BY MATTHEW HENGEVELD Nas’ Illmatic established the original archetype for blockbuster hip-hop success. The process— simply create a short album (no more than 15 tracks) and grab beats from an onslaught of top-notch producers for a hootenany-style album that features a focused variety of hip-hop’s soundscapes. Hey, it worked once for Nas and the formula did its job creating rappers like Jay-Z, 50 Cent and other household names. However, the formula became trite and got dropped in favor for single-producer albums in the mid-‘00s. Thanks Kanye!
Massachusetts-based boom-bapper Reks borrows Nas’ formula with his newest effort, Rhythmic Eternal King Supreme, which features a plethora of talented producers. Kudos goes to legends DJ Premier and Pete Rock whose beats boost Reks to a quasi-stardom that he wouldn’t have otherwise reached. DJ Premier’s “25th Hour” is a hypnotic loop and sounds more akin to his Gangstarr roots than anything he’s produced in years. Pete Rock’s “Thin Line” is a tad sleepy, but nevertheless a quintessential Pete Rock beat. Hi-Tek’s “The Wonder Years” uses strange deep-brassy synthesizers, like the “tuba” preset sound on an old Casio keyboard. This is probably Hi-Tek’s best beat in a while and really displays his versatility. Statik Selektah’s “This or That” features upper tempo funk-sampling with a slick breakbeat. Fizzy Womack (Lil’ Fame’s alter-ego) provides the most impressive beat of the bunch with “Cigarettes.” You can’t get more ‘90s-era than that one.
Fans have been lauding Reks for a long, long time but I just don’t see it. Compared to rappers like Skyzoo, Access Immortal, Saigon and Termanology, there’s nothing particularly unique about him. Rhythmic Eternal King Supreme is not the rebirth of Illmatic. The lyrics are mundane, sloppy, flow-less and best described as the musical reincarnation of your freshman dorm room. Some tracks go down like an amaretto cappuccino; others like Nestle instant coffee with cold milk. Guest appearances from Freeway, Lil’ Fame and Styles P break the monotony, but ultimately serve as fleeting blips of greatness weaved into Reks’ mess. I wish he brought more charisma to the table this time. After hearing his summer mixtape In Betweeen The Lines Vol. 2, I had a short ray of hope for Reks. Unfortunately, this album would have been much better with someone else in the driver’s seat.