“We’ve all just been having a bad case of Pandemic Pandemonium”
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about trying to sustain myself as a multi-faceted creative, it’s the realization that one path can lead to 10 other paths. The ability to walk across those paths—whether intersecting or not—as we please is not a privilege of the artist, but a right as a human being. We sometimes get bored with things easily and find our hearts in something even more interesting, but that doesn’t mean we should put one thing down to focus on the other. Who says you can’t focus on two things at a time?
Personally, I think being a multitasker is the ability to do whatever you would like to do whenever the chance is available. It doesn’t mean you must be a master at 5 different crafts at a time—hell you could be a master at 2—but if you can put your creative will and intention into the other 3, I don’t see why you and someone who can rub their stomach and pat their head would be any different.
I’ve met a lot of “multitaskers”—or “polymaths” if you will—throughout my time as a writer and all of them are special in their own ways. But today I would like to highlight one specific polymath that I’ve been following during the first steps into their dream career for a few years. As a polymath myself I’ve seen some of the work that this one person has done and thought “there is no way this person is human” but alas, we are nothing but humans. Trying to mine our way to the light at the far end of a dark chasm, but when it comes to this specific miner? This one has a lamp with him.
Ladies & gentlemen, meet Reem Unknown, the 21-year-old Baltimore, Maryland polymath I’ll be interviewing today. Reem is a natural-born leader, and I feel that is why I gravitate towards him not only as a peer but as a brother as well. His talents hold the potential to not only make a great creator but a great instructor as well. From using computer keys to create out of this world sounds to drawing out the confines of this world as he sees it, Reem is a man of many hats. And he could tell you the trials and tribulations of trying to make them all fit.
Recently, Reem & I were having a conversation about the state of the creative industry, and how they need to rush ourselves is the enemy. Reem being another one of my peers who understands the purpose of deep research, I felt we could connect some observations we both had made. This conversation sparked an idea for an interview that I had been trying to do for quite a while and lucky for me, I found one of the best people to speak about this with. This an interview I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time—and by long, I mean a few years. So without further delay, enjoy!
How’ve you been keeping yourself occupied and motivated to work during the quarantine?
Reem: Just doing a lot of self-reflective work; reevaluating myself not only as a person but as a man now too. Niggas out here be moving crazy so now I’m really thinking about how I can move to benefit my future you know? Like when there’s nothing to do what can I do? And that just works on my craft as much as I can. So, at this point, if it isn’t work-related I’m not motivated towards doing it. Inside I’ve done nothing but draw way more, watch mad Spike Lee movies and The Wire, listening to a bunch of different styles of music—inspirational things you know?
I’ve also gone back to the things that made me who I am today. These are things that inspired me as a lil dude to be a better person in the future—and I won’t lie I’ve probably been bullshitting the process a little bit and making shortcuts when I can but I see myself getting into my flow more and more now. When I’m doing what I feeling in my heart it doesn’t make me think I’m wasting my time, I’m just going about how to use and preserve it differently.
As young artists, we’re coming onto that realization where we see how much time we actually have to do the things we want to right? But we often come across obstacles that make the journey longer—Would you say the pandemic, and everything that’s happened within it, has halted any of your working plans as a creative this year? Or has everything continued with no issue? —
If so have you done anything to reconfigure your initial plan into something new?
Reem: Well when everything first popped off it was kinda like “Alright, it’s ABOUT to get serious… but it’s not serious right at this very moment.” But seeing as I’ve been on “man-time” now more than ever before shows me you HAVE to be ready for when it goes dark. And it’ll get dark fast, you know? You can be a word hustler all you want, but if you can’t put the weight behind your words you’re bound to fail. I never want to be one to talk about my plans and not do them so I adjusted a lot of my ideas around what was going on during the last few months and everything I can do with the next few. So I wouldn’t say it halted so much of what I was gonna do, but it definitely held a few minor things up.
But the obstacle of the pandemic has also inspired me to just do what needs to be done regardless of what’s in my way—and if I have a gift then I need to use it no matter the weather. You don’t have to be Huey P. Newton to help provide food or start a fund for those in need. You don’t gotta be Richard Porter to help put money in your man’s pocket. You could just do it, but once again, you gotta have a real definition and reasoning for your words. Niggas do a lot of performative actions to prove who they are instead of just doing it. I guess my plans have more or less stayed the same with no alterations to it, but definitely just a new mindset to go along with it.
You’re one of the only people I know who has seriously sat down and looked at the Supreme Mathematics for something more than just a new piece of the “culture” for others to use as an aesthetic. I think I remember us having a conversation about this same subject months before the Wu-Tang Hulu show came out–
How would you say that supreme math research has shown itself in your work?
Reem: To be honest, I have to separate my name from any “Five Percent Nation” subjects because I’m not that far into the teachings as some official members are. There’s a whole system you must be involved with to progress along with the ranks properly—and I’m grateful to have real 5Percenters to explain this to me. But this doesn’t mean that I’m not a little knowledgeable on what’s going on. I disclaim the name but the teachings still have meaning for me, so I would say the knowledge shows up unconsciously in my work. It’s sorta like “ABC” for me so it’s natural that I do something in homage or respect to it whenever I can.
Do you feel there’s a genuine trend of Five Percent Nation influenced work being brought to the surface of the underground?
Reem: I would, but it’s hard to tell just exactly how much of it is genuine and how much is being said to make something look different. And even with that, it’s not something you get away with just effortlessly flaunting around. Niggas do be checking for that shit (light laughter). Like 2 years ago I was in New York and it was mad “soapbox preacher” type niggas and it was cool at first, but then you get with niggas beyond that and you see it’s just an aesthetic for some of them at the end of the day. It’s not real intention or definition behind them it’s just the cool thing to do. But like I said, niggas will check you on that.
Another thing I’ve also admired about your work is not only your work ethic but your work diversity. You also released an EP titled “Bored Summer” 2 months ago at the peak of quarantine–
What was the mindset and inspiration for that?
Reem: Honestly, I was bored (heavy laughter). Like I had so much music that I was holding onto I felt like I should’ve done something with all of them. And it was hella unfinished music too like I had people in my corner telling me “I don’t think you should drop this bro” and the whole nine, but I went with it anyway. I guess the tape is really just a representation of my general attitude towards music. I do what I want to do, and I do it when I want to. I’m not looking for the biggest accolades or anything like that I make music because I like to. Whatever happens in the future happens.
Interview Interlude: Check out “Bored Summer” by Reem Unknown
“A collection of unfinished and poorly mixed music. Peace to the homeland, peace to the tribe in medina, peace to my dktm tribe, baby blux (colorwave 2kinfinty), maahes of the isa tribe, and pisces twin kdot. Fuck da feds and fuck any nigga driving a ford explorer. This project is sponsored by st mary’s oxtail. I’m out dummy.” – Reem Unknown
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All tracks produced and mixed by Reem Unknown
Would you say this is something a lot of your music fans will see more of? More random drops and impromptu projects such as Bored Summer or even a Bored Sumer 2?
Reem: I plan on dropping more loosies and extended EP’s than anything else for real. I’m at the point now where I’m sort of rebuilding my catalog. I had lost a lot of music from 2018 with an old group I was with, so now I’m just getting back into the flow of my work. As I said, whatever happens in the future happens.
So, during the time you lost all of your music how did you sustain your creative nature? Were there any other creative avenues you found yourself in?
Reem: Around that time I really started to hone back into my drawing skills, I had been drawing since I was a lil one but I never really did anything serious with it. But when I was in college it was one of the things that helped me eat. My drawings provided me with the money, tools, and experiences I needed to continue to do what I do today. Now that I’m more involved with what I would call the “scene” or environment out here [in Baltimore] I get to use my drawings for things that matter a little bit more to me now.
I’ve also seen recently that you’ve involved more of your drawings with your love of skateboarding and the trials and tribulations of black youth in America—
Do you know how these themes specifically came together in your work?
Reem: I started skating heavy after I graduated high school so at a certain point I felt like I was a new man stepping into a new, more comfortable element. So, skating has always had a place in my heart because I remember how it kept me sane a lot of nights I felt like I was going crazy. I’m not the best skater but it’s something I had a real passion in. And as I got older I found that same passion in drawing.
So when I was a freshman in college, I was in a graphic design class and I remember we had this assignment where we had to create a logo for a brand. Professor said to me “Find something you like and turn it into your own business” and off rip I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I drew my lil logo and sketched everything together and was left with what I called “Refugee”—at the time the name was derived as a safe haven for young, black creative kids like myself to have an escape from—but soon that would turn into “Slum Soulja.” The initial idea was inspired by the movements of like No Limit, Bad Boy, and just a lot of different labels and brands that took over hip-hop around that time.
After that thought came across my head I just had to figure how to make it more important to me—lo and behold I had the master plan for everything with me right then and there. I didn’t do too much with the full brand of Slum Soulja after that class—the meaning stayed with me but nothing I did was labeled under that name—but over the course of the past few months I’ve studied its usage more and what I can do with it. You’ll likely see some new content soon, just depends on the work.
With everything that’s happened this year—How important do you think identity and representation are to the young black man in our current time?
Reem: I think identity is the most important thing us black men have you know? I think we need to have more of a focus on being yourself and not trying to fit into boxes like hood nigga, or nerdy nigga, or fashion nigga if that makes sense. Like you could be all of those things and still be considered black, why because I like anime I have to limit myself to “anime nigga” and can’t relate to the problems that go in the hood that I live or lived in? I can be a weird nigga who fucks with anime and skating and still get along with my brothers on the streets regardless of my “interests” you know? If we’re going to have new black leaders we need diverse black leaders who don’t follow the boxed in cultural assumptions that they make for us.
Especially now because we do have so many young black kids in general that don’t have people around them to look up to, so they look up to all the celebrities. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or that’s wrong, because sometimes you need to see a black neurosurgeon on TV to know “OH Shit! I can be black and a neurosurgeon and nothing can stop me.” But I think when you don’t have people around you physically to tell you that you get lost in the process of it all. You start to think you can’t do that cause no one around you does. So to me, having those values of identity around you is more important than seeing it all on TV.
You have anything you want to say to your readers or anyone looking at this for inspiration?
Reem: First and foremost, Men—RESPECT EVERYBODY. Regardless of who they are and what they do, show them the same respect you would want to be treated with. Don’t just be out here disrespecting niggas because you feel like you the don dada or something like that. You give respect to those until they prove they don’t earn your respect. Respect is something that gets you killed, don’t play with that. Love yourself, love one another. Be kind, courteous, grateful. Respect your family, your elders, your peers, and WOMEN. I see too much of what’s going on with men not respecting women and it just makes me think that niggas don’t realize exactly how much we need them in the long run. We need each other for real. So focus your respect and your intentions on what really matters, and not just what you think is cool on the internet.
Interview Interlude: Check out “/:bumps_v1” by Reem Unknown
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All tracks produced and mixed by Reem Unknown
For more drawings and music from Reem Unknown you can follow him on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. If you liked any of the music you heard throughout this interview be sure to follow Reem on Soundcloud, and run by his Bandcamp for more supportive content. Be on the lookout for more art from Reem as the year comes to a close and we enter a new realm. We hope that you enjoyed this interview, as well as took a few words of advice from our guest. Once again—Thank you! We’ll see you next time.