#LetMePutYouOn: ReeTheRighteous Sit-Down Conversation
ReeTheRighteous is here to tell his story of being on the outside looking in. Representing Delaware County, which is right outside Philadelphia, ReeTheRighteous is making his way in the rap game and trying to put his city and himself on the map. He shares the ups and the downs of his career up to this point, and shares the great stories that come along with them.
ReeTheRightous or better known as Khyree Thomas, is a rapper on the rise, but he wants you to know that he is first a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend. Clearly a man that places his family and friends above all, ReeTheRighteous is not shy from welcoming the listener into his personal life. He pulls inspiration from rappers like 50 Cent, Outkast, J. Cole, Dom Kennedy, Drake, and Jay-Z; and it shows in his own music. He has 4 projects under his belt, which includes: 5 Days In October, M.I.D., Before The Forgotten, and Fears Of Forgotten. In our conversation we discuss his most recent album Fears Of Forgotten, in detail and his motive behind creating the project.
Basement Music in DelCo
ReeTheRighteous' love for rap began at an early age. Growing up in Darby Township, he was able to witness the skills one of the most legendary bar spitters from Philly. "I was fortunate, because Kurupt grew up a couple blocks from my house." Ree's uncle and one half of the West Coast rap group Tha Dogg Pound's Kurupt used to make music together in his childhood home. "He moved to California when he was 16 or 17, but he grew up around, so I come from a good lineage of rappers..." The music that was being created in the basement of his house really peaked his interest and he started to gravitate towards music while balancing growing up in the sports-minded Delaware County. "We were heavy on sports, so everybody was focused on that, I just liked music..." It was a struggle for Ree to focus on music when everyone surrounding him was focused on sports. Trying to convince friends and family members that he wanted to be a rapper was one of his hardest challenges, but he found support in his biggest fan. "My mom found my first rap, and she didn't curse me out about the graphic language I was using, she just marked it like a test... She gave me the paper back and said, "You need to try harder!" His mother recognized that her son was not interested in sports, so she helped him focus on his rap skills.
"We were heavy on sports, so everybody was focused on that, I just liked music..."
Lyricist In The Making
Although ReeTheRighteous was introduced to hip hop by the music his uncle and Kurupt was making in his house, he had to search elsewhere for influence early in his career. "I had to look elsewhere for inspiration outside of where I'm from. That's why I like 50 Cent, Outkast, and that helped me understand what music was." It was important for Ree to tell a great narrative in his raps like his favorite artists. But as a young kid he didn't have much to stories to tell. He would follow his older brothers around and memorize the stories they would tell, and then write them in his own raps. He had to switch up the words and remove the foul language his brothers were using because his mother was still reading and critiquing his lyrics. The creative story-telling ability he developed at a young age molded him into the great wordsmith he is today.
Take The Righteous Way Out
ReeTheRighteous decided to attend college while still working on his rap career. While attending Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Ree was faced with the daunting task of balancing his rap career and his studies. During this time he was able to discover himself and grow his fan base. During his college years, he discovered his title that he calls himself today. When he started his rap career at a young age, he was in a rap group with a few friends called "Legendary The Movement". In this group he went by the name "ReeLegendary". But after a fallout with the crew, he decided to take the solo route and continue his career as just "Ree". It wasn't until his freshman year on Bloomsburg's campus where he performed and got his name. His best friend signed him up for a Dynasty Sound's talent show that occurred in the beginning of the year. This was his first time taking the stage by himself and he was nervous. It didn't help that he was performing in front of a tough crowd. He decided to rap a freestyle over the classic instrumental for A$AP Rocky's "1 Train".
"I rapped to that for two minutes. For a minute and 30 seconds... there was no reaction." he told me. "I was destroyed inside. Everybody was looking at me like they were offended." He still powered through the silence and finished his performance. When he finished performing and put the mic down, he stared out into the daunting crowd. After a moment of silence, a random person yells "Oh...You not corny!" and the crowd cheered and applauded him for his rap skills. He was able to show his talent and earn the approval of the audience.
After his performance he started to make a name for himself on campus and meet new people. "I had just made friends with a couple of sophomores, DeMoss and Victor specifically." They said "You be rapping conscious, you're one of them righteous dudes!" They eventually started joking with him and calling him the "Righteous One". "That name is decent! I'm gonna go by that and see how it feels... Anybody that knew I was rapping would say "Yo ReeTheRighteous!" Oh that's it! That's the name!" From that moment Ree discovered his new identity and established himself as a solo artist.
Trials, Tribulations and Tour
College was a great move for ReeTheRighteous' rap career. He was able to create a new fanbase and gain some exposure for his music. He joined the Dynasty Sound's club on campus and surrounded himself with other creative minds. In 2016, he released his first full length project titled 5 Days In October which was inspired by a breakup with his girlfriend at the time. He was gaining notoriety and a little bit of fame on campus. He was so caught up in his music career, his grades took a back seat. He started to fall behind in his school work so bad, he could not stay in the Dynasty Sounds club.
"Would I really be able to rap if I go to college? Because I'm going to be focused on work." he asked himself. "And that's not true, because I went to college and I didn't do anything but rap! I rapped so much that I got kicked out of the club that I was in because my grades were so bad. I did so much rapping that I wasn't doing enough to keep rapping."
After being kicked from the club Ree tried to focus on his studies, but his confidence in his music took a huge blow. "Everybody kept asking me "Yo, what happened? You stopped rapping or something? That was a morale blow, I was so hurt. Everybody was saying "Why are you not performing?" and "You have to get back on track." So it felt like I was letting people down."
While Ree was trying to improve his school work, there was even more devastating news at home. He lost many family members in 2018, but the most substantial losses were his father and grandmother. His second mixtape, M.I.D. (Marked In Despair) was released after losing them. "It was hard because I didn't want to rap. I didn't want to put them in songs. I felt like they were much more than a verse..." But, he powered through the pain from his losses, and turned it into an exceptional mixtape.
"That was a hard year, but it's all part of a bigger scheme that we don't know about..."- ReeTheRighteous
ReeTheRighteous' troubles with his schoolwork grew, and he had to leave Bloomsburg and return back to the city. At this point morale was definitely low. "Leaving school where I was somebody in that music scene, to coming back home and we're playing sports again." He goes on to say "I had to overcome the feeling that I failed because I had to leave school. Now I'm back here at zero." But he would not feel this way for long. Ree was invited to go on his first tour as an artist with an old friend. "I went from coming home from school feeling like I failed, to going on tour in the midwest!" Ree was finally starting to catch a break after an abysmal year in his personal life.
He could not recall all the cities and places he performed at because he was sleep throughout the van ride. He does recall his biggest show which was in East St. Louis. "I had a radio interview and a big performance in East St. Louis with a ton of rappers and singers. It was like a competition and I messed up!" He was on such a roll with his previous performances that he had more confidence than preparation for his final performance. "I had my songs loaded up, but the DJ didn't load one of my songs! I started to say 'and the next song' but the DJ said "Ain't no next song playa, you didn't send me nothing else!" In this moment Ree started to panic, but he had to improvise the best he could. He tried to freestyle the missing song, and hope the DJ found it, but he never played it. After his last attempt to save his set, he placed the mic down and left the stage. Thankfully, the host of the show allowed Ree to take the stage at the end of the show to perform his last song. He was congratulated and praised by crowd members after his show, but he was still upset by his performance.
That night in East St. Louis almost ended ReeTheRighteous' career. He felt like he was not made to be a rap superstar. "I was mortified and I wanted to retire!" Later on, he heard an interview by Ibrahim Hamad, the president of Dreamville Records which belongs to one of Ree's favorite rapper, J. Cole. He shared on the interview that at one of Cole's performances, one of his songs did not load, but he still performed the whole song a cappella. But Ree would not let a hard time humble him. After talking it over with his mother and thinking it through, he kept working.
"I prayed, got over it, and made an album."
Fears of Forgotten Album Breakdown
Listen to ReeTheRighteous discuss the meaning behind his breakout mixtape, Fears of Forgotten.
ReeTheRighteous is back in Philly gearing up for his next mixtape. He even bought himself some gear for his at-home studio amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He has released two singles since Fears of Forgotten and he is working on transforming his sound for the next project. "I’m working on “Big Game Champagne”, a reflection of my mindset today. I’m trying a completely new sound inspired by: Dom Kennedy, Larry June and Curren$y." He is also planning on going on another tour with some rap friends of his. They form two groups called "Righteous Minds" and Top Floor". Follow ReeTheRighteous on all social media accounts to keep up with him and his journey to rap stardom and the Songwriter's Hall Of Fame.