How much further can you go after you’ve released an album of the year? It seems the only way is down, regardless of what you release, fans and critics will always compare it to your magnum opus. Fans will complain about change, even though it exhibits growth, and critics review before they let the music and lyrics seep into their mind. Even the most battle hardened rap veteran would be at a loss as to what to do next. Nas suffers from the same problem because no matter how great an album he releases it will always be compared to Illmatic. So we ask again, where does Reks go from Rhythmatic Eternal King Surpreme? The answer is… Straight, No Chaser.
The best way to satisfy fans and critics? Don’t. Any attempt to cater to both will only result in an heavy imbalance of unsettling one side. Reks manages to maintain the equilibriam by creating an LP which feels natural to him, building on the formula of R.E.K.S, but at the same time, unequivocally different. Production for Straight, No Chaser is soley done by Statik Selektah, which is one of the aspects of the R.E.K.S formula which remained. The beats on Straight, No Chaser are varied, compelling and fervent, utilizing a wide array of samples, which from a Kanye vocal sample (Parenthood), to Marvin Gaye‘s harmony on ‘Regrets‘ and the Controller‘s piano loop on ‘Sit/Think/Drink‘. Statik certainly holds back no punches supporting Reks with a plethora of fantastic instrumentals for him to reign over.
The meaning of Straight, No Chaser is a hard drink with the mixer. That’s a Vodka without the Red Bull, like a Gin missing its tonic. Straight, No Chaser exhibits the usual themes covered in a quality Hip Hop album, such as parenthood, alcoholism, and the negatives of the black community. However, the album doesn’t come across in a downbeat manner, particular showcased when Action Bronson goes back to back ‘Lethal Weapon’ style in ‘Riggs & Murtaugh‘ with REKS. Bronson is at his funniest, rapping “Tantric positions with his wife on the baby bed” whilst Reks performs lyrical gymnastics which would make the great Big Daddy Kane proud. Termanology makes a strong, albeit, abbreviated appearance which is quite a disappointment considering the unforgettable track the two made the previous year.
Reks certainly has matured like a fine wine. His flavour at its fullest satisfyies the most obstinate of listeners, and his partner in crime, Statik Selektah, has come along way since being an 18 year old unknown producer. 10 years have passed and the chemistry between the two has only gotten stronger and it has culminated in a great album full of memorable quotes and catchy beats.