Going full throttle with Flint’s “blue-collar grunge-hop” artist RaskE

FLINT, Michigan -- A few minutes have passed since the “rising blue-collar grunge-hop artist” RaskE, his manager, Mitchell Shelton, and I have dispersed in three separate directions to use the restroom in response to drinking nine out of twelve cans of Budweiser beer. At the tail end of our almost two-hour-long conversation, we have talked about RaskE’s Italian American roots,  his passion for fixing cars, and his undeniable talent for music. He is one of a handful of white Hip Hop & rock artists in Flint that has not only managed to make a name for himself within a majority African American community and industry but, like Shemy, is embraced by it. He isn’t trying to be something he’s not, imitate those who’ve come before him, or disrespect and dilute the culture of rap music. Rather, he is crafting new lanes and experimenting with sounds that enhance his twangy accent and “take advantage of my environment, which was the garage, drinking beer, and telling jokes.”  

“Blue-collar RaskE is not afraid to get dirty and is willing to fix a problem no matter how messy, how dirty, or grimy it is. What he wants to do is clean it up, perfect it, and fix it for you,” RaskE says, throwing his hands up accompanied by a cheerful smile. “At the end of the day, I want to see people happy. I want to give you the energy, love, kindness, understanding that I would give anyone else. So, give me a hug, let me tell you a joke or two, and if you need work on your car, let me know, and come down on Sunday.”
"I’m here to create your joyous moment, so it can be the most joyous light that you deserve.”
RaskE, born and raised in Flint, specializes in rap, Hip Hop, rock, and pop music, and it’s the vehicle that drives him through the interconnected musical lanes. This ability to weave in and out of genres allows his music to expand the way it has and is evident on the soon-to-be-released album he, Shelton, and producer Selah Zeus are conceiving. But very little of RaskE’s life comes packaged together and well produced in the way his music does, blaring from the speakers. Instead, it comes much like he appears: mildly dirty with oil and grease stains covering his face, hands, and uniform from a hard day’s work at Shelton Automotive on University Ave—which is where we are. His time getting to know and fall in love with the internals of each vehicle concurrently enhanced his ability to handle and deal with his emotions and life. It is a life he says is similar to the cars he works on every day.

“Everything relates to me and cars. I could say I’m a car doctor. This car got a turn signal thing going on. I checked the fuse and everything, but right now, what I’m dealing with is internal, and that’s what people need to realize: the battle is internal,” RaskE says with a grin. “You’re not yourself if you don’t deal with the problem. You’re not going to be who you are fully capable of being if you aren’t able to take responsibility or hold of a situation that might flip you upside down.”
Very little of RaskE’s life comes packaged together and well produced in the way his music does, blaring from the speakers.Growing up, and especially in high school, RaskE was bullied and became an outcast. “I loved doing my work, and I wanted to be the best I could be,” he says. But that was before his grandfather, a Marine, shot himself in the head, leaving RaskE without his greatest confidant. His death devastated RaskE, causing him to feel “like I lost a major part of myself” and filling his spirit with angst and anger. Trying to cope and heal, he kept to himself and turned to music to find release. He bought a mic, a guitar, downloaded Audacity, and began recording music. Still, the weight of his grandfather’s passing and the trauma of being bullied hit hard every fall season. RaskE turned to drugs and loathing in self-doubt before checking himself into a mental institution for two months and then rehab. Without much communication with the outside world and missing “my birthday, the Fourth of July,” and a “Kid Cudi concert when he had the Pursuit of Happiness,” RaskE took to writing music to release and vent his frustrations.

“Rehab gave me writing ability. I had my dad put [my playlist] on a CD, and I would listen to the same CD every single day. Then I met this kid who gave me his Breaking Benjamin Dear Agony album,” RaskE says. “That music in there helped me write better and helped me get into the mind frame to be happy and be me.”

That music led him to Infinity Studios on Clio Road, where he ran into a young Ace Gabbana among other noteworthy Flint artists and producers. But through conversations with his cousin turned manager, Shelton—living in Colorado at the time—is when “we starting moving.” Shelton found a house and relocated to Michigan, turning the welcomed guest house into a studio, and “we just started taking action, inspiration came back, and it was incredible.” Since then, he’s recorded music with Gabbana, Jeff Skigh and has strong ties to the AutoWorld collective. But music is what saved his life, got him out of rehab, and led him to where he is now.

“I wish I could say I’m doing it for everyone, but selfishly, I’m doing it for myself, so I don’t die. I know, as corny as it is, music saved my life. It’s my venting mechanism,” RaskE says in a somber voice. “The only thing I can give you is some relate-ability of what I’m going through to hopefully help you.”
But through conversations with his cousin turned manager, Shelton—living in Colorado at the time—is when “we just started taking action, inspiration came back, and it was incredible.”Although, it’s not only music that soothes his soul and tempers the inner light he tells me inside the garage of Shelton Tire and Service, where tires, tools, machinery, and vehicles sit holstered above us. He loves to work his blue-collar job, service the community he calls home and the people he calls friends and family. It’s why, now over the last set of beers, Shelton and I call RaskE an incredibly spiritual man—a title he denies. Instead, he refers to himself as “continuity,” understanding “the need to connect the things that make me feel a type of way.” Whatever the title—be it artist, musician, or mechanic—RaskE, through music and fixing cars, has come to understand one of life’s greatest lessons: joy.

“I’m completing my end goal, which is to make people happy, help you out with your car, or to make you relate to my music, dance, and come on stage with me,” RaskE explains. “I’m here to create your joyous moment, so it can be the most joyous light that you deserve.”

You can find RaskE on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. To learn more about RaskE, you can visit his website, Ovrall Music Group, LLC, or his manager Mitchell Shelton’s Instagram.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.