Love makes you do dangerous, sometimes illegal things, and back in the day my love for hip-hop made me sneak into every show I could find, age limits be damned. One sweltering summer night I managed to evade security at the now defunct Boston House of Blues and found myself in the midst of a speaker-busting frenzy. Honestly, my memories of that night are a little hazy, as are most of my memories (don’t do drugs kids), but here’s what I do remember: the headliner’s name was REKS, he was absolutely killing the mic, and …
DJBooth Album Review
Little did I know at the time I was witnessing the emergence of a lyrically determined man who would become an absolute force in Boston’s insular hip-hop scene. REKS quickly established himself as an underground sensation with the release of his debut album Along Came The Chosen, and although it’s taken seven-plus years for the man to put together his sophomore album, the self-deprecatingly titled Grey Hairs, all that waiting has not been in vain. For all intensive purposes a collaborative album with fellow Bostonian and rising production star Statik Selektah, Grey Hairs is a sometimes gripping, sometimes meandering album that won’t make REKS a household name – unless your household happens to love underground east coast hip-hop.
While Statik provides the majority of the beat work on Grey Hairs, REKS wisely chose DJ Premier, to lay down the foundation for his lead single Say Goodnight. Goodnight is a nostalgic east coast boom-bap track in the sense that it features muted snares, live scratches and fearlessly delivered lyrics, but it’s much more than just another track drenched in old-school nostalgia (check the 50 Cent sample on the chorus). This is what underground hip-hop needs if it’s to stay alive in the future as well as it stays connected to the past, and for that we all owe REKS a thank you. Now that I’ve given REKS his much-deserved respect, I have to point out that while REKS is a much-needed general in the war against wackness, he’s still no savior. Just take All In One (5 Mics), a track that attempts to channel the stylistic ghosts of hip-hop’s legends. It’s a hell of a concept, and it could have been an all-time classic track if REKS had pulled it off, but unfortunately he’s just not up to the task. REKS nails his Tupac recreation with an appropriately outlaw verse, and his Big Pun is pretty impressive, but you’d be hard pressed to pick out his Biggie verse without an intro, and his Big L just isn’t nearly hard enough. In a way 5 Mics is a perfect encapsulation of Grey Hairs as a whole; it’s a dope album, but the space between a dope album and legendary album is enormous, and Grey Hairs just can’t bridge that gap.
In another sense Goodnight and 5 Mics aren’t good examples of Grey Hairs’ average track, primarily because neither is produced by Statik Selektah. A solid portion of Grey Hairs’ appeal is Stakik’s stellar production work, starting with How Can It Be, a track that embeds a soul vocal sample with burning electronic synths and REKS scorching delivery of lyrics like: “Genesis, revelation, associate, whoever get the premonition to f**k wit’ me is over with.” Ironically that line serves as a premonition itself, forecasting the arrival of a the aptly-titled Premonition. Premonition showcases another round of Statik’s laid back board work, and most notably brings on fellow Boston associate Termanology for a heartfelt look back on life’s regrets. In the end it’s exactly this heart, the pulsing blood that beats on tracks as diverse as the socially significant Black Cream or the triumphant My Life, that makes REKS an MC to be reckoned with. Grey Hairs doesn’t have the hottest production, the most complex lyrics or the sickest delivery, but it has heart, and in an age where hip-hop sometimes barely has a pulse, we need all the heart we can get.
Listen to More: REKS Written by Nathan S.
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"How Can It Be" (2008)
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