It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 10th anniversary of REKS‘ debut album Along Came The Chosen being released. It’s not so much the longevity; countless rappers have lasted longer with larger musical catalogs and bigger bankrolls to show for it. Rather, it’s his unwavering dedication to his craft as well as his passion for Hip Hop which in turn has made for some memorable moments, none more remarkable than what he elicits on his latest offering R.E.K.S. (Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme).
Right from the beginning, it’s evident that REKS hasn’t lost a step since Grey Hairs with the DJ Premier-produced record “25th Hour.” Rapidly rhyming over Premo’s piercing piano keys and airtight boom-bap drums, REKS turns into your favorite ‘90s emcee reincarnated. This same raw energy continues on “Thin Line” and “Face Off” , where the latter track has REKS and Showoff Records associate Termanology exchanging bars about the emerging Rap takeover coming out of ‘Murder Mass.’ Keeping the features to a minimum, REKS taps Styles P for a track that can only be appropriately described as black hoodie Rap in “Why Cry” . Here Alchemist laces the two emcees with a menacing melody that becomes eerily captivating under their intimidating rhymes.
While the abundance of brazen lyricism fits right into REKS’ usual scheme, the heart of R.E.K.S. is propelled by a handful of records that reveal a more introspective Corey Christie. “This Is Me” delves into his struggle to cope with the early passing of his father as an adolescent, while “Mr. Nobody” has him revisiting the darkest hours when poverty and family instability yielded a bleak future. “Mascara (The Truth)” shines a blinding light on several topics that make REKS question the actual progress of black culture within America. From artistic integrity (“How they want me is to dumb it down, they’ll give me money / If I tap dance, perfect circus monkey”) to Barack Obama (“Mister Black President look more like Sammy Sosa than my granny’s poster”) to discouraging childhood memories (“All my strength within to forget when / I was young and I wanted to be Barbie’s Ken / Mommy’s friends, none of them looked like Golden Girls / Hot combs for their curls, used to call them nigger-nats”), REKS’ concerns make for a great discussion whether or not it occurs in the realm of Hip Hop.
Despite a solid foundation, there are a few cracks noticeable in REKS’ blueprint. Treating “Kill Em” as a concept record to praise his peers, the name-dropping performance over Sean C & LV’s layered production conjures more bark than bite in his lyrics. Upbeat and playful in demeanor, “Limelight” touches on the possibility of fame as REKS references several different artists and media outlets to help build his celebratory status. The beat from Nottz is decent enough, however the rolling piano chords clash with REKS’ stop-and-go rhyme pattern. Similarly, an uncomfortable vibe arises on “The Wonder Years” where REKS’ delivery sounds rushed over Hi-Tek’s lethargic melody. This isn’t to say the two have bad chemistry; the piano-laden “U Know” sounds like it would have fit perfectly on Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip , one of Hi-Tek’s most admirable projects.
Front to back, R.E.K.S. provides the listener with meticulous memoirs from a man that arguably has yet to reach his artistic plateau. Couple that with a solid cast of guest features and producers (including long-time collaborator Statik Selektah), and it’s clear to see why REKS deserves mention alongside his mainstream counterparts. Truth be told, that acknowledgement may never happen, but all is fine; this Boston king will still reign supreme.