When S. Reidy released "Abstract Gravity" as a single in the pre-COVID days of 2020, the longhaired, beanie-wearing Norman rapper didn't know it would become the opening track to his new album. It was intended for a project called Open: Honesty, which he scrapped during the pandemic. The next year, following his well-regarded I Started Grieving Today EP, he began work on a companion EP called I Started Healing Today. It, too, was scrapped. The concept wasn't melding the way he wanted. Then he had an idea.
"I was like, 'Dawg, why don't I just put the best songs I have on a record?'" S. Reidy said.
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Simply titled An Album, with Songs, S. Reidy's new 12-track release is a collection of highlights from his incomplete projects, previously released singles, and new tracks that hadn't yet found a home. Echoing the understated and deadpan title, the record's cover art is a doodled black-and-white self-portrait. A run of CDs includes a scrappy, handwritten tracklist. This straightforward, minimal framework may feel stripped of context, but that isn't for lack of any. On the contrary, this is Reidy at his most self-aware. This is the context.
S. Reidy is as no-frills as hip-hop comes. His moody instrumentals vary in tone and structure, but many tend to feature him on acoustic guitar against lo-fi beats with minimal bass, if any. Although he started hewing his style in the ocean of Soundcloud's hip-hop heyday, he is only thematically an extension of mumble rap. A more fitting comparison to his organic, dialogue-driven approach to the craft would be mumblecore cinema.
"It's kind of hard to really feel a message from a song if your car is vibrating like an electric toothbrush," Reidy said. "When you're spitting poetry over an emotional instrumental like so much rap music does (especially early rap music), it lends itself to an atmosphere of being taken very seriously, and it makes you want to believe every word coming from an emcee's mouth."
Judging by the response, people are perking up. S. Reidy is hitting personal record streaming numbers this year, which is noteworthy given his history of having fun with the algorithm. On past releases, he teased gimmicks that he would only perform if he hit 1,000 streams on a certain release. These stunts included chugging a can of chili on Facebook live and taking a kick to the groin in front of a concert audience, both of which came to fruition. For An Album, with Songs, however, there were no streaming campaigns.
"Having some of my biggest influences start to find the music and compliment me on it has been crazy for sure," Reidy said. "[Anthony] Fantano retweeting 'Pipeline' was crazy...Hannibal Buress reaching out to compliment was insane for sure."
Both of those brushes with cultural giants came in response to a smooth lead single featuring none other than art rap pioneer Open Mike Eagle. "Pipeline" is one of the higher energy cuts on the record with fizzy production by Vhsceral and snazzy guitar and key samples. Reidy's lyrics detour from his typical introspective soul-searching here to more overtly take on societal complicity and fragile masculinity. This is Reidy at the top of his pen game, and he earns the platform with Open Mike Eagle, who closes out the track on a high note with a verse about shallow discourse.
Other collaborators on the album include UK producer beatsbypond and L.A. emcee A-F-R-O, but like much of his work, S. Reidy handles the bulk of An Album himself. He holds half of the record's production credits, and most of the tracks have no features. This extends beyond the album, too, since he doesn't work with a music label, third-party studio, or digital media services.
"If you can do something yourself, you should," Reidy said. "Some promoter needs you to submit a logo so you can be on a show that will be good for you? Download a free graphic design program and just make it happen. Some venue wants you to pay $200 to open up for a has-been one-hit-wonder from 2004? Screw that. Rap to 11 of your friends in your living room."
Intimacy is a hallmark of S. Reidy's music, so it makes sense that despite having played large stages, his smaller performances at house venues and art spaces have proven the more memorable experiences. His confessional lyricism and raw performances are almost too personal to translate to a broad audience in a more amped environment. That's a hurdle he plans to clear, however, as S. Reidy was recently announced as a headliner for this year's Norman Music Festival.
"I'm excited to give myself the challenge of making a large festival set work when most of my performances have an up-close and personal approach to them," said Reidy. "I've been to every Norman Music Festival since I was 13 years old, so it's a dream come true."
In the meantime, he is planning out the rest of the year with a tour through the Midwest, new collaborations, and a jumpstart on the next project.
"But who knows? Maybe I take four songs from it and a bunch of other tracks two years from now and put out an album called A Music Project with 14 Tracks on It," Reidy said.
S. Reidy's willingness to live life to its unpredictable fullest with a healthy sense of humor is one of his keenest qualities. Not only does it allow him to rebound from unexpected turns in his chosen path, but it also enables him to experience the full spectrum of human emotion as only he can. Where some artists brag about how many hours they grind in the studio, Reidy shrugs that mentality off. He prefers a rich, well-rounded life of meeting people and going places outside of music because that's where many of the most interesting and honest stories originate.
"I have so many moods, so much source material, so many feelings," Reidy said. "It just depends on what I want to hear, and, truly, I want to hear a bit of everything."