Community

Get to know the 'future of R&B' with Toronto singer R. Flex

How does music create community? How do you encourage marginalized communities to reclaim space? R. Flex is a queer, non-binary Toronto based-artist whose performances and work seek to respond to these questions.

"I’m the future of R&B. That’s what my fans tell me and I believe it."

Toronto-based singer/songwriter R.Flex (Brianna Roye)

In the midst of a pandemic, Pride Month will look a little different this year. Pride Toronto celebrations have migrated online, and many of the both official and unofficial gathers have become virtual. So how do you find community when you can't come together in the ways you always have? We checked in with artist R. Flex about their work, celebration and what community means this month and beyond.

June is Pride month and this year, Pride is resonating a little more strongly with R.Flex. For this week's edition of Artists Diaries, R.Flex, a Black queer non-binary artist says more work needs to be done around anti-black and systemic racism in the LGBTQ+ community. 10:17

R. Flex, Singer/Songwriter
Toronto/Brampton, ON

Tell us about yourself and your work

My name is R. Flex. I'm a Toronto-based electro-R&B artist. I use they/them pronouns and I'm the future of R&B. That's what my fans tell me and I believe it. As a Black queer non-binary person, I intend on giving my fans a future where they can see themselves.

I want them to say things no other song allows them to. I want them to fall in love with who they are and what they want while saying it out in public. When I dropped my debut EP in 2018, my songs had fans singing about the sex they want and how they want it. Which is important to me. In a society that tells black people, queer people, trans people, and women to shut up, I encourage a world where they can scream louder. Their consent is important to me as is their exploration through identity because it's something I want for myself. My live performance is explosive in terms of movement. I'm Black. I'm big. I'm mad. I take up space and show how public space is Black space, queer space, trans space, women's space. It's something fans have to witness to understand. Without them, there is no performance. They to me are every bit as much the artist as I am.

In a society that tells Black people, queer people, trans people, and women to shut up, I encourage a world where they can scream louder.- R. Flex

Since in-person Pride Month celebrations aren't taking place this year, how have you found community?

I'm going to miss Blockorama. That's the one party I look forward to every year. I get to see so many friends and idols and crushes all in one space. It's the first place I have ever seen vogue battles with fem queens, black femme burlesque dancers, the legendary Michelle Ross, the iconic DJ Black Cat and talents like SWV, Diana King, and Mya. I've honestly been spoiled through the years. For being Black and queer in this world, I deserve to be spoiled.

R. Flex (Brianna Roye)

Blockorama is my Christmas. I see my chosen family and we exchange the gifts of ourselves to each other. This year, I'm going to watch them perform virtually and cheer them on. On Zoom, we can see each other in our homes, which are our sanctuaries outside of our bodies. This too will be a holy space. We already did it on Club Quarantine when myself, James Baley, Bliptor, Myst, Eboni, Twysted, Snoopy, and Ginoy performed. We can do it again.

Part of the Proud To Shine campaign involves shining a light on others doing great things. Is there another person you would like to give a shout out to?

Rosina Kazi of LAL uses their platform to uplift Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) LGBT+ artists in Toronto through grassroots activism and good faith. This year, they helped facilitate Black Summers Night at Luminato with Black Lives Matter Toronto, an event where BIPOC could grieve and celebrate the life of Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Last year, LAL was long-listed for a Polaris Prize for their album Dark Beings, a spiritual record that emphasized the importance of trans lives. Kazi is deeply connected with the youth and encourages them to use their space at Unit 2 for performances, parties, and gatherings. This especially important as Black and brown-led event spaces in Toronto disappear. Even more remarkable, Kazi went out to ensure homeless folks had access to essentials in the early weeks of the pandemic. Kazi is fearless and shines brighter than any other star I know in Toronto. I am indebted to their work.

What does support look like for you at this time?

Support looks like using my they/them pronouns, buying and sharing my music, catching my performances and interviews, sending me food and beverages; and donating money to families who are victims of police brutality. It also means getting informed on current and past state of Black history.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Find more information about R. Flex's work here.

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