ONE JOINT WITH REESE LAFLARE
Atlanta skater Reese LaFlare didn’t necessarily set out to rap—LaFlare, who rode for Nike, essentially made his first mix-tape, Reese Vs The World, from a dare—then came Two-9, the east Atlanta hip-hop collective of which LaFlare is a founding member. Friday saw the release of his self-titled debut album, with features from heavy hitters like Pusha-T and Young Thug. Still, and Reese’ll tell you, with 19 years on the board behind him, he’s a skater first; it’s been the foundation for nearly everything in his life, from outlook, attitude, and determination, to style.
Alyssa Shapiro: Will you tell me about the first time that you got high?
Reese LaFlare: I was with all my friends, skating. That’s how that happened. I was just like geeked up. I didn’t feel like it was anything super crazy, I didn’t feel wild. It was just like, damn, ok I’m high. We had been skating all day, they were just like “We about to smoke, come on.” Yeah that’s how I felt. Just high. That’s the exact feeling. Ok, I like this, this is great.
AS: What’s your relationship to weed now, do you smoke every day?
RL: I don’t smoke every day. Maybe like every other day or every two days or something like that. People are different, some people are like, oh it helps me focus. Weed don’t help me focus. Weed would just make me high and be like… I’ll watch something and be like, okay this is hilarious. It doesn’t help me focus on an idea or anything.
AS: Has legalization affected you in any way? I know it’s not legal in Atlanta.
RL: I’m from Atlanta, so hell no, they still locking us up! Actually no, though, we don’t get locked up, they give us tickets now. You can have up to ounce or something, but it’s only in the city limits of Atlanta, I live in the city limits. If you go right outside of Atlanta, outside the perimeter, you’re going to jail for sure.
AS: It’s so crazy how different it is depending on literally which street you’re on.
RL: Atlanta’s called the city in the forest. And Georgia’s still super country, Christian. But it is great that they decriminalized in Atlanta. It definitely stopped a lot of arrests for no reason.
AS: Given the current political climate, do you have any feeling like you want to get involved socially or politically?
RL: Me just doing what I do and speaking my voice and my opinion, I feel like that’s enough. I’ll tell you right now, if I get too much into political stuff, people don’t like my views when it comes to certain things.
AS: Such as…
RL: A lot of things that I don’t fuck with. I’m not a person that’ll hide it. Stuff that I don’t even like to touch on, because some people will get butt hurt about it. You might have somebody that’s trans or whatever, someone’ll be like “He was doing something,” and someone will say “It’s a her!” And like, bruh, no matter if you turned into a woman, Imma call you bruh, because you just a dude. But I don’t speak on stuff like that because people get so offended and I don’t want to offend nobody when it comes to stuff like that. It’s a tough thing.
AS: Do you think saying what you think and then engaging in conversation is a way to make people not so reactive, you can open up a dialogue, someone could explain their experience…
RL: Yeah you can open up a dialogue but people can get so defensive and butt hurt no matter what, they’ll feel like you’re attacking them.
AS: It’s also an opportunity for you to hear someone else’s point of view, just like it’s an opportunity for them to hear yours. You might learn why calling a trans woman a “dude” is offensive.
RL: I’m listening to all people’s opinion, like I see what you’re saying, but me, personally, hey man, I’m from Atlanta, it’s Georgia, it’s a lot of that. If you come at me and say “Hey, how you doing,” I’m going to say “Hey, what’s up bro.”
AS: But why, when you know that’s offensive to that person?
RL: I’m not doing it on purpose. That’s just how I talk. I’m not scared or anything like that. I just don’t like getting into — everything is political in some fucking form or fashion. So I don’t like getting into it with anybody when it comes to anything like that. Nope, I’m cool.
But yeah, Donald Trump, he sucks. That’s my political view.
AS: You said Atlanta is like the city in the forest—what positive qualities did growing up there instill in you?
RL: Man, just always be yourself, just do you. That’s the most positive thing I’ve learned, and I’ll tell anybody that. Being yourself, not pretending to be something you’re not, you’ll fucking prevail in the long run. You can pretend to be something you’re not, and it might take you somewhere, but how long is that going to last you, you know?
AS: What about skateboarding?
RL: I can compare skateboarding to literally everything in life. You can do anything in your mind; if you think of a trick in your head, you can do it. You can try and do it. There’s no limitations to it.
AS: Just takes doing it over and over until you get it.
RL: Repetition. That’s it. I have a friend, he would play with fingerboards and do crazy shit on fingerboards, then be like, “Imma do it outside on a real skateboard.” It’s all in your mind. Like, “Yo I want to try this 360 flip, front blunt down some shit.” He’ll do it with a fingerboard, then we’ll go skate a spot one day, and he’ll start trying that shit and do it. It’s pretty crazy. You can apply skateboarding to anything in life.
Skateboarding turns you into a lot of things in the world. I learned a lot from skating and just being in the street in general. Being in the street, I’d run into all the trap dudes, I’d kick it with them, learn about this, know about that. They like “Oh we fuck with you, ‘cus you be on the same street we be on, but you skate, you on your own shit.” That’s how I got here.
AS: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
RL: Shit, rapping? [Laughs]. This whole fuckin’ thing. Making music. That’s a big risk. You’re taking all your thoughts and all your emotions and putting it out into the world for everybody to judge. That’s a big risk. That’s a risk if you’re a sensitive ass person.
AS: But you didn’t take it seriously in the beginning, right?
RL: Naw. I low key still don’t. The music industry is fake as fuck.
AS: So what do you want to do next?
RL: Live life. Like I said, I’ve always been fine just skating, and making money from skating, and doing that. Once I’m not rapping anymore… there’s other kids that want to do it, and that’s why I have LaFlare Records, Imma put them out, let them do they shit. Me, Imma go chill.
AS: What’s your timeline on that?
RL: I don’t know. I skate everyday.
AS: Yeah, but are you going to be riding for Nike when you’re 60?
RL: That’d be tight, probably so. I’ll go holler at them about that. I’ll try to be in movies and shit.
AS: Do you separate work and play, or?
RL: Not really. It’s cool. I’m pretty good at juggling stuff so it’s alright.
AS: How do you stay balanced then?
RL: Go ride a skateboard. Deadass. That’s literally it. Go hang out with all my skater friends. In the music industry, everybody feels like they’re not fucking regular, or they feel like they’re important, and I don’t like being around all that shit all the time, ‘cus, n**** y’all is not cool, y’all suck, so I’ll go hang out with normal people, and they’re called skateboarders. Fucking realistic. Go kick it with them, all the time. Makes me feel better.
AS: Is religion or spirituality a part of your life at all?
RL: Yes. I am a Christian. I believe in god. I believe in a lot of spiritual things. I’m very in tune with myself.
AS: Have you met the ghost in Tommy’s [RL’s manager] room?
RL: I ain’t met that n****. What that ghost be doing in your room?
Tommy: Chillin’. He just scares me.
RL: Yeah, I’m here all the time, this is my other house. N****, you didn’t tell me there was a ghost in here!
Tommy: I don’t think it bothers anyone else.
RL: So that ghost follows you. Check on yourself, man! It’s following you around…
AS: Have you had any experiences with a ghost?
RL: When I was younger, like six, my mom and dad had an experience with a warlock. I used to live in Florida. One night, I was at home, I was playing Super Nintendo. My mom and dad was in the living room with these other two pastors, talking to each other. My mom looked up, and she was like “Look, y’all.” You know in houses they have glass windows above the front door? She looked up and there was a fucking head floating above the glass door. I just saw it shoot off, I didn’t see the face or anything.
Tommy: What’s a warlock?
RL: They do magic. You ever seen in movies, maybe they have it in Harry Potter, they have the hoods on, maybe they have a rope around their neck? They can fucking make their head float. That’s what happened. I can call my mom and she’ll tell you.
AS: How old are you? Have you experienced your quarter life crisis yet?
RL: I had my quarter life crisis when I was like 12. [Laughs]. No, not really, age isn’t even real, so. Time is conceptual. I’m about to turn into Rick and Morty right now. It’s manmade; they made time to keep a schedule.
AS: So if we didn’t have time, would we age?
RL: Probably not. I mean we would age because our body gets old.
Tommy: That’s not true.
RL: Your body aging is real. But the actual, I’m this amount years old? That shit ain’t real. Think about this, the further you go out into space, time changes. You go out there, your shit’ll slow down. You must not’ve seen Interstellar before, you should watch that. You seen that, with Matthew McConaughey? Go watch it.
AS: I do love Arrival.
RL: Yes, I’ve seen that. Go watch Interstellar. [Spoiler:] There’s a part in there when they go on this mission to find another planet they can possibly inhabit. So they’re on the ship, and are like ok we’re going to go down to the planet, we’ll be gone for 30 minutes max. They go off the ship and land on this water planet, some shit happens, somebody dies, wootwoot, they get back. They’re literally down there for 20, 30 minutes. They shoot back up to the ship. Dudes comes out that they left on the ship—this man bald and has a beard. The lady, the captain that calculated the time, when they left they were young, so when they came back 30 years had passed. The dude was like, “I never thought y’all was coming back, but I waited for y’all.” A lot of astrophysicists and scientists say that movie is pretty dead on when it comes to shit. Prince didn’t believe in time either. He didn’t celebrate birthdays. He looked the same forever.
AS: That is true. Maybe we should all stop with the birthdays.
RL: Yeah it shouldn’t matter, you should live your best life. [Singing,] I'm living my best life, I ain't goin back and forth with you n****s.
AS: Do you feel like you have a clear understanding of who you are right now?
RL: I kinda always knew, but when I started making music and I started seeing really well-known people now that literally just completely copy everything I do? That let me know, ok, I’m tight. I always knew I was tight, but I’m really tight. And I’m tighter than y’all, ‘cus you’re not yourself, you’re flexing, trying go be me. I’m special. That’s how I look at it.