For Rhymer Educator, Being a Teacher and Hiphop Artist Is Not Just a Fantasy

Rhymer/Educator, also known as R/E, is a music artist based in northwest Indiana who doubles as a high school teacher. He began making hip-hop music to connect with his students but has since then taken off in the indie music scene and garnered an impressive following of over 50,000 on Tiktok, which is where I first discovered his super fun, personality-packed videos. Over time his sound has evolved as he continues to branch out into other genres while performing on stage live with his band. I am excited to introduce the Tuned Up audience to this phenomenal person who is equally passionate about music and education, learn more of his story, and dig in to his latest single, Just a Fantasy!

Gabrielle Solange: Thank you so much for connecting and being willing to share your music and story with the Tuned Up audience.  It’s pretty wild that you began recording music to connect with your students. But surely you’d dabbled in music before then?! Where does your passion for music originate and when did you first start writing and producing songs?

R/E: I’ve always loved music. Growing up, I went through phases. I’ve wanted to be everyone from 2pac, to Common, to Prince, to a member of a (pick any boyband). My musical tastes were so diverse that it just really depended on the day. I don’t know if I can single out a specific moment (when it originated), but I do remember a friend convincing me to sing for his sisters when we were about ten. Their reaction was so positive that I immediately felt like it was something I could build upon. Throughout high school and college, I wrote lyrics and made recordings, but everything really took shape when I took on my current persona, R/E (Rhymer/Educator).       

Gabrielle Solange: What was your students’ reaction to hearing your music for the first time? Did it change how they saw you? Talk about that experience.

R/E: I feel like most students, unless teaching is their dream, probably see us (teachers) as boring people who lead boring lives. I remember the day they found out about my music. Suddenly they were curious about their teacher. I was suddenly more than 2 dimensional. I think it created some depth and that’s when I really began to build a rapport with them. Now, while they know I’m a teacher and that I try to perform that job in a way that enriches their lives and provides for my family, I’m also more than that. I’m a human with hobbies and passions and interests that stretch beyond the classroom into their neighborhood.   

Gabrielle Solange: Your Tiktok is poppin! Why do you think people are so drawn to your videos? Who is your main audience?

R/E: I hope people like my TikTok because it’s me. I rap and I sing, sure. But my words and ideas aren’t those of stereotypical rappers/singers. I don’t take myself too seriously. TikTok is a fun community and I’m just there to have a good time. Will I showcase my music there? 100%. It’s the best place for it. But more than that, I’m just using the platform as an open window where people can peek in and get to know me (and even my family) better.

Gabrielle Solange: Do you have any tips for other artists trying to grow on Tiktok?

R/E: TikTok is like rollerblading through a busy dinner party. You can break out all of your fanciest moves and everyone will just keep eating hors d’oeuvres and engaging with the person next to them. But occasionally you’ll slip and go careening into one of the servers, and when you get back up, suddenly everyone at the party will be looking at you. You can’t stage it. You can’t fake it. Just get back to skating and be appreciative of those moments when all eyes land on you. And when that happens, say thanks. I think people just want to connect and TikTok is a great platform for it. 

Gabrielle Solange: That’s an interesting way of putting it. Describe the craziest comment you’ve received under a social media post.

R/E: I guess it depends on whether you mean good crazy or bad crazy. If you mean bad crazy, there will always be a small population on any social media platform who hide behind fake accounts and intend to do harm. They say mean things. It’s whatever. We can’t rid the world of them, so we navigate around them. But good crazy, those are my kind of people – the kind of people who comment on a complete stranger’s account just to hype them up. The kind of people who see their lives in your stories or see their families in your family. The kind of people who thank you for posting and duet or share your videos for no other reason than they like you and they want to see you win. It’s beautiful and it says something meaningful about how interconnected we all are.    

latest single, “Just a Fantasy”

Gabrielle Solange: Your new single, Just a Fantasy, is out now. What inspired the lyrics and style of the song?

R/E: The album we’re currently working on, Don’t Fight the Sound Guy, is a full band effort. The band is comprised of David Farris (keys), Weston Rettinger (Electric Guitar), Jason Milo (aux percussion), Megan Rettinger (co-vocals), Chris Bendix (Bass), and Sam Henderson (drums and recording engineer). Because we’re all busy juggling life (careers, families, other projects, etc.), we have to schedule everything we do way in advance. For the studio session that ended up becoming just a fantasy, we scheduled 3 months out. Then, just days before, life threw a curve ball and both Dave and Wes found themselves unable to attend the session. I almost canceled our studio time, but Chris convinced me to keep it. Hours before our session, Chris and Jason came over to my place and we wrote just a fantasy. Chris had a rough sketch of the music and we worked out the rest in the studio. We’re so proud of how it turned out, especially given the short leash and spontaneity from which it was born. The verses were actually borrowed from a verse I wrote for one of my favorite TikTok duets a while back!  

Gabrielle Solange: Describe your creative process: 

R/E: For me, whether it’s a beat, a simple guitar riff, or a lick on the piano, it’s music first. When I hear a piece of music, it’s like the music paints a picture in my mind. Then, it’s up to me to transcribe what I see and tell a story (lyrically) in a way that paints that same picture for an audience. It’s a beautiful process – one that is extremely therapeutic for me, and I’m always just trying to find the intersectionality between my most honest thoughts and compelling storytelling.

Gabrielle Solange: What is music to you? A career? A hobby? A calling? All of the above?

R/E: Music is joy. It genuinely makes me happy. Without it, nothing else feels worthwhile. It’s a hobby that I’m incredibly passionate about. And if I ever had the opportunity to make it anything more, it would have to be a strong consideration. For now, though, I love teaching and the schedule gives me plenty of time to work on music. 

Gabrielle Solange: Did you have big dreams of making it as a musician growing up or is this a new thing for you? 

R/E: I always wanted to write songs that made people feel what so many artists’ songs have made me feel over time. When I was younger, I thought I wanted fame and attention. I grew up with very little in terms of money, so success in entertainment had its obvious appeal. But the older I get, the more secure I am with who I am in the present, and the more I just want to be able to write and create music on a consistent basis. Doing so makes me happy. It’s art. If I could profit from it, or if I could write something that would be meaningful to others, that would be the greatest bonus.

Gabrielle Solange: What made you choose teaching as a career?

R/E: Family. And also ADHD. For a period, I was working in sales. It was a lot of fun but it was commission based and the hours were long. I wanted a more consistent schedule and salary, so I could create a more stable situation for my wife and kids. Uncertain of what I wanted to do, I literally Googled “What are the best careers for people with ADHD?” Teaching was one of the top careers. I took a leap, went back to school, was hired into the high school where I currently work, and never looked back. It really is a schedule and lifestyle that are both supportive to my family and accommodating to my artistic endeavors.

Gabrielle Solange: Do students ever come to your shows?

R/E: Students have absolutely come to my shows on several occasions and it’s always fun to greet them afterward. I make sure to take a picture with them when they come out to support us. And it means the world.

Gabrielle Solange: Who are some of your musical influences and who are some musicians you dream of collaborating with?

R/E: My musical influences are so random. There are so many artists from so many genres and decades that I love. Prince would have been the dream, but, may he rest in peace. If I could work with others, my list might look like Sampa the Great, Carly Rae Jepsen, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, Common, The Roots, John Mayer, D’Angelo, Ed Sheeran, Saba, Noname, Jason Mraz, and J. Cole.

Gabrielle Solange: I love to ask this question because I definitely have a few of these myself. Describe an embarrassing moment on stage. How did you overcome it and keep going?

R/E: Once, we were performing at a small music festival in our hometown. There was no stage, we were just under a tent out on the sidewalk. At one point, I left the tent and started walking around in the crowd, interacting with the people while I continued to perform. One member of the audience, someone who had (probably) had way too much to drink, walked up to me and grabbed the mic. He wanted to be a part of the show. In all of his drunkenness, he was actually trying to freestyle into the mic. At first, I clapped for him. I hyped him up. I let him feel like part of the show. I wanted him to be. I tried to choose kindness. But, when I realized he didn’t want to give it back, that he was literally trying to steal the show, I leaned in, took the mic back, and whispered “Alright my friend. You did your thing. It’s my turn.” I pulled the mic back and smiled, encouraging the crowd to give him a round of applause for his participation. I probably let it go on for too long and I learned a lesson on that day. Don’t let anyone take the mic from you. When your set begins, you own that mic. Nobody takes it without your blessing.

Gabrielle Solange: Why should people follow your journey and listen to your music?

R/E: It’s easier if people follow me on TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram. It’s easier because they can get to know me there. Once people know me, I think it makes it easier to support R/E music. There are a lot of talented artists out there. If it’s all about streams, we’re all just seagulls on the beach, fighting over breadcrumbs. But if they really get to know me. That is if we’re interacting, engaging with each other, etc. They’re no longer buying my music, they’re buying me. And I’m giving my time back to them in gratitude. Streams usually increase as a byproduct of that, because just like with teaching, I think relationships and rapport are everything. 

Gabrielle: What can we expect next?

R/E: R/E is working hard on Don’t Fight the Sound Guy. We’re 100% finished with 7 of the 9 songs on the album. We’re in the process of raising money to fund the final two. If anyone enjoys the music we’re putting out and wants to help us meet our goals, they can reach out to me on TikTok or IG @rhymer.educator! We’re always open to PayPal/Venmo/CashApp donations. Otherwise, we’ll be playing some shows this summer and continuing to plug away at it until we finish! And in the meantime, I’ll be on social media continuing to make friends and telling stories as I always do. 

Find and follow Rhyme Educator on Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, Youtube, and Apple Music.

Author: Gabrielle Solange

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