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Structural Experiments for the Human Body

Illuminated | A Conversation With Rahel

November 05 2015, 0 Comments
Rahel first appeared on our radar after the release of her debut album Alkali back in February. Village Voice's Best R&B Artist in 2015, Rahel embodies what a Chromat Babe is all about-- a strong, sharp witted individual, creating the world she wants to see through her music. 
Photos by Daryl Oh, Makeup by Kerrie Bearcat

 Rahel - 'Restless', Directed by Mitch Moore 

In the Q+A below, Rahel enlightens us with her 'aha' moment, muses, and her experience as a female recording artist. 

What led you to become a recording artist?

It really came down to being happy and satisfied with my life decisions. After going to college and getting a decent job, I wasn’t. Singing always kept me grounded, so a couple of years ago I started honing in on music. I haven’t really looked back since.

Rahel in the Plexi Crop and  Venus Satin Bodysuit
In your interview with Interview Magazine you mentioned quitting your job to create music-- was there ever an 'aha' moment that led you to that decision?

I think that whole year was really revelatory for me. I started recording what would become my album, I bought an apartment. I came to realize I could stake my claim in things I always thought to be out of my reach, and this gave me enough confidence to really pull the plug on normalcy and just do it. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

Your relationship with your sister (who joined us on set for the shoot) is so beautiful and strong. How would you describe your relationship with her?

She’s my day 1. From the womb to the tomb. Our family is really tight-knit, but we shared a room and went to school (and college) together, everything. She has the purest and deepest understanding of everything about me and why. My attitude, my insecurities, my sense of humor, everything.

Are there any other women in your life that give you life? If so, how integral are they to your creativity and work?

Definitely my mom, and my aunts are a close second. My mom has supported every wonky decision I’ve made, especially in regards to pursuing music. She’s given me guidance, advice, and help whenever I needed it. And my aunties show me love always. It’s just the sort of comfort a person in my shoes needs.

How does your community inspire you?

My family and the Eritrean network they’ve established have shown me what struggle and perseverance against all odds looks like. And they’ve done so with grace, humility, and an unwavering stance against injustice. It’s also probably why I feel so at home with many queer POC in visual and the performance arts here in New York. In many ways, these artists here are fighting to get their narratives the respect and recognition they rightfully deserve. I’m trying to do that for myself and, more importantly, for anyone who identifies with my experience. Both communities have illuminated ways I can do that without compromising myself.

Who were some of your muses growing up?

Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Sade, Brandy and Janet Jackson mostly. In high school I really got into gospel music and the 3-part harmonies in the gospel choir.


You just released your album Alkali this February-- what has your experience been sharing your work with the world?

I was kind of taken aback to be honest. I really didn’t expect the sort of reception I’ve received these past few months, especially since it was my first effort. I know how harsh people and their opinions can be, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised and really, really grateful.

What has your experience been like as a woman in the music industry?

It’s… interesting. I know very well most men out here, no matter how much love and respect you’ve got for each other, have the potential to underestimate your talent and dismiss your work. And sometimes they do. I used to take deep offense to this. But I understand that that’s how patriarchy functions, and my job isn’t to get angry, it’s to dismantle it from every angle. Patriarchy is not sustainable. So long as women (especially WoC) know they are the source of so much that fuels the industry, and we take ownership of what we do by any means necessary, the bullshit will abate. I’ll wait. In the meantime, I’ll keep honing my craft, sharpening my tools and singing.


What does it feel like to do what you do?

It feels deeply satisfying, like I’ve finally got purpose.

What article of clothing or way of presenting makes you feel powerful?

I would say my hair. Each style is pretty representative of where I’m at in life.

How was your experience working with the Chromat team and Daryl Oh?

Amazing! From beginning to end I was working with a bunch of talented, savvy, supportive, and empathetic women. I couldn’t have asked for a more ideal setting.

What is your favorite Chromat piece and why?

That’s a really really tough question. I was mostly in awe of how flattering so many pieces were on my body. Becca is totally in tune with the female anatomy and proportions, so I legit felt so confident in all of the looks. Those latex thigh-high leggings might have taken the cake though. Those were such a carry!


Chromat Latex Thigh High
What projects are you interested in exploring in the future?

Well I’m starting to get back in the studio, and I’m interested in exploring new directions sonically. And lately I’ve really been into the visual aspect of what I do, so I’m gonna delve into that a bit more. 

Rahel - 'Serve'

We can't wait to see what Rahel serves up next. 

Go behind the scenes with Rahel and the Chromat Team:


Photos by Daryl Oh
Interview by Coco Layne
Makeup by Kerrie Bearcat

Chromat's Conversation series highlights the voices of women who are shaping the world with their creativity and ingenuity.  


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