FURIOUS STYLES: A CONVERSATION WITH REEF THE LOST CAUZE

Discussing the new collaboration project from the prolific MC

“To me, success is waking up every day and looking in the mirror and knowing that you’re being true to yourself.” — Reef The Lost Cauze

Reef The Lost Cauze — the thirty-four year old prolific MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — recently teamed up with fellow Philly producer Bear-One to release Furious Styles via Soulspazm Records.

The thirteen-track collaboration pairs the rugged sonics of Bear-One with the alpha aggressive side of Reef — resulting in an extremely concise, pared-down album filled with equal parts humor and depth. A limited guest list featuring some of Philadelphia’s finest MC’s adds to the compact nature of the project.

While working on his Reef Radio podcast, Reef took the time to talk about Furious Styles, his city of Philadelphia, the art of MCing, fatherhood and the future.


ON PROJECT ORIGINS

I’m aging myself here, but I met Bear about twelve years ago — maybe ten. We had the same group of friends, and he invited me to the studio and we got to work. We started recording different projects and demos — things like that for a really long time. And through that, a friendship developed.

Every album I do: the people that work on it are usually my friends. Me and him just clicked and we’ve been working together ever since.

The Furious Styles came about just from where I’m at in my life — I’m the OG now. I’m thirty-four years old, I’ve been in the game for fifteen years — since I was about twenty-one years old. So I’ve put out a lot of music and I’ve experienced a lot of things. The vibe of the record: there’s knowledge in there, there’s humor and there’s also a very real sense of the fact that we’re bringing so much illness — so much fierceness. And I just felt like that’s just what Furious Styles represented.

The artwork came about from a local artist. He killed it; I really think he nailed it. All those things lined up.

And it flows together. We’re tried to keep it all killer — no filler. I feel like people’s attention spans these days are much shorter so we didn’t want to have a long, drawn-out album that didn’t make sense. We wanted to just keep it nice and smooth.

So that’s where we came up with the format of just having it be nine tracks, couple interludes — in-and-out. Every song is two-thirty to three minutes. We didn’t want no long, drawn-out record. I feel like that’s kind of the blueprint for music now.


Tracklist:

  • 01. Furious Styles Intro
  • 02. Olde English
  • 03. Bear Witness
  • 04. All Ours f/ REDi ROC
  • 05. Black Out
  • 06. The Radio (Interlude)
  • 07. Radio Suckas f/ Peedi Crakk, STS & Truck North
  • 08. You Know Me Well
  • 09. A Man Today (Interlude)
  • 10. Man Today f/ Slaughter Rico
  • 11. Dangerous Type
  • 12. Krazee-Eyez Killah (Interlude)
  • 13. Larry David

01. FURIOUS STYLES INTRO

“…why is it that there’s a gun shop on almost every corner in this community? I’ll tell you why: for the same reason that there’s a liquor store on almost every corner in the Black community. Why? They want us to kill ourselves. You go out to Beverly Hills — you don’t see that shit. But they want us to kill ourselves. Yeah, the best way you can destroy a people is you take away their ability to reproduce themselves. Who is it that’s dying out here on these streets every night? Y’all. Young brothers like yourselves. You’re doing exactly what they want you to do. You have to think, young brother, about your future.”

I knew once we had that album title that I was going to take that speech and make that the intro. Boyz N The Hood is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and I just think that what he’s talking about in that moment is perfect. Because that’s how a lot of people feel. That’s how a lot of people feel about what’s going on in the world.

And it’s a juxtaposition because the record starts off with that, but then we go into some straight rage. And I feel like there’s a lot of people that can understand and relate to that, as well. A lot of people feeling that rage these days, man.

02. OLDE ENGLISH

“Me and Bear One like Joe Frazier and Sonny Liston / Bet against us, you’ll end up with your money missing”

We didn’t want to have the record be dragged-down with the message. I feel like that intro gave a frame of reference, but then the sonics and record comes to be: let’s start a fire around our collective anger and rage.

When we came through with the intro, the speech-part of Furious Styles: that part we knew would be a little bit deep and people could take it for how it was. But then we just wanted to come and hit them in the head with the sonics and the bangers. So it’s a nice, smooth intro and then we just go right into it.

I love how that all starts off.

03. BEAR WITNESS

“Keep the chrome on the waist / I feel alone in this place / ’cause rappers now got ice cream cones on they face”
“My son got white-boy hair and nigga lips / bi-racial / but I’ll put knives in your bi-facial / if you ever come anywhere near my angel / you’d get mangled”

I’m influenced big by guys like MF DOOM and artists that can take free thoughts that don’t seem like they add up or match together and you just throw them out there and make them work. I’ve always been a fan of people that just say that shit that make you go, “Oh, shit!” So that’s the type of stuff that I always try to throw those lines in there that make people want to hit the rewind button or, “How do you make those things line up?

It’s something I feel is a lost art in hip-hop: just being able to take those moments and make them cohesive.
Bear-One / Reef The Lost Cauze

04. ALL OURS f/ REDi ROC

“The name large like weight gain / hit ’em like a freight train / it’s Beard Gang — Ape Gang / the rest of y’all is straight lames”

A lot of the features came via Bear’s studio, which is a hub for a lot of the artists from Philly that are recording and working; he works with all those guys. So a lot of that had to do with just his relationships with them and us being all in the same areas and deciding to get together and really making it work.

We linked up, he loved the beat and the rest is history.

The same with Peedi and Rico — these are all guys that I’ve admired for years and I just wanted to make sure I had the right MC’s that could fit the right tone of the project to come join us. And they were all very open-minded and all very excited to be a part of it, so I’m just grateful they gave their time and their energy.

05. BLACK OUT

“Throw down ‘til we get thrown out / kick you in your face screaming ‘Roadhouse!’ / no doubt”

I feel like what happened with battling: it became more of a commercial product. It’s become more of a show, it’s become more of an entertainment aspect, whereas before it was more of a proving ground for your skills.

I don’t take away anything from what the newer guys are doing in the battles. But I think that for me personally, when it switched formats to no beat, a cappella and you knew your opponent a month ahead and it became like boxing — they had scorecards and shit like that. It became kind of goofy.

That’s something that I chose to walk away from when that transition happened. And also because I didn’t want to get pegged with the “battle rapper” tag.

But that’s something that’s always there, and that’s something that is always going to be a part of me.

I’ve always been a fan of more aggressive hip-hop, more straightforward hardcore hip-hop. I grew up in a era of the Nas’ and Biggie’s and Big L’s, the punchlines — and it’s always something I try to do. The sound really played an effect on what I’m doing, and I feel like the sound that Bear was providing gave me the perfect backdrop to express some of those feelings. So all props to Bear One for lacing me with some fucking heat.

06. THE RADIO (INTERLUDE) / 07. RADIO SUCKAS f/ PEEDI CRAKK, STS & TRUCK NORTH

“So we fucking up the program / for these sensitive rappers out holding hands / singing on records / and still ain’t selling no records / ‘cause now you bump heads with kids who know the misdirection”

In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted that type of success. When you first get in, you obviously want to be on the big label and have sold-out arena concerts and all that other stuff. But then it got to a point as I got older where it became more about me expressing myself truly. And if I couldn’t be past the level that I’m at as far as success-wise…

To me, success is waking up every day and looking in the mirror and knowing that you’re being true to yourself.

As an artist, those decisions can hinder and can hurt you as opposed to a lot of people that’ll say, “I’m going to do what I need to do to have a radio hit or get in that door.

I always felt like if I couldn’t do it doing the music I wanted to do, then it just wasn’t meant to be. And I think that was something that took a while for me to accept — there were definitely times where I felt like, “Man, I’m nicer than these guys. Why am I not…?

I think the difference between me and a lot of dudes is they conscientiously made music they knew would be a little bit more mainstream. I’ve made records that I believe have the appeal to be “radio smash hits” but my attitude towards the industry and the game and all the politics — it was never one that allowed me to get to that. Because I just couldn’t accept the fake shit.

I have two kids and a mortgage; I struggle sometimes with the financial aspect. But the one thing I’ll always be able to know — and my kids will always be able to know and everyone that knows me or knows my legacy when I’m done — is that I always came true and I always came from the heart.

And that’s something I think will outlast anybody that may or may not have a “hit” or be popular right now. Because obviously I’ve been around for a long time, and the reason why people continue to support is because they know it’s genuine; it’s not a façade, it’s not an image. This is me. When you hear me rhyme or say the things I’m saying — they’re all facts.

I try my hardest to be as honest as possible with my audience.

08. YOU KNOW ME WELL

“Clowns to the left / jokers to the right / I left a path of dead rappers strangled with broke mic’s / take it back to that M.O.P. / ‘Cold As Ice’ / if you beat everyone already — who are you supposed to fight?”
“Challengers explode like the NASA rocket / ‘cause they ain’t know the motherfucking time like bad watches / I drop mad projects — they all ill / I tell my brothers come for you — they all will”

I feel like I’ve put out so much music and enough music to where I don’t need to do a record every year. This is my first solo record in almost two-three years. I put out the project with my brother King Syze last year — the Year of the Hyenas project — we dropped that in February of 2015; I did the Army of the Pharaohs record in 2014 (Heavy Lies the Crown).

But I honestly haven’t dropped anything solo in tw0-three years because I was waiting for the time to have the music and the message that I wanted to get out there. I feel like it’s really important to live life and experience things and have things to talk about. I understand we’re in an era now where people want new music every other day from their favorite artists, but I’m not one of those people.

I’ll do collabs and I’ll do group projects and things like that, but as far as my solo work: it’s never, ever a thing where I feel like I’m under the gun or under pressure to put something out.

I always want to come correct — at least try to come with some dope music every time.

Because I think that’s more important than dropping something every other day that people are going to forget about anyway. We live in a microwave society now, so it’s important to not take that route. For me, at least.

09. A MAN TODAY (INTERLUDE) / 10. MAN TODAY f/ SLAUGHTER RICO

“I wasn’t Scarface or Rich Porter / but where I’m from / every kid’s brought up to hit corners / and pitch quarters”

You’re just looking at two artists in different arenas of their careers. Rico’s been around for a really long time; he’s someone that I came up listening to and I really think he came up listening to me, too. And our paths never really crossed. So that was a moment right there, because a lot of the record is a lot of artists and MC’s that I’ve always admired and wanted to work with and we just never crossed paths; we just never made it happen. And Rico was one of those individuals.

I love what he did to the track and the message in the track; we’re both coming from different angles and it works very well. I’m a huge fan of everything that guy’s got going on and I hope he continues to put out music, because he’s just an incredible artist. So shout-out to Rico.

11. DANGEROUS TYPE

“The wolves is back / we monsters in the game / look at you niggas / I’m sure your father is ashamed / who in the fuck would want you as their son, though? / everyone know I’m the one, bro / who keep it a hundo”

Fatherhood is something that is the most important thing in the world to me. And also, the claims on fatherhood and the claims on people weren’t raised right or they weren’t… Those are big things for me, and I see those things as I get older and you can kind of attribute people’s actions and how they carry themselves back to their father.

I didn’t have a great relationship with my father — it’s something that I’m actually trying to work on right now. And obviously I have two boys that I try my best to be the best father I can be to them. So I think that’s a theme that — whether I subconsciously know it or not — it’s always rearing it’s head in my music.

I love it. I love being a dad and I think it’s the most important job in the world.

I think when you have people that aren’t living their life correctly or not giving the right… a lot of that can go back to parents and how they were raised. I was raised to be respectful and have manners and things like that. And I think a lot of times people that don’t have those things, it’s because they didn’t have someone in their life that could influence them. And I want to make sure I’m a positive influence for my kids always, first and foremost. That’s the most important thing to me.

There’s no greater experience, there’s no greater challenge, there’s no greater role in this life than fatherhood.

12. KRAZEE-EYEZ KILLAH (INTERLUDE) / 13. LARRY DAVID

“Judas Caesar/ reign over when Hell freezes / nigga, I’m in that zone like Darrelle Revis / rap is filled with male divas / I beat their frail features / ‘til they feel lumps like Braille readers”

We put that on there because actually that was the first track that me and Bear ever did together. That track is from like, 2012… 2010 maybe? It’s between that era. So it’s an old song, but we were always just sitting on it.

Once we finished, I thought there was no better way to end the record; to bring it full circle, so to speak. Larry David is a genius — there’s no denying that. He’s just one of the great comedic minds. The way he goes about handling real-life situations — I think we all wish we could be that honest with everybody.

If Larry David doesn’t like you, he doesn’t sugarcoat it.

That’s the reason calling the track that: you’re hearing pure honesty. Letting people know: I don’t give a fuck. I’m telling you what it is. This is my truth; this is who I am. And you can either take it or leave it. And nobody embodies that idea better than Larry David.

ON FUTURE

I want to do a follow-up to the last project I put out before this — a project called Reef The Lost Cauze Is Dead with my good friend Caliph-NOW. It’s a very different record: we used a lot of more indie rock samples and old rock samples, and I’m a big fan of that stuff. So I kind of want to work on that.

And I’m working on what may or may not be the last record. I’m going to be thirty-five; I’ll still do music, I’ll still mess around with it here and there. But I at least need a year or so to figure out what’s next for me.

I do my podcast Reef Radio, and I’m really loving that. That’s something that I’m really looking forward to focusing more on. Trying to work on some screenplays.

Just utilize the contacts and the relationships I’ve made over the last fifteen years to elevate to the next level. And it may not be being an MC that’ll do that.

I’ll always be involved in music and arts, but right now I want more out of life. Financially, music doesn’t really bring me that. It brings me happiness, it brings me joys — but it does not bring me enough money to where I want to buy a new house for my sons so they can run around.

I want to take the stress off my family a little bit as far as having to travel as much as I do and things like that. Because it’s not a glamorous life, really. It’s hard work.

So who knows what the future holds? But for right now, I’m just going to enjoy having this record out. We’re going to probably tour in the Fall and just keep pushing.