If you're into UK drill, chances are you've heard the name Reeko Squeeze. First establishing himself as a member of the award-winning outfit Section Boyz, the Lewisham-raised rapper has since gone on to pursue a solo career, releasing well-executed projects (Str8 Authentic, Child's Play), and collaborating with the likes of drill dons 67, grime's AJ Tracey and Donae'O a.k.a UK funky's kingpin. The range of these artists highlight Reeko's willingness to broaden his musical horizons, in turn ushering the dark and gritty sound of drill into other arenas.
Through his great networking skills, he recently managed to link up with the revered rap producer, Carns Hill. What started out as a one-time collaboration ended up becoming an exciting project between the two titled #LNS (Lifestyle N Struggle). Just like the title of this project, life has been an unrelenting struggle for Reeko. He often finds himself in limbo—between the roads and the music—however he's on a mission to transition fully into the star he's due to become.
Complex sat with Reeko Squeeze to talk growing up black and male in London, leaving Section Boyz to roll solo, and the importance of musical collaboration.
You're from Lewisham, right? I am, too. What was it like for you growing up in that part of South London?
In the early days, it was calm! Musically, it was all about garage and grime; it was about going to the studio and spiting bars. Even though there was a lot of crime around us, our fascination was with music. In terms of the street life, I've always kind of been in it—even back to school days. During my time at school, I was in the streets doing different things... I can't get into it too much, but I had some mad times. My main struggle growing up was dealing with authority. I didn't like anyone that was in power. When I was younger, I had problems with teachers and the police. It would be my own actions, but they didn't understand those actions.
So I'm guessing a 9-5 or university was never part of your plan.
[Laughs] Nah, never. I thought I'd always fail in those sort of fields. I'm not saying they're bad fields to be in but, in my head, everything that I wanted to accomplish was in music so I just fell back on that. But I still made sure that I finished college. It's only been like a year or two that I've looked at music as a proper career; before looking at it as a proper business, I just saw it as a hobby. But it's all proper serious now.
I can't say it's just the money, because I've made money and lost money. But I started expanding my knowledge on the business side of music; like, I even took a business course recently just to increase my knowledge on the topic and I really learnt a lot. At the end of the day, it's a business when you break it down and that's what I've always wanted to do: business. When I left school, my aim was to have my own business—whether it was owning my own shop or my own music label. Minus the money, I had a passion for the music. I used to do this all for free, and when you can do something for free, you know you'll always go hard and the money will come. I came to the conclusion that this is the best thing I've got, and that I can make something out of it if I just put in the work.
COLLABORATING WITH DIFFERENT ARTISTS IS WHAT'S GOING TO ELEVATE OUR SCENE TO THE NEXT LEVEL.
The first time many would have heard of you was as a member of UK rap crew Section Boyz. How did you initially link up with those guys?
I linked up with them through family. Everyone knows that Section Boyz have a big entourage and even though some of them aren't artists, they're with them all the time. My cousin was one of those guys—they basically used my cousin's yard as the chilling spot and I was just always there—so I met them through him. But, these times, it weren't even Section Boyz—it was just Swift and Deepee, and they went under Squeeze Section at the time. We then came together as we started to make more music, and, from there, Section Boyz was formed.
Why did you choose to part ways with the group?
It was a lot of different things. At the time, we were all much younger and less experienced. There was one extra guy along with me, so there were seven different guys. We weren't as comfortable then as we are now; everyone was hungry. Like, I couldn't sit here and give you one particular reason. It was just a thing where certain situations occurred within the group, and I thought it was best for me to go my own way before the situations got bigger and out of hand. It was a good experience, though. Without that experience, I wouldn't be at the stage I'm at now.
So, how are you finding being a solo artist?
When I left Section, I wasn't really making music but the love I was getting from the fans was the thing that pulled me back in. Going solo isn't as easy as people think; people think just because I was in the group that all these doors would be open for me, but if anything, I have to work much harder to be getting the looks I get. Even down to getting this interview with Complex. If I hadn't put my own work in, then we wouldn't have anything to talk about—except for Section Boyz. Being a solo artist is a lot of hard work, but I'm also in complete control of my content. So I guess there's positives and negatives.