Reese LaFlare: Hip-Hop's Renaissance Man Probably Knows Your Favorite Rapper, But Now It's His Time to Shine

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Tommy Nowels
Reese LaFlare

Young Thug, Pusha-T, Smokepurpp, Gunna and Ty Dolla $ign have all notched assists with LaFlare.

If you look closely, you'll find Reese LaFlare at the intersection of hip-hop, skating and high fashion. The Atlanta native dropped off his anticipated eponymous debut album last Friday (Aug. 17) with help from a decorated group of friends, making the mercurial project a star-studded affair. 

After a string of mixtapes dating back to 2011, but no official projects released in three years, the 28-year-old knew it was finally the right time to unleash his officially-billed debut. But, just as he's hitting a stride, the multi-faceted renaissance man already sees an end in sight for his rapping career. "I don't think I'm going to rap too much longer. I put this album out because it needed to be done. I can do a couple more things and then I'm cool," Reese tells Billboard

LaFlare credits his deep industry ties to his skating days, where he was sponsored with Nike SB at one point. Lil Skate's unique essence drew the attention of many in the rap world, allowing him to move in spaces the average person couldn't even fathom within the burgeoning Atlanta scene. 

The LaFlare Records CEO has since nurtured those relationships across the country while maintaining a growing buzz, organically notching assists from a wide range of MCs, including Young ThugPusha-TSmokepurpp, Yung Bans, Gunna, Ty Dolla $ign and Vory. A lineup boasting star power of this magnitude is a rarity in hip-hop, especially from an independent artist's debut effort.

Billboard caught up with Atlanta's LaFlare to discuss his self-titled album, forming an unbreakable bond with Young Thug, attending Virgil Abloh's first Louis Vuitton fashion show in Paris, the wild story that led him backstage on Kanye West's 2008 Glow In The Dark Tour, plans for the future and much more.

Check out the interview below.

What was your mindset like going into crafting your debut album?

I haven't put out a solo project in three years, so this is the first since 2015 and I stopped making music for a while. SoundCloud wasn't around when I started. It was all about Live Mixtapes. If you got your project at the top of Live Mixtapes you were on. I recorded in Atlanta most of the time and a little bit in Los Angeles. 

Was there anything in particular that inspired you when creating this project?

Atlanta life at home was inspiring my music. I'm inspired by great people, not anybody new. Old Kanye, for sure. New Kanye, not so much. 

I feel like you catered to multiple audiences with the range of classic Atlanta trap to the sound we hear nowadays from Soundcloud rappers dominating the industry.

That's because Key! and I made that sound. A lot of people know that. A lot of fans do. The internet is low-key police. They go back and read some shit to understand. I make music off of my mood. I don't sound like anybody since everybody sounds the same now. I made sure I didn't do that. 

How did you manage such a star-studded affair as an independent artist? 

I originally met a lot of music people through skating. They all were like, "Damn, you're tight." They all take a lot of shit from me. So, when it was time for me to go up, I disappeared. It's inevitable now, can't nobody stop me. I saw Ty Dolla $ign in Atlanta and we went to a restaurant and ran into him. He was like, "Is your album done?" I told him, "Nah." He goes, "Well, it ain't done if I'm not on there." I told him, "I actually have a song for you." Then he sent it right back.

I've seen you post a bunch of rare photos with artists like Young Thug, Donald Glover and Drake.

I be with Young Thug like every day. Donald [Glover] is the homie, I can text him and he'll text me right back. [Drake] knows what's up too. Drake knows everything, he's like the all-seeing eye. He's cool and people try to give him slack. He's doing what a great artist does. He knows there's someone below him working just as hard as him to get to where he is. Lil Baby and all them had their own wave, but Drake puts them on a platform to more people. 

 

Beenhadboyz 2 ----‍♂️⚠️---- @champagnepapi @fatmankey

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How did "Nosebleeds" with Thugger come together?

I kick it with Thug all the time. We got a bunch of songs. We actually did that in New York during Fashion Week on my birthday last year, Sept. 8. We got up here on Sept. 6 and went to the studio. Me, [Thug], and Future had just come back from the strip club. We went to Club Lust in Brooklyn. It was like 5 a.m. when we made that song. I was like, "I'm gonna put this to the side." 

I remember I sent that song to Vince Staples because he's a Young Thug advocate. He thinks he's like the best. Vince goes, "Bro, y'all are on some shit. I've never heard a song where I can't understand the first couple bars of the song from Thug, but I understand it." That's why it's called "Nosebleeds" because it fucks with you. The video was shot in London by my manager, Tommy. That's how we got reconnected actually.

What about getting Pusha-T on "Mood Ring?"

Bobby Johnson made the second half of "Mood Ring" and the first half is OZ and Sixth Sense. That's two different beats. I'm a huge fan of Pharrell, The Neptunes and the Clipse era. Pusha-T actually hit me up and reached out on Instagram DM. He was like, "I'm a fan bro." Pusha hit me up like, "I got these records I need you to do some shit on. I'll send you some beats." 

I did a couple songs and hooks for him. He sent me this one song that had an open verse that I did a verse on and I sent him what became "Mood Ring." One of the songs Pusha sent has the verse he actually used for "Feel the Love" to open Kids See Ghosts. He called me Pharrell on the song. 

You had a relationship with Gunna before he even started music and now look at him. You guys connected for the project's first single "Drip Like That."

He used to just be kicking it at the studio with Young Thug and them all the time. That's how Atlanta is, somebody would just be like, "Man, get in the [booth] and knock that shit out."

Was the album closer "Unkillable" made as a tribute to XXXTentacion following his death?

Yeah, when I made the song I thought about him after he passed away. This stands for him. He's forever. He's unkillable. People talk all this stuff about him. His words will live forever. That and "Circulate" were the last two songs I added to the album after I thought it was already done. I recorded them both in the same night. It only took my 15 minutes to make each one. 

Who were some of the people you're referring to on Twitter that have texted you congratulatory messages about the album?

Everybody, man. Kevin Durant is one, he's my boy. I fuck with him. Donald Glover texted me about "Drip Like That" with Gunna saying, "That [song] is fire." I was like, "Then tweet the [album] out." 

How did you end up landing on Trippie Redd's album alongside Young Thug for "Forever Ever?"

I was actually at the studio in Los Angeles with Young Thug and [Trippie Redd] walked in. He said, "I've been looking for you." He was like, "I be liking all your photos on Instagram and you don't ever say nothing back." I don't see all that shit bro. I was already familiar with him. He's genuine. Murdabeatz pulled up and Trippie picked one and Thug went first to record and I went last. We never knew when it was going to come out though. I found out a week before Trippie's album came out when my lawyer hit me up with the paperwork to sign off on it. 

Walk me through how you became friends with IBN Jasper and ended up meeting Kanye West, Rihanna, and everyone backstage at the Glow in the Dark Tour 10 years ago.

I was skating in Tampa Bay and I had IBN Jasper on MySpace and told him to pull up at the skate park. He showed up and we skated all day. He told me to get dressed for the Kanye concert. That's when I met Kanye and Pharrell. I met Chris Brown in a Burberry polo. I was already friends with Pharrell's brother. We went to see them at the Staples Center too and I met Rihanna and all of them. 

Ten years later, what was the experience like of being at Virgil Abloh's debut fashion show for Louis Vuitton in Paris?

That's my boy. Virgil used to DJ my shows for me sometimes. I've known him for a long time. That was black history for fashion. Black people are lit now and they gotta get with the fucking program. It was tight, I did the Dior show, the Off-White show and everything. I've known Virgil since 2010.

What do you think about brands like Supreme as a skater with the lines being blurred between skating, fashion, and hip-hop?

If you think about, it's really always been like that. They all run parallel with each other. Skateboarding is street culture, hip-hop is in the streets. Everybody bites everything from skateboarding. Black people, skateboarders, and rappers are the biggest trendsetters in life. Everybody comes after. My brain's an encyclopedia. I can see something and know where it's from. Like A$AP Rocky's Under Armour shoe, It's an Osiris D3 shoe. I had five pairs of them growing up, they used to rip so fast. You can track anything back to skateboarding.

Back in 2011, you tweeted telling Kanye to sign Future to G.O.O.D. Music, if only he listened. 

Future is the bro. All of the Atlanta artist have been around forever. I'm telling you, I know certain shit. I was like, "Put that n---a on G.O.O.D. Music." Guess what he did years later? You don't get Future, but you get Desiigner. Close enough.

What's next for you?

Going on tour and we got videos dropping. DSNRTRPN 3 is almost done. It's probably coming out at the top of 2019. I record a lot with two projects going at once. Key! and I got three songs done for Been Had Boyz 2. I don't think I'm going to rap too much longer. I'm just going to live my life like I always do. I put this album out because it needed to be done. I can do a couple more things and then I'm cool. 

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