?
Bleuphoria. With the French spelling of blue and euphoria.
Why that name?
It just came to me, probably in 2006. To me, of course, love is always associated with a red heart, but it’s blue to me and it’s deeper. I just get that the color blue is associated with love and the euphoria of being in love and of experiencing it and letting yourself be open to it, all of [Love].
What about stylistically?
Have you heard my new single Easier Said Than Done?
No, honestly, I haven’t heard it yet.
It’s still R&B; it still has soul in it. It’s just a bit more progressive sonically. It’s celestial. I’m in that zone of relating to galactic, alien kind of energies, connecting and questioning and processing how we got here; and the theories behind all of that and the theories behind how, thousands of years ago, we possessed technologies to build monuments that we still can’t figure out today. So what happened in the interim that we forgot and lost? I’m in that space.
What is the process like when you’re creating something and you reach a point where you say, “I’m going to release this.” How do you reflect on fans and audiences potential reaction to “this?”
I’m usually anticipating whatever the response is going to be. Whether it’s negative or positive. I’m always exerting my truth and my experience so it’s not necessarily up for anyone’s view of it to alter how I feel about it because it’s done already for me.
You write about love a lot in your songs. Do you love a lot?
Oh I do. I’ve had to learn to express it, not in a song; I had to grow into just being able to give that to people in an intimate way. It was a challenge but it’s ok now. (He smiles with contentment)
Here’s one of the facebook/tweet questions. You’ve done a lot of work with other indie artists—as well as few mainstream artists—are you that interested in working with mainstream artists and musicians?
Are mainstream artists interested in working with me is the question.
True but why is that a question because it’s clear you have the talent and the following.
Well it’s only the question because it’s posed to me. I have interest in working with anyone who is gifted and talented, whom I respect, and, musically, I feel like I can do something with. On my new album [Bleuphoria] I have Faith Evans, Jody Watley, Shanice, and Tata Vega on there.
What parts of your identities have interfered with your progress as an artist or—on the other hand—has given you a push to go further?
I’ve always been who I am. I’ve always sang how I sang. I always walked how I walked. I’ve never felt that I’ve needed to alter any of those things to be accepted to gain notoriety. I guess now with time having passed with my first album [in 1997] and—not only me growing more into who I am—the climate has changed for things like sexuality and a lot of those aspects have come to the forefront and people are being more real about it and accepting…
What are some of your favorite songs to sing?
I like doing The One for Me, from The After Hours, You Make Life So Good, Where You Are, Stronger Than Pride, and Stop By. It’s different doing [Where You Are] because it’s fourteen years later and it brings back the memory of when it was first released.
What about these songs in particular?
[It’s for different reasons] Like I said with Where You Are it just takes me back to a specific place. I like singing You Make Life So Good it makes me feel good to do that song.
I must say I’m a fan of The Best.
I like doing that one too sometimes. It’s just such a heartbreaking song.
Does it take you back to a specific place?
Yes and sometimes I avoid it…
Is it not a therapeutic process for you when you go back to the place and deal with it again?
It is but I don’t always want to feel it. Sometimes I just don’t want to relive the emotion of the song.
When you’re singing do you think the emotions that you feel and are conjured come out in your deliverance on stage?
Is there a song you won’t do?
I don’t really do Tears Ago. No.
Why is that?
Because it just takes me to a place that I have left…
What’s next for you?
The album coming out in April. Doing more shows. Doing more [Interviews] because it’s very much like singing songs that bring up emotions and things of that nature.
Well I’m glad I could be a part of one of your songs [Laughs]
It could be a lot, you know, especially when you’re living on the road and everything. You have to go to a place and relive a lot of things…
For new audiences who may not know who you are, from this interview, what would you like to leave them with?
(He pauses for a moment and looks out the snow filled window again as if his reflection is his very own oracle with the “right” answer) If they haven’t heard what I do it’s probably worth a listen. Don’t you think so?