As evidenced by her debut album Alkali, NYC R&B singer Rahel is brimming with dualities.
The Camp & Street and Lo Motion affiliate unveiled herself this year with Alkali lead single ‘Serve’ and paired its bubbling beat and SWV-like coos with a cheeky, brightly colored accompanying video.
“It was light-hearted and a little bit on the comedic side, which is definitely part of my character,” she says from her home in Harlem. When it came time to choose the follow-up single, though, she wanted to reveal the steelier side of herself. The clip for ‘Restless’, which is shot in opposing black and white, has a similar dreamy quality to her video, but is much more stark in its subtle surreality. “‘Restless’ was a logical choice for me because I wanted to show another facade of what I do,” she says. “It’s definitely a far cry from the last video.”
FACT caught up with Rahel, who will be having a busy fall with the for-pay version of her album Alkali available to buy now, to unpack the cerebral new clip.
Who came up with the concept?
I did! And Mitch Moore, who directed it, he made it come to life. Definitely when I made the song, I envisioned the lyrics coming to life in slow motion and in black and white. What inspired the song was really serious emotions, so I tried to sing in a voice that had an airier quality with the intention that this would be a single and I wanted the visual to really portray what I was feeling at the time.
There is definitely a distinct dichotomy between what you’re singing about and the spoken interlude toward the end of the song. The styling choices in the video are reflective of this, too. What was the inspiration for the more regale look for what I guess I’ll call the “conflict” parts?
I always imagine myself as somebody who presents herself well in these situations, in love and relationships. And my delivery and presentation can be poised—not always—and really diplomatic. I can kind of be stone cold in my delivery, but [my head] is just going nuts. I’ve never been, not never, but I was just not that good at communicating my emotions. The moment I feel it, [I say to myself], “You need to find the language to express this without blowing up in somebody’s face, hitting someone, getting arrested.” You don’t need any of that. But that’s definitely what’s going through my head! I can be a crazy person in these situations.
We all can.
But the whole point is to save face. The video is just me falling apart and not being able to save face anymore — when you crack, all that. Everything just kind of leaks out.
You’re pretty gentle with the actor [Chicago vocalist Khallee] in the video.
Really? I really put my hands on him.
Well, in terms of how you could throw hands, you were pretty gentle.
True, but you know it is an R&B motif to see these fights. [While] filming and thinking about the song, I’m kind of more defeated, not angry and trying to get my point across by any means necessary. It’s more that I am flailing and desperate and because of that, I’m falling apart. Putting hands on [the guy] in the video was more like me being at an all time low.
Usually the romantic scuffle motif you mentioned take place in a more realistic video, like the living room or somewhere public. What made you decide to make this so stark?
I wanted to get the emotion across more than anything. I feel like the settings can be a distraction and they place these sorts of feelings in a certain context and that’s not the case [here]. I’m sure they happen in the privacy of a home, typically, or in a private place, but I didn’t necessarily want that because I don’t know if that’s necessarily realistic. If you’re gonna have a fight, you’re gonna have a fight. It can happen anywhere, any time. Anything can really trigger it. Having a big white space like that is almost infinite. I just wanted the emotions to take over the space and not have anything else confine.
Lastly, what’s up with his feet in the water filled cube?
I’m at a breaking point and desperate because he can’t hear me. He’s in his own world and, in his own way, sitting in his throne doing as he please. His feet are in water with whatever the poor man’s version of diamonds are. He is literally having a foot bath and cannot even see me.