Reese El Don Interview

Maurice Nesmith (born August 5th, 1985), known by his stage name Reese El Don is an American Rapper and recording artist of Afro American and Puerto Rican descent. He is most noted for being deemed the “16 Bar Cypher Champion” by Power 106 Los Angeles, which landed him a spot on a Converse Commercial. He was flown to New York City by Converse where he then wrote and recorded a song and score, including making an appearance in a commercial.

Early Life

Maurice Nesmith was born in Philadelphia, PA. His father was a security guard and worked for a print plant shop, while his mother was a transportation worker. Reese grew up on 9th Street and Hunting Park in North Philly. The stage name, Reese El Don, was derived from his childhood as he always expressed the mindset of a “Don” or a boss, and his tastes in expensive and named brand clothing as well. One day, Reese’s mother bought him some clothes for Christmas that weren’t name brand, and he asked her to take them back. His mother responded, “You must think you’re a don, or a boss, or something…” This was a lesson to be understood down the line about the value of a dollar, for Reese El Don. Reese El Don is also a double entendre for Resilience, Excellence and Discipline.

 

In his youth, Reese El Don played in the Pop Warner football league for the North Philly Aztecs a number of years, as well as playing baseball and basketball. At the age of 13, Reese’s parents divorced which lead to his father moving the family from inner city Philadelphia to Abington, PA, a suburb outside of Philly, where Reese then attended and graduated from Abington High School.

 

Reese El Don also dealt with some hardships growing up. There was domestic violence and abuse (both physically and mentally) within his household. One night Reese had to bare with watching his drunken father abuse his mother both physically and mentally, and then had to console her. This particular night stood out in Reese’s memories since he was in his youth.

 

It is also good to note that Reese El Don’s first rap name was Dime Reese and also had this alias as his AOL Instant Messenger name during his days of rapping with his group, R. Dot. Reese took on his childhood nickname, [Reese El Don, as his stage name from 2004 to present day.]

 

Music Career

Early Career

In his early teens, Reese El Don was in a rap group called R. Dot… they were the attempted rebirth of the Wutang Clan, and consisted of 10 members in the rap group.

 

Reese’s official career began to thrive when he was overseas serving in the U.S. military – Navy Branch. He became more invested in his music during this time, because he didn’t have any other outlets or contact with family back home. Reese El Don simultaneously promoted his music, setting up and performing while touring overseas in 10-plus countries from 2005 to 2008 including Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Guam, Singapore, Korea, China, Japan, and more.

2009 – 11: Lum’Nati

Reese El Don formed a group in 2009 called Lum’Nati (Luhm-nah-tee) based out of Jacksonville, FL. The group consisted of Reese El Don himself, Benny Brasco (now known as Aaron Blck), and Monstarr, who was his fiance’s brother at the time (a short-lived engagement Reese was in). The group flourished while it toured in South Florida at a music conference where they were almost signed to G Unit, the popular label of hip-hop super star, 50 Cent, and his known affiliates. The group then disbanded, and Reese El Don moved back to the northeast section of Philadelphia, PA.

 

2012 – 14: Moving to California, Don’t Go, LA2PA and 16 Bar Cypher Champion

After moving back to Philadelphia, Reese commuted back and forth to New York City to perform at shows as opening acts for Vado, Cam’Ron, and various other acts. Eventually Reese fell into a depression. At the bitter end of that depression, Reese felt like the momentum of his career was not moving along nor in the right direction, so he gave away his furniture and all of his belongings, only keeping his car and studio equipment, and moved out west to Phoenix, AZ in 2012. After two weeks, Reese El Don noticed the community in music was little to none in Phoenix, so he thought to himself “I can go back east to Philly and accept that loss, or head west to California for the win.” He then proceeded to drive further west to Los Angeles, CA, never looking back.

 

Reese El Don released two singles; one in 2012, “Don’t Go,” and another in 2013, “LA2PA,” which received 100,000 views or more in only three day’s time. Around that time, Reese had met with both Compton artist The Game and legendary DJ Skee on separate occasions; receiving both co-signs after displaying his talents and performance that year.

 

The momentum of Reese’s career picked up when Power 106 and Converse Cons deemed him the 16 Bar Cypher Champion on February 14, 2014. In the event, Reese was judged by Artist, Sage the Gemini, and a panel of music execs on lyricism through the first few rounds, followed by battling technique and skill for the last rounds against various MCs.

 

Reese El Don also released a single, “No Fux Given” from his LA2PA project. The song and video titled “LA2PA” from 2012 would be released on the LA2PA project and retitled as “Rapped Out.”

 

2015 – Present: LA2PA, Jack’n for Beats and HipHop DX

Reese El Don’s website went public in January 2015, followed by a promotional campaign that would boost Reese’s buzz the first half of that year. In the beginning, Reese El Don participated in the Jack’n for Beats rap competition by Jack Daniels the months of January and February, setting a record-high for most votes in a Jack’n for Beats history in an online competition. He went on to perform live at The Turn Up in late March that year and released the video to his last single on his LA2PA album, “Niggaz Talk” just a few days later.

 

Reese El Don made appearances and performed freestyles on most noted interviews during his promo run for LA2PA. Reese appeared on live radio shows, the B-Side Show hosted by Rabbit & Cece the Mamacita of K-Day Radio and Crisco Kidd Blockparty. Reese El Don has also made an appearance/performance on BREAL TV’s Heavyweights Radio hosted by DJ Truly Odd and Mike XXL where Reese featured two tracks from the LA2PA project as well as an extended freestyle performance towards the end of the show. Reese then ended his campaign run while making another appearance/performance on Firme Radio, hosted by DJ Choice One and Lucy Darling. At the end of his promo run, Reese El Don made a soft release on his website of his LA2PA album.

 

In October, Reese El Don was hired to HipHop DX, where he performed video production duties, and eventually transitioned to doing voice-overs, and various segments on-camera such as trending topics in hip-hop and the HipHop DX Year End Awards 2015.

 

Reese El Don was credited in the partaking of various interviews at HipHop DX in performing duties with videography and/or editing. The interviews conducted at HipHop DX consisted of known artists such as The Game, Jadakiss, Miles, Master P, and Planet Asia, just to name a few. Reese El Don is scheduled to debut his new show through HipHop DX called Organic Over Everything, which is also the title to his upcoming EP.

Musical Style

Musical Influences

Reese El Don has taken parts of every artists he’s ever came across to create a full-package of artists within himself. Kanye West had a major influence on his career, DMX’s style of performances and energy, Fabolous’ smooth swagger, wittiness, and punch lines, and Jay-Z’s commanding power.

 

Rapping Technique

Reese El Don is universal when it comes to his styles of rapping. He’s known for his somewhat up-tempo flow on slower beats such as songs like “No Fux Given.” His love for the video game, Mortal Combat, also shows in his music as well, incorporating ad-libs from the video game in some of his songs and freestyles. Reese El Don raps about his life with much authenticity, touching on different subject matters such as life in Hollywood, overseas in the military, the hardships of his childhood, domestic violence, and being organic over everything in life.

 

His latest project, “Organic Over Everything” EP, features a more aggressive Reese El Don that has usually been seen in freestyle performances in radio and screencast interviews.

Personal Life

Maurice Nesmith a.k.a. Reese El Don was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. He’s the oldest child of five, having one biological sister, a half brother, and two adopted brothers. He lives in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, and if he’s not shooting a video, or recording music, he’s most likely playing basketball or watching sports programs. Reese is personally known for staying positive and optimistic, and his willingness to share his resources with others to help them get ahead. “There’s enough ugly in the world, I choose to be a beacon of hope for humanity,” as Reese El Don would say.

 

Education

Reese Attended and graduated from Los Angeles Film School with an “Associates of Science” in Film in 2013. He also attended the Music Business Program and received a Entertainment Business Bachelors Degree.

 

Military Life

While enlisted in the Navy, Reese was personally responsible for the launching and recovery of aircraft (E-2C Hawkeye) on the Kitty Hawk CV-63 Aircraft Carrier based out of Japan. He was also a Operations Specialist (OS) in charge of the navigation of the ship.

Health and Surgeries

While in the military, Reese had a heart surgery. Reese was born with an extra passageway in his heart that gave him heart palpitations. The surgery took place in 2011. He also suffered a foot injury, which tore ligaments, resulting in permanent damage and surgery. This would end his military career.

Other Ventures

Organic Over Everything Show

Reese El Don debuts his show, Organic Over Everything, a web-based hip-hop show. The show features guest appearances and concentrates and consists of all organic traits in hip-hop history. The Organic Over Everything Show debuts in February 2016.

 

The Rapper & the Geek Podcast

Set to debut in late February 2016, The Rapper & the Geek Podcast stars Reese El Don (the rapper), his business partner, Kevin Akins (the geek), and Christina Lorena, the female co-host. The rambunctious trio and their personalities clash as they give their personal point of views on topics of current events in music, celebrity gossip, and other trending topics.

Organic Over Everything EP

The anticipated EP, “Organic Over Everything,” is expected to release in the first quarter of 2016. It features songs such as the title track, “Organic Over Everything,” which is the 2016 version of “Keepin’ It Real (Being 100).” “It’s Mine,” is a polar-opposite song on the EP, which is a representation for humanity. Some of the elements of the song are depression, physical and mental abuse, being positive, and not letting your past define your future.

 

Novata Productions

Novata stands for “New Beginnings.” Novata Productons is a production company and non-profit that caters to endangered youth from the ages of 13 to 21, teaching them film and music. “Life is not about your personal achievements, it’s about what you’ve done to help others and give back to communities across the world,” as Reese quotes.

Discography

Spiritual Guidance – July 29th, 2012

LA2PA – June 1st, 2015 (soft release)

Organic Over Everything EP – First Quarter 2016

 

Filmography

Commercial Score for Converse Con – 2014

HipHop DX End of Year Awards – December 2015

Hollywood Freestyle for HipHop DX – Jan. 23rd, 2016

 

Videography

Reese El Don is credited for shooting, editing, and/or both in interviews for Jadakiss, Paul Wall, The Game, Krazy Bone, Silkk The Shocker, Steve Lobel, A$AP Ferg, Jimmy Hu$tle, Jay Dot Rain, MaZhe, Miles, Rude Jude, Planet Asia, Tiron and Ayomari, and Master P.

I Spent an Hour in Jail and Everything Changed

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Every successful person has a story to tell. I’m not talking about the step-by-step process of moving up the ladder to success in accomplishing their goals either. I’m talking about the epiphanies, the life-changing events, and/or extreme hardships. Eventually those with a dream, or those with dreams who have put an x-amount of hard work towards living those dreams will face such events in their lives. Mine happened the very short hour I had spent in jail one cold night in December 2013.

2013 marked one of the worst years ever for me. My back wasn’t against the wall just yet, but I was heading down a path of destruction. It was a path never to be forgotten shall I ever remind myself in a moment of hardship just how bad life can get. I faced a lot of challenges that year from having equipment stolen out of my car, to working an extremely unhealthy and inconvenient job, to my daughter being traumatized by a person of great importance to her. I grew angry, dysfunctional, and drank on a regular following such events. Eventually my anger would almost lead me to cashing it all in… the consequences caught up with me, and I had to spend an hour in jail, being stripped of my driving privileges and faced with a harsh reality of where my life was momentarily, and where it was headed.

At the end of 2013, I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive my car in comfort very soon, was faced with having to hide certain facts about my situation for the sake of my daughter, and life as I knew it changed forever. After all the times of self-pity and concerns of how difficult life had been for several years then, my back was finally against the wall. I had to make a choice: set out to do what I’ve always wanted to do in life, which is become a successful graphic artist and web developer, or live a very stagnant life of trying to raise and provide for a child with no momentum, no good direction in life, zero finances, and the haunting thoughts of what my life could have been if I stuck to the original plan. That’s when life for me as I knew it changed forever.

I knew the potential and talent I possessed at the time, and knew how pivotal the quality of artwork and integrity I had in pursuing my career. I read about different philosophies and ideologies, and practiced them in my everyday activities. I conducted myself properly on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! By May 2014, I had been nominated for being one of the top three graphic designers in Pixpoint Magazine online for that month of May. Following several logo-design projects, I had a chance to work with a few recording artists in Los Angeles, CA in designing album artwork, websites, campaign ads, and much more. By the end of 2014, I can truly say I accomplished a lot and lived up to my very dreams of doing the things I wanted to do.

Then a new lesson hit me: some of the greatest opportunities in life do not have a dollar sign attached to them. That was just it! I had a dream one day during the Winter 2013 season that I met up with one of my favorite recording artists, Ab-Soul, and we discussed designing a website, along with a photoshoot, and album artwork design. It was a dream I had barely shared with anyone, just because I thought it would sound so silly for someone to listen to such a vivid dream come out of a 27 year-old’s mouth at the time. Looking back on the situation, I had been doing just that. Not with Ab-Soul, but with other hip-hop recording artists. Even more, it wasn’t just recording artists, it was other small companies I was working with too! Everyday lead on a new project, something new to learn, and something to accomplish.

2015 brought on more hardships, but I had my eye on the prize. I knew that living in Sacramento was only going to hinder me from succeeding in my career, landing a job with a top company, or even being able to financially support and raise my daughter any longer. I Looked around my mother’s side of the family and seen the struggle. We had been struggling for years. Nothing has been promised, but most importantly, I realized that nothing is promised as long as it’s not to your own discretion. MY daughter has been emotionally distressed due to the events that occurred Labor Day Weekend 2013, and I wasn’t able to make choices nor commitments to bettering mine and my daughter’s living situation nor securing our future. Something had to be done. I pushed the issue of me moving to Los Angeles mid-way through 2015, and even though I had such a great fight to put up with the family, and then my car being totaled and me nearly dying in that instant, it was confirmation that the universe had other plans for me. It was time to take on the world and move to Los Angeles, CA.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles since mid-June 2015, and already I’ve landed more interviews with ideal and dream jobs than I would have ever been able to do in Sacramento. Clearly because web development and graphic artwork isn’t so desired in that region as much as it is in Los Angeles. Now this has been no walk in the park! I’ve missed my child for the most part. I try to keep in mind on a daily basis that she is the center and reason for such a major change I am making. On a brighter side of things I’ve been able to interact with my once-distant clientele in a more local setting, I’ve met with big names like DJ Damage and Kevin McCall and have exchanged contact information to conduct business, and soon I’ll be ready to take on my biggest project to date, BREAD Clothing Company, LLC which I plan to release in January 2016.

Things only get better from here. I still plan to become one of the top web developers and graphic designers to work with, not only in the entertainment industry, but across the board of all industries in need of these particular services. I plan to continue meeting awesome new people in Hollywood who are just as hungry and motivated as myself, and continue to keep an open mind in learning new things to expand my scope of services to the world. I’ve had some awesome individuals who are clients-turned-friends like one of the most talented recording artists I’ve known, Reese El Don, who has been a great help to me with my career and my stay in Los Angeles thus far. The fire within me is ignited and stays fueled by fear and how fragile life can be, the individuals who show hate and fear me for they do not understand my mindset nor my reality, and the fact that I draw and write the passage to my life’s story! I am in control of everything I do, and I know that now.

I’m An Artist

I feel like there’s a misperception about us artists in today’s society. As much as we’d like to be praised for our work or blessed and powered by the Muse, our careers and lifestyles are rich in creativity more than rich in finances. Some artists will even refer to themselves as starving artists or struggling artist.

While this is all very true, it’s not often to find that many artists are financially set nor grossing $70,000 – $100,000 annually (at least not for simply being an artist or freelancer). Being able to take on multiple jobs is always a likely possibility, and artists will try and handle a certain workload, but it only goes so far! I too spent a great deal of time taking up multiple projects simultaneously, but as a result I lost sleep on a daily basis, sacrificed time to spend with my daughter, and have even had cases of low blood pressure and eyestrain. Sometimes, being too tired will also result in my work not being my best work and have even had customers ask me to revise or redo projects. It is a reality we struggling artists must face.

Photographers have it just as bad! In many cases, they book shoots and 50% of the time are being flaked on by the customers. This is definitely the case if a photographer is booking shoots with the normal and traditional setup of family portraits or the amateur musicians that lack a business mindset. I have personally dealt with booking photo shoots only to try and explain the use of contracts in a shoot that customers fail and refuse to try and understand. “Why would I need to fill out and sign a contract? You’re just taking my pictures,” as one would say. The use of photos after the fact is a much bigger deal in what the photographer might want to do with the photos for promotional reasons or what the customer might want to do that may conflict with the licensing and rights of the photos taken.

Last, but not least, those artists who practice great ethics not only in the quality of their work, but on the business aspect of things will continue to be praised; however, there is a much bigger problem at hand. There are just as many amateur artists willing to do business for almost nothing, and there are also those who never exercise the artistic value in projects that will charge customers and clientele an arm and a leg. The bad thing about those artists in particular that charge so much and do so little is that the customers and clients get cheated out of their deal and experience, and more than half of them don’t even realize it. To many people, a website design with no artistic value nor user experience being applied to it is just a website after all. A photo taken with no balance nor focal point is just a photo as well. People don’t realize what they’re being cheated out of, nor do they understand the real value, the time, and the steps taken to create such works of art to begin with. This is why we artists struggle.

I get it! This sounds like I’m bickering about my career as an artist and maybe I should do something about it to change the situation. The truth is, I absolutely love what it is I do. Every new project I take on is a brand new learning experience and practice! I get better by the project! Most importantly, I love to see the reactions of my clientele and customers when I bring their visions to life. A friend of mine once said that thoughts become things. I’ve always found the phrase to be quite intriguing and relative to the challenge of putting my thoughts on paper or bringing my work to life.

What I’m saying is that there is no flashy lifestyle for most of us. Some are fortunate enough to meet awesome people on a daily basis depending on if they’re in the entertainment industry or not, but we make due with what we have. We’re in it for the love of art, and more importantly, being an artist requires no degree nor an x-amount of dollars. Some of the most amazing artists can be found on the corners of the busiest intersections in any major city! Some of them are even homeless! As artists, we don’t ask for much. All we want is for our work to be seen, our words to be heard, and for the world to observe and listen to our hard work for years to come.

Jack’n for Beats – MY Experience, Part Deuce

Earlier this year, I helped my client and friend, Reese El Don in designing some flyers for a Hip-Hop freestyle competition held by Cuzz Morgan, at Cuzz Promotions, and Tennessee Honey Jack Daniels. For the most part, this competition was a success for Reese as he made it all the way to the finals. Watching him from afar (via the Internet) was quite an experience. His energy was amazing! In the end, he didn’t win the competition, but for the first time, I seen something I made spread all over the Internet. The flyers for the Jack’n for Beats competition help Reese El Don get over 5000-plus votes, and he quickly became the record holder (still today) of the most votes in a Jack’n for Beats competition.

So, why is this all important to me? They’re just flyers at the end of the day, right? Imagine getting on Facebook, and a friend sends a flyer to your timeline. Most likely, you would probably ignore it or become easily irritated at the idea of people being able to send such things to a timeline. Or what about the flyers sent via electronic invite, and you still don’t bother to read the actual flyer?

I see this all the time with flyers. Even the flyers to some radio shows that I’ve seen and listened to Reese El Don being featured on or co-hosted!  Artists are being poorly cropped out of photos, placed right into a pile of tacky typography with a poor level of type/font contrast, and have no refined edges so the artists look like they were literally cut out of a magazine article at the centerfold.

When it comes to designing for flyers, it is important to include a sense of artistic value and direction. When a great photographer takes a photo, his/her shot is most likely premeditated, and a balanced and clean photo is produced. Even better, this ideal photographer will have less photos to work with and decide from when it comes to post-production. The same concept can be applied to designing flyers for events. Clean and balanced work with a message to get across, “Reese El Don, returning competitor and record holder for most votes in a Jack’n for Beats competition. Place your vote!”

The message and objective is simple. No extras need to be added. Even more, if you focus on the main subject of the flyer, those you send the flyer to may actually read the flyer, and follow instructions. I believe people want to see a beautiful flyer over a cluttered one anyway. Here are some pics of the making of the flyers I made today.

Facebook cover photo for Reese El Don's Facebook page.
Facebook cover photo for Reese El Don’s Facebook page.
Default photo for Reese El Don's Facebook page. This can also be used with Twitter and Instagram.
Default photo for Reese El Don’s Facebook page. This can also be used with Twitter and Instagram.
Photo Jul 20, 4 30 23 PM
The making of the Jack’n for Beats logo in Illustrator
Photo Jul 20, 10 47 54 PM
Placing and embedding the logo made in Illustrator to the photoshop files sized up to the dimensions of the Facebook cover photo and default portrait. Placing the logo in there as a smart object!

Kevin Akins v3.0

Responsive-showcase-presentationWelcome to KevinAkins.com! This is my first layout I’ve done since I transitioned from using the .me extension. So why did I make the switch to just a regular .com extension? For a few good reasons:

  1. I needed to update my hosting with godaddy.com to the cPanel instead of the old linux interface I was using since May 2010.
  2. Of some importance, almost nobody searches for someone’s website and types in the extension “.me.” Naturally, if I’m browsing the Internet, and I’m looking for a particular company or individual site, but don’t have any contact information like a business card nor flyer with the web address, I’m going to assume it ends in .com. If not .com, then I’ll assume it’s .net or .org.
  3. It was just time for something new… a new direction, new kind of website, with three-times the content from what I started out with originally.

Today’s kevinakins.com site features a minimalist design with responsive web features (mobile-first), flat icons with transitioning effects, a grid-style gallery, along with mobile accordions and carousels, and of course a blog page! Viewers and fans of the site will be able to both contact me and subscribe to my newsletter.

Be sure to head over to kevinakins.com, subscribe, and stay updated with the latest projects I am working on across the board of web design, graphic art, and photography.