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Photo by Karlo X. Ramos

For Fans Of: Aesop Rock, Das Racist, MF Doom, Danny Brown, Black Milk, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire

Now that Queens hip-hop legend Despot has broken his silence, maybe the floodgates will open and new material will come gushing out of the secret Def Jux vaults. If not, at least we get this amazing video—Despot’s first ever.

Following up on his first single in a long while, the video for “House of Bricks” follows Despot through his hometown borough and stars “Mom, Dad, Jacob, TJ & Prince,” and also an iguana named Rex and a falcon. This is deadpan humor at its finest, and it fits the E. VAX-produced track like a glove. More, please!


Despot is a Queens rapper from Forest Hills, was signed Definitive Jux for five years but has yet to put out a full-length album. He has recently toured with Ratatat and Run The Jewels.

Alec Reinstein (born May 2, 1982), better known by his stage name Despot, is an American hip-hop artist from Queens, New York City. He was signed to rapper El-P‘s label Definitive Jux in 2004. Despite not having released a full-length solo album, Despot has been a part of the New York underground rap scene for over a decade. Despot is associated with the Smart Crew collective and a co-owner of Santos Party House.

Despot grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens.He became involved in hip-hop at an early age, claiming that its prevalence amongst kids in his neighborhood made him appreciate rap. Around the age of twelve, Despot began to hang out with a Queens gang called the Lo-Lifes, most notable for wearing Polo Ralph Lauren clothing. Despot identifies himself as hopelessly addicted to sneakers and Polo clothing. During an interview in 2007, Despot said the following of his time with the Lo-Lifes:

“I feel a strong connection to New York City street culture. Whether it be the violent side of it—the gangs, the selling drugs, whatever—I’ve been involved in all that. I don’t talk about it in my music at all. I’m not into the braggadocio part of that. (e.g. I’ve been to jail. I’ve killed someone and I got shot.) But I feel the Lo-Lifes is something that solidifies my connection with New York street culture. It’s something I am really passionate about and it’s something I want to continue the legacy of.”

Despot’s Queens upbringing also showed him lots of upcoming New York rappers. He claims to have been more of a delinquent as a teenager because he constantly listened to Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. Upon buying 6 Feet Deep, supergroup Gravediggaz’ first album, Despot wore baggy pants and carried a Panasonic boom box around with him. He was given the nickname “Puff” because of his marijuana use. During his years in junior high school, Despot and his friends rapped over an instrumental tape of “Worldwide” by Royal Flush. Despot’s friends told him he was the most talented of the group, and he began to write rhymes.

He attended high school in Manhattan, where he and friend Yak Ballz (who was also signed to Definitive Jux) would frequent Footwork, the East Village record store owned by radio personality Bobbito García. It was through Garcia that Despot would eventually meet El-P. After graduating high school Despot attended SUNY Purchase, but later dropped out “after realizing it was boring.” Despot still went back to the school to organize its Culture Shock festival in 2004 and 2005, and he performed at the event in 2007.

In 2001, Despot recorded the song “Cynical Bastards” with Lo-Deck on Atoms Family member Cryptic One’s album Euphony. The track garnered attention from El-P, who asked Despot to record for Definitive Jux. Despot released “Homesickness” as a single on Definitive Jux Presents Vol. III in 2004. Following “Homesickness”, Despot had his plans in making his album stalled, primarily because of his not spending time working on the album. He also believed a neurotic perfectionism prevented him from releasing songs more quickly. Despite never releasing the album, he released a number of songs during his time at Definitive Jux, including “Crap Artists” and “Look Alive”, which was produced by Ratatat. Despot toured with Ratatat in 2007, and his forthcoming album will feature their production. Despot was introduced to Ratatat through a friend, and he considers both members of the group close friends.

Aside from Ratatat, Despot has collaborated with a number of other artists. He met Ashok Kondabolu and  Himanshu Suri, members of Das Racist, in 2008. He was featured on their 2010 mixtape Sit Down, Man, on the song “Rooftop”. He has also been featured on El-P’s 2012 album Cancer 4 Cure and Meyhem Lauren’s Respect the Fly Shit, where he raps with Action Bronson on “Pan Seared Tilapia”.

In 2011, Despot appeared in the video for Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire‘s “The Last Huzzah” alongside Das Racist, Danny Brown, El-P, and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. He opened for Das Racist on their Relax Tour in 2011 as well as El-P and Killer Mike‘s 2012 Into the Wild Tour. He was also featured on Das Racist’s 2011 album Relax on the song “Power” alongside Danny Brown.

Finally, when Lakutis stormed back onto the scene in April 2013, Despot appeared alongside Heems in his Dapwell-directed video “Too Ill for the Law.” On June 3, 2013, he was featured in Vampire Weekend‘s “Diane Young” music video. In the same year, he was featured on rapper Fat Tony‘s “Hood Party” off of the Smart Ass Black Boy album along with Kool A.D. In November 2013, he appeared on Blood Orange‘s album Cupid Deluxe on the song “Clipped On”. On January 1, 2014, Vampire Weekend released “Step (Wintertime Remix)”, which included guest verses from Despot, Danny Brown, and Heems.

Via Pigeons & Planes