RED alert: Rhode Island artist drops music, life in California, music origins

Queens-born, Pawtucket-raised RED looks to renew lyrical energy in music.


The release of THEREALRED GF‘s debut project P A Y H O M A G E is the culmination of four months of taking music seriously. Four. Months. 

The allure of recording music has been at the forefront of THEREALRED, born Miguel Marquez, since at least high school. It’s hard to miss him as a staple of his wardrobe is always a dope pair of sneakers and his signature red hair. “I’ve always had a passion for music and back in high school I would rap/freestyle with a group of my friends,” he wrote. The friends he’s talking about is none other than the Code Green trio. 


With a sound akin to the ’90s and ’00s New York and a beat selection to match, RED has renewed a style that has taken a backseat to the high BPM, hi-hats, double and triple-time flows of modern-day hip hop. His influences are distinguishable in his music, but not by accident.


Photo by Phillip Szeto, courtesy RED

Born in Queens and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, RED hasn’t forgotten his roots even after having moved to Los Angeles — where he currently resides. 

“Making the move to the west coast didn’t affect my style or sound,” he wrote. “The east coast in engrained in me — from how I walk, talk and dress. Living in California has been dope [and] it’s allowed me to connect and network with so many different people.”

How It Started

Starting with his “Freestyle Friday” videos in January, he brought to life the verses that were normally saved for his closest friends. His first freestyle was well received by those who listened and from then on he thought of it as “confirmation for myself that I was moving in the right direction.” 

With the support of Code Green, especially Nesi who would encourage him to create, and his other friend IEZ909, who provided him with the tools he needed to record, RED was ready to start taking his content from written to recorded. From Nas and The Lox to J. cole and Nipsey Hussle, one thing remained the same about the influences RED listed — substance. While he has that lyrical sound, he wants to be known as versatile. 

“I don’t want to be placed in a box as a certain type of rapper,” he said. “If I want to make an island vibe type record, I feel like I can do that. If I want to bring you that R&B type record, I feel like I can do that. If I want to bring you some soulful type records, I feel like I can do that.” 

With producers like Whitx Rosx, also a Rhode Island native, and Hunger Force Beats, from California, RED’s found a stream of production to keep his mind off of one aspect of recording. At the moment, he’s engineering, recording, mixing and mastering his releases on his own. He said he can make a track in as little as a couple of hours which is why it’s no surprise that he released his debut project so quickly.  Though, he admits he’d be able to focus more if he had a dedicated engineer. 


Leading up to the release of P A Y H O M A G E, it wouldn’t be farfetched to think he was releasing a soundtrack to a classic mob movie. The name of the album comes from exactly what it says, paying homage. He decided on the name because he wanted to pay respects to an era that he said was “more than just boom-bap beats and drums.” The artists who came from the era were poets and storytellers who, through music, brought you into their world.

Photo by Phillip Szeto, courtesy RED

The mixtape was released as such because of the beat selection’s ties to prominent artists. He chose to do it that way because he knew he could build a connection with listeners.

Check out some of RED’s tracks on our Local Crafts.

“They hear the beat and right away it’s familiar to them,” he wrote. “Once people hear [a] beat and it’s familiar to them, [they’re] locked in. That’s where I come in and I put my own twist on it with my bars, cadence and how I’m able to switch up my flow during the songs. Since releasing the project I’ve received a lot of positive feedback which has been very humbling. It motivates me to want to create more.”


With GoodFellas references throughout, RED brings listeners to his world, painting a picture of his experiences be it positive or negative. The “GF” tag was created by his older brother and his friends when RED was younger, a play on GoodFellas. “GoodFellas is more than a favorite movie to me,” he said. “GoodFellas is a family, GoodFellas is art, GoodFellas is music, Goodfellas is motivation to overcome your struggles and reach the highest point.” 

Today comes with another release from RED, this time we get a freestyle over Scarface’s “On My Block” (or to some, the beat used in the classic Dipset Rap City freestyle).  The inspiration for the freestyle comes from listening to 90s and 00s artists. He listened to the Scarface song and then the Dipset freestyle and Cam’ron’s verse set him off. “That nostalgic feeling I got while listening to both versions sparked something,” he wrote.

He found the instrumental and got to recording the track. It only took a couple of hours to record and after he posted a snippet on his Instagram Story and received some feedback he knew he wanted to drop it. Check it out below.

Hensley Carrasco
Hensley graduated from the University of Rhode Island where he was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, the Good 5 Cent Cigar. He founded the site with hopes to add to the ever-growing digital music newsroom. Hensley generally writes about Hip-Hop, but other genres are not out of his writing spectrum. On the side, Hensley is a photographer, specializing in concert photography.

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