Back in February, the video for RMR’s ‘Rascal’ posed several questions. Shot in black-and-white, the masked bandit’s viral moment gave a peek into something truly unique and thrilling. Upon release, NME asked “is it meant as a joke? Is it serious? Who even cares – it’s brilliant”.
His recent EP ‘Drug Dealing Is A Lost Art’ proves that this is no laughing matter – and that this is more than just a fluke viral moment. The Atlanta musician instead likens it to a beautiful accident. Did I expect it to blow up like that? “No, I definitely wasn’t expecting… this,” he tells NME, mimicking an explosion. “I went in there literally with my hands swinging; open-minded. I had a whole different plan and then ‘Rascal’ came about, and everything kind of just transpired and became amazing. I did that just so people can see, and open up their minds.”
‘Rascal’ may well be a country-trap ballad, but his debut EP is an eclectic mix of mainstream rap and R&B. “I know country. I don’t know every single genre, but I know country so it was just natural to me. Every single record on my debut has elements of RMR but they don’t sound the same, it’s all about growth.”
Enlisting features from A-Listers like Lil Baby and Young Thug, RMR slips in the story of how he and Timbaland have more songs in the vault. “Timbaland’s amazing! We actually knocked out three records,” the 24-year-old says. “As soon as we got there, we had a lil’ talk and then he started playing the beat. As soon as he started playing the beat, [snaps fingers] I came up with the record just like that and we just built on it.”
As with all viral beginnings, there will be suspicions. Some wondered if this shtick was all just a one-off gimmick, while others bandied the reductive “industry plant” tag around – a term exclusively reserved for new successes that just happen to not be a white man. Did he have concerns that people would take him seriously?
RMR coyly replies with the phrase “preconceived notions”, something he says a lot through the interview.
Is that all he thinks of the world?
“Yeah, it’s a survival tactic, that’s it. If you see a car driving towards you. Is it going to hit me, or is it going to swerve? That’s preconceived notions, you feel me?”
“Black plight should be the first thing that comes to mind with Black Lives Matter, none of that politics stuff”
He’s flipping other preconceived notions, too. Alongside Leikeli47 and Ski Mask The Slump Go, he’s reversing the negative image around ski masks. “A guy in a ski mask shouldn’t be doing country music… not at all. Now there’s a guy who comes in, and he knows how to relate to you – at least I feel like I do. Some people think I can sing, that I’m genuine, that I’m personable, you feel me? So that changes their whole perspective on masked individuals.”
There’s still some beauty in mystery, but the world wants to get to know the man behind the mask, or as RMR calls him, “the other guy”. But it’s fair to assume we won’t be meeting that guy anytime soon. “When you go out, you are wearing another mask anyway, people don’t know the real you. Only you know the real you. I want people to fall in love with my music before they fall in love with me because underneath.”
Since RMR isn’t planning on doing a face reveal any time soon – no matter the pressure – he wants you to get to know his character and to understand that he’s “humble”, “incomplete”, and has “faith”. This trio is fundamental to RMR’s craft.
When RMR isn’t in the studio he’s advocating for change. Whether that’s changing industry standards for music, or being on the ground as a leader at Atlanta’s Black Lives Matter protests, RMR wants to combat the roots of heinous injustice without the cloud of politics. “You got to remove all that. They’re saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ to put a microscope on the issues that’s happening to black people around the world. And I agree with that. Black plight should be the first thing that comes to mind. None of that other stuff.”
Plus, despite some of his teammates not doing as much publicly as himself, activism is integral to the man under the mask. Being “wronged like a lot of other people who have been wronged [too]”, RMR states that he is “a man who likes to stand for the truth. I’m a man who loves doing right by people and I love for people to get what’s coming to them.”
RMR restates that growth is what’s happening next for him. “It’s not cute to be ignorant. It’s not cute to be ignorant to other people’s cultures. So when people are no longer ignorant, it brings peace. Understanding brings peace. If you’re growing mentally, you’re not stupid, you’re not ignorant, because ignorance isn’t bliss anymore.”
“You can’t succeed without growth. If my fans like me, and they like my sound, they’re going to grow musically. They might even grow socially because they might even go to another artist’s concert who they found as a result of my music. I’m just trying to bring change little by little. This thing that I’m doing is because I’m hoping for a little bit of change and growth in people. That’s all I can do for right now, so I feel like I am doing the right thing.”
RMR’s ‘Drug Dealing Is An Lost Art’ EP is out now