Late last year, Washington D.C. rapper Alireza dropped his hard-hitting single "Never Seen," and broke the news that he'd become the first-ever hip-hop signee of celebrated extreme-metal label Earache Records. On the surface, it seemed like an improbable fit, but as it turns out, Alireza is a longtime and diehard metalhead. The vocalist and guitarist cut his teeth in the DMV metalcore band Louder Than Quiet before becoming a solo artist, drawing on wide-ranging influences — from XXXTentacion to Bring Me the Horizon — for his debut album Endlyss, due later this year.
Today, Alireza has teamed with Revolver to premiere a new documentary, The Man Behind the Bars, which digs into the rapper's background. "There are a lot of black metalheads in the DMV," he says. "You go outside of here and everyone's acting like I'm an alien because I listen to certain music. It's wild." He looks back on Louder Than Quiet, who, he explains, wanted to be famous for more than just being an all-black metal band. According to Alireza, the group pulled inspiration from Norwegian black metal, melodic death metal and melodic post-hardcore in its efforts to forge its own sound, but, he says, the band hit a brick wall when attempting to find a record label interested in signing them: "'This is way too weird. You guys should just do R&B,'" he recalls being a typical response.
Later in the doc, Alireza demonstrates his guitar skills and talks about his transition into a solo hip-hop artist and his desire to transcend gangsta rap stereotypes. "People are trying to label me as something," he says, "and I'm like, 'Man, I don't want you labeling me as anything.'"