The first thing viewers might notice while watching the videos for the new songs "Boys are Trouble" and "Superstar" is the blatant homoerotic imagery in both.
In "Boys Are Trouble," SoFla resident Raphael is seen standing outside a boxing ring, lusting after one of the fighters, who is male. They soon share a kiss in the locker room. In "Superstar" Raphael is at a pool party. Both he and the camera gaze lovingly at a scantily clad young man.
"You are my Superstar, I touched every part of you," Raphael sings in a soft, gentle voice which combines elements of rap and romantic ballads. "Can I get to the heart of you, my favorite part of you?"
Both songs are included on "The Dark of My Mind," Raphael's new album.
"There are a lot of open minded talent that I have been fortunate enough to work with, but there are still challenges as some people cling to an idea of what music was and wish for a world not inclusive to everyone," Raphael, who is openly gay, told SFGN. "Because I am a male singing about my own multiple rendezvous there is surprisingly a window of slut-shaming involved and extra scrutiny about my appearance, even from the gay community."
But the young singer is building a fan base nonetheless. "I do receive a lot of love and support, which is beautiful and that is the world I choose to be a part of," he said. "There will always be challenges in life which is why it is important to be versatile."
Raphael added that one of his goals is to take his videos beyond YouTube and into the mainstream world of broadcast television. "I would like a world where we aren't defined by our sexual orientation, where the music video is about the song and story, not about the gender of who the artist is kissing," he said. "A big theme in my album is the self-proclaimed guy worship. In my world desire knows no rules, the guys are always interested, and I always say yes."
Raphael cites Latin superstar Enrique Iglesias as a major musical influence — he points to Iglesias' vulnerability as part of his appeal. That vulnerability, that need to be in love, often inspires Raphael when he sits down to compose his own songs.
"My style of writing is stream of conscious which means I rarely sit down with the intention to write a song," he explained. "Instead, when spirit comes to me, I need to write very quickly before it leaves. I typically have a lot to say and with rap you can tell a story without so much structure as traditional song verses."
The laid-back but serious young musician says that he enjoys calling South Florida home, though he also spends time in New York City. He points to the hot Latin men in SoFla, which for him are part of the area's appeal. "There are so many Latin guys here which means brown eyes, tans and accents which equals hot. I usually have a new "ancrush" everyday!" he said.
What's an "ancrush," we wondered?
''CubAN, VenezuelAN, Puerto RicAN, ColombiAN." Raphael explained. "I am always ancrushing here."
Raphael tells SFGN that his friends, neighbors and fans will soon be able to see him performing live. He's got a stage show in the works, which will incorporate music from "The Dark of My Mind" with some choreography to be included. Stay tuned to his website, where his videos have already been posted, for further details: TheDarkOfMyMind.com