Reks is an emcee who needs no introduction. Or does he? As a Hip Hop head, I would personally consider you to be asleep if you had overlooked his 2008 joint Say Goodnight and the phenomenal 25th Hour, both Premo bangers. But Reks has been a key player in the evolution of Boston Hip Hop and the global underground scene generally and has made several albums. He has just released his seventh album Revolution Cocktail.
With Kick Back along for the interview, we got into an interesting and friendly discussion with Reks, the emcee’s favourite emcee, who was a real pleasure to talk to.
Tell us about your recent European tour.
Reks: The last one was great, I got to get on tour with Edo G, the Boston Legend. It was a great opportunity for me to explore cities and countries I had never visited before. We went out to Nimes, France, Leipzig Germany which I had never been to – an amazing place to be – Budapest which I had never been but heard so many wonderful things about… Slovenia as well, another new place. It was great to get out to these new locations and revisit the ones I had been to several times such as Munich and Austria and Italy, so it was great to go all over the place, we appreciate the fans wherever we are.
Working with Premo and other producers…
Reks: Well interestingly tonight, I'm heading to Massachusetts and they're doing the DJ Premier Vs Pete Rock showcase, so I'm excited about that. Both of those guys are amazing producers – should be fun!
Do you have more tracks with Premo coming?
Reks: Yeah the goal is definitely to work with DJ Premier again and Pete Rock as well. I have plans to work with Apollo Brown in the near future, and I look forward to opportunities to meet cats like DJ Khalil and Jake One, and some of the individuals, the newcomers on the scene and the ones who aren't newcomers but maybe didn't get the props they deserve yet.
Any producers outside of the US caught your ear?
Reks: Yes definitely. I've worked with a bunch of cats. I plan to work with Snowgoons a little bit more… there's several producers on the up and up, from Weirdo (Crazeology) in Italy and Fabio Musta. There's a really young kid named Cynic from Switzerland who's really dope. Wherever I go I find amazing producers and there's so many to name…
Weirdo is the homie for sure.
Reks: That's good, I was just with Weirdo in Milan 3 weeks ago… great guy.
Boston and New York, different scenes.
Reks: Obviously, New York being the Mecca, we took our cue from New York for so many years and I think over the years Boston has carved its own niche into the Hip Hop landscape. From Edo G / Benzino Made Men era, going into the more underground cats such as Akrobatik, 7L and Esoteric, Mr Lif, Edan… we had a plethora of potent Hip Hop between the 90s and now, and now with cats like Terminology and Slaine, and even Edo now, from the late 80s up to now, Edo transcended the time. So I think we've had a good group of underground cats who carried the torch for Boston.
Edo G was a big influence for you?
Reks: I would say Edo G, Scientifik, Krumbsnatcha, dating back to the early to mid 90s…
Reks: Of course, Guru coming from Boston but also at the same time he kinda segued out to the New York scene, but yeah Guru definitely a major influence as well. Rest in peace to Guru.
Progression from first album to Revolution Cocktail.
Reks: It was kind of a revolution in itself. I feel like back then I was young and unabashed, brand new to the Hip Hop thing, so a little wet behind the ears and everything that I had to say lacked the experience that I have now. The life stories weren't so much there then, because there was not that aspect of the Reks artist you see today. But, back then, I feel that lyrically I was still holding my own. I was capable of handling the mic, but I feel that experience is the best teacher and that's why there's been a progression over the years.
What are your feelings about what's going on in America right now?
Reks: I think I've been kinda clueless to a lot of what you're talking about there. I have been kind of tuned out to a lot of things lately… usually I go online and every topic that's in today news is like, front headline on every social media… but I think I'm clueless.
The importance of vinyl in Hip Hop culture?
Reks: I think it's something that should be a mainstay, and I love to head east and see how much it plays a major role in a lot of cats lives still to this day. To see brand new diggers all the time. I go to places like Austria and Germany and the UK and wherever I go it's amazing to see individuals refreshed and invigorated by digging. I think vinyl is really important for the DJ and for the culture itself and we don't wanna see it go away, but unfortunately over time, this internet and it's technological crazes is changing the format.
Kick Back: Do you think using hardware when making beats is important?
Reks: I think dope is dope. At the end of the day, you don't take away from anyone who has a good ear for making quality material. But the craftsmanship is definitely not as important as it was in the past, which is unfortunate. I could see someone chopping up a sample back in the day on an MPC and they can do that the same with some of these new machines. I really feel like everyone is a producer nowadays and I get an influx of beats in my inbox on a day to day basis from cats who are making beats on their cell phone…
You can tell they just started making beats, they brag about being beatmakers for the last three months and think they just great at it. And I know cats been at it, 10-11 years in and still perfecting their sounds.
I'm with a producer right now, EZ Dread, she did two tracks on Revolution Cocktail and she sings on a few songs. She did the last track and 'Forrest Gump'.
If there was no Hip Hop culture?
Reks: I know a lot of people who know what I'm doing know I'm heavily into social work so it wouldn't be anything extravagant or crazy. I think I would be working with youth, doing something related to social work. People would be interested to know that coming out of high school I was actually doing art and I wanted to go to art school, be into marketing and design so there was a possibility I could have ended up doing that as well.
Kick Back: Are there certain things you always take to the studio with you?
Reks: Bottle of Hennessey, 6 pack of Becks, my laptop, my book bag with some not books and pens…
Not a smoker…
Reks: No, I gave up cigarettes, I don't smoke weed and usually now, you'll see EZ Dread in the studio helping me be creative a little bit.
What's the technique for quitting cigarettes?
Reks: I quit cold turkey, it was just one of those decisions where I knew it was time to do it. Not just health-wise, but I have kids and I wanna be here for my kids.
I'm going seven months strong now, and I feel great.
Talk about global and multilingual Hip Hop.
Reks: I think Hip Hop has gone so far and it's amazing to see how far it's grown all across the globe from Paris to London to Warsaw and over to Toronto and even third world countries…it's everywhere. I'll do an interview somewhere in Nairobi and then I'll do an interview in Brooklyn, then I'll be in Tallahassee, Florida, then doing an interview with you in the UK… So its phenomenal to see the growth of this music, to hear the different dialects that his genre has entered into.
I've done songs with cats who speak strictly no English, from Swiss-German to French and it's dope to know that this music touches on all cylinders.
UK Hip Hop artists… or is that a bit of a grey area?
Reks: I couldn't give you the big names out there, because I'm not a follower in that regard but I just started seeing some videos from… (forgets name)
I can recommend you Rodney P, Skinnyman… M9 has the UK Hip Hop album of the year… Magna Carta. He's from a group called Triple Darkness, they're kinda like the Wu Tang of the UK scene.
What does Hip Hop mean to you personally?
Reks: I mean there's nothing like it. I cant put into words what Hip Hop has meant to me and I don't know what I would be without Hip Hop in my life… There were so many roads I could have taken that didn't lead to positivity and I feel that Hip Hop played an instrumental role in me having certain successes in my life and being guided in the choices I made in life. Because I had people like KRS and people like Nas, all the ones who came before me from Public Enemy to NWA, Scarface as Teachers… My pops wasn't there and if it wasn't for those tapes I wouldn't have learned a lot and Hip Hop is a great teacher and a great parents as well. It allowed me to be a student to life as well.
Reks: Appreciate you for taking the time with me. My album Revolution Cocktail is available now on iTunes or get a physical copy through Rekshiphop.com.
By: Esh | IBMCs