BUILDING BLOCKS A rare sort of MC who twists progressive nuggets into battle-ready couplets, Reks is finally fulfilling his exceptionally high potential.
Thank the good lord Nas for Europe. Say what you will about their snotty languages and odd sneakers, young people in urban Denmark, France, and Germany have kept sophisticated hardcore hip-hop alive, allowing savants like Lawrence native Reks to win a slice of the success that he deserves. For grunge-scene veterans and DIY nostalgia whores, the spirit of the '90s may be alive in Portland, Oregon. But for anybody raised on Hilfiger hoodies and lyricists who spit for sport, Poland is the place to get your move on.
In anticipation of his R.E.K.S. (Brick Records) release party this Saturday at the Middle East, I connected with Reks via Skype from his hotel room in Switzerland, where he's in the middle of a marathon tour with Statik Selektah, DJ Deadeye, and fellow Lawrence MC Termanology. The fact that we're chatting at no charge on Skype is significant. Had I been interviewing Rick Ross, he would have likely used the hotel horn, or a roaming cell phone. But this is a blue-collar hustle — a non-stop intercontinental rhyme parade with stops wherever East Coast cats like Reks remain king.
"I'm awestruck," he says. Over the past two weeks, Reks has performed and collaborated with acts in Poland, Switzerland, and Italy. "We come from such a bad neighborhood that to be over here is like being in a different world. This is my second time, and I'm still shocked by the fact that cats are screaming 'Lawtown' [the crew's signature shout-out to their hometown] at our shows! The other night, we did an interview in Sweden on the biggest hip-hop station there, and they spent 35 minutes talking about their love and respect for guys like Akrobatik, Mr. Lif, Edo G, and the Kreators. They look at Boston hip-hop as something that's exciting, and as something that's authentic and that's been overlooked."
Reks is in phase two of the third phase of his career. Over the past decade or so, he's gone from rap prodigy to milk-carton mystery to unrelenting underdog, and there's no apparent end to his reinvigorated rhyme scheme. A rare sort of MC who twists progressive nuggets into battle-ready couplets, he's finally fulfilling his exceptionally high potential, and earning superlative accolades from everyone in earshot. While collaborating with exalted icons like Bun B, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier, he's built a track arsenal that few could fuck with — in 2010, he dropped nearly 60 songs over two mixtapes and still squeezed out R.E.K.S., which travels miles deeper than the average hip-hop album. "With [previous official album] Grey Hairs, we didn't have anywhere near this kind of coverage. There's a big difference this time."
His ascent has not gone unnoticed. Amid his syllabic feats and features alongside indie stars like Freddie Gibbs and Phonte, Reks has pissed on and pissed off a number of trend-mongering Southerners and wack acts in general. "My goal is not to hate on another man making his money — especially not another black man who comes from what I come from. But kids need an alternative, and it pisses me off that there aren't any, so I'm going to say the names that kids know so they get the message. I have children, and I don't want my son listening to that shit."