Dust’s multi-genre collaboration mixes Afrobeat, hip hop, and digital experimentation to create a musical message of progress toward civil rights and away from institutional racism.
As social issues and civil rights have become more prevalent in the city, many local artists and musicians have shifted the focus of their work in order to address those issues. Others, though, have already been addressing these issues for years and are now approaching the subject matter with even more vigor.
Dust, whose real name is Chris Farmer, is most known for being the drummer of the pioneering early 90s math rock band Breadwinner. Farmer later took an interest in drum and bass music, which resulted in him beginning to create hip-hop and Afrobeat-inspired instrumentals. Farmer is also a former member of Hotel X, a world music/jazz ensemble based in Richmond that Spirit Drummer has also played in.
Farmer first met Spirit Drummer years ago through Richmond’s pickup soccer scene, but he has only come to know Radio B through the making of the Overdue EP. After making the instrumental for “Back to Today,” the track Radio B is featured on, Farmer considered several Richmond rappers before deciding he would be the best fit.
“I was looking for great flow, great lyrics, great presence. I was just looking for a great rapper,” Farmer said.
“Back to Today” deals with institutional racism and the killing of Black people at the hands of police, two subjects Radio B is no stranger to addressing. According to him, the events of 2020 have made it harder to look away from those issues, but they’ve been on his radar since the beginning of his rap career.
“I’m a very introspective artist, I’m affected by whatever is going on around me, whether it be personally or otherwise,” said Radio B. “It’s always bleeding into my work, what’s going on as a whole.”
The track’s instrumental uses a 5/4 time signature. On his 2018 release Jesus Never Wore a Suit, Radio B raps over some non-standard rhythms. To him, it usually makes little difference.
“Whatever it is, if I chose to write to it, it spoke to me somehow, and my approach to writing is not as conceptual as it might sound like it is. It’s more so a conversation between me and the music,” Radio B said. “The challenge was figuring out what the delivery was gonna be, because it’s not a standard rap instrumental; it doesn’t have a rhythm that you can easily get in the pocket of. Fortunately, I have a bit of a history in spoken word, so I took a more spoken-word approach to crafting the verse.”
“Ish/No More” is the name of the track Spirit Drummer is featured on. It shares a similar theme with “Back to Today,” and speaks out against the violence and hate that has become so ingrained in our society. Preaching the message of love and compassion instead of hate is by no means a new development for Spirit Drummer.
Originally from Cameroon, Spirit Drummer is a Catholic minister who grew up playing drums in his parents’ spiritualist church, which took aspects from numerous traditions of faith, and first came to America with a missionary group. When he first met Farmer, he was impressed by his knowledge and interest in Afrobeat.
“To finally have the privilege not just to hear music together but also to attempt to play together, and to then feel the heart of the type of music he liked to play, that was awesome,” Spirit Drummer said. “Because that’s what Afrobeat is really about — the origin of Afrobeat is doing what’s right with insistence.”
The trio says they have not planned a follow-up to the project. In fact, none of them tend to think about future musical endeavors very far in advance — though they are interested.
“This thing just hit, so we just gotta see what plays out, but I would definitely be down,” Farmer said.
Top Photo: Chris Farmer, aka Dust. Photo via Bandcamp.