Many fans know Reef the Lost Cauze as the venomous emcee whose mean mug could scare the concrete off the sidewalk. When RapReviews caught up with Reef, however, we found a much different man than the one the current image of him would lead one to assume him to be. Yes, he can still spit fire with the best of them, and his ice grill is unreal, but Reef is actually quite the happy, relaxed, man. During our conversation with Reef he told us the reasons why he’s mellowed out, his thoughts on being one of the first artists to release an album on Jedi Mind Tricks’ new label Enemy Soil, and why he’s considering changing his name.
Adam Bernard: Reef, I’m glad we could catch up with you. You’ve been traveling all over the place recently. I hope you have a good frequent flyer plan.
Reef the Lost Cauze: Yeah man, absolutely. And I’m learning. I’ve learned to pack better. I’ve learned to always try to get the exit seat row because it’s much roomier. I guest-imate how heavy my bag is so I don’t get overcharged. I’m in the airport all the time.
AB: Does this mean you may come back from an overseas trip and become a backpack rapper by default?
Reef: I think it’s like that already. I’m already in Europe with a big ass backpack on my back anyway. I can’t help it.
AB: You sport a crazy angry grill in nearly every photo you’re in. I gotta know, do you ever smile at all, and if you do, do you wait of the cameras to be off and then hug unicorns, or something like that?
Reef: I’m actually always smiling and laughing. That’s the thing about it, if you look, there are pictures of me in my last album, if you open the album cover the first photo is of me and my producer just crackin up at something. There are moments when I’m smiling and goofy, it’s not always ice grill. I’m actually a really laid back and fun loving dude. I think the next couple records, just to set it straight, I’m gonna make the album cover like me smiling with children and cats and puppies, that way people will know that there are two sides to me. I definitely see what you’re saying, and I think hip-hop itself needs to learn to let up a little bit as far as the hardcore image goes, but I am pissed off a lot, too, so it makes sense.
AB: Let’s talk about your new album, Fight Music. What can you tell me about the album and why you’re excited about it?
Reef: It’s been a long trip trying to make this album possible and it feels like it’s coming at the right time. There are a lot of people that are hungry for a little more aggression in hip-hop again. It’s one of those things where it just feels like everything has fallen into place. I honestly didn’t put any pressure on this record to make myself feel like it has to do THIS. I just kind of fell back and said it’s just gonna do what it does. I’ve been around for a while now and I’ve spent so much time stressing about music and what’s gonna happen with each record and each song and each show. I’m at a point in my life where I’m gettin a little bit older, so I’m starting to just have fun with it and let whatever’s gonna happen happen. So I think I’m most excited about this record because of the fact that I’m at a point where I can just enjoy whatever comes from it instead of being stressed about every little thing, every little smart ass comment from kids using the internet, or any bad review we get, all that stuff used to really eat at me. I’m at a point in my life where now I’m just happy to put music out. I’m finally realizing what it’s all about. It’s about just being able to do your craft and being happy with that, and I’m at that place now, so I think that’s why this record is most exciting to me. Also, it’s a banger. It’s a really good record.
AB: The album is on Jedi Mind Tricks’ new venture, Enemy Soil. When it comes to the label, only the Army of the Pharaohs album was released before yours, and Stoupe’s side project, Dutch, was released as the same days as yours. Does this make Fight Music almost a guinea pig for Enemy Soil?
Reef: I don’t necessarily believe it’s a guinea pig, it was just the nature of the beast as far as the order goes. Yan had spoken to me a long time ago about when Enemy Soil drops wanting to put the record out and we were ready first. That’s another reason to be excited, it’s a whole new situation. If I am the guinea pig, I’m honored, and I hope it does well and the label continues to put out dope music and continues to thrive and I can always say I was part of the beginnings of that.
AB: Everyone who released albums those first few years of Def Jam remembers it.
Reef: Yeah they do, and everyone else remembers them, too. Well, you know, old farts like us, who remember what Def Jam used to be.
AB: People who have a 3 in front of their age.
Reef: Don’t put me there yet, I still got one more year! I’m hanging on to that bitch for dear life.
AB: I’ve been in 30’s for a year and a half now.
Reef: I’m actually looking forward to it. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve mellowed out about some of the things I used to stress about. But like we were saying, Def Jam, labels like that, being one of the first people to drop something would be an honor, so just to be a part of a whole new situation with guys that have been doing this for a really long time, and people that I trust and know, that’s the stuff I’m talking about.
AB: Why Fight Music? Don’t we see enough fighting in the world today?
Reef: Yeah, there is. For me it was just when I was recording this album there was a lot of stuff I was going through. This album was basically recorded in-between different projects. It wasn’t even an album to begin with, it was just me recording music with my friends and it turned into a record. I think just the vibe of the record was like therapy to me, a release for me, because I was so stressed out about all this other bullshit.
AB: What were you fighting?
Reef: Just the music biz itself, and real life, different changes in my life that were going on personally, those last few years where you can kinda say I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not a young guy anymore, I’m getting older, and just feeling like my life is passing me by. I gave so much to music and it didn’t feel like I was getting a lot back out of it. I think most artists that you talk to in my situation that are “on the verge,” even people much more successful, the game takes its toll on you, man. I think I was fighting that. I just had a lot of pressure built up and this project helped me release a lot of that. The whole time I was recording I was fighting. I don’t necessarily mean punching somebody’s face, but fighting through, fighting the bullshit, fighting the demons that are in your ear every day. Just fighting. It’s aggressive, but it’s also motivational, as well. We’re talking about trying to keep our heads up. There are a lot of battle rap type joints on there, but there are also a lot of “there’s a lot of bullshit going on in the world and we need to get through it, we’ll find a way.”
AB: Now that you’ve written it and recorded it and gotten it out, are you happy with where you are right now in music and in life?
Reef: I am. I’m very happy. I’m realizing that there’s so much more to life and it’s really not just about music, it’s about finding peace and happiness in some way, shape, or form, otherwise you’ll never be content, you’ll always have that restlessness inside you. I think that music used to be the be-all end-all for me, but I think I’m getting to a point where I love making music, I love doing shows, I love the life that I’ve been given and instead of always being like I wish this were different, or that were different, I’m just really taking a step back and seeing yo, you’re blessed. Right now you’re taking the time out of your day to ask me questions and interview me. You don’t have to do that. No one has to give a fuck about what anyone’s doing, so to be in a position where stuff like that actually goes down, I need to be grateful. I’m gonna continue to grind and make music but I’m not going to break my neck or make myself feel like I’m not worth anything if I can’t get on a show, or this guy isn’t calling me back for beats, or this guy isn’t trying to do a collab. From ages 21 to about 26 or 27, this was all I did and all I thought about. It ruined relationships for me, it made me alienated from my family. Most of my family lives in West Philly, I live in South Philly, and you would think they live in another part of the world because I never saw them. My grandmother’s getting older. I go and see her and hang out with her now. My little brother’s getting older. I go see him. My sister’s about to graduate college. I go down and visit her. I go kick it with my mom. She’s heavily involved in community work, so I’m trying to help her as much as I can with that stuff. It’s just rounding out, becoming a man, and having a full life. That’s where I’m at with it.
AB: It doesn’t sound like you can consider yourself a Lost Cauze anymore.
Reef: You know what, that name, we might have to drop it. I kinda don’t like when rappers drop the name you always know them as, but that part of me, that not really knowing who I am, what I’m here for, not giving a fuck about nothing, a lot of that’s dying down, so it might just be Reef. I think at this point most people know me by my first name anyway. As far as the music goes there’s still that hunger there. I don’t ever want anyone to think I’m becoming lackadaisical, I definitely still have that hunger and definitely still love to rock crowds and make music.
AB: Here’s a dope concept for an album cover. The word Reef at the top, the words Lost Cauze at the bottom, and you title it No Longer and put the title in the middle.
Reef: Reef No Longer The Lost Cauze. You like that? Alright, I might try that out and see how that looks on paper.
AB: Finally, if I’m looking for the best cheesesteak in Philly, where will I find it?
Reef: As far as cheesesteaks go in Philadelphia, you have people who were raised generations on how to make these things and those people have little spots and little corner stores in the hoods and those are the ones that give you the most meat, the most bread, the most sauce, the most respect, but if you’re a tourist going into Philly, you’re not just gonna wander into any neighborhood. I would not recommend that. If you’re a tourist in Philadelphia and you want to go a touristy cheeseteak spot, go to Steve’s Prince of Steaks in the Northeast, or go to Tony Luke’s in South Philadelphia, which is directly by my house.