An Interview With REEF

By: Seamus Fay

Tagged by his ever-important slogan, “Music is Energy”, REEF is a Boston-based DJ for Cousin Stizz and producer known for enthusiastic performances and an unrivaled ear in curating mixes for any mood. In my own experiences, his infectious personality yields memorable shows night in and night out, and considering the positive mindset that this young talent brings to the city, he’s destined to continue on the path towards great things in the near future.

We here at Graduation Music had the opportunity to speak to REEF about his come-up in the DJ world, touring, and more. Check out our interview with him below.


To start off, where are you originally from?

I am from Boston, MA, born and raised.

Who were you listening to at a young age?

I was listening to a lot of great music as a youth such as Michael Jackson, The Temptations, The Stylistics, James Brown, Jagged Edge, The Isley Brothers, Avant, Chris Brown, Sam Cooke, T.I., Kanye, 50 Cent, etc. The list goes on but those are just a few.

If you had to listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Hmmm, that’s a hard question right there. I would have to go with Michael Jackson’s The Ultimate Collection because I always looked up to Michael Jackson. He loved everybody, was a true humanitarian, and made some of the most impactful music to this day.

At what point did you know that you wanted to become a DJ? How did you go about actually learning how to DJ?

You know what’s crazy? What really got me into DJing was playing DJ Hero when I was in middle school, but I didn’t start actually DJing until after high school.

I self-teach myself everything. I get inspired, then I focus.

How did you first meet Stizz?

It was around the Dojo days when we all use to hang out in the city when we wanted to get out of the hood to cleanse for a bit. I was just the cool youngin’ lol.

How did you become his DJ?

We were all chilling on Newbury – me, Stizz, Rah, Christmas, OG, etc. Christmas brought up the fact that it would be dope if I became Stizz’s DJ because at the time he didn’t have a fully committed DJ. So, I stacked up, got some equipment, and naturally, it went from there.

Name three food places in Boston that everyone needs to try.

Shittttt. There’s way more than that, but I would say Tasty Burger (Fenway Only), Silver Slipper (Roxbury), and Simco’s (Mattapan). There are many more, but those are my favorites.

Explain what “Music Is Energy” means to you.

Music Is Energy is a way of life. It’s a way we connect our energies within whether you’re playing a sport, running, dancing, singing, driving, relaxing, etc. Music gets us through so many obstacles in life and it’s all because of the artist’s and producer’s energy that they put into that track, just to sum it up a bit.

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What is your favorite city to visit on tour and why?

LA because I love cruising, listening to great music, and looking at nice houses that I will someday acquire. It’s inspiring and cleansing.

What is one story from the One Night Only Tour that you want to share with our readers?

Lol, too many long, hilarious stories.

What did Stizz’s sold-out show at the House of Blues mean to you?

The HOBs show meant that this isn’t the final curtain call; we all have so far to go and it’s only the beginning.

Was there a specific moment that made you realize how monumental that show was for Boston?

When Stizz’s dad came on stage and felt all that energy when the crowd screamed in joy. Amazing.

What can fans expect from REEF in 2018?

Music and visuals from REEF. I’m not going to say – instead, I’ll just do it.

Lastly, any advice for aspiring DJs and/or producers?

FEEL IT, THAT’S IT.

Thank you to REEF for the interview and thank you for always providing the city with such positive energy. Boston appreciates you. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the rest of 2018.

Follow REEF on:

SoundCloud

Twitter

Instagram

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Shea Serrano Talks Cousin Stizz

By: Seamus Fay

Shea Serrano is a man of many titles: former teacher, current best-selling author, basketball encyclopedia, father, husband, and the self-proclaimed “#1 Cousin Stizz fan in America”. He truly does it all, and with the substantial amount of Cousin Stizz-praising tweets and even articles that Serrano has offered throughout the years, it only made sense for us here at Graduation Music to ask him a few questions regarding Boston’s hometown hero.


How did you originally discover Cousin Stizz?

Someone sent his Suffolk County tape on Twitter when I asked if anyone had any good new music I should listen to. This was back in 2015, I think.

What are your top 3 favorite Stizz songs and why?

“Fed Up” is probably my favorite one because it arrived to my ears at a point in my life when I needed to hear it the most. “Doubted Me” is my second favorite for the same reason. And “Talk” is probably my third favorite, mostly because it feels like a very good encapsulation of what a Cousin Stizz is.

You can only keep one – Suffolk CountyMONDAOne Night Only. Which project would you choose to keep and why?

One Night Only is the best Cousin Stizz tape, but my personal preference is Suffolk County because I have a personal emotional connection to it.

If you had to compare Stizz to an NBA player, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would probably say somebody like James Harden, on account of how Harden makes the very difficult things he’s doing on the court look easy and effortless. That’s the way Stizz raps and builds songs. You hear them and you go, “Oh, everyone can do this,” but then you see people try and go, “Oh shit. Wait. This is terrible.”

If you could choose any artist, past or present, to collaborate with Stizz on a song, who would it be and why?

The perfect Stizz collaboration would be Cousin Stizz featuring Cousin Stizz.

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Thank you to Shea Serrano for taking the time to do this interview and for the tremendous love that you have shown to Boston’s own. 

Follow Shea Serrano and his FOH army on:

Twitter

Instagram

An Interview With Joe Johnson

By: Seamus Fay

Whether fulfilling his role by supplying Henny, ordering 50 wings to the club, or rushing an artist to a venue, the show doesn’t go on without the help of Roxbury’s own, Joe Johnson. As a tour manager for some of Boston’s most prominent names in rap including Cousin Stizz and Michael Christmas, Johnson has solidified his spot as a pivotal figure in the logistics of getting a few of our favorite talents around the country and beyond, most recently taking the wheel during Cousin Stizz’s One Night Only tour.

In pursuit of learning a little bit about what Joe does and how he does it, I had the opportunity to ask Joe a few questions about his life as a road manager and how this is all came to be. You can read our conversation below.


What was high school Joe Johnson like?

I actually went to boarding school for a couple of years in Maine. Outside of intense ping-pong battles with international students, I would say in those two years I was connected, literally. That was 2007-2009 – I had just gotten a laptop and was online basically self-educating, observing, learning.

What role did music play in your life at this point and did you ever think you would become a tour manager?

I’ve always been into music. My father had a Caribbean show on the radio growing up. He has played in celebrity basketball games (although missing every shot he took) so it was a cool experience. I was always at the station and got to meet some folk – Terror Squad in ’99, Master P n Lil Romeo, Christina Milian in like ’02. I used to always see the managers and busy people around and kinda wondered what they did.

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How has Roxbury helped to shape you as a person? 

Love and humbleness and civility. That’s what Roxbury has given me.

Describe Boston in 3 words.

Patriots, Celtics, Sox.

How did you decide that you wanted to be a road manager?

One day Michael Christmas introduced me to someone like “Yeah this is Joe, my road manager”. That was when I knew.

What is the most difficult part of being a road manager and why?

Dealing with artists with low bladder control can be a real hassle. Say you have 8 hours ahead of you and you just turned onto a 315-mile stretch and an artist has to use the bathroom. It can really hurt morale and can take upwards of 20 minutes to get back on the road. On top of that, you are changing time zones and losing an hour, so…

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Getting to see the artist’s dreams come true and impact fans of every background.

How did you first link up with names like Stizz, Christmas, and Leano? 

Stizz and I actually met at Children’s Hospital – it was my mom’s birthday and she was visiting my Aunt in the hospital who had just given birth to a legend. Leano is a package deal with Stizz that came in the later years. I’m pretty sure I met Christmas over a tray of baklava.

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When and how did you decide to start working with them on tour?

When they needed a driver I was the guy. I was able to rent a car and was responsible, haha. It’s funny because I actually brought Christmas, Stizz, Replay, Dan Mac (Rolex Daytona), and another rapper to Long Island for a release party for this old brand I was working with in like 2013. The first real road trip was in 2015, I think.

What does Joe Johnson’s typical tour preparation routine consist of?

Nothing. I just get up and get to the bag. I pack a little, but with an iPhone you can do a lot on the go. I usually make sure I tell my momma I love her, that’s necessary.

What tour has been the most fun for you to be on and why? 

One time we did a two-show run in Canada with Christmas and Stizz co-headlining. Leano came along for the trip. We hit the dispensary and racked up on like 30 pre-rolleds. The rest is history. Our Northern neighbors are great.

What specific show has been the most meaningful?

The sold-out House of Blues show as cliche as it sounds because we sold out the House of Blues.

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What is one story from the One Night Only tour that you can share with our readers?

Albuquerque. I can’t actually share that story but it’s a funny one lemme tell ya.

Lastly, what are your goals for the next 5 years? 

See Europe, win a Grammy, own a pair of Off White x Nike Prestos size 12, at least ten tour bus tours with the squad, and to meet Rihanna.

I just wanna say hi mom, look it’s me! Thanks for everything. Thanks! 


After speaking to Joe Johnson, it becomes clear that he’s not only passionate about what he does and the role he plays in the lives of artists, but he is, in every way, for Boston. People like Joe play crucial roles in the logistics of music and simply put, that cannot be overlooked. Thank you, Joe, for the interview. Best of luck moving forward!

***All photography courtesy of @perspec7ive

Connect with Joe Johnson on:

Instagram

Twitter