– Are you a lost cause?
Indeed, basically, the type of MC that I am, the type of music that I make, is not what’s popular or relevant right now. A lot of people consider it a lost art or a lost cause. I wear it like a badge. I am not the typical rapper. The name actually came from my mom. I dropped out of college when I was 19, selling mad drugs, just wildin’ out. She would call me a lost cause. And it stuck. I was being rebellious and I was like fuck that, I am a lost cause. And it’s become much more to me, as far as my music.
– But when you say that your music not being popular, do you consider yourself a lot different than the people you work with?
Oh absolutely. I feel that my gift and my talent comes from a whole different place as far as the dedication and the drive. Also musically I feel like not too many underground artists are in the same vain, as far as some of the subject matters they cover. They either do one thing, they either are straight hardcore dude or straight emo dude or they are mister political or they’re making music for the clubs. And for me, if you listen to my music, there are no limitations, no boxes or style, or subject matter that I won’t touch. So I do feel that I differ in that area whereas I am willing to take risks and have fun. And not where people can say “Oh he is an underground rapper so he can’t rap about girls” you know. Alot of these kids think, because I am associated to all these rappers, that it’s all just one thing. It’s not.
– So there is no other MC that you can compare yourself with as far as “your genre”?
The only MC that I’ve ever been able to compare myself to, as far as the type of music that I try to make, is Big Daddy Kane. That’s the person that I try to be compared to when it’s all set and done. I don’t wanna be compared to any of these other guys cause honestly that’s the mark for me. He is the reason I rhyme. He taught me that an MC should be able to do it all. If you look at Kane, he could crush you in battles, he could pick your mind about what’s going on in the ghetto and society, and he could also make music for the girls. And that’s something I try to do. I try to cover all bases. I don’t think it’s fair to pitch and hold yourself. I mean it’s not a diss to any of my peers, I love all my peers but I have to find what sets me apart and I think that’s what it is.
– You have 3 albums out but you’re not signed, how come?
The first independent record I put out is called The High Life, it’s basically my demo tape. It’s me and this guy Sleep E, who grew up next to my cousin’s house. He makes beats and all, we linked up and did like 12 songs, I pressed it up and started handing it out at open mics and stuff like that. And I got heavy in the battle circuit around that time, 2002-2003, and during building a rep as a battle artist, I was recording my album called Invisible Empire. That was basically me and 2 of my friends, they just started their own entertainment company. Basically to keep it real, these were dudes who had money. As I call it, the Roc-A-fella-syndrom, like “Yo let’s start a record label son! We got the cash let’s do it.” But I love those dudes to death and we put that out, we pressed that up and we were selling that during performances and battles and just spreading the word, with the internet that helped a lot. And that led to me working with Chief Kamachi and The JuJu Mob, that was put out through a record label called Good Hands. Long story short, my work with JuJu Mob led to them wanting to put out my next record Feast or Famine, which was the third and final record. That was the only record that has ever been properly distributed by a record label.
– But you were still not signed.
No, this was just to put the record out. There was no paperwork, which in the end didn’t really work out in anyone’s favor. It’s still kind of a touchy situation. I’m a too stubborn individual, I don’t care about lawyers and stuff cause I look at it like, nobody is making millions, you motherfuckers can do what you want. I just gave you a bootleg of the record to be honest with you. I don’t have official copies of the record. I haven’t for a long time so it’s like I’m not gonna stop.
– Hey I’m happy with it. I got an official bootleg from yourself.
Hey you know. Shout out to Good Hands haha.
– Do you still work with Sleep E?
Actually we just started working together again. There was a little bit of a, I don’t wanna say rift, but I definitely feel like the separation from him, he pretty much did the whole first record and then the next record he didn’t do any tracks on. I just felt like I had to grow musically. It’s hard when you make music with people you’re friends with. The friendship can suffer. Cause that was just business. He was someone who helped me out a lot and he was someone that I needed at the time, that was 2000-2001. And we’re talking about 2 years later when I met different producers, and I developed relationships with other people I wanted to work with. His sound just didn’t fit anymore. So there was definitely a little bit of a separation for a long time. But like I said, because he grew up next to me, he’s like family. Next to my cousin and aunt and we all threw Superbowl parties and all that crap, weddings, where all that stuff is. I saw him everywhere but we are now officially passed that, he is one of my best friends and mentors and we actually just did some stuff before I left. We’re gonna re-release The High Life, we had only pressed up like 200 copies. We never pressed up any more.
– So the people who have one of the 200 copies have a limited edition.
Yes they have a limited edition copy. We’re gonna throw some new tracks on it and gonna put it on iTunes or something, probably this summer. It’s really not that great of an album, I will admit that, but it’s my first shit you know. And I’m proud of it for life.
– Battles, you still enter those? Or are you now more focused on getting product out there?
I think the battle circuit is phony now. Because most of the people that are judging the battles, in my opinion, a lot of times I don’t really know what they’re listening to, there’s a lot of politics behind it. Some people are friends with the people in the competition. And then when you go by the flipside of it, whereas the crowd decides, and this one guy has all of his boys in the crowd, it’s not about being a true lyricist. It’s almost like stand-up comedy. It’s like whoever has the most jokes wins. Most of the time its pre-written, nobody freestyles. And its so saturated with fucking cornballs. These kids don’t have any respect or understanding of what they’re doing. They saw 8 Mile or some shit like that, or that Nick Cannon show or whatever, and they just don’t get it. It’s really hard for me, growing up in an era where battling was serious.
– Maybe it’s because nowadays you don’t need to battle anymore. You don’t have to have “skills” anymore to put out an album.
Exactly, the business of hiphop is taking over the music side of hiphop. So many people look at it as its the easy to get money or get famous. They don’t actually practice and take their time. I literally went to school, well, not an actual school, but you know what I’m saying, I literally was brought up in the environment of cyphers and freestyling, and I read books and books and books of rhymes before I did anything else. That doesn’t mean that the next guy who didn’t do any of that, isn’t good, it just means he doesn’t have the same understanding. Why should they take it serious, if it’s so easy to NOT take it serious. It’s so easy now to be a fucking joke and still be successful.
– Collaborations, millions and millions. You’ve worked with a lot of people. You mentioned earlier that you got up with Kamachi. How did you get up with him?
I was basically just doing my thing around Philly, he is from Philly too. As is Jedi Mind Tricks, Outerspace, Jus Allah, Last Emperor, Bahamadia. Philly is very small. The MC’s that have any sense or have any skills, that are trying to make any moves, they just put their ego’s aside and work with eachother. That’s what happened with Kamachi, he saw me, he was hearing my music around town. And he stepped to me like “Yo dog we need to do some shit.” He kind of took me under his wing and really mentored me and we made a lot of great music. So that’s how that came about.
– That was before Army of the Pharaohs.
Yes, Army of the Pharaohs was basically “Here I am, we are doing the JuJu Mob thing,” Vinnie Paz started AOTP, he saw me and I knew Outerspace for a while, we just started building. When the time came for them to do the project, they asked me to be a part of it. So it basically came from me putting in the work and the cream rises. When people reach out to you, it makes you feel good cause you know they understand that you’re not fucking around. These guys came to me as a younger MC so it was really just an honor to be part of as well Kamachi’s project as Vinnie Paz’ Jedi Mind Tricks project. And it’s been like that ever since, pretty much everyone in Philly, we get it in. We’re family.
– But what did it do for you as a solo artist?
It brought a lot of awareness to my MC-ing. This game is definitely a huge percentage association. People see that you’re down with all these different people. And they keep hearing this Reef kid, so for me it did a lot as far as exposure and gaining fans, and opening up to a whole new audience. I don’t ever feel like anyone put me in my position. There’s a lot of haters like “He is only doing so good cause of the people around him.” If you check my record before that, I was still doing ok. That shit helped, but I’ll be aight with or without anyone.
– Aside from the business connect and all, what did it do for you as a person, working with all these people? As far as getting your skills up and all, I can imagine working with them, you have that extra pressure of improving yourself.
Well for me, it was never really pressure, it was more motivation. Anyone can give you an opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is up to you. There’s a lot of people that are given the same opportunities, there’s a lot of people that were given the same spotlight to do, and they didn’t capitalize on it. Me, it motivated me as a person and it inspired me to really wanna work harder. If you are working on something for so long, and it doesn’t feel like you’re moving as fast as you want to, you gotta look at it like, “Am I moving backwards or forward?” And for me it’s been a constant forward. When those people come around like Kamachi, Vinnie Paz, Last Emperor, Bahamadia, people like that, Philly legends, are coming and saying we like you’re music let’s work together, that makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. There are no coincidences, everything happens for a reason. Coincidence is God’s way to remain anonymous. These people coming on my path was part of the plan.
– Snowgoons, the album German Lugers, you also did a tour with them for that release last year.
My first tour in Europe was in 2006. I was with R.A. the Rugged Man and C-Rayz Walz.
– Oh shit with them? You must have gone crazy with these 2 people on tour. Haha.
Yeaaaaah, I had to be the voice of reason, it was me and DJ Illegal from Snowgoons that really were the sane ones on that tour. That’s where we got up. He was working with Kamachi as it is. So we already been in touch through the internet and stuff, I kind of knew who he was. And I came over here with R.A. and C-Rayz and he was the tour manager. He is just a great kid man, me and him been friends ever since. It’s much more than music with me and Illegal, he is one of the nicest people I ever met in my life. From there we started doing music, we have done about 4 or 5 songs together. We just did a new one, and we keep making great music. The Snowgoons have another album coming called Black Snow. We just did a song called “This is where the fun stops” and we just shot a video for it the last time I was here. Outerspace also just did a song with them. They’re making great moves and they make really dope beats and I can’t wait to see where it takes them. I really wish them much success.
– Now you are touring again for AOTP. That’s how the shows are presented. What’s the biggest difference for you, in doing shows in name of a group, and doing a solo tour?
It’s more of a package deal, those are definitely the most successful. I can draw a crowd, but Sabac Red from Non Phixion, Jus Allah from Jedi Mind Tricks and Outerspace, take all these people, put em all under one bill, it makes the show so much better. I am not at that level yet. Hopefully in a year or two maybe I can come back and selling out my own shit. But for now it’s just about building.
– Is it the same for you in the States?
Nah it’s a little bit different there cause I have been establishing more over there. This is only my third time in Europe.
– He says “only”, there are so many artists still trying to come here.
Hahahaha, yeah I know but things are like…..hopefully by the 4th or 5th time I am here, people will already know me. And it’s been great, the fans that really appreciate AOTP, who know me from that. There’s also been a lot of people that know me from my solo stuff, it’s just been phenomenal. I really love it out here, we will be back out here real soon again. But yeah touring with a group, the fact that they’re my brothers, it’s just a lot of fun.
– It’s not even work anymore huh?
I know, that’s what I’ve been saying. My name for this tour is Reef the Long Gone, cause on this tour every night I am wondering the city, whatever city I am in, I saw the sun come up in Paris. I don’t know the next time I’m gonna be in Paris so I am taking advantage of it.
– The next album, A Vicious Cycle, what’s your strategy for that album?
Basically, I don’t have a deal right now for my next record. My manager right now is talking to a few different indie labels. We are trying to figure out if we are going to put it out through an indie label or just do it ourselves. Right now it’s looking like its gonna be just doing it ourselves. I really just wanna have that backing though cause it’s so much work doing it yourself, and as I am touring more, it’s not as easy as being back home making sure shit gets done. There are things right now that need to be getting done for my record back home, but because I am not there to make sure, they’re not being done. I am not gonna put nobody on blast. I need to be able to do my music without that pressure of the business. And I hate the business side of it.
– But that’s why you have a manager.
True, but at the same time I am a control freak.
– That’s you though. You need to trust your manager to do things.
Hahaha, no I trust my manager. Shout outs to them.
– Then he should just smack you in the face and say “Chill out, we handling things”.
Hahaha, but that’s what I mean. When he starts to talk about the business, making sure we get things done, I get like “Hey “ because I am so used to just doing music. And I know I have to be more about that side of it, but that’s why I think a record label looks so interesting cause it takes the pressure off of you.
– Why not just distribution?
That’s the thing about it, either through a label or just getting my own distribution deal. But I am not sure yet which way I wanna go yet, cause if I get my own distribution, I still gotta come up with the finances so that the record is properly mixed, mastered and the whole nine. I did that with the 2 records before Feast or Famine. Right now it’s not about the music at all, I am sitting on about 47 tracks. I don’t know which are gonna make the record. I haven’t finalized anything, we are still finishing up some collaborations, working with Evidence, Brother Ali, trying to lock those down as far as getting those done. We just did a song with Termanology, Last Emperor is on there, you know.
– All these featurings, doesn’t it take away from you as a solo artist?
That’s the thing, if you look at my records, I pretty much only have about 16 tracks on each records and only 1 or 2 collaborations on it. I hate collab-driven records. I hate them. I hate when I pick up a record and it has 18 songs which of 16 with featurings. I think it breaks up the record though if I have 16 songs and then one with Evidence, one with Termanology and one with Brother Ali. I’ll take that haha. Before the record drops I have a mixtape dropping and a few collab albums coming out. So until the record drops there’s gonna be consistent music coming out. And building fans.
– Can you give away a little about whichs labels you’re talking to?
No, but I can say that DuckDown is the one that we would like to put it out through. We are talking to them right now, that’s all I’m gonna say about that. I would love for it to come out on DuckDown to be honest with you. If we can make it happen, we will, and hopefully we will. But Vicious Cycle will be out this year, 2008. My last record came out in 2005 and I refuse to go more than 3 years without putting out a solo record. That’s just ridiculous.
– Shout out to another name. King Magnetic. He is actually the one that hooked us up for this interview. Are you gonna do a whole album with him?
Mag, shout out to him. The project is supposed to come out this summer. We’re picking out beats right now. It’s called The King and The Cauze album. I met him, it was the same situation as with Kamachi. I heard Mag through my boy Adlib, I was doing music with him and he introduced me to Mag and I fell in love with his music and ever since I tried to take him under my wing as much as I can in this game. I think he is phenomenal and I really want dude to succeed. Anything that I can do to help him out, I’m gonna do. We make great music. He produced “Sound of Philadelphia”, he is on my album Feast or Famine, with a song called “Crumbs”. We also got joints on mixtapes, we work really well together. I can’t wait for this album, it’s gonna be bananas.
– Mixtapes, everybody and their momma putting out mixtapes. Not Reef?
I actually just gave you a mixtape. It’s called Long live the Cauze. I put it out myself. I hate mixtapes to be honest with you. It’s available online, pretty much all the hiphop sites, fatbeats.com. Places like that, and I am sure you can find it online and download it. I encourage people to download shit. If you find anything online, take it. I am sure you will like it enough to come to a show. I enjoy recording and stuff like that, but the live shows I have the most fun at. But back to the mixtapes, I hate mixtapes, like you said, everyone and their mom has one. I always refused to put one out, but finally, it was between the end of ’06 and beginning of ’07 and I was like man you know what, I haven’t really dropped a record, I got so many tracks, let me put together a mixtape. I put together Long live the Cauze and was basically selling it off of my MySpace. It’s basically just 30 tracks of freestyles and collabs. I don’t know, I was just so reluctant to do one and I broke down and I was like ok let me throw something out there.
– You got a tight network of people you work with and have done songs with, what would be totally contradicting for you to do, or who to work with, outside of your network?
Probably someone like uhm…..that’s a really good question. You’re fucking me up right now.
– I am picking your brain.
Yes you are picking my brain. Uhm……outside of my network, I would love to work with Saigon, but he is someone that kind of makes the same kind of music like me, right? So that wouldn’t really count. I would love to work with Saigon, Joell Ortiz.
– Why not Big Daddy Kane?
Oh I would love to work with Kane, that’s a given though. I am trying to think of some names people might not know. I would love to work with Radiohead, Bjork, M.I.A., I would love to work with a lot of different people. I would love to work with Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Prince, U2, Eminem, I mean,
– Why not put a project together like that? It would be dope to see you do an album with all those people on there.
We just talked about that a few minutes ago, I hate those type of records with everybody on there. Or do you mean like a Reef & Guests type of thing?
-Yeah it would not be a regular Reef album.
Oh yeah yeah, you know what, I know alot of people been doing that Mash Up type of thing, I actually wanna do a live record like that where I just take a lot of shit and see how it sounds and really break into that. But working with people like Kane and Saigon, I hope that that’s gonna happen one day. But it’s like I don’t know them enough to try and pursue it and also I am very respectful to those MC’s, I know they get millions of people asking them to work with them. And my pride is like I wanna make it so that they come to me. I wanna make it that it’s a mutual thing. It should be natural, not stalking or paying someone a lot of money for it. I don’t give a fuck about it enough like that. That’s why my records only have collaborations with people that I respect and that wanted to work with me. I don’t chase motherfuckers down you know.
– Where do you see rap in your genre going in the near future?
I think that there will always be dope MC’s. There will always be MC’s that make hiphop from the soul and there’s always gonna be MC’s that make hiphop strictly for money. I think my genre or whatever you wanna call it, I really don’t know what that would be, I guess “underground”, I don’t think it’s really gonna go anywhere, as far as its popularity and relevance in a few years. If you let what other people are hearing or what other people see, be your decision, then you’re a follower. I don’t really know what’s hot and what’s dope, I know that I hear a dope artist and I like their music, to me that’s what means that its still alive. It may not be a million motherfuckers making that music, but one or two dudes that are dope and them making that type of music, that’s enough for me, knowing that that shit is gonna be around. There’s always gonna be wack shit and there’s always gonna be dope shit. And it’s about opinion too. For some people, something might incredible and to me it may be dog shit. But that’s opinion. I got caught up in that whole hiphop is dead thing for a minute. But I thought about it and I was like, I am from a different generation. This new generation of kids, the Humpty Hump for us, is their Soulja Boy. There’s no difference. This is a new group of kids. Hiphop is huge and its the voice of the youth. I am 26 now. Kids from 12-24, they don’t give a fuck, they don’t know who Big Daddy Kane is. They don’t care about Nas and all. That’s our generation. They care about the guys that they like now. Lil Wayne and all these guys, these are the people that they like now. For me to hate on that like “That shit is wack”, it’s wack to me. But it’s today’s music. I can always find music that reminds me of what I love. The day that there are no MC’s left that make that type of music, which I doubt, that’s the day I jump off a cliff.
– Where do you see yourself in the near future?
– Making music or smoking?
Smoking and making music.
– What if you couldn’t make music anymore?
I would probably die slowly. If I could not make music anymore. This is life for me.
– I mean if you can’t make music anymore at the level you do it now.
Oh I’d probably be an actor. I just got back into it. I used to do it when I was younger. I was part of Freedom Theatre, which is Philadelphia’s oldest Black Historic Theatre group. I did stuff for PBS, do y’all have PBS out here? Public Broadcasting, it’s the same channel where they show Sesame Street and all. I did after school specials and shit like that. Real cheesy shit. I just started getting back into acting. I was just in a movie with Vinnie Paz and R.A. the Rugged Man.
– Oh yeah, Bad Biology.
Yes, and I just did a commercial for New York Lotto, a hiphop commercial. And I am about to do a Nike commercial in a few months. Getting TV money is good too. So it would definitely be something into arts, whatever it is, it has to be something in arts. I can’t paint but, you know…I would do something in arts if I wouldn’t do music anymore.
–Any words for the fans out here or for people that don’t know you out here?
Shout out to Amsterdam Holland, everybody out here, much respect, much love. Check me out on myspace.com/reefthelostcauze or reefthelostcauze.com launching in April. Much love. Peace.