I just had to type up a quick pitch for my boy who’s trying to do big things making music. Now, this is one of my best friends, mind you, so yeah, I may be somewhat biased. But I’m telling you, this music is legit, and I’ll stick to that statement whether your playlist is typically AC/DC or Amerie, Bob Marley or Bob Dylan, Justin Timberlake or Jimmy Buffett…and I wouldn’t go out of my way to say that if I didn’t mean it. So if your speakers aren’t on, unmute them for a sec, and go to his myspace page! (www.myspace.com/reubmuzik2) If that song “All I Know That’s Real” is up there, give it a listen.
I’m pasting below a review I wrote in 2002 for some local publications of REUB’s first album, Pair-a-Dice. Check it out…
Heaven on Earth Productions
Listen to R.E.U.B.’s debut album, Pair-A-Dice, once, and you’ll understand the local hype proclaiming the enigmatic emcee as the newest kid on Virginia’s blossoming hip-hop scene. Listen to Pair-A-Dice again, and you’ll realize that this potent lyricist and producer isn’t really a kid at all, but the rhythmic shell of an artist who has been through a lifetime’s worth of contradictory experiences and manifests them with precision.
While his incinerating flow and ambidextrous beats conjure an image of industry studs such as DJ Premier, Common and Nas rolled into one, it is R.E.U.B.’s self-examination and thoughtful perspectives that make his debut recording stand out. In laying down his turbulent life in no unclear terms, R.E.U.B. proves that the personal struggles, triumphs, vices and virtues of an artist’s rough and tumble upbringings can be expressed on wax with a realistic–not outlandish–demeanor.
Pair-A-Dice, the first release from R.E.U.B.’s independent Heaven On Earth Productions label, is both positive and negative, idealistic and vogue, grave and light-hearted. It’s an honest self-portrait of a complex man that has experienced the best and worst of life, a good-natured realist that knows right from wrong and does wrong anyway. But through the trials of a constant internal struggle between life’s competing extremities, R.E.U.B. steadily manages to find the silver lining amongst potentially depressing realities, and emits his optimism forcefully through a witty and baby-oil smooth vocal delivery.
The album also showcases R.E.U.B.’s production ability in several different contexts. Most of the production behind Pair-A-Dice exudes a rugged New York street style featuring heavy doses of chop sampling and vocal highlights, but R.E.U.B. also experiments with a variety of deviating formulas–an electric guitar, bass-heavy West Coast licks, a conga, 110 beats-per-minute sprints and 60 beats-per-minute drawls.
R.E.U.B.’s equally creative lyricism and production adds up to a polished finish product that constantly changes pace, taking the listener through a series of twists and turns throughout Pair-A-Dice, which R.E.U.B. wrote, produced, mixed, performed and arranged.
Some of the album’s strongest songs showcase what R.E.U.B. has picked up from his ever-evolving influences. “All My Peoples” is R.E.U.B.’s answer to Common’s “Sixth Sense,” an ode to hip-hop culture in which he expresses appreciation for friends and family, and more significantly, a passion and willingness to go to any length to succeed and conquer the business of hip-hop. The album’s first single, “Gotcha,” provides an early left jab with a comedic, punchline-heavy delivery over a breakneck dance beat a la Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U,” and “Supreme,” the album’s most invigorating track, lays down an infectious, Premier-inspired rhythm that R.E.U.B. tears to shreds with a veteran’s claw.
But while the roots and influences of some of Pair-A-Dice’s offerings can be clearly traced, R.E.U.B. also explores different avenues repeatedly throughout the album, venturing into sounds and topics seldom examined by the hip-hop world. “D’Hydrated Water,” Pair-A-Dice’s most thought-provoking song, serves as the album’s best reflection of its creator’s social and psychological consciousness. Over a mellow, melodic bassline, R.E.U.B. reflects on topics ranging from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to nonsensical “keeping it real” claims to character flaws he sees in himself.
Additionally, R.E.U.B. discusses the burdensome baggage that comes along with accomplishment in “Still Life,” pays tribute to the World Trade Center victims through his own experiences in the emotion-driven “This Mourning,” and tells the tale of a high school scuffle that left him torn between cliques in “The Legend of Pretty Tony, Pt. 1.” And despite the album’s primarily serious subject matter, humorous sample-heavy “Sex Ed” highlights sex life in college, serving as just one example of how the album’s constantly varying rhythm and scope keeps the listener on edge.
While Pair-A-Dice is 70 consistent minutes of arresting beats and liquid rhyme skills, it is the down-to-earth nature of R.E.U.B.’s tales that distances this effort from so many debut rap albums. R.E.U.B. introspectively examines real-life responsibilities in a direct-but-subtle way, and precisely tailors his beats to compliment each song’s subject matter. And as insightful as much of R.E.U.B.’s content is, he balances it with several raw, playful tracks that merely serve as a battleground for his razor-sharp tongue, and underscore his ambitious declaration that he’ll do whatever it takes to “stand out like smokers with five minutes of break left.”
Balance is the defining characteristic of Pair-A-Dice. In painting a no-stones-unturned self-portrait, R.E.U.B. simultaneously thinks out loud, dreams out loud, steams out loud, laughs out loud and cries out loud. He’s not a thug who’ll pop off at the mouth about the “in” thing of the day, and he’s not an idealist who’s out to save the hip-hop world by preaching about what ought to be. He’s just R.E.U.B., simple and complex, insightful and foolish, optimistic and bleak, and the contradictions of his well-traveled existence make Pair-A-Dice worth exploring.