When Chuck Ree was in the seventh grade, he embraced an art form that unnerves most parents: rap music.

Raised on classical music and taught to play the violin and cello, Ree embraced rap music after he first heard it and was inspired by the music’s confidence. “It was like a new world,” he recalls. Two years later, he was writing his own raps, and by 11th grade, he was performing publicly.

Born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New Jersey, Ree has an exceptionally international background. He has embraced this history, sometimes flowing between languages within raps.

The most difficult, he says, is Chinese, because it is tonal. Now 18 years old and a first-year student at Pitzer College, he hopes to major in international relations.

Ree’s subject matter is less diverse than his cultural background. “I rap about why I’m very good. I first like to talk about why I’m the boss,” Ree says. “That’s pretty much my limit. I’m trying to expand.”

As a consumer of rap, the quality that Ree most values has shifted from confidence to authenticity, and he hopes to incorporate more of his personal life into his raps. But he feels constrained by his age and experience. First, he says, “I gotta live more.”

Ree lists two major influences to his music: Eminem, for his personal and authentic content, and the Korean rapper Dok2. Dok2’s name refers to the Korean word “Dokii,” which means “axe.”  Dok2 has a multicultural background comparable to Ree’s: he sprinkles English into his raps and is ethnically half Korean, a quarter Spanish, and a quarter Filipino.

Though Ree is happy with his life, he observes that it hasn’t offered much subject matter for rap, at least in the traditional sense. Like many rap artists, Dok2 and Eminem highlight their rise from poverty. Eminem’s music draws heavily from his trailer park background and a volatile relationship with his ex-wife.

Ree will have to forge his own path. “My life has been very peaceful. Rap usually has to be, like, a lot of struggles. But I’m having a good time,” he laughs. “It’s the destination that matters.”

Ree remembers his 11th grade rap debut as “one of the best feelings of my life.” He wants to work on his music more, but is also looking for opportunities to perform in Claremont.

His goal is to become the version of himself that he raps about. “My dream is to be a boss. But, I’m not a boss right now. But, hopefully, if I tell myself I am, I can be in that position one day.”

(Written by Colin Gamm; edited by Terril Y. Jones; Sept. 17, 2015)

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