By Emma Hug Rosenstein | February 28, 2023
“Breath to the bottom of your ribs, feed yourself good thoughts and the world could be a haven,” Riz La Vie proclaimed during his New York City stop on his “The World Could Be A Haven” tour.
It was a bright sunny day, the kind that makes people blow on the seeds of a dandelion and wish for spring to come. The sunlight’s reflection bounced across all the buildings on the Bowery, hitting eyes and making them squint as no clouds were blocking the view. The doors to the Bowery Ballroom were wide open, giving way for the sunlight to fall into the dark venue, almost like a gateway inside. The ballroom was otherwise empty with the exception of the crew working diligently getting the stage set up and ready for the night. Music was blasting from the speakers to fill the empty space, and the sound check of the drums was prominent and fell over the music. Some time later, the large Bowery Ballroom doors opened as Riz La Vie walked in, backlit by the sunlight streaming in from the doors. He immediately introduced himself to the crew and thanked them for their work before he went and settled upstairs in the greenroom. Riz La Vie is an up and coming artist fusing indie and rap while combining different sounds without borders or labels. He released his last album, Haven, on February 9th, the same day his tour kicked off. New York City was the ninth stop on his North American tour and holds a special place in Riz La Vie’s heart, as this is the place he called home for many years.
Riz La Vie got comfortable in the greenroom at The Bowery Ballroom as the groovement asked him some questions before his show on the special day February 26th, his birthday:
You grew up in New Jersey and lived in New York for a while, right?
Probably around the time I was 19, I started spending the majority of my time here.
Do you feel that it had any creative influences on your music at all?
For sure, it’s the first place I had really known from my time growing up, but that longer time in the city matched my energy really well. I didn’t feel out of place. I felt comfortable here. That was the first time I really felt comfortable in myself, my surroundings, and environment. Total freedom.
What originally brought you to New York?
I moved to Philly for school for a little bit. Growing up and coming here, saving up $32 to take the train. I knew New York was my city. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra, jazz, all the New York scene, the chess players, and all the New York things. Being from New Jersey, this is my metropolitan area.
What was the first concert you ever went to? Did that have an influence on you and your pursuit of music?
For sure, I still remember it really clearly. I went to see Coldplay with my sister. I didn’t know any Coldplay songs at the time, I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade, maybe. They played Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” and because of Tony Hawk, I knew that song and loved it. There’s a video tape of me somewhere yelling that shit at the top of my lungs. I only listened to hip hop before that, and Nirvana and Backstreet Boys. That experience opened up a whole world for me.
When did you first start in music?
In 4th grade where I’m from, you can pick an instrument, and I picked the alto sax. I just played in a band, and from my mom playing music really loud in the car, I was just always surrounded by good music. When I started playing sax and jazz music, it felt really expressive, and I liked the way I could put my words into the sound without having to make words. I was listening to a lot of Lil Wayne, he dropped a project called No Ceilings, and I thought ok, I want to make a mixtape and make music and do it.
What were some artists that really inspired you?
I really loved Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I really loved Whitney Houston a lot. Fairuz, this Lebanese classic singer that I listened to in the morning with my mom. I listened to a lot of different music, a lot of 50 Cent, random shit, really whatever was popular. I liked underground music as well.
What was the first concert you ever played and how was that experience?
It was January 14th, 2013, I think. It was in New Jersey at Mexicali Live, opening up for a friend of mine. It was cool. I had this Marc Jacobs jacket, and it was my first time playing live. It was a packed house, and it really affirmed what I was doing. My mom was there, my family was there, some of my teachers were there. But also people from the neighborhood, and it was cool, really affirmed my hopes and dreams.
What’s the origin of your name?
Riz is a nickname. I honestly was just like, ‘I need a name.’ and my mom was like “what about La Vie? I love La Vie.” And she was so cute with it. I was like fuck it. Then this was the time of Tyler, the Creator, and Chance the Rapper. It was kind of a take on that, like “riz the life.” But I didn’t really think about the fact that in French it’s “rice the life.” But to be honest, rice is the divine connection. I think “rice the life” is very fitting, just here to celebrate life.
How do you personally describe your sound?
I try not to. I try to let the music speak for itself. I feel like giving the predisposition kind of takes it in a way that I didn’t intend for when I made the songs. If I have to describe it, I would say something to hopefully fill your cup, give you energy or unlock yourself in some way. Self discovery is pretty much how I use my music. I hope that lands itself to other people listening.
What is your main inspiration for writing? Early on was it New York and how did that change when you moved to LA?
Even in New Jersey, I just grew up around a lot of moments where it had to be a “no duh moment.” Especially me, I’m Lebanese, not a lot of people know a lot of Lebanese people, so it was a no duh moment for everybody. I say that [expression] because one time I played a show and I went on, it was crazy. And I got off and I asked someone what they thought of the show. I asked ‘did you like it?’ And she said ‘no duh, that was fire.’ And I really didn’t think anyone would like it cause this was around the time of right after Trayvon and that time period. I didn’t feel all the way in the right place to be speaking. I felt like I was speaking out of turn. They asked me to play my song, so I played “Soap.” It came from a lot of time of the music being what it needed to be at the time.
What is your dream venue to play?
Bowery Ballroom. I love this place. First time playing here. My other dream venue is Madison Square Garden. Ever since I was 13, I was playing shows and I was like, ‘yo Madison Square Garden, make some noise.’ Even if it was like five people.
What have been some of your favorite places you’ve played in New York before?
I played every venue. Except for Terminal 5. Maybe my favorite spot here was Baby’s Alright. And I loved Rough Trade, that was really good. We used to play Webster Hall a lot when I was coming up, like 16 or 17. That was a really fun time.
Any plans once you finish the tour?
I have a lot of other plans. I try to stay in the present as much as I can. I definitely write down a lot of stuff I want to see in my life, what I want to do for myself and others. I really take time off through making music. That’s what I like to do. I want to go to Peru, and I want to go to London with my crew, make a live album. That’s what I want to do.
Any last comments you want to add?
Breath to the bottom of your ribs, feed yourself good thoughts and the world could be a haven.
📸: shot by Owen Labate