REKS Explains Balancing Mainstream Appeal With Social Commentary
Exclusive: REKS details branching out on his own for "Revolution Cocktail," why Budapest is a must visit location and his "Best Kept Secret" status.
REKS will be the first one to tell you that his new LP is a little out of character. It finds him venturing away from the Showoff/Brick imprint on which he’s previously found success with Statik Selektah. But the Lawton, Massachusetts product, who has brought grey hairs and cigarettes from the masses to the mainstream, maintains both his autonomy and his credo for blue collar Hip Hop. The poignant political commentary remains intact, and Revolution Cocktail is a discernible departure from the vet’s previous six studio efforts. Change can be a good thing.
Revolution Cocktail mixes government criticism with boom-bap smoothness to create some of the best Hip Hop of the summer. The “2011 HipHopDX Graduate” details the production and reception of the album, plus what fans can look forward to from upcoming projects.
REKS Explains His Newfound Independence
HipHopDX: After six months of delays, the album’s finally out. How are you feeling about it, and what has the reception been like so far?
REKS: I’m really excited about it man. I’m happy to finally get it out. It was a long time coming, and it’s my first independent project—independent of another label and the whole Brick and Showoff situation. It’s me personally putting it out myself, so I’m excited about that. I’m also very excited about the response we’ve had thus far; I can’t complain. There’s been a lot of props. It’s diverse, and it has a good energy to it; I like the way I was able to switch it up on this one. I’m real excited.
DX: Any plans for a tour or more music videos to promote it?
REKS: I’ve definitely got plans for the music videos. We’re gonna shoot something real soon for “Caged Bird.” We already have concepts for that and “Mighty Mouse Trap Rap.” We’ve also got “Flags” in the works, “Golden” and “Ahead of My Time.” With most of my projects, I usually do about four or five videos at least. It’s looking like it’s gonna be the same thing.
As far as tours go, I just got off a tour with Edo G. We did the Europe thing for about a month, and I’m heading back to Europe to do spot dates that I missed out on, like Spain and Amsterdam...different areas that I haven’t been able to reach out to so far.
DX: Do you have a favorite spot on that European leg?
REKS: Budapest was amazing. People had been telling me about Budapest for a long period of time, and it definitely lived up to the hype.
DX: You’ve mentioned some new stuff in the works, including the collab with Hazardis Soundz. On the song “Run DMC,” you say you won’t stop rockin’ ‘til you retire. Is that retirement coming anytime soon, and what is the future looking like?
REKS: Nah, I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. That was a salute to Run DMC, a big salute to them and Public Enemy and all those who came before us. As far as the material I’m making, I feel that I’m making quality and quantity, so there’s no reason for me to stop. I’ve found a niche, and I’ve got a cult following. Why quit right now? I will segue into something further down the line. I’ve got movements going on with Gargle Grenades, we have artists we’re working with. For the time being though, I don’t have any reason to stop being an artist.
DX: Tell me about what’s on tap next then.
REKS: As you mentioned, we’ve got the project with Hazardis Soundz called Eyes Watching God. That project’s completed already, and we’ve got the single that’s gonna drop relatively soon with N.O.R.E. and Saigon. It’s called “Garvey;” it’s dope. I’m working hard, and I’m not gonna stop. I’m working on various things with Ez Dread and J Tronius. I’m excited man, there’s so much amazing music going on from this side.
DX: You’ve been working with some big dudes lately, between Saigon and N.O.R.E.; Bishop Lamont and Big Pooh are on the album. What was it like working with those guys?
REKS: It’s been amazing being able to work with such talented artists who appreciate what I bring to the table as far as this music goes. Cats like Bishop Lamont—I had the opportunity to go out there and work in Cali, because Ez Dread was living out there for like a year. I would go out there to see her and did part of the album’s recording out there. We linked up with Bishop, and it was an amazing feeling. I’ve known Saigon for a little while now, and Sai and I are kinda likeminded in our goal to reach out to the youth and speak on societal ills. N.O.R.E. made me an official member of the Drink Champs, along with Statik Selektah and a few others. N.O.R.E.’s a guy that, if I’m down in Miami, we can get it popping. I appreciate the legend that he is and being able to soak up all his energy...soak up all the energy of these amazing artists.
REKS On The Importance Of Political & Social Issues In Rap
DX: You mention societal ills. Right as your album drops, some pretty heavy stuff hits the media. You name-drop the Amadou Diallo shooting, the Waco siege and Trayvon Martin in consecutive songs. What’s the impetus behind making such political tracks, and do you think that you’ll have more music like that coming out in context of the Zimmerman trial?
REKS: I think that across not just the genre we work in but music in general, political and social issues will always be rampant. As far as in Hip Hop itself, I feel that the social messages ring the loudest. Hip Hop has always had a heartbeat, and it dives deep into social ills. As far as what just happened with the Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman thing, I don’t want people to get confused, get caught in the moment and have this be the cause of the moment. Diallo was the cause for the moment. Rodney King was the cause for the moment. Troy Davis was the cause for the moment. The reality is we don’t need to just deal with these major issues when they occur in the moment, we need to always allow these to be on our minds and in our hearts, something that we’re consistently discussing. It’s important for brothers like Immortal Technique and Saigon and myself—I like to throw myself in there—to continue to make that message important.
DX: I’d certainly keep you in that conversation as well with Saigon and Immortal Technique. On the intro track “Revolution Is Here,” you say that you’re “still the best-kept secret.” How does that underdog mentality influence you this late in the game?
REKS: I like proving naysayers and disbelievers wrong. I’m always gonna feel like I’m the best-kept secret, and I feel that I bring something to Hip Hop that’s missing. I feel like I’ve got an energy that’s vibrant, it doesn’t matter how much older I get. I feel I get more adept at what I do; I’m aging like fine wine. I’ve got something that’s always gonna need to be said, and I’m gonna say it. I feel that I’m the best-kept secret.
DX: Can it be frustrating to still be a secret though?
REKS: Of course. I wanna go sell a million records like Jay-Z too—off of Samsung apps or whatever. I wanna do that too. But I don’t sell that way, I’m a nice emcee. And sometimes lyrics go over your head, are forgotten or looked over. It’s unfortunate, but I appreciate that 10 or 20 years down the line I can age like Picasso and get respect for being ahead of my time...not to be cliche. I feel like there are a lot of lyrics that are going over people’s heads and later on they’ll catch up.
Why Some Mainstream Rap Appeals To REKS
DX: You talk mainstream Hip Hop really all over the album, especially on “Mighty Mouse Trap Rap.” Are there any mainstream artists that you’re still down with? Any releases in the popular genre that you’ve been impressed by this year?
REKS: I’m always gonna be a fan of cats like T.I. and Outkast. I’m a fan of Snoop, and the majority of these guys are older heads. But even mainstream acts like Drake and J. Cole, I can appreciate their material. I find it funny how cats that deal with REKS automatically assume that I don’t like cats like Drake or J. Cole. They love to hate on those cats. But I think Drake is musically gifted, there’s no reason to be hating on Drake. I appreciate some of the things Mac Miller does too. Mac Miller doesn’t make the music that I want to listen to per say, but I appreciate what Mac does. Cats can hate all they want on the rappers that are making it big, but there are a lot of gems out there who are true to the culture. It’s just unfortunate that in the mainstream, that’s where most of that bullshit is. That’s where most of the garbage is, and that’s a fact.
DX: I feel that. I’ve been with Drake since ‘07.
REKS: Drake’s dope. Cats can hate all they want. I can hear it now, there’s gonna be a backpacker convention tomorrow, and they’re gonna hate on me, like, “Ahh, REKS likes Drake, he sucks.” They’ll hate on my next five songs, because I said I like Drake.
DX: Any artists, maybe a little lower profile than Drake, that you’d like to collaborate with?
REKS: Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, more and more. I’m a big fan of Jon Connor, I like Boldy James in the Midwest. I rock with Freddie Gibbs, who I’ve done work with in the past, but I’d love to work with again. As far as producers, Apollo Brown, DJ Khalil, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, the list goes on and on. Jake One is heavy on that list, Killer Mike and El-P. Dope is dope, that’s what it is.
DX: Speaking of new producers, Statik Selektah wasn’t on Revolution Cocktail. What was the deal with that? You two still have more in the tank?
REKS: I feel like our schedules didn’t coincide, and we didn’t want to put out a product that was lackluster. I feel like the thing about me and Statik, we’ve put out projects in the past and I’ve been very, very happy with the music. He’s been very happy too. So I didn’t want to put something out just to say I had a record with Statik. That’s my brother, and I’ll always be able to do music with Statik.
This project right here needed to be cohesive, and it was cohesive. I did a lot with Ez Dread, who did the mixing for the project, and I took it to Archetype who did a few songs and mastered the project. I worked with the likes of J Tronius, C Scharp, MoSS and Pro Logic. And then I got to work with my old crew, Soul Searchers, who did like three records on this one. It felt good to get back to my roots, where I started off with Along Came The Chosen and the Rekless project. I feel it was cohesive, and when the time comes, trust me, Statik and I will get back at it.
DX: The album’s certainly cohesive. Do you have a favorite song from it?
REKS: Right now I think I’m rocking with “Golden.” I really like the way that track came out, I was able to be vulnerable and do things that I don’t usually do. I was able to get my Yasiin Bey on a little bit, it was fun. I’m not a singer but I always like to think that I can sing, and I’m on every record trying to sing. It was very important that I did something like that.