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Reef The Lost Cauze - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Reef The Lost Cauze

November 2005

Reef The Lost Cauze is one of those emcees you have to respect. The independent artist who begins doing this completely on his own, puts out a record and keeps moving, then eventually gets the backing of a powerful independent label to help push him further. Best known for his battling talents, Reef recently put out through Good Hands/Eastern Conference, "Feast or Famine," his first widely released album.

MVRemix: why the moniker Reef The Lost Cauze?

Reef: Basically it happened when I was going through a period in my life where shit wasn't really workin' out. I had a shit job, I'd just dropped out of school. I was kind of livin' in a fuckin' crack house, almost... Shit was just out of hand and I kind of adopted that moniker for my rhymes. Just being like "Fuck it! Nothin' really matters, nothing's really on point," and I just went with that. As I've gotten older and I've become more involved with rap, I kind of view it as the lost cause. Hip Hop is a lost cause and I kind of adopted that moniker.

MVRemix: What's your first memory of Hip Hop?

Reef: My first real, real memory is seeing the video for "All The Way To Heaven" by Doug E. Fresh. I just remember that scene at the end where they shoot up the Bally's... See he had this scene with these sneakers which were popular back in the day called Bally's, they shot up a pair of Adidas and shit. I just remember that was really like my first true memory, but any child born in late 70's, early 80's that grew up in an urban environment. Hip Hop back then was everywhere; it was a movement, now we look at it as music. Back then it was life, it was a culture. My uncles and my cousins, family members and friends were always doin' graf, always breakdancin'. Me personally, my favourite elements to do with Hip Hop always had to do with emceeing. I was always a very articulate young man, I enjoyed speaking at public engagements and things, running my mouth basically and it just fit. I was in love with it from day one. There's no feeling that I get when I hear a brand new Hip Hop song or even an old Hip Hop song, it has that feeling - it just makes you flip out. For me man, I can't recall a time when it wasn't around.

MVRemix: Who influenced you? You mentioned yourself as a younger Nas early on in the album...

Reef: My influences growing up were Nas, I mean Nas basically growing up as a teenager - thirteen/fourteen. I just remember my cousin bringing home "Illmatic" and just that was all I listened to for a year dog, seriously, honestly that changed my life - how he could make you feel like you were in Queensbridge and walkin' through a day in the life. He was so articulate and the beats were so beautiful. That album, fuck Hip Hop, that album is one of the best albums ever made period. So "Illmatic" was really the turning point of telling me what I wanna do - performing arts. There was Public Enemy, Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap. Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, especially those two are to this day my two all time favourites from that era, because I have favourites from each era. As far as the golden era - the '88's, '89's - Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane all day. Those were my influences, those were who I adopted my style from. Then as I got older I became more influenced with Nas' more poetic, introspective position... Cats like Big L, Big Punisher, B.I.G. all the Big's... Jay-Z even. I learned from and studied all the greats. Those are the people that influenced me. Anyone who does it well. Even if it's no-one big in the game yet, I know emcees that no-one's ever heard, my friends, that inspire me now. I'm always getting inspired. I'm inspired by dope emcees, period.

MVRemix: Do you remember the first time you saw your name on vinyl and do you recall the feelings you had when you saw that?

Reef: Man, seriously... Like I ain't gon' front man, I got a little choked up. I got a little like, "Damn, it's official. It's real." I'm tryin' to remember the very first wax that even my name appeared on - it would have to be the Hogan Fam compilation which was my man Happ G with an indie out in Philly. They put together a compilation and that was the first time I ever had a song, solo or whatever on wax. When I got it, I freaked out, I don't even have a record player but I stared at that shit for a good twenty minutes. Lookin' at it, holdin' it, just being like, "Wow!" I mean as an emcee, it doesn't matter if you never put out anything on wax as long as you live it and love it. There's something about feeling that growth though, you know? Just seein' yourself really tryin' to take it there. Once I saw myself on wax once, I wanted to see myself on wax all the time.

MVRemix: What drove you to put out your material completely by yourself with "The High Life" and "Invisible Empire"?

Reef: I felt that... I saw the quick route way. You know, you send your demo in and a lot of my people, when I was rhymin' in the late '90's and whatnot in high school, not too many people was rhymin'. Then what happened was Beanie Sigel got signed to Rocafella and the next thing you know, Eve got signed to Ruff Ryders and the next thing you know, there was this huge vortex of record label people in Philly. People was handin' in they demos, gettin' record deals and would never be heard from again. So me, I processed that in my mind that this was not the way that I wanna do it. I was ready to work for it. To try to build my own following, to try to build my own fanbase and I looked at people like Jedi Mind Tricks, people like Last Emperor, people like Rahsheed, Maylay Sparks and these are cats that have been doing it on they own and puttin' out whatever types of music they want! The more I learned about the industry and the machine, the more I was like, "You know what? I'm not ready for this." If I ever am ready for it, it's gonna have to come through experience. I wanted to have that experience; I wanted to put out music. I mean that's the thing, I know so many emcees that some are dope, some are not. Bottom line is you've got to consistently put out music... Consistently. I just felt that the only way I was gonna survive was if I constantly... I mean I'm constantly worried about emcees gettin' by me. There's a million emcees out there and when you actually have the love and have a buzz goin', you have to capitalize on that. For me that meant trying to make banging music. Not performances, not the battles. People can come and watch you battle, that's cool, but they're not gonna take you home at the end of the night. I wanted to give 'em somethin' and I wanted to be able to have my steez and my shit together. That was the best move for me instead of gettin' on some game show or MTV type freestyle cypher get signed type shit. I was never about that. It was all about doin' it myself. I've just always been that way.

MVRemix: What was your mindset going into "Feast or Famine"?

Reef: My mindset going into "Feast or Famine" was you've got Philly here, you've got New York here, now it's time to make more of a global record. It's time to experiment with things that I normally wouldn't and just not be afraid. Also, the title speaks volumes. I'm at a point in my life where I will always do Hip Hop for the love, but now it's at a point where I'm going to decide whether or not I'm going to take it to that next level i.e. really, really being an independent artist and pushing myself or is it gonna be the opposite which is kind of doing it as a hobby and workin' an extra job that I hate every day. But I'm at a point now where I have to be financially stable from Hip Hop, I have to be able to travel with Hip Hop. Philly is a small city and I've done everything I can do here. Basically going into the record it was sort of, "Now it's time to open up and wake up the world." Hopefully it will do that. Hopefully it will.

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"There's something about feeling that growth though, you know? Just seein' yourself really tryin' to take it there. Once I saw myself on wax once, I wanted to see myself on wax all the time."