Fifteen years ago, rapper Reace Yung released his first original body of work , a mixtape titled “Heart of Lou.” To his surprise it didn’t receive the recognition he thought it deserved. But this was also at the wave of CDs transitioning over to MP3 formatting and digital platforms such as YouTube.
This month, he re-released the former mixtape and transformed it into a full album. This time around he said there’s better songs and it shows his growth throughout the years.
“When I first recorded it [Heart of Lou] in 2006 I was a lot younger,” he said. “It was a lot more street. It was a lot more violence that I was portraying in the music at the time because I thought that’s what was cool. I’ve grown so much through the years that the old version of me didn’t sit well with me.”
The intro is very significant for him because his grandmother has never been a big fan of hip-hop and rap. He chose the piano riffs in the background to honor her because he believes if she were alive she’d appreciate its soothing and melodic rhythms.
“If my grandmother was to hear my album; I envisioned her listening to it cause she wouldn’t listen to anything that had anything to do with hip-hop,” he said.
“For me to create it, I had to feed it to her in a way where she would like it and receive it well.”
The album is his version of how he viewed St. Louis through his eyes when he was an adolescent, and now as an adult at 33. He walks us through his personal journey of how life was like for him growing up in St. Louis.
He mentioned track three, “What I’m Doin,” is about him being vulnerable about different adversities he’s been battling.
“What I’m Doin is a record about what I’ve actually been doing,” he said. “What has actually been affecting me in life— recovering from my grandmother’s death, going through counseling, keeping my mental stability in a space where I can operate and maneuver in life.”
On the track he also adds how in his earlier rap days he received a lot of rejection from prominent figures in the music industry. They felt he used too many words in his song structure. But a lot of him doing that came from hanging around his family’s music store and being exposed to hip-hop at an early age.
He became fascinated with the art form and absorbed everything he was saying in his environment.
“I listened to everything I heard in the record store and spinned records, I watched my big cousin manage the business and I would make copies of CDs, take them to school and sell them,” he said.
His earlier experiences at the beginning of his career such as the record store shaping to present day exemplify the meaning behind Heart of Lou. It’s what he calls a gift to his hometown.
“It was very monumental because the music scene has really changed in St. Louis within the last 15 years and it never was like it was today,” he said. “Artists are able to do what they do whereas before if you weren’t a big name nobody was checking for you.”
Yung said the album is something where everyone from the city can be like “damn, I felt that because we all are one back home.”
“We all have a certain feel and instinct we give off that just clicks,” he said. “I tried to really keep everything home based with “Heart of Lou.” At least from my perspective how I see hip hop music through my eyes of being a Lou native, that’s where I get that from.”
He wants his supporters to understand and realize that he is someone that can carry the light for the city with the messages of grind, hustle, triumph and determination he has in his music.
“It's not just about partying and dancing all the time,” he said. “It's to really stand out there for the culture for real for real. Somebody that’s actually stamped, that’s what I want my supporters to take from that.”
Heart of Lou and all of Reace Yung’s other music can be listened to on all streaming platforms.