Most of his 2009 rap peers may be “catching amnesia” while he’s “catching nostalgia,” as he cleverly observed on this year’s first truly flawless Hip Hop song, “System” [click to listen], but Boston lyricist Reks isn’t living in the past. While the soul and jazz-tinged boom-bap sound of his music may conjure up memories of classic ‘90’s east coast Hip Hop, the author of one of 2008’s most critically-acclaimed albums, Grey Hairs [click to read], is firmly focused on the future.
And HipHopDX recently spoke with Rhythmatic Eternal Kings Supreme to find out what he has in store for us in the coming months to solidify his standing as one of the most important independent artists in Hip Hop today. The longtime friend of Beantown producer/deejay Statik Selektah (signed to Statik’s Showoff Records) also shared with DX his reasoning for recently spewing his emcee ether in the direction of Lupe Fiasco.
First up for Reks in ’09 is his album-before-the-album (and addendum to his last album), More Grey Hairs, due in stores by the spring.
“This [is] a collection of material that we felt should have made ‘Grey Hairs,’ but we just could not extend ‘Grey Hairs’ any further,” Reks explained to DX of his forthcoming release. “We had a bunch of records that we had already prepared that we felt like were good enough but were just not fitting into the whole collective as much as the other records were. And so these records were put aside so we could release ‘em shortly after ‘Grey Hairs’ dropped… [But] “System” [is] a new record. We did a few new records for [‘More Grey Hairs’].”
A host of up-and-coming producers helm the bulk of the trackwork on More, including Immortal Technique’s deejay, G.I. Joe, who crafted the album’s first official offering, the aforementioned “System.” The budding beatmaker having been brought to Reks attention following his appearance on the scratchfest, “No Mistakes Allowed,” from Statik Selektah’s first full-length, 2007’s Spell My Name Right. Also putting in work on More is Florida-based trackmaster Timeless Beats, who contributed the soulful lament on the realities of our recession era “Dear Winter” [click to listen], and Reks’ former classmates at the University of Massachusetts, the Soul Searchers, who were absent from the creation of Grey Hairs but instrumental in the construction of Reks’ 2001 Landspeed Records debut, Along Came The Chosen, as well as his self-distributed Rekless street album in ’03 (which Reks revealed to DX he plans to re-release sometime later this year).
But it’s not all lesser-known producers supplying the sonic foundation for Reks’ rugged rhymes on his latest offering. More does boast a couple big names behind the boards, including DJ Premier, who laced Reks with one of his most impressive productions of ’08 for “Say Goodnight” [click to listen] from Grey Hairs, and once again provides the match to light the fire of Reks’ furious flow on “Cloud 9.” And of course the Executive Producer of Grey Hairs, Statik Selektah, puts in plenty of work on More Grey Hairs.
And while light on guest appearances this go-round, Statik’s other celebrated Showoff spitter Termanology is added alongside Skyzoo for a remix of the Soul Theory produced slow burner from Grey Hairs, “Money On The Ave.”
As for the content of More Grey Hairs, much like its predecessor Reks easily upstages his cash-and-ass contemporaries by skillfully weaving in to his rhymes a vast array of topics, ranging from discussions of politics to painfully personal revelations.
“I got this record, ‘Good Night, And Good Luck,’ where it’s more [of] a [storytelling track],” Reks revealed of one of his new conceptual gems. “I’m kinda like dealing with a relationship gone bad, and how it affects the children… I deal with relationships [on ‘More Grey Hairs’], [and I] still [address] the emcee topic, [which] is gonna be rampant because I’m just so fed-up with some of this b.s. that we’re receiving from artists nowadays… If they’re gonna beat us in the head with the bullshit, then I’m gonna beat them in the head telling them how weak their bullshit is.”
Following the release of More Grey Hairs, the outspoken orator is dropping a politically-minded mixtape with the aid of 1914, another Sunshine State production source in Reks’ rolodex, and the beatmakers behind “Long While” from Grey Hairs.
Additional mixtape collabos with Soul Theory and Statik are on Reks’ ’09 itinerary to surround the release of his official new studio album. Due sometime this summer, the project is currently untitled, but Reks ensures the eventual title he selects for his next offering of all-original material will not have the word “grey” anywhere in it.
“There will be no [titles and topics] that deal with the aging process any longer,” he said of his future songs and albums. “I think I found my fountain of youth.”
Hip Hop has a tendency to prematurely age its artists, and thus descriptions of the 31-year-old Reks have already come to include “late bloomer.” One-third of the M Diesel crew, alongside partners-in-rhyme Lucky Dice and Chi Knox (who Reks revealed have a surplus of material still waiting to be unleashed on the public), unfortunately earned that late bloomer label due to the fact that the less informed believe his 2008 release was actually his first. That perception problem created following Reks essentially going M.I.A. from the rap game for a five year span between the ’03 release of Rekless and ’08 release of Grey Hairs, during which time he battled the dreaded “local-itis” that tends to plague most independent artists at one time or another.
“Yeah, it was atrocious and I fell victim to it,” said Reks of his bout with complacency. “I was out in Boston attending local venues and doing the same cycle of events over the course of a few years, just allowing myself to fall deeper and deeper [into that stage] where artists feel comfortable in their surroundings. They don’t search for more.”
Not surprisingly, but ironically, it was when Reks left Beantown for Miami, not to follow his dreams of rap stardom but to reconcile his fractured family, that his music career experienced a much-needed boost.
“I went to Florida to rectify things with my family,” he explained of his move in 2006. “I was going through a dark stage where I was not focused. [And] I was not committed to my wife and [being] the man I should’ve been. I was not being there for my son. I wasn’t being a good father…That was like the worst stage of my life, being away from my son for so long. It was a seven month period, that transition from my wife moving from Massachusetts down to Florida. She was down there seven months prior to me being there…And once I got down [to Florida too] I was able to re-familiarize myself with what was important.”
Coincidentally, his old friend from Boston, Statik (who it should be noted has worked with Reks since his ’01 debut) had made a trip down to Miami for a birthday celebration. While in town he hit Reks up, and the two subsequently conversed about unifying forces to get Reks back in the game properly.
But don’t call it a comeback. Reks has been here for years, long enough to feel qualified in this Hip Hop sport to criticize a “Superstar” in the game on the bonus track from Grey Hairs, “Pray For Me” [click to listen]: “How can Lupe complain/When his fiasco at a rap show to honor rap greats is to blame/For rap music dying in a box…”
“I mean, everybody’s held accountable,” replied Reks when asked about the above verse. “I question myself and my motives and my decisions all the time. So every man is to be held accountable… Lupe is an amazing artist, but at the same time that disrespect that was shown, I don’t appreciate it. And I’m gonna take homie to task for it.”
“He don’t care anyway,” he added. “[Laughs] Lupe ain’t thinking about me.”
More Grey Hairs is due this spring from Showoff/Brick Records.