Allow Rich Hunter to reintroduce himself.
For over a decade, the Portland-born and -raised songwriter has been writing, producing, and performing music as Risky Star. He released a handful of R&B-influenced hip-hop albums with breezy production, catchy hooks, and a raspy, laidback flow. But he decided to change directions on his latest record, Third Eye Inspiration, and drop the Risky Star moniker in favor of his real name.
On earlier releases, Hunter routinely alternated between singing hooks and rhyming over a beat, but on Third Eye Inspiration he wanted to focus on his talents as a singer and songwriter. Over nine tracks of contemporary R&B and neo-soul, Hunter touches on themes of intimacy, compassion, and—as a married father of two—the vulnerability that comes with maturity, love, and doubt. This is grown folks’ music.
“When I was writing the album,” he says, “I wanted to explore my openness to all the love I have, so far as my relationships, and express those wholeheartedly. And also the things I’m seeing on a day-to-day basis, what I deal with, as a Black man, or as an American citizen, or just a human being in general.”
Hunter shares production credits with his brother-in-law, David Thomson, with guest appearances from his sister Joyya Marie—herself an accomplished singer and performer. Other guests include local eminent MCs Madgesdiq and Libretto, who each contribute a verse to the standout “I’m a Man,” one of only a couple of tracks where Hunter proves that, despite all the singing, he can still flow.
“Protecting my family and being real is my religion/Crooked government officials try to trap us in the system,” he raps. “I’m in tune with myself, so I never ever listen/Native is in my blood, so honor is my tradition.”
The music on Third Eye Inspiration is built around slow and hypnotic melodies, with extended instrumental grooves closing each track. As Kanye would say, it’s the type of shit you just ride out to.
“When you hear really dope musical tracks from timeless artists, there’s always some type of solo at the end,” Hunter says. “Like, if you listen to a Stevie Wonder song, he’s going to end it with something cool. There’s going to be some kind of keyboard solo or Moog solo. Just a little something to say, ‘This is what we do.’”
Third Eye Inspiration doesn’t so much represent a disavowal of Hunter’s earlier work, or a defection from his past; it introduces another side of Rich Hunter—one that works in conjunction with Risky Star. Though he has only recently outgrown his former moniker, Hunter is clearly still willing to take risks.
“I don’t want to limit myself to anything,” he says. “I think that’s what real art is, just letting yourself flow and not prohibiting yourself from doing whatever comes to you.”