rIVerse is a diverse collective of BIPOC, multi-racial, queer and plus size musicians breaking the internet. rIVerse recently released their music video for “BaeBeeBoo” off their sophomore album “Poison IV‘, a deeply personal and eclectic pop and R&B record that explores themes such as Black Lives Matter, systemic racism, body positivity, self-love and more.
The group recently gained international attention when the group’s founder and lead songwriter/choreographer, Dizz came out as HIV Positive in solidarity with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The group recently released a LIVE performance of “BaeBeeBoo” which they are using to promote their full length, virtual concert on June 19th, 2021 in honor of Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in America”. .
Tell us about your project
Dizz: rIVerse began with me, because I have been putting groups together since I was 14-years-old. I always knew I wanted to make music and I’ve always loved the concept of a group, so I had this vision from a very young age. The four of us met in 2008, as cast members of the Toronto stage production of Disney’s High School Musical 2, and I asked each of them to work with me and create this group over the following years. This lineup has been together since 2012 and just been independently pushing, creating, sacrificing, working hard, and staying true to our mission since then. It’s taken a lot of time, but we are where we are today because of our resilience and our commitment to the vision.
What part of being a group do you enjoy the most?
Khadija: When it comes to the aspects of creating that we each enjoy, rIVerse works really well because we each have different passions and strengths that lead us to the best possible product. Some band members love the creative aspect: songwriting, recording, choreographing, etc. Some band members live for the performance: being on stage, singing in front of an audience, getting feedback from fans, etc. Some band members are all about the production side: taking creative ideas and turning them into reality, putting all the puzzle pieces together to create one big picture. But all of us lean into our passions to make the rIVerse brand stronger.
Who are some artists you look up to?
Monroe: In terms of musical icons we look up to, that’s another space we are so unique! We each had different styles we really loved when we were younger. Dizz is a hardcore r&b fan, Zak really liked the kind of Red Hot Chili Peppers style bands, Khadija listened to a lot of acoustic singer/songwriters, and for me it was all the divas that I’d imitate when I was singing in my bedroom – Mariah, Whitney, Celine, etc. But all four of us love pop music from particularly the 90s and early 2000s – the Britneys, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, TLC, Brandy, etc. So you hear a lot of those influences in our music.
What is your creative process like?
Zak: rIVerse refers to ourselves as a ‘well-oiled machine’ with each member having their specific function within the whole group. We are all able to do many jobs, but as Khadija mentioned, when we each lean into our passions, we thrive. For the songwriting process, Dizz has been our topline writer. He has a brilliant mind for lyrics and melodies and he’s studied how to create hit songs ever since he was a child. And also, because we are so close like a family, he knows each of our stories & styles so well, that he can write parts for us that feel perfectly in line with how we view ourselves.
What inspires your lyrics?
Dizz: rIVerse’s lyrics are a combination of drawing from real life and from my experience with how to write hit pop tracks. For each member of rIVerse, I will usually write lyrics based on what I know of their stories, their truths. That’s the same for songs that are more light-hearted like our single, ‘BaeBeeBoo’ or for songs with a darker message, like ‘Stand Up’ where we felt the need to talk about the issue of police brutality & systemic racism — those lyrics are all true to rIVerse’s authentic feelings. Then along with that, I have just been studying hit music my whole life. I have been listening to successful artists and learning what kinds of melodies, arrangements, word play, imagery, etc. are the strongest and I apply that knowledge to rIVerse’s music.
How do you go about making your visuals, videos etc?
Khadija: All of rIVerse’s visuals, music videos, and other video content are truly the result of a strong vision and a lot of resilience! As an independent group, we don’t have any label or management or any other entity supporting us. Every time we want to create any kind of visual element, we literally work overtime everyday and night to pull together the resources and finances to put out the best possible product. We are proud of the way we commit to the creative vision and find unique ways to make sure we are delivering a product that is competitive with the most popular pop artists out there today. We storyboard ideas, scout locations, find wardrobe pieces, pull together a crew of extremely talented friends who believe in us and support us, and we make it work.
Tell us about your latest release and how it came about
Monroe: Our most recent single is the song ‘BaeBeeBoo’ which we released the same day that our album ‘Poison IV’ was released. This song was produced by a very successful k-pop producer named MirrorBOY, who I actually met and became friends with back when rIVerse toured in South Korea for one month. He created this beat for us and as soon as Dizz heard it, the melodies and concept started flowing! We love this song because it has that big k-pop sound that is dominating the music industry these days, but it’s also still very distinctly rIVerse. This song, and music video, have definitely been the ones to shift the direction of our career in a really magical way.
Do you have any peculiar pre or post show rituals as a band?
Zak: All four of us have different pre-show rituals that help us feel ready to perform – for example, I usually have to go for a run or do a workout whereas Monroe plays all her favourite music while she’s doing her makeup. But when we get to a venue, we always come together and unify ourselves. We do vocal warm ups as a group and we always hold hands and say a prayer right before we hit the stage. That helps us to refocus not just on the notes or choreography, but the message we are sharing with the audience and the true purpose of our mission.
What’s the future looking like for you?
Khadija: We are actually in a very exciting space that we aren’t totally sure what the immediate future looks like. We know our goals are to travel and perform in different cities and countries around the world. And, ultimately, we hope to bring the music and messages on ‘Poison IV’ to new audiences. This last year has shown us that we really can’t know exactly what will happen. We have just been going with the flow, being open to whatever opportunities come to us and working hard every step of the way. It’s been working well for us!
Who or what inspires your style and aesthetics?
Dizz: Our style comes from drawing inspiration from greats who came before us and tapping into our individual tastes, then finding the ways to tie it all together since we each have our own unique styles. We love to look at fashion from the past, especially the 90s and early 2000s, and incorporate the types of visuals our favourite artists were wearing back then. Our inspirations are constantly shifting as we grow as people, and that is maybe one of the most fun parts of fashion for us!
What is the achievement or moment in your career you are the most proud of and why?
Zak: In our 9 years as a group, we’ve been blessed to have many accomplishments that we are so proud of. A recent one for us, though, is the creation of our ‘Poison IV Virtual Concert’ this year. With no label support, no management, no outside entity backing us, rIVerse created an entire 60+ minute virtual show that, we feel, can stand next to the biggest artists out today! Our amazing choreographer, Leon Blackwood, and our show producer, Jamie Hodgins (VCR Productions), really helped us push the envelope and bring a stadium-worthy concert experience to a digital platform so we could reach our global audience all at once. We worked so hard on every aspect of that concert and we are so, so proud of the final result!
What is your advice for aspiring artists?
Monroe: Our biggest advice to aspiring artists is to live in your truth. It is so important for artists to believe in themselves and believe they can accomplish their goals, but you have to know yourself first. Know exactly who you are, love that person, and be ready to share that person authentically with the world. The more you put yourself out there, proudly, the more audiences will be drawn to your truth and you will find the audience who supports you, 100%. And, even if you get a lot of “No”s (which is part of the process), you will be so confident in yourself that you will be able to keep moving forward towards the next “Yes!”
Do you think this past year changed your perspective on things as artists?
Dizz: We feel like the last year has shown us just how powerful and necessary the music and entertainment industry are! We have seen just how much people depend and rely on the arts to uplift, inspire, and motivate them through challenges. We hope that, especially after this past year, we can see more support for the entertainment industry and more artists being properly compensated for their hard work and effort. Artists are giving so much of themselves to lift other people up and we hope that’s something the world can recognize more now.