While the rest of the world was baking bread and watching Tiger King during the pandemic lockdowns, Rey Resurreccion was doing what he does best: producing and engineering music.
Throughout the lengthy isolation of 2020-2021, the San Jose rapper/producer made beats, collaborated with local artists like San Jose’s Allways Kahlil and Ljame$, SF’s Equipto and Hawaiian artist Jim Hurdle.
However, he also found himself at a low point. With businesses and venues shut down, he wasn’t performing live. He nearly went broke and gave up music as his regular source of income.
Steadily, throughout the personal struggles and heartache, Res penned his feelings, continuing to do what he does best: make music. At the tail end of 2022, he released Artist in a Pandemic, his latest full length. Written during lockdown, the album documents the tumultuous time, Res thinking of the butterfly effect of his years growing up in and running from San Jose throughout the West Coast music industry.
Artist in a Pandemic opens with the lyric “Hallelujah, spittin’ on you, Judas,” as if he’d been betrayed by life. Across the ten tracks that follow, he fights through the pain, finding success in the music and memories of his life in San Jose.
Res controls his album with beats and breaks of his own personal design, like the bangin’ “90’s Pinoy (cassette mix)” and the stoned Dipset vibe of “Love Me Leave Me” (Artist in a Pandemic’s first single). Following a brief plea for “Brighter Days,” the album brings it home on a smooth ride with “On Chrome,” featuring Bay singer G-Owens.
With the album dropped, Res says he’s changed his approach to things.
“It’s one thing being an artist and a musician, but this is also a business—something that nobody told me coming up in San Jose,” he says. ”No one is going to tell you how to make a living off your art and your ideas, how to be profitable.”
The San Jose native still remembers being a young kid on the block trying to holler. As a rapper, he began to mix his own Filipino culture with hip hop and Mexican banda music, most triumphantly on 2010’s anthemic single “The Hometown.” To date, the banger ode to San Jose produced by DJ Cutso remains one of the most respected underground love letters to the 408.
But during the pandemic things changed for Res. There were no tours, and only an instrumental album release. His last performance was in the middle of last year for a backyard art bash at Iguana’s in downtown, which formerly hosted a cult-favorite open mic years back.
Far from the mobbed crowd of “The Hometown,” Res appears alone in his most recent video, smoking a blunt and reflecting on the years past as he raps “Love Me Leave Me” in a single take.
“I always wanted to do more as a bigger production and get the homies involved,” he says. “In this, I kind of wanted to scale back my ideas and make them more executable.”
Part of it is practicality. Before, when he would drop a video, he’d see a few thousand bucks return on his few hundred dollar investment. Now, he says it’s the other way around. The internet is highly saturated with music videos.
It’s not all clouds, though. That saturation also means more people are making, releasing and distributing music.
These days, Rey Res is his own biggest supporter. He hasn’t toured since 2015, hasn’t been to many clubs. He’s just been in the studio, steadily building an arsenal of unreleased tracks to sustain a yet-to-be-announced run of shows.
Like a master who has obtained his first black belt, Res is honing his skills, deepening his certification as a San Jose big stepper. After all, he’s still got plenty of game to give.
“There’s like this creative renaissance in the scene,” he says. “To be able to paint the way for the newer generation and see them do their thing is super dope.”
Artist in a Pandemic