Confidence is an integral part of being a rapper. From the wooziest SoundCloud MC to the most politically aware conscious rhymer, there’s a certain amount of braggadocio and a sense of knowing you belong that just comes with the territory. But trying to spread that confidence to your listener is a uniquely challenging balancing act. Nail it and you’re Chance the Rapper, go overboard and you’re Macklemore.
Berkeley’s Rexx Life Raj is hewing a lot closer to the former, and his latest project, Father Figure 2: Flourish, manages to uplift and motivate without preaching or veering into cheesy self-help territory. It’s a testament to Raj’s tremendous charisma on the mic, unique spin on the Bay Area sound, and unflappable mentality that Father Figure 2 is such a cohesive, distinct vision. For Raj, that purpose is partially inspired by advice he received from his parents, who offered nuggets of wisdom throughout the project.
“I try to look at things from a grand scheme of things. I don’t want to look back, in five to 10 years, and wish I’d done something different. My dad would always tell me, ‘You don’t want to get to my age and have hella regrets, wish you’d stuck to a plan or saved your money,’” Raj explains over the phone. “Everything I do is thinking 10 to 15 years down the road. I’d rather be disciplined now and not go out and go to parties, and stay in the studio and bring Rexx Life [along] as a brand, because I know I’m going to appreciate that so much more down the road. It’s easy to get lost in the moment of right now, and I feel like that’s what a lot of people do because it’s what they have.”
Raj is future-facing in a way that it seems much of modern rap is not. Young artists nowadays can blow up and fade away in a matter of months, and many seem to lack a clear plan beyond doing the same thing that brought them their initial success to diminishing returns. But Raj, who played four years of Division I football at Boise State before moving back to the Bay to pursue music, understands that treading water in today’s saturated rap ecosystem puts you on the fast track to irrelevance.
“I am the walking personification of 'life is what you make it,’" he raps on Father Figure 2 standout “Ventilation Pt. 3.” Later, he spits, “You ain't changed in years, I'm unimpressed/ Ignorant about yo money got you gettin’ finessed.”
Anyone who’s ever used music to power through the end of a workout or motivate themselves to lock in on a tough assignment will find motivational gems on Father Figure 2. “Level Up” is one such track, and the single’s video, premiering below, takes us through Raj’s journey from Berkeley kid to college athlete to bubbling MC.