With artists like BROCKHAMPTON and trap superstars like Lil Uzi Vert paving their way with energy and personality, the barrier for entry in the music industry has become so open, almost anyone can leave their mark — so long as they're ambitious and diligent enough.
Similarly, in recent years, Houston-based artist Reginald Helms Jr., better known as “reggie," is making waves in the hip-hop scene.
Between his well-crafted music videos and strong rapping skills, reggie is an artist with not only a unique and refreshing visual style, but also with a distinct voice that authentically represents his identity and hometown.
His first music video on his YouTube channel was for his 2020 hit song “SOUTHSIDE FADE.” The music video was posted in August 2020 and has accumulated upwards of 350,000 views since.
"SOUTHSIDE FADE" is essentially an indirect love letter to Houston, with multiple shots of the video being filmed in reggie's hometown.
The video starts with a rapid succession of shots of his friends and associates posing with different weapons and facial expressions. Influences of Solange and the Black experience evidently inspire his work and cinematography, and the purposefully grainy quality of the video is an artistic choice that allows the viewer to be taken into his reality.
The saturated colors and energy make the video feel both polished and personal, distinctly lacking the commercial appeal of most music videos that are released today.
Aside from unique filmography, the rapper's confessional lyrics are what really allow the audience to take a dive into his world.
In reference to his hometown, he sings, “Gun laws really don’t exist around here / But you can still catch the Southside Fade.” This line especially stands out, as usually rappers make gang activity a major part of their identity and message. But with reggie, he sings it in such a way that it feels like you are actively a part of his world instead of simply observing it.
Meanwhile, the chorus: “My city so big it make you feel like you on top of the world if you on it,” uses multiple voices to truly emphasize this factor of his life and livelihood.
While “SOUTHSIDE FADE” is a powerful and important first imprint in reggie’s musical career, his latest release “AIN’T GON STOP ME" features production from Monte Booker and Kenny Beats.
The song, which was released on March 16, heavily features a soul sample that continues throughout the song. Structurally the song creates energy by using beat cuts and phasing out different percussive elements, and this along with reggie’s voice keeps the song energetic and engaging.
Monte Booker and Kenny Beats are well known for their drum sounds and production style, but they don't overpower reggie’s voice in any way. He also uses his natural voice on this track, which is a refreshing change from the natural falsetto that he used on "SOUTHSIDE FADE."
With a run time of 1:36, the song is able to leave a brief but emotional impact on the listener. Songs like “MLK Dr” by Smino and “Song 33” by Noname are two excellent examples of brief rap songs that utilize a similar style to reggie’s.
This short but developed rapping style is reggie’s comfort zone, and his progression as an artist through his releases show an incredible amount of potential for his future. His music videos feel like we are witnessing someone who is naturally in their element, and “AIN’T GON STOP ME” uses well-thought-out production features which elevates his style to a new level.
With no album release date in sight, he has all the time in the world to hone in on his artistry and skill set. It's exciting to see what direction reggie will go in next and rap fans should keep an eye on this unique and budding star from Houston.