A Conversation with Rexx Life Raj

A Conversation with Rexx Life Raj

Hailing from Berkley, California and on track to become one of the Bay Area’s brightest hip-hop stars, Rexx Life Raj is definitely one to watch. During a recent trip to New York City, Rexx stopped by our office to chat inspiration, musical style and the unique camaraderie that exists between Bay Area artists. 

You grew-up in Berkley, California. How did your childhood and adolescence impact your current path musically?
Growing up my mom was heavily involved in the church, and my family sang gospel quartets – all of my family sings. The biggest thing that impacted me from my childhood was my parents’ local delivery service. My whole childhood was spent in the back of the car listening to oldies, soul, neo-soul and funk music. I think that all those genres continue to influence my music. 

Describe your musical style. What are some of your favorite things you travel with?
I like to consider my style melodic rap. It’s not too commercial, and influenced by neo-soul artists like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and Jill Scott. When I travel I always have my iPhone, it’s connected to my hip by this point, and for sure a pair of dope headphones. At this point I travel with my studio set-up, so I’m able to work out of any hotel or Airbnb. I just bust out my computer, my audio interface and microphone and I’m able to record anywhere. That’s really how I recorded a lot of my most recent album, on-the-go and out of random locations. Once you learn and figure out how it works, you can really take it anywhere. It’s definitely a learning process. 

List some tracks you could listen to on repeat.
Ari Lennox BMO – I love that song right. Her entire album is fire. I listen to a lot of Smino, I think the EarthGang project was incredible. In terms of oldies I love listening to my neo soul playlist filled with tracks by Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and James Blake – I love James Blake.    

How did the Bay Area hip-hop community foster and nurture your own music? What makes that community so unique?
There’s an inherent sense of pride that comes with being from and creating in the Bay Area. Bay Area based artists and musicians are really into collaborating and creating dope and unique sounds together. At this point the camaraderie is really clean. 

Who or what is your number one source of inspiration when you’re writing music?
Perhaps this is a cliché answer but life is my inspiration. All of my music is introspective and self-reflective. I focus entirely on what I’m going through, be it relationships or the people that I’m dealing with, down to the beautiful and stressful or turbulent things that happen to me. It’s crazy how something ends up in my music. Nothing is premeditated – I’ll start writing and certain things just come out.  

You released your En Route in July. Describe the writing and recording process for the EP.
I was in Los Angeles finishing up my actual album, while at the same time actively working on longer writing sessions with other LA based artists. The tracks on En Route came from downtime at the studio and in-between times that I had. It also includes songs that I liked that didn’t necessarily fit the album I was recording at the time. 

– photography by Juli Teitler

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