This album title from the latest Reks EP kind of sums up his reputation as a rapper. His flow has always been the strongest weapon in the Boston artist’s arsenal, thanks to an ability to disperse rhymes in a precise manner, but his catalogue is full of songs where he’s addressing issues like racial inequality, economic disparity, and personal struggle. Unlike the vast array of braggadocious emcees rocking out over Statik Selektah and his numerous imitators, Reks albums possess enough of an identity to separate them from the pack. Where he may have suffered though, was the annual output that made it difficult to keep abreast of when they dropped. 2016’s “The Greatest X” was a double-LP that, if trimmed down, would have been his best project, but it feels like the hype surrounding him a decade earlier with the DJ Premier single “Say Goodnight” had begun to fade as quantity began nudging aside quality.

Four years since his last solo album, “T.H.I.N.G.S.“, which was a project I respected for its experimentation during the pandemic but ultimately forgot I’d even covered(!), it’s great to hear his return sees him sounding refreshed. Renowned for being a workhorse emcee means this isn’t the only record he’s released in 2024, far from it. You’ve also got [deep breath] “A Vibe Called Yes”, “Y.O.D.A.”, “M.A.G.A.”, “The Magnificence”, “I Am Not Your Negro”, “F.E.L.A.”, “Rather Unique”, “The Miracle on 54 Park Street” and “What Happened to the Rainbows”. Phew. Even the most dedicated rap follower will struggle to keep up with that pace of releases, and Discogs users understandably gave up tracking them. The quantity is overwhelming, but the project that stuck out to me was this one produced by Chill-Ill.

Fellow tireless talent Napoleon Da Legend guests on the single “Good Thing”, and much like his songs “LL Cool J” and “Big Dreamers”; Reks reminds us he’s not afraid to craft an infectious hook. The more ponderous production suits Reks, with the 46-year-old reflecting on his time on Earth on “The Thing About Life”, although the bars in the hook outdo the raps for a change:

“The thing about life is…
The more we think we know, the less we know
The thing about life is…
The more we grow, the more we need to grow
The thing about life is…
The world is so much more than we’ve been told
All I know is I know nothing”

“Sunrise” is uplifting if a little sickly, relying on a soulful assist from Lela and Queen Philosophical, but the rest of the record is consistently enjoyable. Tiffany Paige lends her luscious tones to the title track, which is all about being flexible, adaptable and like Bruce Lee’s favourite liquid, water. It’s not all soppy, with “Soul Chain” channelling the creative side of Reks as he delivers breathless verses laser-focused on the pounding piano stabs in the instrumental. It feels like a moment for those craving raps in line with his boom-bap credentials, particularly with the wild record scratches that close out the track.

Over the years, Reks has released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including “Grey Hairs” (2008), “R.E.K.S. (Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme)” (2011), and “Revolution Cocktail” (2013). Each album reflects his growth as an artist, and hearing him direct his approach with less aggression and more thoughtfulness, ensures he enters his latter years with his head held high as one of the great unsung underground talents of his generation, capable of developing his style.

Reks :: Hidden Messages in Water
7.5Overall Score