“Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong—
They are weak, but He is strong.”
Hymn ‘Jesus Love Me’ by William Batchelder Bradbury
In talking about Q and Ri, the Bay Area- and Sacramento-based hip hop duet known as H.I.S.(He Is Strong), you have to start with the birth of their son. He was born five weeks premature and had to endure an emergency c-section. If the doctor didn’t catch the placenta ripping due to a bad reaction from induction sooner than she did, its safe to say both the mother and baby would have not made it.
When the baby boy emerged from the womb, he came out completely purple with no signs of life for 5 minutes, the amount of time it took the nurses to revive child and rush him to the NICU. The doctors were speaking to Q and Ri about possible brain damage due to the excessive amount of time without oxygen. They(the medical staff) were extremely worried about the odds against the child making it out of the hospital and going home with his parents.
After, the longest month in their lives, all his tests came back negative. There was zero brain damage, and the boy started improving rapidly “through the mercy of God” as the artists write on their Sound Cloud site. Their son became their hero, their angel sent from heaven. They began doing their music again in honor of him…because He Is Strong (H.I.S).
The young couple met in the Bay Area in 2006. Q started his songwriting journey as a teenager. He was a prolific writer of poetry who developed his musical talent as he moved beyond high school. Ri had started writing songs by age thirteen. She is an accomplished modern dance performer who spent several years traveling as a backup singer to several Gospel and Christian music artists including world-famous performer, Yolanda Adams. If that wasn’t talent enough for one person, Ri also plays the piano and clarinet.
One of their early songs, Phat Lady, is, according to Q, “dedicated to all those people who have been told, NO, all their lives”. The song emphasizes that even when the proverbial Fat Lady sings, you still have to go on trying and believing in yourself and your goals.
Life, the latest song written earlier this year by Ri after the birth of the couple’s son, is an introspective piece which asks the question that we all deal with at some point in our lives: What is our purpose? Where is our life taking us?
Another one of their songs is titled, Close Your Mouth, which is about not letting other people put you into a box, put a label on you. Listening to the song, you soon realize that the artists put a nice spin on the true sentiments they sought to express in the work. As Q and Ri acknowledged when asked about this, they did agree that the hook for the song can be expressed more colloquially as “Shut Your #!@$#%$?&*@% Mouth”.
It was a ‘Letter to the Editor’ in the Sacramento News & Review written by Q, reflecting the sentiments in Close Your Mouth, which first brought the duo to my attention. He was commenting about a short editorial blurb the previous week in the SN&R which bemoaned the lack of opportunity for hip-hop artists in Sacramento, both in local clubs and in the Concert in the Park series. Q wrote that this was due to the perception by most club owners and bookers that rap/hip-hop groups automatically draw a violent element. “This perception has forced many talented local rap and hip-hop artists to surround themselves with a regular band in order to have any chance of being booked for gigs here in the Sacramento area,” both Q and Ri said. “Even doing so, these performers still have a hard time finding opportunities.”
“It has less to do with what you know[your talent and ability],” Ri said, “and more WHO you know.”
The duo acknowledge that even for themselves, they find more work and recognition in the Bay Area than they do here in the Sacramento. Like the response Jesus received when he entered his hometown of Nazareth, they and other local groups don’t receive the response and respect they should.
Q and Ri are busy in the studio currently recording a new EP and working on new videos. Their next scheduled performance is set for July 10th in San Francisco. Q also mentioned that they are working on putting together a show here in Sacramento, though no date or location is set yet.