Pressure can burst pipes. It can fracture bones. It can cause even the coolest of heads to lose their grip on reality. Under extreme circumstances, pressure can also forge diamonds, and one of the city’s brightest hidden gems is east side representative Recoechi.
“Growing up on the east side, you had times where it was bad, you had times where it was good. I’m a product of my environment, but I chose to take the knowledge I got from the streets and do something differently with it,” he explains. “People where I’m from, we know about the robberies, we know about the killings, we know about all these things. Me choosing to express my story through music and inspire people going through it, that’s the most powerful thing. I could have chose to do spiteful things with my music, but I chose to uplift people instead.”
Recoechi was robbed at 15, and describes the experience as a turning point that made him more conscious of his actions and inspired him to find a way to lift himself and others out of that environment. He began writing raps and freestyling in high school but didn’t start making music seriously until he got into college, where he won multiple talent shows with his spoken-word poetry. Growing up in Stony Island Park during the rise of Chief Keef and growth of drill music into a global phenomenon, he says it wasn’t until he really listened to Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole that he realized he could still maintain his street persona while rapping about a positive message.
“I’m saying the things I took from the streets, the lessons that I embody, but I put them on wax in a different way. These are my experiences,” Recoechi says. “I did a poem one time and I saw the reactions of people just hearing my story. That’s when it really clicked for me. I used to rap about that drill shit, but then I switched it up and made it more personal.”
Listen to Recoechi’s music, and you’ll hear an assertive voice spitting stories of the streets with the utmost confidence, over grimy, bass-knocking production reminiscent of the east coast’s Griselda crew. Pay attention to his lyrics, and you’ll find that he touches on topics of spirituality, physical health and wellness, and self-mastery.
Even without a full-length project under his belt, he’s managed to earn cosigns and production credits from the likes of C-Sick, Thelonious Martin, and Renzell, all of whom rank among the city’s most respected producers. Recoechi plans to soon unveil his debut project Flavaz, which he says will be a versatile display of his ability to create different songs for different moods. The album will be executively produced by Renzell Wav.
“It’s my first project ever, so this represents me coming out of growing into my sound, period. Renzell is a musical genius, and he played a strong role in developing my recording process,” he says. “Flavaz is me giving different types of flavors. That’s something me and him would say a lot when we was cooking up in the studio, ‘that shit flavorful,’ which turned into its own thing. It’s also a reference to me always being on my lil smoothie shit because I stay with a different flavor. That’s a real strong part of me because I wanna promote healthy eating.”
Music isn’t the only thing Recoechi is developing. He also helps run Eastside Collective (ESC), which C-Sick started last year as a clothing brand. After hearing Recoechi’s music for the first time, C-Sick got in touch with him, calling him a “breath of fresh air.” They developed a personal relationship, and after seeing Recoe’s dedication to his craft and discussing ways they can give back to the east side, C-Sick gave him the reins to run the organization on a more grassroots level.
“We work in collaboration with other people in the field of giving back to the community, like charities and things of that sort. That’s all I want for the east side because a lot of the park districts don’t have the sports like they used to when we were coming up . . . A lot of these baseball programs and basketball got cut down because of the lack of funding. It’s up to us to really give back . . . By linking up with more people that’s doing things in the community, you make it cool for everybody to do the same. This is what we really should be doing with these influences . . . The phrase from ESC is ‘there’s unity in community.’”
Recoechi is helping lead the charge with ESC’s first-ever seminar, inviting high school students with an interest in music production to learn directly from C-Sick and Renzell. At the end of the day, he’s a man who understands that community is bigger than him. In order for us to grow as individuals, we have to take what we learned through our personal trials and teach it back to the next generation so they can avoid the same mistakes and break generational curses.
“I am a true believer that music is made through something divine. So my key goal with music is to gravitate people towards God, in a sense, or just go within themselves. Believe in the inner child and be as free as you want to be . . . People got this sense of this hardcore rap street guy for me, but it’s like people don’t know that I’m down to earth. I am just so serious about what I believe in. If you ever heard my music, I really spit my truth. Whether I’m singing on the hook or tapping into different grooves and sounds, I’m really tapping into that creative child, so stay connected to the inner child. This is what I try to get people into.”
Photos by ThoughtPoet of Unsocial Aesthetics (UAES), a digital creative studio and resource collective designed to elevate community-driven storytelling and social activism in Chicago and beyond
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