11 sep 2020

Interview with the enigmatic RMR

Hiding his face behind a ski mask embroidered with his mysterious initials, the American rapper RMR (pronounced “rumour”) prefers to let his music speak louder than his identity. Earlier this year he appeared from nowhere with his hit Rascal, proffering a wacky, self-deprecatory rap that is dripping in irony.

RMR by Mark Peaced.

Earlier this year, somewhere between Buckhead, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Inglewood, the rapper RMR found the limelight. Instantly recognizable, and yet impossible to identify, the American singer covers his face in a black ski mask that ex- poses only his eyes and mouth. Adorned with gold embroidery fea- turing a cross, his stage name RMR and the Latin adjective imperfectus (a reminder of his humanity), the mask has become his laissez-passer on the international rap and country scene. The anonymity is deliberate, so that his audience will “follow the music ahead of the man,” and is ech- oed by his pseudonym RMR, pro- nounced “rumour”… “The rumours about my identity will always fly,” he explains, while walking through the streets of Calabasas in California.


Earlier this year, the phenomenon known as RMR released the track Rascal, a ballad that mixes rap and country and which was directly inspired by the Rascal Flatts’ country hit Bless the Broken Road (2000). The success was instant – over 3 million views on YouTube in just a couple of weeks. Opening with 20 seconds of a cappella melody worthy of a Harmony Korine movie, RMR continues the track with a delicate piano air, the backdrop to a powerful voice he claims he only used “a couple of times under the shower” – ironic self-deprecation being one of his characteristics. Contrasting with the sweetness of the melody, the video shows him in his mask and a Saint Laurent bul- let-proof vest, wielding an assault rifle among a group of gangsters who are also pointing their guns straight at the audience.

With this wacky style which is unusual to say the least, RMR im- mediately garnered attention from the labels CMNTY RCRDS and Warner Records, which resulted in the release, in June this year, of his first EP, whose title is another exam- ple of RMR’s ironic take on life: Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art. Following on from the opening track, Welfare, are eight titles of very different mood: while the hypnotic Silence sounds like a new-age synth lament, Nouveau Riche leans towards trap hip-hop Don Toliver style, and I’m Not Over You towards country-coloured rap. For RMR, this eclectic multi-dimensional project “gives an idea of what artists might be like in the future.” Tackling themes such as drug trafficking, friendship, love and success, the masked rap- per pleads for “artistic juxtaposition,” explaining how he has been “influenced by different musical genres that go from country and blues to jazz. It’s on this unassailable foundation that I build my music. From there, I can go wherever I wish, in any direction, because at the end of the day everything is just music.”


On Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art, RMR surrounded himself with big names from the American hip-hop scene. On the production side we find, among others, the manager The Do Betters and the producer Mike Dean – who has worked in particular with Kanye West, Jay-Z, 2Pac, Travis Scott and The Weeknd – as well as the rapper Timbaland, who is behind the track I’m Not Over You and two other as-yet-unreleased titles. “We composed I’m Not Over You completely spontaneously,” explains RMR. “I went to the studio with the lyrics, and Timbaland had just the beat. The track wrote itself. The energy was there, and we built and enlarged on that.”


On three of the EP’s tracks we also discover Lil Baby, Future, Westside Gunn and Young Thug at the microphone – four big names of American trap and rap who saw in RMR a new approach to the country-trap wave recently initiated by Lil Nas X and his Old Town Road (2019), which, with help from Billy Ray Cyrus, sent folk guitar into every corner of the world. “On this EP, I really wanted to show that I’m not a one-dimensional artist. I wanted it to sound different, for there to be a di- versity of spaces, experiences and dynamics,” summarizes RMR. And he’s certainly pulled the rabbit out of the hat with his unique country-trap aesthetic identity, a demonstration of art for art’s sake that celebrates music’s inexhaustible capacity to invent something new. Let’s hope he’ll confirm his talent later this year when his eagerly-awaited first studio album is released.


Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art (CMNTY RCRDS/Warner Records) de RMR. Out now.