Clarification: This article is not about the rapper RJ from Los Angeles
Tacoma native, Reginald Palmer Junior, is “low buzzn” in the PNW rap scene, with emphasis drawn from his So Cal gang days. Reginald, also known by his stage name RJ, was enticed by tradition into the drug and gang culture at a young age, following in his family’s footsteps.
“It was through my dad’s side of the family. He told me, ‘Hey this is what we do. This is what we do to get money.’”
RJ encountered life-altering events that drastically changed the route he was headed. With the sudden passing of his friend and the frequent run-ins with the law, he saw a need to reevaluate his life. RJ moved to Augusta, Georgia to escape the Compton lifestyle. He overcame the chaotic gang banging and followed his mother when stationed in Germany. While there, RJ found readiness to create and began to write music, which gave him a stage to express his inward turmoil. From his experiences in the gang scene RJ draws inspirations.
“In some of my records ima’ say, ‘I actually did this. I actually did that.’ Because its releasing pain. But I’m not the type to flaunt on it because I’m not proud of it.”
RJ moved back to Tacoma to pursue his career as a rapper. While navigating the business side of the industry he has come to realize the difficulties in staying unique and not giving in to the pressures of what is conventional.
“Some of my records may sound ratchet. Some of my records may sound real. Some of my records may sound like some pain. Some of them may sound like love. But it’s me, my own style, my own character, my own personality.”
RJ finds the Hip Hop industry to be a dying art, where artist like Macklemore sold out for the sake of going mainstream. Macklemore may be technically “independent,” but his creativity was sacrificed when he went through an independent branch of Warner Music Group, Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), which helped Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ presence on the radio.
“Macklemore is making weak songs for society. The industry makes you switch up and industrialize yourself to be a puppet and a fake and makes you look like a disgrace and he needs to go back to reality.”
While RJ is only in the beginning stages of his music career, one thing is for sure, this 20-year-old knows what he wants and what he will not be. He knows the ins and outs of the industry and isn’t fooled by replica after replica being made to fit into what society knows to be “rap”. RJ’s lyrics emphasize his passion for staying “real” in the midst of rappers that are selling out to be cool. His song “R.I.P. Freestyle” expresses just that, saying:
“Ever since you got money you act funny.Don’t compare me to them rap artist ad libs.”
But RJ isn’t the only one who shares this concept behind fighting the industry. In the song “Jimmy Iovine” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis they share the same disdain for major labels, and in response turn down a record deal in exchange for staying a “starving artist”.
To RJ, individuality is of utmost importance, and he refuses to compare himself to any other artist. Selling out is not an option – unless of course, you’re selling out on your albums.
“For me, I really don’t care for fame. Fame can come and go. I do it because I love it. [Laughs] And because I got to pay bills. [Laughs] I gotta keep it real.”