By: Ali Shana
I vividly remember playing the tunes of soon-to-be 19 year old R&B artist Reese in front of my older cousin, a 90s R&B fanatic, with Boyz II Men and Blackstreet posters to prove it. “You like PartyNextDoor, right?” I asked. “You might like this.” He isn’t impressed by much modern R&B, with the exception being PartyNextDoor. Reese's debut song, now no longer existing on the Internet, left quite the impression on my cousin. “This sounds more like Jodeci than PND to me,” he said. A comparison to one of the most influential quartets of the 90s is not tossed around often. From this point on, I was looking forward to hearing more from Reese.
Since then, a lot has changed in a small amount of time for Reese. The vocalist formerly known as Ree$e has only been recording for six months now. Already, he’s flown out to Atlanta to record and has collaborated with some notable heavy hitters.
After playing a show with Reese, the only show he’s performed so far, we got to know each other. I have always been a fan, but it wasn’t until I heard his most recent single ‘Crazy’ that I decided I wanted to learn more about him. The tall and well-dressed lyricist sat down with me and discussed a lot, considering there is so much to his story that only time will tell.
The first matter at hand I chose to inquire about was the deletion of his first song. I mentioned a style difference, noticeable from his first track to his latest. He made it clear that this was a stepping stone in his career. “When the first track came out, I was still forming my identity artistically,” he explained while hitting a blunt. “Do I wish I would have waited to put out music? No, because that music opened doors for me.”
Reese’s catalog consists of two tracks, both produced by Deshun Jetson, one of them featuring Meraki. Jetson approached Reese at a CopyWrite Magazine-hosted event asking if he needed beats, and the two have been working together since. Reese smiled recalling meeting Meraki at a Reggie Bonds show. “Meraki’s the homie,” he said, “she gives off a lot of positive energy. She genuinely wants to see the people around her do good.”
He initially flew out to Atlanta to visit the songstress, but she ended up taking him to the studio to record. He says the quality of the music recorded in Atlanta is O.C. (out of control, this was new lingo to me). The genuine friendship between him and Meraki resulted in the blissful duet ‘Let Me Know’. “Three months ago, I would have wished for 1K plays,” he humbly added, “Let Me Know just hit 3K. It’s not a lot but it’s crazy to me.”
When asked to describe his sound, it really came down to two things: his willingness to experiment and who he is as a person.
“I’m starting to really find my style, but I’m still experimenting in the studio everyday.” Reese puts constant effort into learning the mechanics of his voice, whether that be cadence or range. The other major component in his style can’t be developed anywhere but the studio: auto-tune. I think this amount of auto-tune and its usage is what formed my PND comparison. It’s not over-computerized and doesn’t jeopardize the music’s soulfulness. It doesn’t seem to stretch his vocals to unrealistic notes. Rather, it provides a fullness to the lyrics that compliments Jetson’s atmospheric instrumentals.
”Growing up, my sister was steady bumping Tupac. My mom played Mariah Carey and my stepdad’s favorite artist was Prince.” Reese concluded, “It’s a weird mix, but if you put those three together, that’s what I wanna create.”
Outside of his mom’s music taste rubbing off on him, he says his mom is very supportive of his endeavors. “She swears I’m a celebrity already!”, he laughs. His mom watched him explore his passion for music his entire life, starting with school musicals. “My mom is also a very musical person,” he explained, “she always pushed me to be creative and do what I wanted to do.”
Staying true to himself is a moral Reese holds deeply and it’s reflected in his brand and music. “I’m all about being myself,” he says, “and that shows through my cover art and photoshoots.” He quickly shouts out photographer Rob Randolph. The young artist is well aware and proud of his blatant honesty. He says that trait plays a role when he’s recording reference tracks with Cleo Fox, a local audio engineer he met at Mike Regal’s Premonitiions show. “Cleo and I argue like brothers,” his tone of voice becoming slightly more serious, “I’m so picky, this shit is so real to me. It’s my music, I’m not playing.” Reese concludes that being blatantly honest confirms he’ll get exactly what he wants in the final product.
Reese is almost as passionate about fashion as he is about music. “I love fashion,” he says, “whether I executed it correctly in the past or not, it’s another way of telling people what you’re about.” Reese lists Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and David Bowie as fashion icons.
Another aspect responsible for his style is his love for pop music. “If you really listen, I’m using pop melodies.” While his family played Tupac, Mariah Carey, and Prince growing up, his personal go-to was pop music. I asked if he was in the business of making hits, he joked “nah, that shit just happens.” He revealed that he always saw his music being on the radio, though.
Reese’s music is fairly marketable and gender neutral. As a gay man, Reese is comfortable in his own skin, but doesn’t feel that's worth promoting. “I don’t need to be known for that, I want to be known for my art.” It is his art alone that made me a fan and made me wonder what his musical origins were. The creative is dedicated and ambitious, but conveniently not overly hungry for recognition. When I asked if there was a project in the works, he explained that his main focus is honing his sound. The product he’s promoting right now is the track ‘Crazy’, and until then, he chose not to rush perfection.
This seemed to be a recurring theme when asked about the future. Reese seems to be very wise about timing his releases. “I wanna do a visual for a song that I’ll be obsessed with forever because it’s my first visual.” No visuals are in the works, but he reiterated that like all art under his name - it will be O.C.
It was important to him that he found his sound before he began to play more shows. This patience derives from school musicals. “With musicals, everything is so prepared. With shows, it’s on the spot. It’s interacting with the crowd.” His only show was very early on in his career, but that reflected Ree$e, a talented singer, not Reese, the more comfortable and confident artist. You can witness Reese live as the man he is today on October 22nd at the Jazz Gallery.
Expect big things from this go-getter. He has the criteria to make a sizable dent in culture. Whether it will be through his fashion, one of a kind personality, or music, Reese embodies self-expression in its purest form.