You may be familiar with Musa Reems, from his collective Children of I.L.L.I.O.S or from the local recognition he has achieved with his solo ventures thus far. About six months ago, Chicago native Musa Reems released a two song EP, called Another Dos(e), which marked his launch into a solo career. Since then, Musa has released several loosies and has been featured on numerous local blogs, although he has yet to release a full body of work. When we talked with him back in August, he said he was preparing for the release of his first mixtape, “Where the Sun Never Rises.” We were intrigued, given the talent that Musa has shown so far, and decided to follow up with him about his plans for that release.
Musa is a well spoken individual; this was not a surprise to me considering how eloquently he raps, although it is always interesting to hear how an artist’s songs translate into their actual personality. When we talked, it was immediately apparent that Musa is passionate about his music; we talked about Where the Sun Never Rises, our favorite artists, influential life moments, and Musa even gave me an in depth look into what his music-making process looks like. At only 19 years old, he’s a spirited man and a charismatic individual.
Growing up on the westside of Chicago, Musa Reems was born into a music-fanatic family. His dad worked at a record store, and collected every album he could from Prince, Jamiroquai, Minnie Riperton, and Chaka Khan on the side. His mom had a passion for the soulful singing of Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu, all of whom she would play in the car while driving around the city. “It was always some great music coming out of my basement speakers as a kid,” reflects Musa wistfully.
Music was in his blood, but there were a few key moments that made Musa start to take creating his own more seriously. In the end, it was the rappers like MF Doom and Biggie that turned his interest in music into a full on passion.
He recalls, “there were two big moments in my life that influenced me to make music; my dad telling me to listen to Ready To Die, and my 8th grade history teacher showing me MF Doom’s music. When I heard Biggie and Doom rap I became engulfed in hip-hop culture. I began to explore more rappers after that. Big L, Sean Price, and a lot of other NY emcees grabbed my attention. I studied the way they presented their craft. I started rapping over Dilla, 9th Wonder, and Doom beats. This led to the creation of (Children of) I.L.L.I.O.S. and I've been rapping every day since then.”
This led Musa to become heavily involved with the group Children of I.L.L.I.O.S., a musical trio started a couple of years ago by artists Musa, Kairo Jones, and LUMO. The group released a few mixtapes together, and played a handful of local venues, before Musa broke off and started focusing on his solo career. Musa states that he enjoys working with a group just as much as he likes working on his own, although the music making process is significantly different between the two. He still frequently works with other local hip-hop artists, and intends to feature producer JXHNSCXTT heavily on the upcoming Where the Sun Never Rises.
As he’s grown as an artist, Musa has been learning to navigate the differences between working with a group and creating music on your own. His method as a soloist is deliberate and practical; once he gets the beat he immediately starts writing. He concentrates more on the hooks, the bridges, the delivery; on every piece of the song individually, before putting it all together. “Every aspect of the track is important to me...I learned how to incorporate my love for punchlines with descriptive imagery. I come up with themes and concepts before I begin writing too. I think gaining experience and a better understanding of music has helped me construct ideas and methods that have been very efficient. I make sure that I write everyday. Even if it's one line, I make sure to practice and sharpen the sword.” He compares this process to working as a part of Children of I.L.L.I.O.S., a time when the group would watch anime, play video games, and let the instrumentals play in the background as they worked on their individual verses.
Musa’s dedication is admirable, even as he admits that he still has plenty of room to grow as an artist. He’s already taken a big step by branching out as a soloist; the ability to work both in a group and on your own takes a lot of motivation. He’s also inspired by many things, not just other hip-hop music. Along with a musicians from a variety of genres of music, Musa says that he loves to read and watch comedy, listing writers like Aaron McGruder and Sophia Stewart as massive inspirations.
His forthcoming project Where the Sun Never Rises will be a collection of these inspirations and life experiences. “It will be a project focusing on Chicago and the trials and tribulations of living in the city. It's going to be some happy, sad, turn up, lyrical, and introspective moments throughout the mixtape.” While there is no set debut date on that tape, you can follow Musa on Soundcloud and check out his website at www.musareems.com to stay updated.