Hip-Hop

R.LUM.R Talks Debut EP 'Afterimage' and His 'Inspiring' Move to Nashville

R.LUM.R, 2017
Nolan Knight

R.LUM.R

He was the face of Spotify’s Alt R&B playlist for six months and featured in a new Vevo DSCVR campaign. Now R.LUM.R (pronounced Ar-Lamar) is showcasing his passionate vocals and insightful lyrics on his debut EP Afterimage.

Released Aug. 11 via PRMD, the six-song set includes the singer/songwriter’s 2016 breakout ballad “Frustrated” -- which has drawn more than 20 million combined Spotify streams -- and the latest track spinoff “Close Enough.” Of the latter, a pop/R&B/electronic fusion that talks about liking someone who might not be the right match, R.LUM.R told Billboard in July, “Sometimes we want something to work so badly that we’re willing to go looking for any one ray of light that’ll hopefully dispel the overwhelming shadows in a relationship.”

Born and raised in Bradenton, Florida, R.LUM.R grew up listening to the Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin records that his mom played. Then in middle school a friend introduced him to Linkin Park. “I was like yo, what’s that?” recalls R.LUM.R. “That’s when I began discovering stuff on my own.”

Currently in the midst of promoting Afterimage, R.LUM.R will perform in his new hometown of Nashville at the Mercy Lounge on Aug. 23. That same evening, his Aug. 2 performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live will be rebroadcast. And fans can catch R.LUM.R this fall at the Austin City Limits Fest. During a recent stopover in Los Angeles, R.LUM.R chatted with Billboard about the meaning behind his stage name, why he moved to Nashville and his “super sick” first trip overseas.

Origin of his music moniker: My first and middle name is Reggie Lamar. So on a very simple level R.LUM.R is that. But I think of it as a timeline: R dot LUM dot R. The R is my past; that’s like classical guitar and my upbringing musically. The LUM is my middle name. My father left when I was like five. I’m a junior but as a rebellious act against him, I just never told anyone I had a middle name. I hid that part of myself and see that as paralleling with all these parts of myself that I hear musically and that I’m trying to expose now: electronic music, rap and progressive material that I loved growing up. I took the L from the beginning of Lamar and added in the R that’s at the end. In total, the name represents me starting from the beginning and going through the present to get to the future. 

The concept behind Afterimage: If you’re seeing an afterimage of something, it means that that something is already gone. But it’s so burned into your eyes’ memory that you’re still seeing it. A lot of people say that albums and EPs can be thought of as a portrait of the creator at the time. And I’m thinking of these afterimages as things that create me, that make up who I am at the time. When you mix the colors on the EP cover — cyan, magenta and yellow — you get the color black. That’s me, I’m black. All these different colors represent different emotions from anger and confusion to love. I’m trying to process, work through and experience in real time—while also making this about who I am now as an artist, who I am whenever R.LUM.R comes into focus. The EP’s songs are about me trying to understand empathy within myself, for myself and for other people.

Moving to Nashville nearly two years ago: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle or Portland … all of these places have a deep history already imbued with a certain type of music, especially for black artists. Like L.A. has that very deep West Coast G-funk and its rap tradition. Chicago has gospel, Kanye West, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. New York has a long-standing tradition with acts like Jay-Z. I saw Nashville as an opportunity to go somewhere and start my own thing. And I’m a songwriter first, so lyrics are important to me. What better place to go and study the American song than one of the first places of songwriting, Nashville? I can live there and do the fast-paced business. Then I can retreat back to East Nashville and go at my own pace. The environment is very electric and inspiring. 

Who he’s listening to now: I really love Sampha and Jack Antonoff’s music. Kimbra is incredibly imaginative; her music feels really fearless. I like people who feel true to the message and true to who they want to be. Dev Hynes [Blood Orange] is also a good example of that. He’s just on something else. 

His first trip overseas: I recently got back from Korea, Denmark, London and Berlin. It’s super sick that I can go across the earth literally to Korea where fans know the words and are participating in a world that I’m creating. It’s cool that I get the chance to have this position, this voice and this responsibility of using music to say something that I think is important.