By Dylan Deprey
You’re probably thinking it’s a bad decision, but it’s far from it.
Reggie Bonds’ “The Black Tape: A Black Ass Rap Album,” is a timestamp. It’s a statement on where hip-hop culture is at this point time. It’s a dedication to the craft that kept him going during the rough times in life. It’s an album that’s meant to give people the same motivation he felt while he sat up late at night listening to his Walkman.
In 2018, Bonds was back in Milwaukee to help out his family after a short stay in Los Angeles. When Ryan Rossman, from High Five Studios, reached out to record a few songs.
“It was going to be an EP at first, a stream of consciousness on where I was at in that time. I was studying my ancestors, traveling the world and going through things in my personal life where I wanted to dig deep in my headspace,” Bonds said.
What began as a short project, would actually turn into a full on creative exploration. From one-on-one recordings, to packed studio sessions, he had cultivated an artistic playground where live instrumentation, talent and raw energy converged.
“We weren’t forcing it. Everybody was open to creativity. We were calling people to the studio, and mic’d up every instrument, for people to get in there,” he said. “I love the technology and everything, but I was like, let’s make this real, with real emotion, real passion, real pain, and after every verse we’re sweating trying to get it right.”
Bonds said he felt as if they had transported back to Motown. No verses were emailed in on this project, as they were repeatedly rehearsing before recording. Even local artists that weren’t featured on the album came through to bounce ideas and provide creative input.
As an artist and emcee, Bonds said he knew what he wanted in the music. While captivating melodies and autotune have apprehended the airwaves, for Bonds, it was always a question of “Am I looking to push the needle forward?”
“We often go for the hit records and I look at it like ‘who’s lasting? Who is making art? Who’s happy and actually comfortable in their own skin?’ I look around with a lot of people who want to do music and get stuck in the position not understanding how to be themselves because they’re looking at the radio, YouTube, Instagram and you’re seeing what everybody’s doing and think you’ve got to fit in, but if you own your own thread, you can sew your own t-shirt,” Bonds said.
For the first time, he took the reins on the project. From co-producing alongside producer, 11 Gray, to having solid concepts and stacks of verses memorized, “The Black Tape: A Black Ass Rap Album” became his homage to hip-hop.
The 16-song project runs just short of an hour. It’s an auditory experience that takes listeners on a ride through a universal soundscape. Bonds incorporating live instrumentation, alongside his bar heavy, eclectic flow, makes for a classic hip-hop album.
On the street introspective, “POETIC.” Bonds speaks on his own life. He juxtaposes a classic Hall and Oates sample with boom-bap style drums—almost a nod to hip-hop’s golden era.
On “[M]OTHERLAND!/AMERIKKKA.” he preaches Black excellence over an infusion of tribal, gospel and soulful sounds, alongside live percussion from Milwaukee Reggae legend, David Robinson.
Whether it’s Siren’s serenade on the epic intro, “BLACK!” or Troy Tyler and Grey Genius’s chants and harmonizing on the album single, “BEAUTIFUL!” Bonds brings some of Milwaukee’s best artists to the table.
While expressing his love for his mother through her crack addiction on the jazzy deep cut, “MOTHER.” to addressing life in a deeply segregated Milwaukee on the heavy synth-based track, “MILLUMINATI!” he narrates his power and perseverance through all adversity.
He said the album doesn’t necessarily go back to just Black culture. It was meant to travel to those spaces where everybody goes when there’s resistance, he said. Whether it’s mental, physical, societal, economical, he created the album to pass on wisdom and knowledge to the next generation.
The album is only available on vinyl and cassette through pre-order on his website. He said he’s charging $111.11 because he likes exclusivity. It was about creating real hip-hop, and weeding out hype beasts and yes-men that materialized the music industry.
“It’s always been my dream to make a rap album. It was never my dream to be a superstar,” he said. “The structure, the way it was created was something I’ve dreamed of doing, and I wanted to release it the way I used to listen to music.”
“This is just a part of the catalogue. It’s hip-hop and I wanted it to strictly be that because I didn’t want to get lost in the times or the trends because I want to create s*** that’s timeless. Some kids have a computer and microphone these days, but there’s a lot of kids that still don’t even have that, and that’s why I made this album.”
Pre-Order for the album will be available at reggiexbonds.com on Wednesday, March 25.
To check out the album single “BEAUTIFUL!” visit https://empire.lnk.to/ReggieBeautiful