Rexx Life Raj is here to put on for the Bay Area, in the most positive light. The Berkeley native has carved his own lane in the music industry, finding his niche in creating meaningful and impactful records to feed the soul. His lyrics embody real-life experiences that speak volumes to our current times, from relationships to social justice to simply the ups and downs that come with life.
Signed to EMPIRE Records, real name Faraji Wright fell in love with music at the young age of 6. Growing up in a household where his parents took him to church every Sunday, the football player turned musician is equipped with an innate ability to both rap and sing, showing off his versatility in each of his releases. Best known for his critically-acclaimed Black Figure EP series, Rexx Life Raj also has a great social media presence, calling himself the “caption god” on Instagram.
Fast forward to 2020, Raj has teamed up with D Smoke, winner of Netflix’ Rhythm & Flow, on a new record titled “Optimistic.” The name alone carries its own weight in the hell of a year 2020 has been: from the George Floyd tragedy COVID-19. This is the West Coast collab we’ve been waiting for, also a part of EMPIRE’s new call to action compilation album.
Flaunt caught up with Rexx via Instagram Live to discuss his new song with D Smoke.
What is your Starbucks drink?
I was just breaking it down, this is Venti almond milk flat white ice with two extra espresso shots. Deep down, I’m a white woman.
Being from Berkeley, what were you seeing growing up?
I was seeing everything. Berkeley’s a dope place because it’s hella diverse. It’s a melting pot of a lot of people. I went to Berkeley High, we had people from all over the Bay: San Francisco. Richmond, Oakland, Piedmont, Orinda, Walnut Creek. Hella different types of people, it’s hella clean. It’s a spirit of being free in Berkeley. It’s a radical tradition of being anti-government and being who you are. A lot of shit rooted in me comes from Berkeley, Berkeley makes me be able to go anywhere and fuck with it.
When did you pick up the Dad nickname?
In high school, my boy Louie used to call everybody a dad. He called n*ggas a dad. He had a baseball team called the Berkeley Dads, it was hella funny. [laughs] I just used it. My manager Ari started using Bobby Bear, it was hella applicable to what I was doing in the message I was trying to get across. I started running with it and fucked with it.
How have you been holding up during quarantine?
I’ve been good. I’ve been doing hella music and creating a lot of content. The blessing for me coming out of this is I’ma have so much shit. I have so much shit I don’t even know when I’m releasing it. I have shit we’re doing now that we’re planning on dropping next year. We’re stacking up on so much content, there ain’t shit else to do but videos. I have so many animated videos coming out. I have fire ass music with !llmind, a project with Terrace Martin, me and Kenny beats got so much shit. I have so much shit I’m sitting on. I’m out of here Shirley Ju, this will be the last time you really get to see me. If you’re here now, you better screenshot because I’m finna be rich. This it for me.
I love Terrace Martin, I know he doesn’t work with just anybody. How did you guys link?
We actually got linked through Nima at EMPIRE. I guess he played them some music and he fucked with it. We were vibing. We did a whole project in five days, we did a song a day.
Was that at his studio in Los Angeles? He has all those instruments.
It was at his crib, yeah. Whew, he has every piece of hardware. He had me in there on the mic, I sounded like milk. He has all of the rawest hardware, everything was clean.
What can we expect from California Poppy 2 coming out?
It’s an EP, after that will lead up to what I’m going to do next. To be honest, I want to go back into album mode. It’s dope because I have so much music that I could do that, right now the focus is California Poppy 2 for sure.
How close are we to getting it?
We’re super close, it’s looking like November if everything goes well. It’s the same sound as the first one. Me and Kyle Betty, I fuck with him because it’s a real distinct sound. It’s real West Coast, heavy 808, drum slides. Something you can play in the whip, at the picnic. Yo mama’s going to like it, ya daddy might 2-step to it. It’s a sound that people like. What really made me do it is I randomly tweeted a few months ago something about the idea of it. The tweet went so up I’m like “damn, I didn’t know people were really waiting for it like that.” I knew people fucked with it, but not like that.
Someone said California Poppy is their favorite project.
Yeah people love that shit, that shit’s wild. I loved it too but I didn’t know how much people loved it.
You gotta feed the people!
Gotta feed the skreetz Shirley Ju.
You released “Bounce Back” featuring Jay Ant and G-Eazy, how difficult was it to get Jay to drop music?
[laughs] It wasn’t difficult because it wasn’t his music. When it’s somebody else’s music, he’ll drop it. That shit was hella clean. I worked with Jay Ant a lot last year, that n*gga’s hella clean. He’s one of my favorite artists overall, one of the n*ggas I get in the studio with and I’m legit inspired to make more music. G is G. I fuck with G because for as big as, he taps back in all of the time. He does shit he doesn’t have to do. He pulls up to sessions in the Bay and inviting all the bay n*ggas to work on his album. He’s so big he doesn’t need to do that, but he does. It’s always love for sure.
You’ve known G since middle school, what were y’all like then?
Different [laughs], not the same at all. It was crazy, we both came from other little rap groups. I was in a rap group called Goon Squad, he was in a group called The Bay Boyz. Everybody was like that, even when it comes to P-Lo and Jay Ant. All these dudes, we knew each other in high school from doing music in the same circles. Seeing everyone evolve is hella clean because it’s the same n*ggas that’s been around for awhile. With G, watching his ascension has been crazy because he started popping off when I was still in college. He got out of college in New Orleans, started opening up for Wayne. He always stays tapped in. He always kept fucking with n*ggas, it’s really tight.
Talk about the bond you share with these Bay Area artists.
It’s really tight. It’s evolving. I remember at one point, I didn’t really feel it like that. I felt alone, doing my own music. As time went on, n*ggas started coming together, making music together working with other people. Understanding that the Bay sound is so unique, it’s damn near every sound. Even if it’s a year or 2 later, they’re about to come back and take the Bay sound. Knowing that a lot of shit originates here, being able to work with the real originators — when I talk about P-Lo and Jay Ant, to me they’re architects of a bigger sound that’s going everywhere. To be able to work with them is a blessing for sure.
Talk about linking with D Smoke on “Optimistic,” how was that whole experience?
D Smoke is really clean. EMPIRE’s putting out a project, a compilation album with a lot of EMPIRE artists. It’s a social justice initiative album to raise awareness about what’s going on, a lot of the proceeds are going back to different various foundations. They had me send in a record, it’s crazy because I’d done it a few weeks earlier. I was going through some shit in life. The whole idea of this song was trying to stay optimistic through whatever you’re going through, which applies to the pandemic and everything going on. I sent that in to see if they fucked with it, they’re like “oh we could hear D Smoke on this.” He got on there, he hit me like “bro this shit’s hard, we should keep fucking around.” We’re tapped in now, it’s fire. The song’s clean. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the whole project, it’s going to be tight.
What does it mean to be a black man in America?
Being black in general in America makes you strong. To me, this is the biggest disconnect in the world. Everything’s so experiential, this is why people have to have empathy. If I’m going through something as a black man, I’m telling you “this is what’s happening in my life, these are the situations I’m dealing with,” you’ll have people say “no, that’s not real.” Fuck do you mean that’s not real? I’m actually telling you what’s going on. Being black, we’re telling you what’s going on. At this point, we’re showing you. You see videos, you still have people making excuses for it, justifying it, talking around it. It makes you resilient and strong, but also makes you angry. What people choose to do with that anger is one of the strongest aspects. A lot of people take that anger and turn it into art or social change. Some n*ggas take that anger and beat the fuck out of people, shoot n*ggas. It’s learning how to channel that, put it into something positive.
Your father was associated with Black Panther right?
Yeah my dad’s from the town so he grew up around all of them dudes: Huey P., Bobby Seale. It’s ingrained in him. He fucked with the Muslims back in the day. It was a different time during the 60’s and 70’s especially in the Bay Area and Chicago when n*ggas were really on the same page: all about black love, black positivity, getting us out of the struggle, how about protecting us from the government, teaching us about money, how to feed ourselves correctly. He’s cut from that cloth so that shit’s in me naturally.
How’s it feel to have “Bounce Back” play on ESPN? That’s huge.
It’s on the playoffs so they play it after n*ggas make a bucket. They cut to commercial: “every time I bounce back…” [sings] Okay, look at that boy on the game. It feels insane but so much insane shit happens that I’m numb to it. It’s pretty nuts because every time it happens, hella people tag me. Hella people tweet me. I’ve only seen it a couple of times, I never catch it live. The idea of it is pretty wild.
Who do you have in the playoffs?
I haven’t even been watching the playoffs, no lie. The Lakers, off of pure Kobe energy. I’m not even a Lakers fan, but pure Kobe energy. For the city, they should do that this year. It’ll be tight for the Lakers, Los Angeles, and everything that’s been going on. I hope the Lakers win.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
To be honest on some life material shit, I’m trying to buy 2 properties. That’s where it’s at, I’m in a group with some dudes I went to college with and we’re working on buying multi-family homes and apartment complexes. Music-wise, I never have an answer. I don’t have a numeric number or Platinum plaque. For me if I keep putting out new music, new content, good shit’s going to happen. It’s always happened like that, my goal’s to stay consistent. Life shit is peace and happiness, shit be crazy. As long as I can stay happy and at peace with myself, then I achieved my goals.
Are the properties going to be in the Bay?
Hell nah, do you know how much the houses cost in the Bay? What the hell, it’s insane. For what you can get in the Bay, especially for a 2 or 3-bedroom in Berkeley, you’re looking at anywhere from $900K to $1.2 million. In Texas, you’re getting 3 houses. You damn near getting an apartment complex. We’re looking in Boise, you can get an apartment complex or at least a fourplex: $750K, $800K. I tweeted the other day: the idea of living in California is lowkey overrated. They washed us. The older I get, this Bay shit I don’t know.
Where would you go outside of Cali?
Germany, Portugal. [laughs] I don’t know where I’d go. As a musician, California’s where it’s at. At least LA’s where it’s at, even Atlant. If I was a settled down family man and had a regular job, I might move to Virginia. It’s hella nice out there. Get you about 2 or 3 acres, a 4 or 5 bedroom, a farm in the back with cows, chicken is fresh eggs. You wake up in the morning, “honey you want some eggs?” Yeah, I’d love some eggs. You walk to the back, you pet your chickens, you crack a fresh egg. You milk the cow, pull the cow tits. You squeeze fresh organic milk out of the cow, come on. America brainwashed us, that’s the dream.