Reporter, Kate Aksyonov
Standing behind the curtain… waiting. They just introduced him. The crowd goes wild. The lights go out. For a brief second, he’s just that little boy performing in front of his parents with the sideways baseball cap. He relaxes, lets go, and does what he’s born to do- rap.
Every student has a passion. Some bounce it on the court, others pour it into their essays, mastering their curveball, dominating a canvas. Some sing songs. And one writes them. Ever since sophomore year, senior Luke Reelfs has had a passion for rap music.
“I started [songwriting] a super long time ago, actually,” Reelfs said. “When I was really young, I always used to write songs and perform for my parents and family. I’d dress up in these big football shirts and put on a sideways hat.”
Over the last two years, his dreams have morphed into a reality. In September of 2015, Reelfs produced his first song on his Soundcloud (Luke Reelfs): a remix of J. Cole’s Love Yourz. After receiving 12.6 thousand views on this song alone, Reelfs took his career a step further when he performed at last year’s Crystal Cup at Elkhorn South.
“The first performance I had in front of a lot of people actually was at our show choir competition last year, and there was around 1,500 people,” Reelfs said. “So that was a crazy first performance, and that’s when I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I love performing so much; I think the rush of the stage is crazy, and I love it to death.”
Before a song is produced, it is written. Reelfs prides himself on his 100% original songs that he creates with the help of close friend, Ryan Vandergriend, who goes by Ryan Michael while producing and songwriting.
The pair started working together Michaels’s senior year, when Reelfs recruited him to work on rap beats, and ever since then, the two have been creating full tracks and mixtapes together.
“And what it’s like working with him?” Michaels said. “The man is a lyrical genius. I’ll make a rough beat on my own time and send it to him, and every time he comes fully prepared with some of the most impressive lyricism I’ve ever seen. Also, his work ethic is beyond belief.”
Reelfs first finds an instrumental or a beat, and from then on it’s a blank canvas. Occasionally, Michael comes up with a word or lyric that Reelfs can work with, but other times a song is correlated with Reelfs’ life.
“I just come up with a concept for a song,” Reelfs said. “It just depends on what the beat is like, what I feel like talking about, writing about, or if anything happened recently that I can write about. Typically, it does not take me super long; I can sit and finish songs or verses in a few hours.”
Reelfs’ music style doesn’t mimic offensive or explicit rap; instead it follows the lead of his music inspiration NF by keeping lyrics and messages clean.
“I want to be different than a lot of people, and the thing with my music is- I love it to death- but it’s bigger than myself,” Reelfs said. ”I do it to help other people, and I do it to make others feel better about themselves… That’s just how I am; I don’t swear, and I don’t put it [explicit content] in my music.”
Adversity has been a negative player in Reelfs’ success, and he was expecting it. As he puts it, “I’m a white, clean rapper who goes to Elkhorn South.”
But despite the hard times and discouragement, Reelfs recognizes the importance of focusing on the positive.
“Almost every positive text, tweet, DM, I screenshot and save in my phone,” Reelfs explains. “People might think that it goes unnoticed or that I’m just like ‘another person told me my song was good,’ but literally, I screenshot everything and keep it in a folder in my phone. There’s 100 some messages that I can scroll through whenever I’m feeling down or just want to look at other people telling me that my music has helped them with something.”
As well as support online from fans, Reelfs has certain people supporting him in his life that are the foundation for his success. As time has gone on, this experience has separated Reelfs true friends from everyone else. Even so, he realizes and appreciates everything his family does for him.
“My family’s been super supportive; they are doing a lot to help me and giving me time to work on my music,” Reelfs said. “It stinks because I’m not around as much as I am working a lot on music. My parents are super supportive; they come to everything I perform at or they listen and share my songs. I’m super thankful for that.”
That support has become essential for building the foundation of what Reelfs will pursue in the extended future.
“People don’t understand this isn’t a joke to me or a hobby; this is what I want to do for a career,” Reelfs said. “I know it seems crazy, and people look at me and think that it’s stupid or that I can’t do it, but at the end of the day what other people think of what I’m doing isn’t going to matter. If I’m happy, and if I’m doing what I love, then I’ll be happy. I’m not trying to become famous, I just want to make music.”