This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
Ray Reed has made a name for himself as one of the most talented rappers in Denver, and his most recent EP, Streets Don’t Die, exposes that talent. Not to mention, the musician has proven a steadfast dedication to releasing new music to his followers every couple of months. Nearly one year ago, he released his most popular tracklisting to date with A Dolla & A Scheme, and instead of sitting back to rest on his achievements, he has continued to hash out bangers that inspire turning the volume all the way up. Following Reed on any of his many social platforms results in a continuum of new singles, videos, shows and more, which for a fan, can feel like a goldmine.
This hard work has helped the Denver scene make leaps and bounds as far as local rap scenes go, and Reed’s music is hardly the only contribution he has made to our city. Just last year, Reed opened his own streetwear clothing store, The Finesse Factory in Aurora. The store was a vision to bring brands like DOPE, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Gucci, Supreme, Maison Margiela, Yeezy, Human Made, BBC, Crafty, Finesse Gang Gear, Undefeated and more to bring an urban style option to Denver. In an effort to collaborate musically with locally rooted rappers, Reed has also created the collective Finesse Gang, that consists of rappers Keem Veggies, Tha Ape, Eband$, Mojo Goon and Gmally.
Enough about Reed’s collaborative efforts, because most of Reed’s music is all about him. This includes The Streets Don’t Die, which, despite coming out last year, is still warranted in making the rounds on our playlists. Kicking off with the melodic “Tom Brady,” Reed discusses how he wins at life, making touchdowns like, you guessed it, Tom Brady. He touches on his reluctance to do drugs in the attempt to make it to the bank. That theme sticks in the next track, “Buss Down.” Reed’s voice clearly dances out over the dramatic piano-infused beat. The rhythm clicks directly and creates a head-bop inducing movement that is impossible to ignore. Lyrics like “I just want a rolly on my wrist/ Buss Down/ Ridin’ with that 40 on my hip/ Buss Down/ Makin’ money like it’s counterfeit” help the money motif stay intact.
“Safe” turns the new vibe over for the release. It hypes up the tempo, both in the beat and by explaining the drive Reed works behind to earn the contents that he is keeping in said safe, induced with spitfire rhymes. If the mystical raps whiz by your head and if you are the type to want to sing along, “Win” is the song you have been waiting for. The repetitive mantra is easy enough for anyone to get crazy to, but don’t assume it’s lower caliber than the other songs just because it’s simpler. It raises the heartbeat of the project, just to hear it slow down for the last song, “311.” However, the only part of “311” that is slow is the beat — as Reed’s words remain quick and methodical making metaphors about Donald Trump and paying homage to Notorious B.I.G.
Though not on The Streets Don’t Die EP, Reed’s latest release “Colder” is also worth mentioning when discussing great new tracks. The song eases in without the burst of bass line that runs typically in rap music, and the lyrics create a vision of chill that matches the tracks title. Reed sings the chorus on his own, with a simple, catchy and repetitive “Ooh.” “Colder” is the only release of Reed’s in 2019 and sets him up to continue on a great note.
Denver has a hot lineup of rappers these days between Trev Rich, A Meazy, Jay Triiiple, Trayce Chapman, AP and more. The constant push from Reed to better himself and challenge the Denver rap scene will ultimately set him apart and has not gone unnoticed. The marriage of lyrics and production that goes into his projects is one that demands the attention of his community.