RMR’s willingness to express himself in so many ways makes for songs so engaging that you almost forget you don’t know who he is—he intentionally keeps his identity under wraps. Behind his signature embroidered balaclava and gleaming gold teeth is a man who chooses growth over stagnancy, music over celebrity, and faith over self-absorption. While his mask offers anonymity, it’s also a form of expression as evocative and fascinating as the music itself. His stage name, pronounced “rumor,” is stitched under his right eye; over the left is the word “imperfectus,” which is Latin for incomplete. “It’s basically to humble me,” RMR says.
In February 2020, RMR became an overnight sensation after releasing his viral debut song, “Rascal,” a moving interpolation of “Bless the Broken Road,” popularized by Rascal Flatts in 2004. Instead of a forlorn reflection on the time spent finding one’s way to true love, RMR reimagined the song as a meditation on the life of a Black man in America who’s been affected by his days of hustling. The single dominated social media the very day it was released and has since been streamed more than 4 million times on Spotify alone. “I didn’t really know that it was going to do that,” RMR admits. “I believed in the record, but you make plans and God laughs.”
It wasn’t long before RMR signed to CMNTY CULTURE and Warner Records, releasing his EP, DRUG DEALING IS A LOST ART, in June 2020. The project found RMR expanding his sound even further, swerving into uncharted hip-hop territory in one moment (“DEALER”) and slinking his way through ’80s-inspired dream pop in another (“SILENCE”). After the EP’s release, RMR shared “4th Quarter Medley,” which saw him ambitiously weaving together covers of Matchbox Twenty, Drake, and the Goo Goo Dolls. In his younger days, RMR would create new harmonies while listening to those songs, flipping others’ hits into something new and applicable to his life.
Versatility is embedded in RMR’s musical DNA, and that unrelenting urge to cross lines is where he thrives. Contemporary rap icons like Kanye West influence him just as much as the perfected pop of Michael Jackson, the rollicking country rock of Keith Urban, and the inimitable vocals of late R&B legend Whitney Houston. The raspy elasticity in RMR’s voice comes from studying the lead singers from alternative bands, like Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. “It’s growth—especially for Black men,” he says of his own artistic direction. “Urban Black men, I should say. Niggas in the hood. Get outside of that mindset with me.”
RMR is dedicated to the concept of growth. As he plainly puts it, “If you’re not growing, you’re dead.” That’s part of why Hurry Up and Wait sounds the way it does, why he collaborates with so many different artists, why he continues to explore so many genres. He sees his craft as an opportunity to “raise consciousness” across his audience, whom he’s looking forward to finally seeing in person in 2021. “I grew up around everyone,” he says. “So I like to bring everybody together.” His passionate, musically borderless approach assembles people of disparate backgrounds under one roof, exposing them to music they may never have otherwise heard.