17 May Benny’s Crib: An Interview with Shane Reis
Shane Reis is humble, calm, and simply here for a good time. The local 207 legend and I chopped it up at my place late last month, and went through all ages and tales of the young artist’s life. He shared stories about settling in Maine and crafting a rap career, the long process behind his new album Sorry I’m Trash, the influence of youth culture in America, the darkside of Maine culture, being a father of two and overall lessons from the Maine hip hop game thus far. Shane and I hit it off in my mind…but I’ll let the words do the talking. Spread love!
Benny P: What is your first memory of hip hop?
Shane Reis: “First memory of hip hip would be Montell Jordan – ‘This is How We Do It.’ Driving in the car and learning all the verses and my cousins always got to crush the hook. Cause they said I couldn’t sing (laughs).”
B: That’s awesome, so this was obviously in the 90s?
S: “Yeah, I think it was like…’97. Pretty much right when it dropped.”
B: Were you influenced by any other 90s hip hop during this time?
S: “Nah man, I really wasn’t a hip hop head. I’m still really not. I listen to hip hop, a lot of it, but I always feel lost in a group of hip hop heads. Cause I didn’t – I just actually listened to MF DOOM for the first time two weeks ago.”
B: Woahhhh, that’s cool. Interesting.
S: “Yeah, so, I wouldn’t put myself in a hip hop head category.”
B: It’s funny how there’s this artform of rapping, but that’s only one piece of hip hop. I think it’s cool that you can be such a practiced rapper, but at the same time have other interests beyond the hip hop culture.
S: “For sure.”
B: You don’t have to be wearing fuckin, old Adidas three stripes, spraying graffiti and wearing a Kangol hat. You can just rap and still represent what overall hip hop is about.
S: “I think more now than ever. I think that’s, people always talk about marketing, and how to market this, how to market that. When, I think if you really take a step back, being yourself is really the biggest tool that you can use to market yourself.”
B: Definitely. Being yourself is the only, I don’t wanna say personal trait to you, but if you own that, no one else can replicate that. They’ll always be a market for yourself, if you can hustle yourself enough.
S: “Actual factual. I think with anything really. It extends beyond hip hop, or anything.”
B: In anything. Dude, you know (rubs hands) – wait, I gotta get back to childhood shit (both laugh). You almost got me going on a seperate tangent, we’re gonna get too deep too early – we gotta put the deep stuff in the backseat for later (laughs). ”
S: “Alright, alright, let’s dip. Let’s dip! (Both laugh).”
B: You mentioned Montell Jordan, in your childhood in Maine –
S: “I’ll stop you there. I didn’t grow up in Maine.”
S: “I was born in Southern California. In Orange, California.”
B: How long did you stay there?
S: “Til I was like 1, or 2.”
B: Do you still have family there?
S: “No, oddly enough all my family that lived there moved to Colorado together.”
B: Where did you go after Cali?
S: “Connecticut. In Colchester, CT. Then, from there, I went to Maine. And then from Maine, I moved to Long Island. That was like age 16, 17. And then I was 17, 18 and I moved backed to Maine.”
B: Where did you graduate high school?
S: “Bonny Eagle. I dropped out, had a kid, and then called and begged them to let me come back. And I ended up graduating early.”
B: Woahh, so you finessed the whole game? You hussled them.
S: “Yeah, I wasn’t trying to be a dad without a diploma.”
B: Through the years of all that moving in your adolescence, where did you live the most?
S: “Oh, probably Maine, I would say. I went from sixth grade to pretty much when I was a senior. Maine is definitely the home.”
B: Shit, man that’s a lot of moving. Especially at that age.
B: That’s gotta keep your head going 1,000 miles a minute.
S: “For sure, lotta parts I don’t remember. I was smoking a lot of weed too.”
B: Shoutout that. Was there any influence of hip hop then during your adolescence? What do you remember from it in your upbringing?
S: “My parents had completely different tastes in music. My dad was hair bands, and my mom was Prince, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer. So there was always music playing in my house, it just depended on who was home. But, (for hip hop), no, absolutely not. I was the only kid rapping. It wasn’t cool to rap (laughs) when I started to rap.”
B: When, in your mind, did you start to want to spit?
S: “Like, seventh grade.”
B: You mentioned that hip hop wasn’t around much growing up, but was there a moment during all of this where you fell in love with rapping? Maybe where you were romanticized by it and knew you wanted to pursue it?
S: “Yeah man, I’m really trying to think if there was a pivotal moment, and I don’t think there was. I’ve always loved words. I hated math, still hate math. So much. I think I took like a placement test, when I was in eighth grade, and I was like a sophomore in college level in English. And a grade below what I was supposed to be in math. I’ve always enjoyed writing papers, always enjoyed reading books, always enjoyed watching people’s mannerisms and the way that they talk, you know what I mean? That pretty much judges if I like to hang out with a person. Like, if the way that they talk is super bland, and they don’t have a big vocabulary, I really don’t hang out with them.”
B: Interesting. How am I right now? Do I have a good vocab?”
S: “You’re doing great!”
B: So, you just kinda get infatuated with rap on your own and start spitting. Early on, did you gravitate to any songs, artists, or albums?
S: “Oh man, I’d guess I’d have to say Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ When I really started going to the studio and doing all that stuff. Yeah, Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ ”
B: Get Rich or Die Tryin’ straight up might be the most influential rap debut from the first decade of the millenium.
S: “Can’t argue with that.”
B: When I look back at the 2000s, I feel like that album overpowered every other debut. It was the fuckin’ album.
S: “I think he had a story with it, and he had hype. I mean, he was shot. And then he had beef. And he was signed with Eminem, and Dre. You know what I’m saying?”
B: Usually when someone comes up under a legend you feel like they’re underneath somebody. But, it felt like 50 was there with Eminem as an equal.
S: “Factsss, man.”
B: And, Eminem was the biggest rapper in history at that point.
S: “Oh of course!”
B: You’re talking about post Eminem Show. Post 8 Mile. ‘Lose Yourself…’
S: “He was the biggest artist on the planet.”
B: (Nods) So the fact that 50 was at that level out the gate is wild. Wild how transcendent that album is. So, you get into rapping in seventh grade and a couple years later Get Rich or Die Tryin’ comes out, and you start hitting the studio? How’d that all go down?
S: “There was a website called MaineHipHop.com. Which was like the only thing popping in Portland, really.”
B: Woah! Shoutout MaineHipHop.com! The trendsetters!
S: “This dude Braden Biddings ran it, who use to be in Def Poets, I believe. And, he heard my songs, cause I had just put this little snippet out on Myspace, I guess. He had a studio on Park Avenue, that I used to go to. One of those little apartment buildings.”
B: “Right near Hadlock?”
S: “Yup, and my Mom used to have to bring me there and drop me off. I was like 16, but my mom wouldn’t let me get my license ‘til I could pass a drug test. So, I didn’t get my license until after I had a child. It was wild. She’d have to bring me over there, and pick me up, and, um..Braden. Braden was such a creative dude. He always pushed the boundaries. I’d come in there with bland ass 16s and he’d be like: ‘Why don’t we just record six bars and play with the rest of it? See if we can come up with something that’s more engaging than just, like, you yelling at the microphone.”
B: Who was providing beats?
S: “Oh, man, I’ve really always been blessed somehow to be magnetic with some of the best beatmakers around. It’s pretty wild. At that point in time, Chris Broussard. Him and I had just started to kindle, and he was giving me some beats. I had some beats from this dude who’s huge in Japan, Marcus D. He’s from Seattle. He gave me a lot of the early beats when I first started rapping. And I then I obviously did the SoundClick era.”
B: What’s SoundClick?
S: “It was pretty much a site you’d go on and find beats. I don’t know, I always used to jack them, really.”
B: (Laughs) When did you feel like you came into your own as an artist, and really found your style?
S: “2014 is when I put out my first album. I put out mixtapes before then, but I would say 2014. The album The Reis & Shine. It’s an album I worked on for two years, and basically got all of the people I wanted together on the album, on the album. It was weird, cause it was basically recorded in three different segments of my life. I sat on a lot of those records for a long time, and then went through this phase where I crushed the majority of the album, and there’s a couple that I did right before I put it out. So, when I listen to it I can tell the difference, in what mindframe I was in, and where I was at.”
B: It sounds like you started to put that album together in 2012-ish, and you mentioned that you started hitting studio sessions in around 2004. How do you feel you bridged that gap between these years?
S: “It’s gonna sound bad, but it was really out of spite. I always just did it to enjoy it, but then, like I said, it definitely was not cool to rap where I went to school. And the majority of the people were into trucks, and automotives. So, I kinda did it to say ‘fuck you,’ really.”
B: I feel that. You’re just expressing yourself, and people give you grief for that cause they’re not comfortable with themselves probably, so then it’s like: “Well…fuck you. I’ll just keep doing me even more now.”
S: “For real, and I don’t know why I always had that fire in me. I mean, I still do. I definitely like to do whatever the fuck I want to do. Especially artistically.”
B: Were you working throughout this whole process too?
S: “Yeah, I’ve had a job since I could. Early on I used to work at Amato’s. Making pazzos.”
B: Making pazzos and doing hip hop shit.
B: So, in the years leading up to The Reis & Shine, were you raising your kid, working and hitting the studio in the background?”
S: “Yeah, yeah.”
B: Woah. When did you start to go from the idea of The Reis & Shine, into actually having a small catalog and thinking: “Shit, this is actually going to come out.”
S: “So, I was recording at that time at Appleton Radio. Which was, like, this little attic radio station. And it was run by JT Bissen and Ryan Augustus, who is Ghost, and I went over there a couple times and started recording with JT cause he had a studio there. And, it just became more and more and more. It turned into an every week thing over time. And I would just go in there with a couple records, and we’d bang them out. And he started to mix it, and then…I mean you could walk in there and see Sarah, or Alt, or Bread – and these are all legends around here. There could be anyone there. It was every Wednesday they had it, and you’d just meet all these people.”
B: Was it right here, in Portland?
S: “Yup, it was right across the street form Reiche School, in the West End.”
B: Damn, that’s just so cool to me. There’s a whole different history I don’t know about. I try to pride myself on my knowledge but I don’t even know half of it.
S: “Yeah, Maine hip hop can run deep if you want, man. I’m definitely not the one to ask about it at all. But, I was there for a lot of it.”
B: There’ll be a proper documentary for us one day. I don’t know how it’s gonna pop off, but it’ll catalog all this shit. Anticon to Thommy Kane to P Dank to whatever, man. I just wanna see that come to fruition one day. Speaking of fruition, good vocab word there, The Reis & Shine album ends up comes together at Appleton, and you drop it. Jay Caron, Spose, Kristina Kentigian, Lady Essence (Sarah Violette) are all on it…”
S: “I’m still friends with all those people. That’s wild.”
B: I think everyone one of those names was on your new album too, besides Jay?
S: “(Pauses) Yeah.”
B: That’s wild.
S: “Yeah, it is.”
B: How did it feel when you finally had The Reis & Shine drop?
S: “It was wild, man. I remember playing the release show at The Big Easy.”
S: “Yeah! Did you ever go?”
S: “Were you too young?”
B: Too young.
S: “Ahh, The Big Easy was fire though. There was really nothing like it.”
B: How do you feel you built off your sound, going from The Reis & Shine to your next projects ReisXAnyMeans and Drive?
S: “Oh man, George Foisy. He’s really become one of my best friends, and he is just a wild minded fuckin’ human. The sounds that come out of that dude are crazy. Me and George working together has definitely changed a lot of things; I started really working with him on ReisXAnyMeans. Half the album was produced by George, the other half produced by Clarkwork, who I did Drive with. And then there’s a couple of other producers sprinkled in there as well.”
B: Damn, dude. I have a lot of respect for the fact that you keep it in-state mostly with your production. And the fact that you seem to be pretty comfortable with just doing a whole project with one producer, be that Chan or George.
S: “Definitely, man. I don’t know if I’ll always do it like that, it comes with its challenges for sure, but something about being in constant contact with a person you’re making music with is really cool. You know what I mean, cause you just gotta roll your sleeves up and get your elbows in it.”
B: And, when it’s done right, it can create such a tightness within the music.
S: “For sure, I’ve been trying to accomplish that for a minute, and when I sit back and listen to Sorry I’m Trash, the new album, I’m like: ‘Ahhh. I did it.’ You know what I’m saying? From point a to when it comes back around, I just feel like it’s one constant ride. And you might not like every track, but they’re all tied together. And it’s just cohesive, I hate that word sometimes, but it is cohesive.”
B: Nah, it is cohesive. It gels. I even wanted to say, in my opinion, I think VEIB and Sorry, I’m Trash are your two best pieces of work thus far. And, it is the cohesiveness, it’s the way the music flows together and the placement of your features. I really do think you have tightened so much up, and it’s at such a different level. Something you should be proud of for sure, man.
S: “Thank you, I appreciate it.”
B: “What made you go to Chan when y’all did VEIB? Obviously anyone would wanna work with that dude…”
S: “Chan went to Bonny Eagle too.”
B: No doubt, really? That’s illlll.
S: “Chan lived in Hollis, and he was younger. What was his name, was it MC Adverb? He was a rapper. I think it was MC Adverb.”
B: But y’all didn’t work together early on? You mentioned how it was mostly George and Clarkwork on those first projects.
S: “I don’t think Chan was really making beats at that time.”
B: He was on your radar then before pretty much before everyone.
S: “Yeah, you knowed who changed Chan? Frank the Barber. Frank the Barber changed Chan. I think he ripped him out of his body.”
B: From Crow’s Nest Barbershop!?
S: “Yeah, he just kinda groomed Chan – so, Frank and Chan lived together. They lived together at a pivotal time, and I think Frank gave Chan a lot of confidence and that’s a deep, deep fact. But, um, I don’t if Chan was really making beats back at that time. I remember a moment up in The Attic, we actually had a group called In the Attic, but it’s not around anymore. It was me, Sarah Violette and O.Zee. And O.Zee I think is one of the only rappers to ever have a quotable in The Source from Maine.”
B: Imma write his name down.
S: “He’s got a project with Teddy Roxpin too, which is wild. Back to Chan, though, I remember a moment where we’re in The Attic – this is at Sarah’s dad’s house in Scarborough. Legit just an attic with a fuckin’ box computer in it. And I remember we all hopped on a Chan beat, Chan included, and then I wanted to put the song out. And I think it was Chan that didn’t wanna put it out. I don’t know if he didn’t like the beat anymore, or what.”
B: What year is this?
S: “I’m not sure of the year, but this is prior to Reis & Shine. I’m trying to think of why I wouldn’t have Chan beats early on but I don’t know why to be honest with you. I don’t know!”
B: It is what it is. So, no pun intended, was the vibe between you two just like: ‘Hey, we’ve been in the same crew for a minute now. We’re both repping the same part of Maine and we’ve come up together, so to speak. Should we just fuckin’ drop a project?”
S: “Yeah, we were on tour with Spose, and it just kinda organically happened. Came up with the idea for a couple songs and then got back from tour. I think the second tour, actually. After the second tour, we came back and just kinda went tit for tat. There was like four weeks where we did like nine songs. And we’re never in the same room.”
B: Oh word, y’all were never in the same studio?
S: “Nah, I’m not a big studio guy. I would much rather record by myself. I don’t feeling like I’m wasting peoples’ time. If I wanna recut a verse, I wanna recut a verse – know what I mean? If I’m paying for the time I’m tryna get my shit off.”
B: You got the priorities set, it sounds like.
S: “Yeah, it’s true. I mean, I don’t know, maybe I’m just old (laughs).”
S: “I’d rather make music by myself. I love to get up in the same room and Russian roulette beats and see what comes up, that’s fun for me. But, if I’m actually trying to write rhymes, most of the time I’m doing that by myself.”
B: What’s the process like? When you’re by yourself.
S: “You know what it is, if us two were rappers right now, and we were writing to a beat. If I got to the point where I wasn’t feeling the beat any more and you still were, I would move on to something else. So, I jump around a lot. If I’m not feeling it I’m not gonna force myself to write to it. I’m just gonna find something else to write to. And I like going at my tempo and not going at everyone else’s. Know what I mean?”
B: Yeah, I respect that. It’s like what we said earlier, just be yourself.
S: “For sure.”
B: How did it then feel when VEIB came out? That was, what, barely a year ago?
S: “Yeah, that was a wild, wild, wild time.”
B: Did Chan fly out from L.A. for the release party show?
S: “He most certainly did.”
B: And, in this same time period for him, he’s doing the final Low End Theory shows. Which is one of the most infamous beat Meccas ever. Straight up. How badass is it then that he flys in and plays that show at Portland House of Music, when only a few years prior you were cooking in an attic in Scarborough? That must’ve been such an incredible feeling.
S: “Man, it was super, super, super dope. To put out an album like that, with a homie…I can still remember it. The feeling of when we first started playing – we actually played the album in its entirety. It was Chan’s idea. He was like: ‘Yo, let’s just play the whole thing the day it comes out.”
B: Moments like that show really solidify how cool the scene is here in Maine. That was a really cool night, and one of the first nights I saw through my eyes just how ill this scene is if you know how to pick it out, and know what you’re looking at, so to speak.
S: “Super true, yeah.”
B: Having this rapport with Chan on VEIB, did that make you go to George Foisy to create another one producer/one MC vibe? How did you segway into Sorry, I’m Trash after the Chan album?
S: “Me and George have been working together forever. ReisXAnyMeans happened, and then Drive happened. And me and George had made a lot of records together. And then we had success on the track ‘Wave.’ So, basically we made a lot of those records on XAnyMeans, and then VEIB happened. And we had already had like ten tracks that didn’t make XAnyMeans too. Some of those will never come out, but some of those came into what you hear on Sorry, I’m Trash. ‘Looking4u’ was recorded, I don’t even know, the original stem was recorded three, four years ago.
B: Wowww, pre-VEIB. So you and George dropping a full-length together was a long time coming, for sure.
S: “For sure.”
B: Is he from Bonny Eagle, did you grow up with him?
S: “Nah, he lives in Sabattus. He went to school in Maine, Auburn maybe? And George, George is more than a beatmaker though. George writes hooks, and George raps now, all of a sudden. Which is cool, he’s really good at it.”
B: Sorry, I’m Trash seems like a really big album for you. You and George recorded it all in Maine together, and I feel like this is a whole new Shane almost. The best we’ve ever heard.
S: “Thank you man, I appreciate it. Thank you.”
B: Keeping it in the current scene, what’s it like seeing this more Internet-bred generation pop off? Artists like Bensbeendead and B. Aull. I consider us all apart of the same generation honestly though…you’re 30 right?
B: Yeah, see, I’m 25. That’s only a five year age gap. In the spectrum of time that isn’t a big gap at all. There’s this unnecessary stigma in hip hop where if you’re in your 30s, you’re old or something.
S: “I don’t feel old at all. I make jokes about it cause, having two kids so young, and being on my own, and working a 50,60,70 hour a week job…I think it made me grow up pretty quick. But, nah, I don’t feel old. At all. I’m definitely not as good on social media, I’m getting better at it.”
B: Even a five year age gap can be big in understanding social media, though. Myspace was probably the most popping thing when you were in your come up, but now it’s not even around.
S: “Social media has changed though. I understood Myspace, know what I’m saying? Like I watch my kid do it now and it’s a trip. But, that’s who’s buying your shit. If you’re really trying to do this shit, you need to pay attention to how young people operate. So, I look at my kid and the way that he interacts with his friends every day.”
B: I think youth honestly controls a lot of what’s big, culturally speaking.
S: “Yeah, I think if you’re really trying to do this shit and you don’t pay attention to how kids are receiving everything…for instance, going live on Instagram and YouTube. All you have to do is hang out with a seven year old for one day and all they’re doing is watching other people play video games on YouTube. So, why wouldn’t they wanna see all the things you’re doing? And I have a really hard time with that, cause I don’t always feel like letting people know where I’m at. It’s not that I really care, I just don’t even really feel like going ‘live.’ I don’t.”
B: I feel that. What’s wild is that it’s kinda a force of habit now. If I see something cool when I’m out in public my first instinct can sometimes be to…
S: “Whip out your phone.”
B: Exactly. It’s usually a reaction in my mind, and not my gut. I trust my gut wayyy more than my mind, so when I’m in those situations sometimes I’m like: ‘Why the fuck am I taking my phone out? Why am I doing that?’ It’s probably cause it satisfies my mind in some chemical way. That’s why I wanna break that shit. Especially since it doesn’t feel natural to my gut.
S: “(Nods in agreement) For sure.”
B: I think we’re at a good point here to kinda get into some deeper shit. Some non hip hop stuff. Let’s keep it in the state right now. How important is Maine to you?
S: “Super important. It’s peaceful as fuck, man. I’ve been to pretty much every major city in this country. And I pick Portland over all of them, I think. Like, the food, the music, the size of it. You can get outta Portland right now.”
S: “Right now. You know what I mean? And then get right back in it. You don’t have to wait in fuckin’ traffic. Like, in L.A., it feels like you’ve been driving for seven miles just to get out of the city. You know. It’s the perfect size and it’s the perfect vibe. Portland is top notch.”
B: I would agree with that, man. Everything that you just mentioned is in the handful of reasons why I love this city, and state, so much too. On the other flip of the coin, what’s the hardest thing about being in Maine?
S: “Man. Uh, racism. Yeah, for sure. I think it’s super sensitive to me cause I grew up in a white family, but I’m not fully a “white” kid. I’m very much Spanish, my grandfather was 100% Ecuadorian. Growing up looking 100% white, knowing that a lot of your directly family is not, and then hearing shit. Especially when I got to Maine it was bad. Pretty much like being a fly on the wall. You get to hear people’s honest opinions and these are kids, so you know their parents feel like that. So, when you go over to their houses and hear the way that they talk and the words they use and stuff. And I even really lost a lot of ‘friends’ when I started rapping. Because, to them, rap was incorporated with black people. And a lot of my friends at that time, their parents didn’t like black people. And they’re scared to say it. I’m not scared to say that about them, cause I was there and heard the things they said. They would never say it in public though. It’s been tough. And even now, I’ve been with the same company for twelve years. I’ve heard so many of these motherfuckers talk, and then they find out the mother of my children is Haitian, who is very much black. Her whole family is black. And my kids are mixed, and it’s tough. Racism is a huge thing in Maine, in this country for sure, and definitely in Maine.”
B: If we wanna get real about it, I’m 100% white, and I don’t ever wanna talk about someone else’s situation without me first saying that. Cause that’s even something I think people that look like me should do more. We gotta check ourselves when talking about these topics.
B: Cause I’m trying to be an ally. But I can’t call myself that, you know, and there’s always more you could be doing to help. That’s real talk that you mentioned how much of a disease racism is in Maine. That’s honestly one of my biggest issues with the culture, too. That can be the shit that kinda keeps me from leaving Portland and visiting my small hometown at times. In the past I almost felt like I had to “fake” explain myself to people in regards to what I want to do with my life. They have such fear in their own lives that they have to take their insecurities out on me, cause I do something they don’t understand. You know, you see some local dude or old teacher at a gas station and they’re like: “I heard you’re playing hip hop now,” with some half-judgmental tone and stupid smile. They’re like: “what, do you think you’re a rapper?” like it’s an inconvenience or problem or something. And then I think: “motherfucka, are you living in a fantasy world? If shit didn’t matter I’d be so angry but I know what game you’re tryna play. And I’m not gonna let you play that with me.” I try not to even let my head get in that space. But, for real man, I wouldn’t be talking to you in this room right now if it wasn’t for black people. Black culture.”
S: “Oh yeah.”
B: Black people made hip hop. And that’s legit. Anyone can join the culture if you understand the pillars, what they mean, and if you’re open minded. But, I wouldn’t be here in life without the work that black people did in the Bronx in the 70s. And I have to show love and appreciation for that.
S: “We all do.”
B: Straight up. Facts.
S: “I’ve always struggled to understand why people don’t get that we’re all humans. I just don’t understand, it’s super tough for me. When I meet people, I’m more focused on the energy that comes with them. Not their skin color. Never been that for me. I guess I really have to thank my mother, really. Cause that shit was just never allowed. We treated everybody with respect.”
B: Whose father was 100% Ecuadorian?
S: “My mother’s father.”
B: Much more of a light-hearted question, but can she whip up some fire Ecuadorian food?
S: “My mom can cook the fuck out of a taco, bro. Not full Ecuadorian food, but we always had Spanish cooking. My grandfather however, would blow this kitchen down.”
B: “Really!? Is he still around?”
S: “Oh yeah. The last time I was in Miami, he lives in Miami, the last time I was there I crushed some Ecuadorian food.”
B: Let’s keep the family talk going. Two kids. Fatherhood. Sounds like being here in Portland with your family means a lot you.”
S: “That leads right back into the racism thing. I could get a house for mad cheap if I moved out of Portland. But, at Reichy School they speak like 26, 27 languages. Know what I’m saying?”
B: Is it then a conscious choice to raise your children in Portland?
S: “For sure, absolutely (nods). I went to school with kids who were black and they were definitely singled out. And people are always like: ‘Oh, I was just kidding.’ But were you? I don’t know if you really were kidding, bro. I would never put my kids in that position. Definitely a conscious decision. I actually wrote a song about it, ‘Say Nothing.’ Kenya Hall crushed it on the hook.”
B: Honestly, mad respect. The fact that you’re aware of how fucked up a lot of rural and non-Portland culture is, and then wanting to not expose your kids to that, is real. But, actually even in Portland you can often catch peeps being ignorant and slipping. Saying, and doing, wack-ass shit.
S: “Oh yeah. On the flipside, there is a lot of dope ass people.”
S: “And I think that’s more important. To focus on them. I didn’t always feel like that. But, I realized, how can I fully judge you, when I’m not perfect? We all got parts of us that aren’t good.”
B: We’re all trash.
S: “For real. I’m not trying to plug the album, but we are all trash though. You have shit, like if your friends found out that one little thing you didn’t want them to know. We all have that thing.”
B: At the end of the day, you can only control you. And we have to make sure that if we see fucked up behavior we call it out, and be an advocate for what’s right. But, I can’t control what some Maine yokel thinks at the end of the day. Use your energy to do your best, but at the same time never forgive wack, racist behavior.
S: “I agree with that. And no one knows the right way until you teach them. Going against the grain can teach things, even though sometimes it causes drama.”
B: Oh it does. At the end of the day, ignorance demands education. That’s really it.
S: “Completely agree.”
B: How important is the role of being a father in your life?
S: “It’s super huge. I think the pressure of being a father is overwhelming, sometimes. That pressure where gotta teach your kids to be ‘a man,’ but in reality, I just want to teach them to be a good person. I want them to learn how to do things on their own. I want them to be responsible, you know what I’m saying? I want them to be respectful. It’s wild, that pressure, and I don’t think you really understand it until you have kids. And them you do something that triggers a memory of what your parents did, and you’re like: ‘Fuck! Can’t get that back.’ Cause that’s the thing…life happens in real time. And sometimes your kids happen to be there when life happens. And then you look at them, and you’re like: ‘Damn. That’s a scene in this movie forever.’ It’s a wild thing.”
B: That’s facts. And, when you realize that, it almost makes you wanna leave the editing room and get back in the acting role. And be like: “I can change things. I can help this movie.”
S: “Yeah! That was a wild transition. That’s a quote, props for that (all laugh). Make sure that makes the interview.”
B: Yeah, oh yeah. I’ll keep that one in for sure (all laugh). Let’s talk about more family. Sarah Violette. You guys have this almost destined relationship where you were both meant to be faces of the Maine rap scene. When did you first meet Sarah, and how did y’all start rapping together?
S: “Oh man, we met in middle school. Don’t ask me what grade, I think it was seventh. No, we met in sixth grade! She went to Hollis, I went to Buxton. We met in sixth grade, and she heard that I was rapping, and then somehow I heard that she was. Cause she would like freestyle on the softball bus. Sarah is an amazing thirdbasemen. I found out that she rapped, and I brought her five shoeboxes full of notebooks and gave them to her, in front of her locker. And they were all my rhymes. And then she went home and read them. That’s a true story.”
B: Dang, that’s cool as fuck.
S: “She then came over and recorded. My parents got me a Tascam recording device, and I returned that cause it was too complex. I ended up just getting Cooledit Pro on my computer and then my dad built me a recording booth in my room. So I would have her come over and then record and then we just became best friends in real life. Super organic.”
B: She was going as ‘Essence’ back at this time right?
S: “Yeah, I think I gave her that rap name.”
B: Ooooo, damn! Were you hurt when she dropped it and went by her real name?
S: “I was happy (both laugh). She was happy too. I think it was time. Any time I spend with Sarah I feel lucky, I’ll tell you that. Incredible person.”
B: I’ve honestly heard she’s one of, if not the, nicest person on the scene. How did you guys end up linking with P Dank?
S: “Oh, I think she did first. Ryan Augustus, Ghost linked it. Maybe the most legendary battle rapper around here. Ghost, yeah. Ghost kinda put Ryan (Spose) on to both me and Sarah. Sarah was first, and then he hollered at me. The misconception is that P Dank is some kind of label. It’s just a bunch of homies, we’ll always be friends. But it’s not like a label, I don’t make any money off of it. He doesn’t make any money off me.”
B: Just showing love within the Maine homies.
S: “Take it a step further than that, I’ve never received any royalties and I’ve never given any royalties to the two names I just mentioned (Spose and Sarah Violette). It’s an even swap. Like, I will rap on anything with them, they’ll rap over anything with me.
B: Y’all just rapping for love, no checks.
S: “Not everyone is like that though, which can be dangerous. Coming up I didn’t know anything about that stuff. So, I definitely learned some tough lessons. On both ends of it.”
B: What are some key lessons you think youngins should learn then, coming up?
S: “How to have the conversation upfront, at first. Um, especially with your producers. Like, if you’re going to buy the beat, then buy the beat. If you’re going to make splits, then split. Actually, I wouldn’t say talk about it at first. As you’re making it talk about it. There’s nothing worse than someone being like: “Alright, what’re we gonna do about splits?” I’m like: “Nothing, I’ll work with someone else bro if that’s all that you’re worried about.” Know what I mean? But it is good to take care of it right off the rip. Especially in this day and age.”
B: I wanna talk briefly about the merch line for your new album. All the proceeds are going to the JD Foundation, a local foundation that focuses on suicide prevention education. What does this foundation, and just helping educate people on mental health, mean to you?
S: “So much. The foundation in particular means a lot because it’s run by the mother of one of my very best friends, who killed himself. She runs it, and he killed himself when we were in eighth grade.”
B: Damn, that’s fucking young (softly).
S: “Yeah, so I played one benefit show for the foundation in the past, and, to be honest I don’t know a pivotal moment where I decided to be like: “Oh, I’m going to give all the money.” Someone told me to do it, and I did it. I think you said that you follow your gut more than your brain right?”
S: “So, I kinda do the same thing most of the time. I, I don’t know…know what I’m saying? I don’t know why. It’s not for the credit. It’s not for anything. It’s just, I wanted to put out merch and was just like: ‘yo, I’m going to donate my half.’ And my guy Simon said: “I’ll put my half up too.” And that was it.”
B: I think we say a lot more with actions than we say with words. And I think it’s cool what you did and it’s important for us dudes, young dudes, to be there for each other with solidarity. Cause so many, I mean isn’t suicide one of the leading causes of death in young males?
S: “Absolutely man, and death all around is said. So, I mean, whether it’s intentional or not. Know what I’m saying? Look at Mac Miller, man. His death affected so many fuckin people, even people that never met that dude. Mental health is huge, and I think it’s way bigger than any of us actually realize.”
B: Way bigger. Wayyy bigger.
S: “We all talk about it, but we could sit here and have a conversation about mental health and how you feel in terms of a certain subject, and how I feel about certain subjects and places. And, we’re just human. We all feel in certain ways about certain things. And, I think people who take the time outta their day, and don’t get paid for it, to broaden the horizon on that kind of spark these things in kids at a young age. They can go into a school and talk about how they feel. Some parents might be like: ‘Don’t go to school and tell people about you feelings,’ you know? But, it’s okay to talk about how you feel.
B: Straight up. In my experience, I feel like there’s this wack-ass, old, patriarchal idea in which men don’t have to talk about their emotions.
B: You have that John Wayne facade of what a human male is. Where the dude is like: ‘Shut up, sweetheart! I’m gonna do whatever I want, not talk about my feelings, bottle up, and implode.’ What is that? You know? I’ve always looked at people like Robin Williams instead, his character in Good Will Hunting or something like that. Someone that can tell you it’s okay. I go to therapy once a month cause I gotta occasionally get shit out. There’s so many important aspects of mental health. It’s crazy what we have to go through in order to see what we shouldn’t be going through. I just think at the end of the day it’s respect to you for using your platform to better the understanding of mental health. Especially in the art field, where a lot of artists can have mental health issues. Respect to that.
S: “Thank you man.”
B: We’re at 90 minutes now, damn this has been a long ass interview (both laugh). You down for some rapid fire questions?
S: “I’m down.”
B: If you could get a beat from any producer, not from Maine, who would it be?
S: “Timbaland. Or Madlib”
B: You’re outta work, hungry as fuck, what Maine spot you going to for food?
S: “Uhhh, Stavros. Po’boys too.”
B: So you’re a Forrest Ave boy?
S: “Oh yeah.”
B: Favorite Mr. Bagel cream cheese?
S: “Oh my god, the jalapeño salsa. Outta here.”
B: Teen crush growing up?
S: “Umm, Jessica Biel. Or Gabrielle Union.”
B: Favorite holiday?
B: Favorite Halloween costume you had growing up?
S: “Shawn Michaels!”
B: If you could have a garden of any three plants, what would they be?
S: “I want palm trees, cacti and bonsais. Bonsais is actually all three of the answers. I want a lot of bonsais.”
B: Favorite John Mayer song?
S: “Stop This Train.”
B: Thus concludes the rapid fire. Thank you. What excites you for the future?
S: “That we can do better with these kids. Open their eyes.”
B: What excites you for the future of your music?
S: “Being more in-tune with myself. Exploring, living.”
B: What did you learn on this new album specifically?
S: “That I need to live more.”
B: What does that mean?
S: “That the more I live, the more unique my music is.”
B: What does living mean, to you?
S: “Being free. Swinging on the swingset at three in the morning if I want to. Know what I’m saying?”
B: Facts. When I think of being “free,” it’s almost in terms of being in control, but by losing control. Being so in the moment that I’m looking at myself in third person almost. My soul has full trust in whatever I’m doing. And then you just get lost in that and you create within your own mind.
S: “Facts (nods). I wanna eat good food, I wanna have good sex. I wanna drink good beer. (Laughs). Everything I do, I just wanna thoroughly enjoy.”
B: Rap over hot beats.
S: “That too, yeah (nods).”
B: Lay in the sun.
S: “Definitely wanna hit the beach…it’s about time.”
B: Where will Shane Reis be one year from now?
S: “Hopefully with more money. Two healthy kids. And another album done.”
B: That’s my last question – unless you have anything else you wanna say?
S: “I do not.”
B: Bet. New album Sorry I’m Trash out now!
S: “Sorry I’m Trash – who would’ve ever thought telling the truth would work?”
B: But it did…boom!
images via Garrett Clare
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– Benny P