After dropping one of 2011's most praised Hip-Hop releases, one would assume that Reks would lay low and ride the wave of acclaim he had received from his peers and mentors like DJ Premier who placed the MC's Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme on his "Best LP's of the Year" list. But alas, that is not the case.
Shortly after the release of R.E.K.S., the Lawrence, Massachusetts native wasted no time getting right back into the studio. Only this time, it was to craft an entire LP featuring production from longtime friend and collaborator, Statik Selektah. Fast forward to today (April 24) and the two Bay State brethren have given us Reks' fifth studio album, Straight No Chaser.
A few days before Straight No Chaser dropped, Reks opened up to AllHipHop.com about the respect and admiration he has for Showoff Records founder Statik Selektah, as well as how their relationship has evolved sincetheir first collaboration in 2001. He also broke down his new album, from its subject matter and features, to what the recording process was actually like. Find out what he had to say below:
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about the appeal of working with someone like Statik Selektah again. You’ve been rocking with him since your first album, Along Came the Chosen, in 2001. How has that relationship evolved?
Reks: You know, me and Statik actually had a working relationship prior to the album even coming out. We had never recorded any records together, but he was DJ’ing for me for a little while, and we were making our rounds throughout the underground Boston Hip-Hop crowd. And, we were both brand new to the show thing and putting together material. What I’ve always respected about Statik, from the day I met him and seeing him now, is he’s a go-getter. He doesn’t expect much from the next person in order to get where he’s trying to get to.
To accomplish what he wants to accomplish, he works 26 hours a day. The kid just doesn’t sleep, and he’s worked his *ss off to get to where he’s at, and that’s why he’s benefitting from it. In terms of the music itself, it’s undeniable, I feel, what Statik brings to the table in a classic sound and some boom-bap and respecting the architects that come before us in a big way. We just have a linked mindstate in terms of the type of quality music we put out.
AllHipHop.com: Take me into the creative process of Reks and Statik while you two were recording Straight No Chaser.
Reks: The process was to not compete with any projects we had put out in the past. When we go in there, it’s a lighthearted affair. Me and Statik work. It takes nothing to get out there and bang out record after record. It was no different with Straight No Chaser as far as the formula, which included Hennessey and some beers. We get some food and just chop it up and laugh, just do what we do on a normal day basis, only this time we’re trying to make classic material.
AllHipHop.com: What about your state of mind during recording? Was there a specific story you were trying to tell on the album?
Reks: This album is no bullsh*t. I’m dealing with everyday issues like I do on all of my projects; I just find the topics that I feel are pressing at the moment, and I touch upon them. I’ve been traveling a lot, so with a record like this I’m talking about a change in my lifestyle - from being an artist trying to be able to get out of the country, to regularly frequenting areas out in Europe and Asia.
I wanted to talk about the culture shock not only leaving the country, but coming from a small city like Lawrence, Massachusetts and going across the time zones; it’s like a whole new world. And giving the understanding to young kids that this is not out of reach, if this is what you want for your life. It’s just going to take dedication and persistence to make that reality.
AllHipHop.com: How about what’s going on in the communities?
Reks: Of course, you will always hear me talk about what is going on in communities around us, where kids are less fortunate than others, because I’ve got two boys. I’ve got an eight-year-old and a two-year-old, and they’re everything to me. And when I talk about my music, a lot of it has to do with issues that I will address with them when the time is necessary, and explain to them that the picture that is painted for you is not always the picture that’s real. So I’m going to give it to my kids straight no chaser, like the actual visual that’s out there.
That’s what my music is all about, never sugarcoating sh*t or bullsh*tting, This is how I feel the world works. That’s what this album really is. It’s always an internal struggle, though, because I do like to put the camera up on myself and speak about my personal struggles and triumphs within this world. Because we all make mistakes and wish we could do certain things better, but I’m fortunate enough to know that I’m doing what I lov, and I wanted to preach to do what you love and don’t adhere to what the norm is on Straight No Chaser.
AllHipHop.com: The album is varied in topic and focused on issues that plague our society. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s refreshing, and it's Reks, man.
Reks: It’s real, that’s definitely what this album represents.
AllHipHop.com: In regards to working entirely with Statik, how important was it for you to create an album with one coherent sound, as opposed to accepting beats from different producers?
Reks: At this point ,I had the opportunity to be blessed with some of the greatest producers of all time, and when I look at Statik and see what he’s headed for, the opportunity to do it now is just necessary. It’s always been necessary for us to do a full-length project. But right at this time, right now while Statik is coming into his own as an producer and gaining the notoriety that he rightfully deserves, I felt that it was a no-brainer to do it.
No one on this Earth knows me better as an artist than Statik, in terms of what sounds make the most sense and where to put certain drops and do whatever is necessary to accentuate the positives of who Reks is. It was long overdue. With the way we are with putting so many projects out at the nucleus, we just had to find the right moment where he wasn’t too busy and I wasn’t too busy
AllHipHop.com: What can you tell me about some of the features?
Reks: I did some features that I really felt necessary based upon the team. I had an opportunity to get Termanology, who is a brother that I always love rocking on a record with, as well as the rest of the Showoff camp like Kali and JFK. Then the newcomer to the team is Ea$y Money, who is I was really excited about to put on the project because he’s an incredible writer and storyteller. We’ve got a record called “Power Lines” that’s real dope. I got a record with Action Bronson where we just did some raw, uncut, pure back-and-forth sh*t, which is dope because Action’s buzz is so crazy right now, and I’m so proud to be here to witness it and to know that we were to get together right now and put something out that I know the people will totally enjoy.
AllHipHop.com: That’s a solid lineup. Let’s get back to Statik who first produced a couple tracks on your debut, then executive-produced an album of yours, and now is responsible for all of the production on Straight No Chaser. What’s next for you two after having an entire album together?
Reks: It’s about expanding the Showoff brand outside of what Statik is doing and what Termanology is doing; trying to get Kali and JFK heavily involved in putting projects out as well. Of course, there’s some surprises, but on top of that we have our own separate little projects following this album. Later in the year, I’ll have another album coming out with a producer by the name of Monix called REBELutionary. It’s a conceptual project focused on dealing with society's ills and a social commentary that I feel is missing from music.
AllHipHop.com: The fans want to know, man, when are we getting that Reks, Termanology, and Statik project?
Reks: [Laughter] The thing is, I don’t know if it’s going to entirely be produced by Statik. I don’t know that yet, but you’re definitely going to be getting a full-length from me and Term. That is a definite and is something that is very necessary. I plan to just rap circles around whoever we can rap circles around, just for the love of competition. Sharing the stage with Term over the years and just seeing his growth, as an artist is a great feeling for me ‘cause it’s coming from exactly where I came from, and it’s dope to see his progression. Taking no prisoners, and he’s winning because of it, and I feel like us together would be a powerful combination.
AllHipHop.com: As we wrap up, I just want to bring up something I saw a fan write on Twitter before that you re-tweeted and said: “Reks is a modern-day AZ. As much talent as any other MC but both are extremely underrated.” How does a statement like that resonate with you?
Reks: It meant something to me because it was someone’s honest opinion, and honestly, when I look back, I felt the same way being a fan first. I felt that AZ was one of the most underrated artists ever, and I still do to this day. To have your name put in categories of such greats is a tough one to swallow, because it’s something hard to live up to. I can’t put my catalog up to certain artists’ catalogs and compare, ‘cause there’s a million reasons why they just don’t add up. But to be given that respect by someone who appreciates the material I put out makes me feel good because I do feel that I am an underrated artist.
I do feel that I am an underdog in this. I do feel like if you give me 10 years ago, it might be a different scenario, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I continue to put out the music that I’m putting out and not to lose my integrity because I want to sell records, or that I want to gain the type of following that some artists are having out there. I would love to sell a million records and have those following, but I won’t adhere to the norms in this industry just to get there. That tweet made me feel good, and it’s a great feeling to have people that actually acknowledge you.
AllHipHop.com: Thanks for your time, Reks, and congratulations on the album.
Reks: Thank you. I appreciate the support that I receive from you guys.
Straight No Chaser is available now on iTunes!