Have you ever listened to a genre and thought, “this isn’t for me”, but came across that one artist with the power to change your mind? I mean, everyone has their preferences but it sometimes takes that one unique individual or group to alter your perception.
Enter R. Flex, a real game-changer on many levels! You can try to classify his sound as “R&B”, “soul”, “electronic”, “trap”, “ambient”, “hip hop”, among others. Label it what you will, his approach is genuinely fresh and transcends classification, making it truly his own. R. Flex sets the mic on fire with an unrivaled voice backed by pure heart, gaining him more attention each time he performs!
I first met R. Flex after a performance in 2016, where he had played a Sofar Sounds show here, in London. Packed in a living room with roughly 30 other spectators, R. Flex rose from the crowd and took to the stage (in this case, the living room corner) and delivered a mind-blowing set! Again, this hasn’t been a genre I’ve given much thought to exploring, but after his performance, I took a moment to chat with him and commend him for his stellar performance. He’s one of the kindest and most humble individuals who’s truly appreciative of his gift and his growing fandom.
Flex has the ability to tantalize your ears with raw intensity. He’s not afraid to be himself and let his listeners know with his gripping and, often times, revealing lyrics. His subject matter touches largely on his sexuality, emotional struggles, social standards and racial injustice. That, combined with cutting-edge production that’s almost indescribable in terms of genre. What’s more is overall sound, which is diverse, to say the least. No two tracks sound exact, making it fresh experience with each listen.
Now residing in Brampton, the former London resident has accomplished a lot in a short amout of time. From humble beginnings in 2014, he’s since released two EPs (Hologram  and In & Out ) along with multiple B-sides. Also, be sure to check out the documentary, In & Out, detailing the making of his new E.P. and more!
Flex has collaborated with established musicians, both local and Southwestern Ontario, such as: A-Fos, Zlender, Tush, James Bailey, Staasia Daniels, Positive Journey, Noise Level, Ian Doig-Phaneuf, Worldcatcher, and Jale O’Haara. He’s infiltrated Toronto’s indie R&B scene and is setting it ablaze with just cause!
Flex has been working around the clock to keep his game on lock. He’s been kind enough to answer a few questions to shed some insight on his experiences in the scene.
Reverb: Your style is incredible and doesn’t seem to be anyone else’s but yours. It would be interesting to know who and what are some of your influences that helped you achieve your sound. Can you please enlighten us?
Flex: Thanks for the warm compliment! My style was influenced by Kelela, Tinashe, and FKA Twigs. You can hear them in my songs. They wanna feel embodied. They wanna feel fulfilled. But they wanna tell you what to do to get there. So, they play with R&B and electronic music to do it. In Kelela’s song “Gomenasai”, she tells her guy he’s the bitch but then resigns in trap noir sounds when he won’t admit it. In Tinashe’s “Vulnerable”, she gets her guy drunk in a slippery ambient track before barking don’t stop looking at me. In Twigs’s “Give Up”, she begs her guy to believe in her while incorporating sounds from Zelda to give the illusion of them winning in love if he does. I fuck with these experiences very deeply.
Reverb: It’s not always easy for musicians to break in to the scene. Given your diverse background, what are some of the unique struggles you encountered and how did you overcome them to get where you are?
Flex: No one wants to listen to a fat black fag. Point blank. People see me and want me dead. They wish I’d go away. But they won’t admit they created me. I am their Frankenstein. I am the them they try to sleep off at night. But I keep coming back. I am their dreams. I am their nightmares. I am their life.
Reverb: It can be difficult to stay true to yourself and keep doing what makes you different. Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians struggling to make it while defying conventional norms?
Flex: Be yourself. Read about people like you who’ve come before you. Understand what made them brilliant. Understand the price they paid. Understand their legacy and why what you’re doing is important. You will fatten history because history can’t contain you; your choices do.
Reverb: You’re always on the go. It’s almost as if you never stop! What are some things you like to do in your downtime that aren’t music-related?
Flex: I love art exhibits. I love good movies. I love good theatre. A good lecture turns me on. A good conversation feeds me. A good book changes me. All of these things make me work harder on me.
And there you have it!
If you’ve been looking for a new flavour for that musical palette, I’d say don’t sleep on this! I took a chance to explore new horizons and, after hearing R. Flex, it was definitely a chance well worth taking!