INTERVIEW: Reese LaFlare on life in ATL, the similarities between rapping and skating, and his fire Lil Uzi Vert diss track.
“Niggas be rapping like they Tony/ When they really just a little pink pony” - Reese LaFlare
The quote above refers to Lil Uzi Vert, the meteoric Philly rapper whom Reese briefly befriended and later accused of stealing is sauce. The song is "180Secs," and it is the best diss track of 2016 to date.
For many, "180Secs" served as an introduction to the remarkably well-connected Atlanta skater/rapper. Reese plans to drop his debut album Reese Vs. The Universe sometime this summer. He initially planned to drop it on June 21st -- the first official day of summer and National Go Skateboarding Day -- but it got pushed back. Damn. Fans will have to temporarily subsist on his recently released mixtape Before the Universe, which he describes as a "just a playlist" of the best songs in his catalogue.
I called Reese in early June to ask him about the upcoming album, life in Atlanta, the soul-nourishing nature of skateboarding, and the reasons behind his decision to make a Lil Uzi Vert diss track.
What you up to?
I’m bout to take a piss really quick.
(60 seconds later) I’m ready now.
Cool. First question: What part of Atlanta are you from?
I’m from the Fourth Ward neighborhood. It’s notorious now. When people come to Atlanta, they know it for Edgewood. That’s where everybody goes and parties at. I live right on Boulevard and Edgewood at the corner.
Who were you listening to when you were growing up?
I really looked up to the Hot Boyz. BG was one of my favorite looks, aesthetic-wise. But in terms of rapping, I liked Turk and Wayne. Turk and Lil Wayne were like Kobe with Shaq.
Why do you think you gravitated to those New Orleans guys instead of Atlanta guys?
All the chains and the diamonds, I guess. I was like “Damn, that shit fire.”
Yeah, the bling. It was the bling. I lived in Florida before too. Florida is really close to Louisiana, so they would play all that shit there. My dad is an engineer so he works for the government and we moved around a lot. So I lived in Florida for a bit, went to school there, so I got the taste of both things. Like I said, Pensacola’s on the border - Florida is close to Louisiana so that’s why I got into the Hot Boys.
How long were you in Florida for?
Between 10 to about 17. Seven years.
Do you ever go back there?
Hell no. (Laughs)
You didn’t like it?
Nah, I hate Florida. I don’t even have any family there. I was just there because of my dad’s job.
So you’re ATL all the way?
Yeah, I’m Atlanta all the way. Miami’s cool but I can only do it for like three, four days max, then I’m over it. [Pensacola] is like Duck Dynasty. You’re on the beach and you’re chilling, and then you leave the beach and you’re in Duck Dynasty.
Do you remember the first rap song you ever made?
I made like a freestyle on the computer, I must have been at least in ninth grade. My friends were like freestyling and shit. And I got on a little freestyle song with them. I think it was on like a Bone Crusher beat or something that – I didn’t rap then, I just did that shit ‘cause it was funny. My first actual song that I ever made? My first real song would be like “Molly." That was my first time saying ok I’m gonna really arrange a song some type of way.
What made you start taking rap seriously?
I basically got into rapping as a joke. Don Cannon and my homie Nic Cage, we was at the skate shop in Little Five Points, Atlanta – it was called Skate Peak. Stevie Williams owned it, him and Don Cannon. They was in the shop one day, and I was like “Oh shit, you’re Cannon.” You done tapes with Drama and shit. They was like playing some beats in the store and I started freestyling. And they were like, “Yo, you should rap.” And I was like “Man, fuck rap, I’m not doing that, that shit lame.” Because I skate.
Before rapping or anything, I’m a skateboarder. I’ve been skateboarding for 17 years. So they said I should rap, I was like nah it’s too easy, and then they was like “bruh I’ll bet you $200 you can’t make a mixtape.” And I did it. I made a whole mixtape in like three days. And that’s how I started rapping.
What year was that?
I had a mixtape called I Am Reese. On just a whole bunch of instrumentals and stuff. That wasn’t really my first tape. My first tape was Reese vs. The World 1. That came out in 2011.
What made you wanna keep going if you made it as a joke?
Just for fun. Back then we had Lupe, and Pharrell, in terms of skaters. And they was putting on for us which was cool, but there’s not like no real, real, real skater who’s actually like making music that could be up there with a Lil Wayne. So I was like, I could do it.
How often do you skate?
I skate every other day, or at least every three days. It just depends how busy I am.
Do you go to the skate park or do you like to skate in the street?
We’ll go to the park and just skate and learn tricks and shit. But nah, I’m in the streets, bruh. When I say I skate, I mean I really skateboard. I’m talking about 360-flippin’, ten, twelve stairs and shit.
Do you have any skateboarding mixtapes on YouTube?
Yeah. Me and my homie made this brand that’s called Pretty. So we dropped like our first two videos. Pretty #1 and Pretty #2. Go watch it. It’s like me and all my ATL dudes.
We’re actually filming Pretty #3 right now. I’ve been busy trying to finish my album and stuff, so I haven’t been filming, but we literally just started filming Pretty #3. We had to get a new camera and everything – it’s called Pretty 3 HD ‘cause everything we filmed is in VX, on tape. It’s tight.
Do you ever play Tony Hawk the video game?
Of course, man. Come on. The first Tony Hawk? That shit was life changing. But EA Skate changed my life again. Tony Hawk is over with. EA Skate 1 and 2 and 3? That game is the best game ever, bro. It’s just fun, it’s realistic. If I’m hurt, or I’m just away and I can’t go skate, I’mma just play Skate on Xbox and it’s amazing. I could literally play that game for fucking hours.
It seems like you know pretty much everyone in Atlanta. Are you an outgoing guy? Who are you closest with?
Me and my friends, we started this thing called Two-9 back in 2009. That’s what Two-9 stands for. Key came up with the name for Two-9. It was originally called Pilot Music, and then we switched it to Two-9. We’d always go to parties together. Key and Curtis have always made music. I wasn’t rapping. It was just, we always hung out. Two-9 gang, we would go to parties, get in fights, all kinds of shit. People just knew us through the city, like oh those are the little crazy kids, wearing vans, skinny jeans, skateboarding. But they be at all the hood parties and shit. They be holding their own. Somebody get wild, we whooping their ass. That’s how we got known in the city ‘cause we was just rambunctious as hell. We started making music and stuff and that just made people look at us in a different light. We was just – all this new music stuff that coming out now – all the stuff from Atlanta – we was the first ones to do it. We paved the way for them. We was the first ones to come out of Atlanta on the different stuff if that’s what you wanna call it. The hipster shit.
You’re not officially in Two-9 anymore?
Nah, that’s over with.
Are you cool with all those guys?
Yeah, I speak to them, I see them all the time. It was just a business thing - they went their direction with where they wanted to go, they’re with Mike Will – shout out Mike Will Made it – and I didn’t feel like I fit that situation. I didn’t feel comfortable with that, so I didn’t do it. I just kept doing my own thing.
Have you met Gucci Mane?
Yeah, I used to hang at his studio on Memorial all the time. My homie C4 introduced us, me to Gucci Mane. That’s where I got LaFlare from in my name.
I was gonna ask about that. I saw that you Instagrammed one of Gucci’s tweets where he said he liked your song “Reese Mane La Flare.” He seemed like he liked the song but didn’t really know who you were. Did you know him before that song came out?
Yeah, we knew each other before that. That tweet he sent out was during his infamous rant when he was calling out everybody. He was going crazy on everybody, then stopped, sat back, gave me the triple salute, and then went back to going off. I was literally just at his crib the day before.
Have you seen him since he got out?
No, not yet, I haven’t.
Let’s talk about your Uzi diss track. OG Maco said something along the lines of “me and Reese did a lot for people but didn’t get credit for it.” Could you elaborate on that?
It’s a lot of rappers, individuals in this industry that we’re in that get a lot of credit. More power to them, they’re getting their shine, and doing whatever they’re doing because of their images and shit -- but a lot of those people were around me from the beginning and they learned a lot of that stuff and got around me and just absorbed everything. So they just took it and just ran with it. I can literally point to the year 2012 – that’s when I put out my first music video – it was “Molly.” From 2012 until now, literally eighty percent of the rappers that’s come out – like all the cool kids – they know me. And they got a lot of that stuff from me. I’m not gonna point no fingers and say names because, you know -- it’s for everybody to win, but yeah that’s what that is. I’ve done a lot for Atlanta in the community because I’m a real genuine person, I’m really big on loyalty, being genuine. Me being genuine, it’s like people seem to wanna take advantage of it, like Uzi – I brought him around Cannon and DJ Drama and all that stuff. And that’s how he got off. Cannon used to tell everybody that I was his artist – that whole – you know Uzi made Lil Uzi vs The World, okay?
Oh! You have those mixtapes “Reese Vs. The World.” I just put that together.
Yeah, it’s very deep.
That whole Reese vs, The World? My whole Reese vs,The World was done by Don Cannon. Who is Uzi with now?
So it’s really sus. Like all of it.
Yeah, they basically took everything – Don Cannon kept me around because I was in the streets. I was in the streets, I know everything that’s going on. I know everything that’s gonna pop. Like “Yo, this is gonna be hot this year.” So they would always have the upper hand on it because they’d have me around. So I took Uzi under my wing. Me and him did a whole album together I never put out. I just brought him around ‘cause I liked the kid’s music or whatever. Cannon told me about Uzi Vert. He hadn’t told me he was gonna sign him or anything like that. They basically took everything that’s me, the way that kid dresses, everything. He’s literally my child.
I just wanna tell people when I made that diss track, it’s not about his music. Because like I said, I fucked with Uzi ‘cause I liked him, know what I mean? He tried to disrespect me on a social media level. Told a lie like he hit me. And everybody was like, “Bruh, no you didn’t.” So he deleted the tweet. And I made that ‘cause I’d be letting him fly, and he just disrespected me on a users platform to try to bring me down to a lower level. “Why are you trying to belittle me?” You can’t belittle your master, bro. You can’t do that. That’s all it is. I just said what I had to say. He facetimed me the day after I put it out.
Are you serious?
He was like, “I’m not gonna respond because it’s not gonna do nothing but make you more popular.” And I said, “Nah, you not gonna respond because you can’t rap.” I talked to him like five times this year. That’s what’s even more funny – he’s a kid, bro.
You’re going to release your album ‘Reese Vs. The Universe’ this summer. What distinguishes it from your mixtapes?
This album’s kinda different because I just keep evolving my sound every time – tryna push the boundaries of my music and make something new. I try to stay ten steps ahead of everybody. I make some songs where I’m, like, really rapping. People like to hear people really rap.
That never goes out of style.
I’m from Atlanta, you know, we autotune and swagger. But sometimes we just like to hear people rap. I got a record with PartyNextDoor and London on da Track. I got a record with Post Malone.
What other producers are on there?
I have Slade da Monsta – that’s one of my best friends – Slade was the first, he recorded all of my music up until recently, like made beats for me. He’s my producer. Slade, London on da Track, Wheezy. Ducko McFli. My homie Matic Lee. He’s amazing. People don’t really know about him yet, but they’re about to.
Oh, that’s gonna be crackin’.
Hell yeah, that’s gonna be tight. Man, just life stuff. Just living really. Just showing people what’s up. Tour, skate, that’s it. That’s all I can do.
Are there any similarities between skateboarding and rapping on a philosophical level?
Most definitely. It wouldn’t be one without the other. Skateboarding and rapping was both imported from the streets, they in the streets. It was youthful – it’s our way of expressing ourselves. Skateboarding was a way of expression. We was looked at as rebels and stuff. Rap was the same thing. People from the struggle, the streets – it goes hand in hand.
Do you see yourself as a rebel?
In a way. When I was like in my early 20s, yeah, I was bad as fuck. But now -- kids are lost now. So I wanna be a light, a shining light for them in a way. Lead them down the right path. It’s fucked up out here, man. All the kids on drugs and stuff – that shit’s not cool.