REKS: School of Hard Knocks

With the grey hairs to prove it, Lawrence, Massachusetts' REKS has been making albums for over a decade, and while he's had a recent breakthrough, HipHopDX debunks his new-artist status.

While Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West remain Rap superstars, the last two years of Hip Hop have welcomed some new blood to the conversation. Artists like Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj have released major label debut albums, and conquered the charts, the radio and become household names. Others are patiently waiting, and releasing project after project on independent labels, still to be labeled "new artists."

HipHopDX wanted to acknowledge five of these hard working, super talented new artists, that in actuality, aren't so new at all. Some have major label backing now, others remain in the underground grind. While Hip Hop continuously (and rightfully so) celebrates freshmen talent, DX opted to knight five hand-selected emcees, chosen by members of our editorial staff, that we want to be looked at as great artists, nothing new about it.

From May 23 through May 27, HipHopDX will post these celebratory editorial pieces each day, unveiling our mystery picks. Do you agree with the choices? Do you agree that they're beyond the "new artist" stigma? Weigh in, starting today.

REKS: Class of 2001, School of Hard Knocks.

In the late '90s during independent Hip Hop's great uprising there was a solid line in the sand. You either wore a chain or a backpack. That may be a bit simplified, but the divisions in Hip Hop were much simpler a decade or so ago. The tree has continued to branch out further and further, genres have sub-genres and sub-genres have their own sub-genres. It is hard to see this as anything but a good thing, artists and crews have been able to carve out their piece of the game and connect with an audience that shares their tastes. Lawrence, Massachusetts native Corey Isaiah Christie – better known as REKS – is one of those artists.

Despite his tenure, REKS is continually viewed as a newcomer by many fans and journalists alike. His acclaimed 2008 effort Grey Hairs was not his first album, and his recent Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme (R.E.K.S.)  most certainly did not come from a rookie. The (believed) 34 year-old emcee was a staple of the break dancing scene while growing up in Lawrence (as part of the Funk Town Connection), long before dropping his debut LP in 2001.

The funny part about the relative lack of acknowledgment of REKS’ past is that Along Came The Chosen wasn’t exactly under the radar. The acclaimed Brick/Landspeed Records release was nominated for Best Hip Hop Album at The Boston Music Awards and landed him a spot on URB magazine’s “Next 100” list. Shit, the album even had a top 50 single on the Billboard Singles chart (“Skills 101”). Along Came The Chosen featured the legendary (Edo G. on “Skills 201”) and a who’s who of up and coming independent rappers. “Final Four” was a massive posse cut featuring J-Live, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Esoteric, Lonnie B., Danja Mouf and Pacewon and Young Zee from Tha Outsidaz.

REKS was a part of the Boston region’s ascension to national recognition; the group responsible for picking up Edo's torch and bringing in new fans that never knew “I Gotta Have It.” 2001 was a big year for Beantown Hip Hop. Edo dropped his first album in seven years with The Truth Hurts, Mr. Lif had just dropped his debut EP on Def Jux, Akrobatik had his own debut EP while 7L & Esoteric followed up the success of “Be Alert” with their first full-length effort. Not to be overlooked, Edan dropped one of the years best 12”s in “Mic Manipulator b/w Humble Magnificent” as well as “Drop Some Smooth Lyrics.” All of this was distilled down in Landspeed’s outstanding Home: Boston Underground Hip Hop, a compilation that featured all of the above artists. The title track featuring Guru’s indelible hook remains Boston’s anthem for many Hip Hop heads.

While REKS should have had his place alongside his peers as they anchored themselves as pillars in the underground community, he faded from memory. He dropped Rekless in 2003 on his own, and it came and went without much notice. By that point the indy scene was being run by Definitive Jux, Rhymesayers and Stones Throw and it seemed like outstanding material was required if you weren’t affiliated with either camp. Rekless was quality material, but it wasn’t enough to stand out from the pack. Fast forward five years and REKS was back on the scene. 

Seven years previous REKS worked on his debut with a 19 year-old deejay and fledgling producer from his hometown. That young man now had albums to his name and his own label with a good stable of artists. Statik Selektah had become a force in Hip Hop, and Grey Hairs was going to get REKS back into the mix. Despite the title that referenced his years lived and his dues paid, Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme was largely treated like a newcomer. His debut’s “You Ain’t Never Heard of Me” would have been just as appropriate on his third album (despite the double negative indicating that you have in fact heard of him). Some stellar production from DJ Premier, Large Professor and Statik to go with REKS’ furious pen game helped ensure that would no longer be the case. REKS wisely didn’t fall back after impacting with Grey Hairs, he followed up the following year with the iTunes-only accompany piece More Grey Hairs .

Nothing more needs to be said about REKS’ latest and best album that we didn’t say here. But one last thing needs to be said about REKS and the other artists like him who don’t get recognized as the veterans that they are. We live in a time where you can track down your third grade teacher and see what she had for breakfast. You can access a man’s life work in a matter of seconds with a few key strokes. There may be an overabundance of information at your disposal, but Googling a man’s name and checking out his discography or short bio takes a few minutes. Like Kris said, you must learn.

Purchase Music by REKS

Jeff "J-23" Ryce has been with since 2000. A native of Ontario, Canada, J-23 has been an editor with the site for over a decade. Now an editor-at-large, Ryce lives and works in London, Ontario.


  • gasoline

    im one of those peeps who have been sleeping on reks, ive never botherd to check him out, until now, and i thank God i did! 25th hour alone was enuff to get me excited, gettin all his mixtapes/albums asap, dude is beyond ridiculous on the mic...


  • Anonymous

    He got the most skills of the emcees who have been chosen for this list by far.

  • jt20

    best choice by dx out of the mcs listed so far. REKS is too good to sleep on.

  • Anonymous

    I love how he calls and disses all these whack ass rappers by their names.

  • chronwell

    Yea salute to Reks. He spits the trials and tribulations an urban brother in his 30s go thru!

  • Anonymous

    Reks is a force of nature on the mic.

  • sourdeeez


  • Primevida Vida @Primevida @DJEEZS @WSCTRadio @theamarigroup”

  • Guest We Killin It - Barton Block

  • hellrazor

    what i hate about this piece is the following: "Artists like Drake, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj have released major label debut albums, and conquered the charts, the radio and become household names." REKS has dropped one of the hottest albums of the year thus far (not on a major label, of course). this dude is an MC with real lyrics and real production behind it. premo spearheaded 25th hour (if you hear that song and dont feel it...dont call yourself a hip-hop head), the album's a top seller on ughh and it just exudes the beauties of the culture along with the mindset. i find it insulting that drake, wiz khalifa and stinky minaj are even mentioned. it's bullshit that sinking to their level is what garners recognition these days.

  • Anonymous

    Great article, I'd put Reks in my top 5. Dude is a beast on the mic and real humble, like someone said, you can tell that he got real love for hip hop and the whole culture.

  • 1990sick


  • Bowski

    Wow DX I really like when you guys think outside the box and satisfy the "Underground Hip Hop Connoisseur" in some of us with worthy articles like this. Reks has been a personal favorite of mine for some years now, even back in the day when I didn't know he was from Boston. Reks is not only crazy w/the lyrics, but he has a true respect for the artform just reference any of his interviews and see for yourself. I can't wait to see the rest of the list, I have a couple in mind too. Good job DX for recognizing/adding some more shine to a well deserving artist like Reks...

  • Kray Z

    OMG! I just added a GREAT! rapper to my collection.

  • Reks Fan

    No comments? Wtf? REKS is a beast and I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT BOSTON except him, Guru, Statik, Termanology, Ed OG, Akrobatik, Lif, Landspeed Records...they should put "Lil Waynes" name next to the title I'm sure there would be 1000 comments.

  • TechGambino

    Great choice. I keep Along Came the Chosen in my car at all times and it's on a short list of recommendations when people ask me for an album they haven't heard of they should check out. One of the best albums from 2001.

  • Rory

    This is dope, looking forward to the rest of the graduates

  • Damany G

    That's what Im talking about!!! Go to see my man Reks get some shine... cop the album

  • HipHop

    Got nothing but respect for this article and the whole series. I'm glad that Reks finally gets some shine he well deserves. One of the best and most underrated rappers of all time. He has great, introspective, lyrics, keeps it real all the time and combines that with a flow others can only dream of, he tears tracks apart the way only a few are able to. Along Came The Chosen, Grey Hairs (tied with The Preface for AOTY) and R.E.K.S. (another contender for the AOTY) were all dope.

  • gerald

    One of the best R.E.K.S. is like 10 times better than Along Came The Chosen though. SUPPORT.

  • insertnamehere

    Nice article.. Finally a site giving props to these underground cats, Reks is doing his thing and the new album was crack.. Can't wait to see who else'll be on the list

  • FreeT

    GREAT article,honestly so far I think Reks has the best album this year.

  • Anonymous