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Righteous Reg at Streetlight Records

In Music
TOTALLY RIGHTEOUS: San Jose rapper Righteous Reg lives a normal life while also fighting the good fight.

TOTALLY RIGHTEOUS: San Jose rapper Righteous Reg lives a normal life while also fighting the good fight.

Every time San Jose rapper Righteous Reg goes to 7-Eleven, he says he fears for his life. In his tracks, the outspoken artist wrangles with his reality of being young and black in a time when the news features men who look like him getting abused and killed on a frequent basis.

“The scariest thing in the whole world is being in the line of fire of a policeman who is fearing for his life when I’m just living,” he says. “That fear is what fuels Righteous Reg.”

Reg, who will be performing at Streetlight Records on Saturday, first became interested in making hip-hop while admiring the local battle rap circuit. Although he doesn’t engage in freestyle battles himself, the scene’s hard-cutting style seems to inform his uncompromising verses. Succinctly, on his most recent track, “That’s the Way,” the hook features the line “being black is dangerous,” over a looping, snarling guitar.

Although there are many voices in “the resistance,” Reg sees himself as an on-the-street complement to the more visible activists—millionaire celebrities who speak out against injustice while often enjoying a remove from its most immediate effects. Plus, with the advent of social media, he can’t avoid viscerally witnessing brutality that might have been more abstract a decade ago.

“I don’t want to see people being slammed,” he said. “I don’t want to see people being shot. I don’t want to see any of it, but as soon as I hit the Twitter button, it’s there.”  

Obviously, Reg delves into other topics. Citing Nas as a major influence, he wants to be a rapper who is also a “poet and a storyteller.” Reg fits these labels. His songs relate anecdotes, stack rhymes and feature plenty of fun, boisterous braggadocio.

And despite his frank raps, he’s not hopeless. On “K.I.M.,” he returns to a positive mantra: “keep it moving, we gon’ make it.” The one-time minister of a friend’s wedding, Reg sees his role as a rapper as akin to a clergyman—he speaks on the concerns of those like him, so they feel they have a voice and a companion in their struggle.

“I’m regular guy,” he says. “I live like you do. I see the same things that you see. There’s so much going on every single day that I have to talk about it. Like, what else am I going to talk about?”

Righteous Reg
Oct 21, 4pm, Free
Streetlight Records, San Jose


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