80’s Euphoria meets R&B // R. Flex unveils new “ONCE UPON A FLEX” EP!
Canadian artist R. Flex returns with ONCE UPON A FLEX. In collaboration with multi-disciplinary producer David Psutka (ACT!, Egyptrixx, Anamai), the 2-track EP recalls the melancholic grooves of 80’s R&B.
R. Flex’s vocal performances are deftly evocative. At the turn of a phrase, they flit from soft and understanding to tragic and downtrodden. The result is their most vulnerable, paranoid, and honest work to date. Their ability to navigate 80’s R&B while traversing topics like sex with downlow men & public breakdowns, makes for a cotemporal record that reveals queer emotions, experiences, and events that were always bubbling under the surface of 80’s R&B.
Taking influence from the likes of Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, & Luther Vandross, ONCE UPON A FLEX comes to life. “The Fog” unravels with cinematic soundscapes that captivate eerie tones and unparalleled ambiguity. R. Flex shares, “I ended up turning that feeling of moral ambiguity into sexual ambiguity. I, in turn, made a song about my experiences having sex with men on the downlow. Meaning, I made a song about men who have sex with men, but don’t identify as gay to avoid coming out.” Blended with a reverbarating rhythm and soaring vocal energy, they continue, “I think for a song that pulls from quiet storm, which is already known for expanding masculinity to embrace domestic sensuality, this song pushes beyond heteronormative expectations.” Leaning into a realm of quiet storm, pop and trap, “The Fog” comes to life.
“Hounds of Hell” is the second offering from the EP. Pinning down discourses into self-abandonment across both tracks, it’s R. Flex’s hope that the EP inspires listeners to feel. They confide, “I expose the paradox of centering oneself in the midst of a social ill while dissociating at the same time. There’s no centre; just an endless cycle of self-abandonment that brings the EP together.” Inspired by a line in Sky Ferreira’s “I Blame Myself”, “Hounds of Hell” serves something maniacal and yet vulnerable. Much like “The Fog”, there’s a tension, but the beat feels lucid, pairing sublimely with R. Flex’s euphoric vocals.
Garnering humbling praise from the likes of Exclaim Magazine, Bandcamp, and The Star, R. Flex’s repertoire to date has been discovered globally, landing on queer playlists in Amsterdam, Toronto, and New York. Simply put, R. Flex is an underground star in the making. Supporting the likes of Haiku Hands and Khalifa, they also performed alongside BLCK*SYNC at the 2nd anniversary of Club Quarantine (one of the world’s biggest online dance parties). R. Flex is in demand and excited for you to CHECK THE FLEX!
Who is R. Flex and how do you identify?
R. Flex is an electro-R&B phenom that’ll alter your universe if you see me perform live even once.
How did everything start?
R. Flex started because I just wanted to hop on producers already made beats and add my voice to it. So, when I was in London, ON, I just recorded my vocals over my fave producers songs there and sent them back. They loved it. That led to me later making original songs.
When did you realise you wanted to become a singer?
When I was 12 years old, I made an email account called email@example.com. It was my first email account as well as me manifesting my destiny.
What shall we expect from your new EP?
On my new EP, you should expect to hear my most cinematic work yet. It’s only two tracks, but there are big emotions with both tender and big vocals.
Where does your music inspiration come from?
For this EP, my music inspiration came from Kelela, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Sky Ferreira and a few others.
Is there enough queer representation in your field?
In Toronto, there are a lot of queer artists making R&B music including Adria Kain, TRP.P, Desiire, Leila Dey, and others who traverse into pop. Tafari Anthony, WildBlack, James Baley, and J3M would be some just to name a few.
Do you face any discrimination being black and queer? Is the life for people of colour easier after the BLM movement?
Yes, I face discrimination being black and queer. I’m fortunate I have community and support from other black folks, queer folks, and allies who see to it I’m heard and cared for.
Personally, I can’t answer the question if life is better for all people of colour because of the BLM movement because antiblackness is a separate type of racism from just experiencing racism as a person of colour. I think more thought as to whether all people of colour are black or whether all black people are people of colour should be considered before asking this to a black person. Otherwise, it risks conflating antiblackness as the same kind of racism other people of colour experience and that’s simply not true.
What are the most important moments of your life?
The most important moments of my life include going to my first Pride when I was 19, working with Grammy award winning producer Zlender on my biggest song to date (“Thursday”), and having Jessie Reyez’s manager Mauricio Ruiz telling my song “In & Out” could be an international hit.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are to head into the studio and begin working on my first album. I’m scared and ready at the same time. Before then, I have another EP coming out and I do a song with C’Nee Starlette.