AUSTIN (KXAN) — The “Live Music Capital of the World” has a lot of different genres to choose from, but the urban music scene is behind when it comes to a strong presence in Austin.
A hip-hop group called Riders Against the Storm is changing that though by making a big splash and turning a lot of heads.
The husband and wife hip-hop duo came to Austin four years ago from Rhode Island. They were community organizers and worked with troubled youth in their communities. They wanted to pursue music even further and decided to come to Texas to follow their dreams.
“We’re just excited. There’s been a lot of hard work, commitment and sacrifice, but of course it’s been like crazy fun though too,” Jonathan ‘Chaka’ Mahone said.
He and his wife, Qi Dada, also known as Ghislaine Jean-Mahone, have been married for seven years. The group said everything from their life experiences, to interactions with others and mother nature influence their music.
“For us it’s always about getting people to feel healed, getting people to feel alive, getting people to feel free and open said,” Qi Dada said.
Riders Against the Storm‘s catchy beats and fun, positive lyrics make people want to tap their toes and bust a move. Their music is making a statement because in March the group won ‘Band of the Year’ at the Austin Music Awards. It’s the first time in the awards’ 32-year history that a hip-hop group claimed that title.
“Obviously there are a lot of bands in Austin and we came out on top in that contest and it showed us how much support we really have,” Chaka said. “When we got up there [to the stage], I felt like we had accomplished our goal to be the best in Austin, to be the best that you could possibly see on any night.”
Riders Against the Storm scored a big gig making it on the lineup for Austin City Limits Festival in October. They just recently received second place in the hip-hop category of International Songwriting Competition for their song called “Holy Water.”
The couple said they want their fans to feel the love that they share on stage together. They do admit though, they have to find a balance between work and their relationship.
“I love it, it doesn’t mean it’s not full of it’s challenges but if you’re doing anything with your best friend it’s just a lot of fun,” Qi Dada said.
The group does most of their own booking and marketing.
“You have to find ways to say ‘alright look, we’re not talking about business today we’re talking about each other, let’s go on a date let’s just hang out let’s just look at the birds, look at the flowers, but tomorrow we have to get on this business,'” Chaka said.
The hip-hop duo said a lot of their success contributes to their band members too.
“When you can really be friends and be in a band that’s a whole other level of what you can bring to the stage and when you have this go-for-it energy, things are good,” Qi Dada said.
They live and work on the East side of town with their bass player Elliot Morgan who is also in two other bands, “Hatch” and “The Ugly Elephant.”
“Everything is all connected, the more we understand that, the more we get in touch with earth,” Morgan, who grows his own food and raises his own animals, said. He and the group share the belief that life comes around full circle, and being holistic while taking care of what’s given to them goes back into the kind of music they can give back to others.
Other members of the band include Dave Johnson, the drummer, Jonathan Deas on the keyboard, and Queen Deelah and Brenden Foster on back-up vocals. Chaka said there have been other members in the past, but this new group which formed in the past eight months has helped them take their music forward.