Dutch EDM titan R3HAB has an unerring instinct for making dance floors move. But he’s just as skilled at seizing the possibilities of what lies beyond the perimeter of the festival grounds. It’s this talent that has made R3HAB—a.k.a. Fadil El Ghoul, born in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, in 1986—such a fascinating figure in electronic music. As the EDM boom of the early 2010s evolved into a broad wave of dance-fueled pop, he helped lead the way. On his early releases, like his 2008 debut, “Mrkrstft,” for Hardwell’s Slized Recordings, R3HAB toyed with the squealing synth leads of “dirty Dutch” house, but with his 2011 breakout, “Prutataaa,” with Afrojack, he began sculpting the dirty Dutch signature into a more forceful package. On the powerhouse label Spinnin’, he soon became one of the prime movers of big-room house, fusing cascading trance stabs and side-chained effects with burly, concussive drums.
In the latter half of the 2010s, R3HAB was a kingpin of the big tent, notching up collaborations with all of EDM’s heaviest hitters, including Hardwell, Afrojack, Steve Aoki, and even David Guetta. But with his debut album, 2017’s Trouble, El Ghoul dropped the tempo and treated his fans to a sensuous new palette: soft, gauzy, and infused with R&B finger snaps and tropical sway. In the years since, he has continued to redefine himself, flirting with synth-pop power ballads on 2018’s “Whiplash” and dembow grooves on 2020’s “Bésame (I Need You)”; most surprising might be his sideline in acoustic versions, a staple of his catalog since he reimagined 2018’s country-tinged “All Into Nothing” as a nylon-strumming hush. Many of R3HAB’s successive singles have gotten the acoustic treatment, laying bare the power of his songwriting. Framed by high-powered pyrotechnics, his EDM productions made a big impression. Reduced to the light of a single, flickering candle, his talent shines just as bright.