When it comes to hip hop, each part of New York City has its own story. The Bronx is the genesis; the cradle of hip hop. Brooklyn has spawned arguably some of the greatest rappers that have ever touched a Mic. Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island have also generated its fair share of legends. Long Island, or Strong Island as we called it back in the day, is not part of the five boroughs, but its contribution to hip hop has been no less than impactful.
Rakim, considered to be one of the greatest of all time, hails from Wyandanch, Long Island. His cadence and lyrical prowess single-handily created the departure point from how MCs used to spit in the early 80s, showing hip hop heads the future of MCing, and produced the blueprint for lyrical MCs of the ‘90s and beyond to use as an influence. Political super group Public Enemy was formed in Long Island. The forceful delivery of Chuck D along with his pro-black lyrics harkened back to a time when Black was beautiful and offered a voice that stimulated our consciousness, allowing us to understand the power of the burgeoning medium the streets had birthed. Strictly Business was the name of hip hop duo EPMD and set the mark for their career. On the Mic they played no games and their no-nonsense lyricism made them staples on the hip hop scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Rap group De La Soul also formed in Long Island and ushered in the “Daisy Age.” Their witty lyrics and unique samples added a much needed eclectic layer to hip hop.
As a native of Long Island the inspiration of these trailblazers was not lost on Reek Da Villian when it came to developing his own style. “My music is all different types of styles and genres,” he says, “I can make the comical records, the serious records, the good-feeling records, the street records [and] the club records. That all comes from listening to groups like De La Soul and EPMD and MCs like Rakim mixed in with Big Daddy Kane whom I love and Slick Rick and Kool G Rap.”
Reek Da Villian is a true child of hip hop. He began rapping at age seven, and by 15 he was recording music in his cousin’s studio in Freeport. In 2006, a chance encounter would serve to be his big break. Reek met Busta Rhymes , long known for being one of the liveliest MCs in hip hop and a founding member of Leaders of the New School) at a mixtape/clothing store in Uniondale. After rapping for him for five minutes, Busta asked for his number. That meeting would be that catalyst that propelled Reek into stardom. Busta became a mentor, fellow label and group-mate as Reek would become a part of the Flipmode Squad, appearing on BET’s 106 and Park and Rap City. In 2009, he left Flipmode, but the experience he acquired was invaluable. “I’m the type of person that can watch and learn something better than someone teaching me,” he confesses, “so as far as musically I just watched stuff [Busta] did and picked it up on my own. But as far as the business side, he taught me how not to rub [label] executives the wrong way, how to greet them and talk to them. He gave me all those little pointers.”
Although Reek Da Villian has yet to release a studio album, he is definitely a veteran in the underground hip hop scene releasing 10 mixtapes since 2007. “Being a new artist, record labels can tell you what they want you to do. Mixtapes give you a chance to go out and give the fans what you want them to hear. If you want to give them a more street record, you can just go out there and give them a whole street album and it could be a mixtape. And it works hand in hand with all the blogs because you can get them up and the fans can go on and support you. You can give them out for free and it’s a way to promote yourself and get heard.” Reek also points out that there are some rap artists that are just releasing mixtapes to manufacture a career and considers the mixtape game a blessing.
In 2010, Reek released his 11th mixtape titled The Gift. “I made The Gift CD like an album because I want everybody to hear it and be able to say wow if he did this for a mixtape, I can imagine what his actual album will sound like,” he states. The title reflects his attitude about the commercialism that is present in mainstream hip hop. “I wanted to give the fans something they could appreciate and that wasn’t about a dollar bill. It is a free mixtape for people to listen to like or not, but overall I say it’s the gift because it’s beautiful music, which is something the fans haven’t gotten in a while and I know that they want,” he adds.
Along with promoting The Gift, Reek plans to drop another mixtape as well as release his debut album in the summer. Hip hop has seen many changes in style since DJs took their equipment out to battle each other at block parties, but one staple in the music and culture has remained – hip hop has always been about repping where you are from. Reek Da Villian is holding the banner for Long Island and adding to long list of MCs from this area that gave depth to hip hop with good music and engaging lyrics.
To download The Gift, visit http://www.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/12916/reek_da_villian_the_gift.html.
Photos: Courtesy of Trio Entertainment