Meet Toronto-based pop and r&b group rIVerse! Here to be a voice for the underrepresented, rIVerse is all about embracing oneself truly. Through their music and videos, they explore themes such as sexuality, representation, and body positivity. Tackling systemic injustices and self-love, rIVerse is back stronger than ever with new album Poison IV. In the wake of the release, rIVerse’s Khadija, Dizz, Monroe, and Zak chatted with Cliché about their mission, inspirations, and upcoming projects.
1) Poison IV features tracks that are reflective of systemic injustices that have existed for centuries. In that light, what’s your favorite lyric from ‘Poison IV’ and how does it resonate with you?
Khadija: In terms of a favourite lyric from ‘Poison IV,’ that’s a tough question. We ALL have different songs that are our favourites, and those change from day-to-day! Haha. But one line that keeps resonating for me is from the song ‘IV Ever’. It says, “We’re in a broke-down system. We need to find a new way”. It’s just such a really clear, simple summary of ALL the injustices we address on the album, I feel. It’s reflective of the way the world really started to understand in 2020 that the issues we face aren’t case-by-case problems. They are the results of centuries of systemic injustice. Until we fix the entire system, we won’t see any lasting change.
2) Dizz, I cannot imagine the courage it takes to come out as HIV-positive in a world that is still steeped in stigma. What has life been like for you after coming out with the news?
Dizz: Since coming out publicly about living with HIV, my life feels so much more free. I’m not a person who likes feeling like I’m hiding any shameful secrets or anything like that. I didn’t like the weight of having this new part of my life, part of my truth, and feeling like I had to hide it. Now I feel like I can just continue living my life without worrying about people finding out. It’s also been incredible to see the response since I chose to share my truth.
I’ve had many people privately messaging me in my DMs, thanking me for telling my story, coming out to ME about their own HIV statuses that they haven’t even told their friends or family. But seeing me be so open has kind of helped them to realize they don’t need to feel so defeated or wrong about themselves. That really helps me know, everyday, that I made the right choice.
3) The four of you break all kinds of norms that are unfortunately still prevalent. I would love to know what the response to your music and videos has been like.
Monroe: The response we get to our music and videos is honestly overwhelming sometimes. In the best way! There are so many people out there who have NEVER seen anyone in mainstream media that looks like them, or that they feel can relate to their stories in such a close way. They are so grateful to rIVerse for just being who we are and doing what we do. And at the same time, it’s like, WE’RE grateful to THEM for supporting us and listening to our music, watching our videos! We know that we couldn’t continue to rise without their support. It means a lot to us to know that we’re creating something they really enjoy and they even need, in a way. They remind us everyday that we’re on the right path.
4) Who or what do you draw your artistic inspiration from?
Zak: Our artistic inspirations come from such varied places, since we are four very different people with such diverse backgrounds. I think it’s safe to say that across the board, we all love music from earlier decades, especially the 90s & early 2000s. That’s what we grew up on so we often like to rIVerse (haha!) back in time to draw from that music. But the specific inspirations range from the alt-rock & ska that I listened to, the r&b that Dizz grew up on, the acoustic singers Khadija loved, and the great divas Monroe would imitate in her bedroom mirror, singing into a hair brush! And, of course, we all loved our 90s pop stars – Britney, Backstreet Boys, Christina, etc.
5) What gap do you think currently exists in the music industry?
Khadija: The question of what gaps exist in the stories that are told in mainstream media is one that we actually discuss often. The baseline answer we often reach is that there is just a lack of representation, overall! We need a more varied representation of all different kinds of people. If we can see all different types of Black stories, or queer stories, or stories with plus-sized people at the centre, or stories that address all the different ways intersectionality can affect people, then it isn’t such a big deal when any one particular narrative is told.
OR if a particular narrative is left out in one space; we can trust that it’ll be told in another. But because we have such a small scope, even when there are “wins” — like the WAP music video was for female empowerment — it can still feel empty for some. It’s beacuse we’re missing the other elements to those particular stories. More representation is the answer!
6) There has been a lot of talk about misinformation when it comes to the body positivity movement. What misconceptions do you think people have about the movement?
Monroe: There are still a lot of misconceptions about the body positivity movement. I guess it’s still so new to being a mainstream thing. One big misconception is that body positivity means you’re supposed to love everything about your body at all times. Any negative thought is like “No! You aren’t being body positive!” But I go through my days where I struggle with my body image, as we all do. We have so many years of programming we need to work through. There will be times when it’s harder than others. But we have to remember that loving yourself is meant to be a journey, not a destination.
Another big misconception is understanding that while the movement is for everyone who suffers from body image issues… at the same time, the fat community has been specifically marginalized, mistreated, and faced with so much prejudice for a really long time. So that is a very specific issue that needs to be addressed. It should have the space to be talked about. People in that community should have their voices uplifted when it comes to body positivity.
7) Does rIVerse have a motto/mantra?
Zak: There are two statements that are part of the rIVerse brand. The first is our mission statement, “Representing the Underrepresented,” which we make sure is the throughline of everything we create. The second is the declaration that we include in many of our YouTube videos and live fan interactions we have: “I am Beautiful, I am Worthy, I am Valued, and I am Loved.” We ask our fans to say this declaration along with us to remind themselves that, as much as they look up to us, they are just as amazing and powerful and worthy of seeing their dreams come true, no matter who they are or what their story is.
8) Do you have any new projects up your sleeve that you would like to share with us?
Dizz: Yes!!! Coming up next for rIVerse is our full-length Poison IV Virtual Concert! We are working with an incredible team to produce a 60+ minute performance built around the album. This will be streamed to our fans all across the globe. We are so excited for this and feel blessed to be able to share a live performance experience with everyone who has been showing our music so much love. Especially since we had to cancel our very first headlining tour last year due to COVID-19. We are still fundraising for this concert, since we are an independent group and we pay for everything out of our own pockets. If anyone is interested in supporting our goal of putting on this concert, our music, or our message in general, please feel free to make a donation to our GoFundMe campaign!!!