Interview: Rexx Life Raj Balances the Good and the Bad on “Built for Everything”

Rexx Life Raj © Yazid Johnson
Rexx Life Raj © Yazid Johnson
Like a diamond, pressure has squeezed Rexx Life Raj into a phenom with a mantra: “Built For Everything.”
Stream: “Built for Everything” – Rexx Life Raj

It isn’t just the glittering vocals and effortless rhymes that makes the music of Rexx Life Raj (real name Faraji Wright) feel as rare and gleaming as a diamond. It is also in his combo of simplistic beats and complex ideas – and in the pressure that’s helped him compress carbon into creativity, just like the gemstone.

See, he’s a man of his community. In some ways, it’s all coming up Raj: A full European tour after he switched from playing college football. But, as we know, all that glitters isn’t always great. To get to where he is today – a silky smooth singer who’s rapping will stop you in your tracks – he’s had to deal with systemic injustice, personal loss, and survivors guilt. 

“I’m a man who always tries to give back in some type of way and put people in position and all that type of stuff,” says Raj. “It’s for sure pressure, because I know what it feels like to be able to employ people around you – and employ people in ways where it’s working, but it doesn’t feel like work. I’m able to take people around the world and give them new experiences that they never had to see, different places they’ve never been. I feel like that’s what you’re supposed to do, especially where I come from, where people don’t get those opportunities.” This added pressure leads to an almost survivor’s guilt reaction to his success. “For me to win and them to not be able to win is not the best feeling. It’s kind of like a bittersweet feeling.”

But like a diamond, the pressure has squeezed Raj into a phenom. And now he’s a diamond with a mantra: “So, my mom has been sick over the course of the pandemic – she got sick last year. And I remember having a conversation with my cousin, because I was going through a lot, and he was like ‘hey man, just know that you’re built for this; you’re built for everything.”

Rexx Life Raj © Marcus Byrd
Rexx Life Raj © Marcus Byrd

His latest single, “Built for Everything,” encapsulates the tumult of chasing dreams in a chaotic world. This simple motto has become a calling card for Raj – and something he hopes other people can carry with them too. “I feel like that’s just an affirmation for me and for a lot of people. Whatever you’re going through, it’s just an affirmation like ‘you were built for it and you can do it.’”

I’ve been shedding things that’s weighing heavy on me
God, what you got ready for me?
I was built for everything.
I was built for everything, everything

What really makes the track so hard hitting is the simple, held-back beat. After receiving a loop pack – “an acoustic version of a beat with no drums” that is supposed to be the starter for a song – that really struck him, he decided simplicity was the best way forward. “The loop just spoke to me like it was. And I remember I just started writing on the spot and that’s kind of what came to me in the moment.” When your vocals have the percussive quality Raj’s does, no drums is no problem.

Built for Everything - Rexx Life Raj
Built for Everything – Rexx Life Raj

There’s also a catharsis to the whole track. Raj is tackling everything in his life, putting all the pains as well as the pleasures into the track. “Built for Everything” offers a sweeping look at how success, for a Black man, is still never completely free from systemic racism and oppression.

My nigga did a bid for some weed
And he still in there
The white boy sold the same thing
Now he a millionaire 
I been in the mix like I’m Alex Tumay
Bitch I crowned myself
So fuck all yo flowers
Bitch I need bouquets
Prototypical nigga
I love chicken and koolaid
But was conscious of my skin tone
Before I could tie my shoe lace

This thundering reality feels like another instrument. It’s also another fascinating side of Raj, complimenting the goofiness he has showcased on previous releases. Raj’s ability to put these two sides together is both planned and impressive, and comes from two legends: “I remember I was listening to Kendrick Lamar, and he had a quote he got from Jay-Z, because he was having the same kind of dilemma and Jay Z was like, “do it now, do everything now, so they can’t box you in.”

Rexx Life Raj © Marcus Mitchell Jr.
Rexx Life Raj © Marcus Mitchell Jr.

However, like most things in Raj’s life, it was the advice of someone closest to home that put it all into perspective – and made his music some of the most expressive and moving hip-hop today. “I remember talking to my friend about it, because at one point I used to struggle with that, like ‘yo, I don’t want people to perceive me as this, or perceive me as that,’” says Raj. “And he was like, yeah that’s the way you should be going because at the end of the day you’re all of that, you’re everything: You’re funny, you’re serious, you’re witty, you’re comical, you’re everything, and to be able to put that in your music opens you up to being able to just be free within your art.”

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Stream: “Built for Everything” – Rexx Life Raj

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