Denver rapper Ray Reed makes honest music that reflects the real events of his life. The timing of the release of his latest project, A Dollar & a Scheme — on May 10 — was no coincidence. He dedicated the project to a friend who was sentenced to sixteen years for attempted murder on May 10, 2017, a year before the project dropped.
We caught up with Reed ahead of his headlining concert at the Gothic Theatre.
Westword: Tell us about your background in music. What drew you to rapping initially, and how did you get to where you are?
Ray Reed: I’ve been rapping since 2011 and taking it seriously going on seven years now. I really represent the struggle and the hustle for people who don’t have a voice.
Was there anything that inspired you to do that? Was there someone that was that voice for you?
Just growing up, one of my brothers [was] killed. Just a whole bunch of stuff going on in life. Mainly stuff in the streets, you know, getting in trouble, catching cases, and a whole bunch of bullshit. Everything in my music is authentic. So my life keeps shit interesting, whether good or bad. There is always something I can write about.
Rappers tend to be super-honest, but how did you get to that? Did it take some time?
When I first started, I was more of a punchline rapper. I didn’t really tell my story from the jump, because I wanted to get attention. I wanted to get the viewer’s attention first, so I rapped on a whole bunch of people’s beats. When I first started, I rapped on a whole bunch of industry beats, got a little attention and went from there. On my projects, you can tell, starting from Suicide, they were all kind of like real — struggling in the street.
They all really pertain to the streets. [My projects] used to be super, super lyrical; now it’s more subtle, and it’s more of a wave. So people are catching on right now.
A wave in terms of lyrics or in terms of the sound?
Both. The lyrics — I’m always going to be snapping. I’m always going to have the content as far as bars and stuff, but I’m getting better at songwriting. ... It makes a wave instead of up and down. Just consistently. As far as tape after tape after tape, I’ve gotten better musically, and I feel like my listeners can agree.
What is the intention with your rapping? What is your message that you want to share?
I just want people to keep going, you feel me? I’m an inspiring person. I’m all about representation, the family and the struggle. Family life from growing up for never having shit.
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It’s something when people start respecting your craft and you start making a little money off of it. You start to enjoy it a little bit more, just coming from nothing. What I would tell my viewers and shit, I would tell them to just go for it. … You have to really be consistent and keep going at this shit every single day, because you can fall off so fast in this game. You can be here today and gone tomorrow. Right now, all the support and love I’m getting, I’m just soaking it in.
Was there anything in particular that modeled that consistency for you or helped you?
Really, I just stick to myself. A lot of people that know about me, they know my music is so authentic. There are people that know it to a T, to where they know I’m not lying about shit. It helps, I don’t know, just being a real guy to my supporters here. Just because that’s all you’ve really got here in Denver, Colorado. That’s all it is. There’s weed, and that’s it, you know what I mean? It’s beautiful, but at the end of the day they don’t really [have] a rap foundation here or [anything] super crazy going on. So if they’re respecting me now, all I can do is keep doing what I’m doing.
9 p.m. Thursday, July 12, $15, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood, 303-789-9206.