YouTube is still a breeding ground for genuine talents, especially in the music arena. Many of the freshest faces in R&B built loyal audiences and achieved early support by making their channels a musical showcase to play instruments or belt out covers of popular songs or both.
Like Chloe x Halle and VanJess, RINI is one of those artists whose homegrown prowess gave viewers an intimate whiff of what he could offer the music community.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, RINI proved to be one to watch when he began sharing his acoustic covers of Daniel Caesar and Frank Ocean songs on YouTube.
He got the idea to put himself out there after being in high school and getting hip to Maroon 5’s smash hit “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa. While searching for the band’s 2012 single online, he came across the work of other aspiring stars.
“I saw a lot of people do R&B songs [by] Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo [and] Frank Ocean,” RINI recounts to Rated R&B. “That’s when I was at ‘Yo. This type of music is dope.’”
RINI’s introduction to R&B was through those covers online. Although the music from the states reached his side of the world, mainly pop, he insists noise for R&B was at a minimum.
“The R&B scene in Melbourne is not that big,” he says. “Drill rap is kind of like what is popping right now in Australia. Also, they love country music, blues [and] rock. That’s basically what we listened to back at home.”
Back home is where RINI sparked an interest in the guitar. “I started playing off the guitar when I was 10-years-old,” he recalls. His dad signed him up for classical school, which he was enrolled in for less than six months. Thinking back to this brief stint, RINI says, “I didn’t find any interest in that. I did not learn anything because you have to read sheet music, and I’m really bad at that.”
His enjoyment of the guitar came when he latched onto rock jams by Bon Jovi, The Eagles, and Queen. His dad would bring home instruments like guitars from an offshore job and store them out of sight. One day, RINI came across a “really cool Stratocaster” that he remembers going under the name “Nevada.” After giving it a few strums, his dad saw how RINI lit up with each pluck and eventually purchased him an acoustic one.
Since his time was limited at the classical school, RINI taught himself how to play guitar. He paid attention to those in his circle of friends.
“I had friends who were playing guitar too at that time,” he explains. “So we were exchanging information and knowledge about playing.” He got the shot to put those skills into practice when he played for his church. He would later get even more opportunities to let it rip when he embarked on his self-titled project.
Released in 2017, the compact set, suited for the growing pains of young romance, emphasized his sensually, moody vocals and skill for balmy productions. His 2016 one-off track “Wasted” preceded the project’s May release, serving as the perfect vehicle for him to push himself as a songwriter.
“I never used to write before that,” he says. “It was surprising because people actually started messing with that song and that sort of made me want to try writing even more.”
RINI credits the participation of his high school friends and youth group pals for bringing his vision of a mixtape to fruition. “It was out of fun,” he shares about his eponymous work. He became more intentional about the material he created next.
After the Sun is a five-track EP that was released in October 2018. Though attracted to Frank Ocean’s writing style, RINI felt that this project and songs leading up to it represented him authentically taking control of his narrative.
“The easiest way for me to write is writing something that I’ve experienced in my life — something true like a breakup. ‘My Favorite Clothes’ was an actual thing that happened to me. Honestly, I wrote that song in 15-20 minutes. Now that’s one of my biggest mainstream songs today,” he says.
RINI improved his songwriting in different ways, including lending his ear to current songs that spoke to relatable topics. After that, he knew it was the right move to take his career to the next level and touch more lives.
“Knowing that people are able to connect with [my music] on a deeper level is what made me realize this is really what’s going to make a change,” he realizes. “People get touched by the sound and the words. So, always staying true to your writing is the key for me.”
In 2019, after signing to Warner Records, RINI moved out to Los Angeles. However, his current label home wasn’t the first record company interested in him. Love Renaissance (LVRN), powered by Interscope Records, caught wind of him through his YouTube covers and flew him out to Atlanta.
Without going into much detail, RINI said the deal fell through. Subsequently, a friend got him in touch with his current manager Bobby Jack Cousteau, who facilitated his Warner Records deal. He was also the person who got RINI acclimated to life in North America.
Fast forward to 2021, RINI’s next big project arrived this fall. Constellations marked his major-label release as his first two projects were issued independently. It was executive produced by his longtime friend and collaborator Aldwin Cajili, who also RINI leaned on for multiple jobs on the LP.
“When we record, he just knows how to capture the best parts of my vocals, and he helps me out with harmonies. He’s very musical [and] a very talented guy,” says RINI on why he chose Cajili to assume the EP role.
Features on the album include Wale and Maeta, whose vocals were added after it was made available on streaming services.
“I had my original verse as her verse, and I had to rewrite that for her,” RINI notes. “It kind of turns into a male-female conversation, which made the song really cool. I haven’t met Maeta personally, but she heard the song and she loved it. She killed that.”
He’s engulfed with “Butterflies” on a nostalgic trip adorned in a hazy baseline, and sweet croons reminiscent of Floetry’s sensual classic “Say Yes.” While a big fan of the UK duo, RINI says it wasn’t his intention to borrow from their most recognizable career moment.
“It was super random. I honestly didn’t plan that,” he laughs. “I remember we were in the studio, and I was playing that chord progression we had for that song. I heard that Floetry melody in my head just repeating. I was like, ‘Damn. How cool would that be to incorporate that into a song kind of make it my own [and] change the words a little bit but pay homage to the original.”
RINI somewhat honors the vocal stylings of 112’s lead vocalist Slim on “Craving.” The delectable tune, recorded during some of the album’s final sessions, was produced by George Moore, who he met at Warner Records headquarters.
The two didn’t have a session scheduled but decided to vibe out anyway. Unfortunately, after that time, the two didn’t see each other again in person due to the pandemic, thus causing sessions to be virtual and through emails.
As far as lyrics are concerned, RINI once again wrote from a page out of his life. “I was away from my girl a lot. That sort of sparked the inspiration because I was craving her company.” He wrote its bridge during a three-day trip in Malibu to wrap the album.
Already working on a new album and promising a deluxe of Constellations, RINI is mapping out the next phase of his career amid performing select dates on Alina Baraz’s headlining tour. Until he decides to release new music and goes out on tour for himself early next year, he hopes what music he has out now continues to make its rounds.
“Things can change. I don’t know where this album is going to go, but I’m proud of it and very happy that it’s out for everyone to hear,” he humbly replies on what’s next to come.
“A lot of people are showing a lot of love, and I hope that they can share that love with people who have not heard it because, to me, the album is like a baby. That’s my baby. So I trust everybody to hold my baby.”
Stream Constellations by RINI below.