"You don't know me at all to be taking this all from me," sings 20-year-old Dominican artist Rubby on his breakout track, "Know Me." The song is a woozy recollection of love lost, written in 2015 as a response to the queer Middlebury College student's first breakup. "Arrows fall from the sky on me; your lips and the way they align collide," he slurs on the sludgy R&B single amidst twinkling synths and weighted percussion.
"The lyrics to ‘Know Me’ were initially a confrontation I had staged in my mind with my first boyfriend after he went on a school trip and fell in love with someone else," Rubby says. "After the breakup, I became very confused because I would still see him around campus and have these flashbacks of what used to be. There was a constant tension between wanting to caste him away and relish in what we created together. I was hurt and didn’t know how to move on, so I turned to music."
After creating the first demo with his freshman year roommate, Robert Engel, Rubby sent "Know Me" to his friend Adam Kelley (DJ Yung Man), who ended up producing the final cut. The two connected as a result of Kelley performing DJ sets in the grungy basements of Rubby's social house, The Mill (Middlebury doesn't formally believe in fraternities or sororities).
"The ethereal pads along with the hard drums allowed for the track to be spacious and raw at the same time," Rubby says of Kelley's production. "It allowed for my voice to feel free in an R&B kind of way without interfering with the electronic instrumentation."
For the track's music video, which Rubby self-directed, the artist spins on a rotating platform, while cast in a neon glow. This, Rubby says, is symbolic of his grieving process after the breakup, as thoughts would loop endlessly in his mind. The visual is at once simple and confrontational, showcasing Rubby competely in control and doused in glitter—a response to his hyper-masculine Dominican Republic family.
"The video makes me feel like I’m coming out to my distant family members on social media," Rubby says of the BenDen-produced clip. "The queer visuals, the glitter and the gaze were choices I made to set me apart from who I am and what my family members expect from me. I was born in the Dominican Republic, a country that suffers from hyper-masculinity and the need to be 'el jefe' or 'el matatan' all of the time. In many ways the visuals in ‘Know Me’ allowed me to break away from that narrative and offer something more delicate and passionate, but just as boss."
Watch Rubby's "Know Me," below, and download the track, here.