Album Review: REKS – “Straight, No Chaser” – #### Review
By: Matt Wright
Boston has always been a fertile place for the growth of hip-hop. The culture’s first legitimate publication, The Source, sprang from Harvard in the 1980s. Artists like Ed O.G., The Top Choice Clique, TDS Mob, and The Almighty RSO all enjoyed some play attention outside of the confines of their city over the years, with varying degrees of lasting power. The late 1990s saw the birth of one of the strongest indie hip-hop scenes in the nation from the Beantown. Wordsmiths like 7L & Esoteric, Mr. Lif, Akrobatik, and Virtuoso all made, and continue to make marks on the culture to this day, as they all came about during the same time.
One artist who came about toward the tail end of the Boston indie boom was REKS. He was able to observe what did and didn’t work for his peers as he emerged on the scene. With his knowledge, he was able to begin releasing quality albums that captured the attention of the underground but were still able to get some coverage on a mainstream scale. His latest project, Straight, No Chaser, teaming him with Statik Selektah, continues on the path he has laid for himself.
“Autographs” sets the album off correctly with drums, welcoming horns, and a perfectly utilized Beastie Boys sample, and makes it apparent that the listener is in for a journey throughout the album. Talking about the lifestyle of an emcee and the fame it brings, the track serves as a perfect introduction to REKS in 2012, and shows more dynmaic songwriting that was on display on 2011’s critically acclaimed Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme. “Sit/Think/Drink,” with its scratched sample of Common’s famous line from “Resurrection,” follows and shows the blend of thematic and lyrical styles that are contained on the release.
REKS displays seamless wordplay and lyricism throughout the album, and with only a handful of choice guests, more room is left for the artist crafting the album. Some notable pairings find Action Bronson on the Lethal Weapon inspired “Riggs & Murtaugh,” Slaine spitting on the title track, and Kali, J.F.K., and Termanology lending their flows on “Such A Showoff.” Keeping to even less guests on his next project wouldn’t be a bad thing because his songwriting is strong enough to carry his albums without creating boredom in the listener.
Only a few minor missteps can be found on the otherwise seamless work. “Lost in Translation,” with its Muzak-styled production, and less than par chorus, tends to drag a bit. Additionally, some of the other tracks towards the end of the album display the same down tempo style of production, and when compared to the atmosphere that the opening tracks bring, they feel a little lethargic. With the impressive energy that is displayed on many of the songs, some of the subdued and soulful production can tend to drag, but it’s a give and take based on the balance the pair were going for on the album. One more minor issue has to do with Statik continuing to utilize his signature sample during different song intros and outros; it has overstayed its welcome and most listeners already know they are listening to one of his beats just by the way his tracks are similarly created.
As a whole, Straight, No Chaser, is another standout album from a reliable emcee and producer. REKS and Statik Selektah prove that good music is like a finely aged liquor; when created properly it goes down smoothly and keeps you coming back for more. Hopefully 2013 will provide another reason to fill-up another glass of what Beantown’s finest has to offer.
Rating: #### out of #####
Tracklisting and credits for REKS Straight, No Chaser LP:
3.) “Power Lines” f/Ea$y Money
4.) “Riggs & Murtaugh” f/Action Bronson
5.) “Such A Showoff” f/Kali, JFK & Termanology
6.) “Cancel That” f/Wais P The Pimp
8.) “Break Ups” f/C Sharp!
10.) “Sins” f/Alias
11.) “Straight, No Chaser” f/Slaine
12.) “Lost In Translation”