Meet Lil Reek, the Teenage Rapper Punching Above His Weight

The Atlanta upstart may be small, but his sound is not.

As he makes his way backstage after his first-ever live show, Lil Reek is confronted by a middle-aged white woman in glasses. Cheeks flushed with excitement, she bends at the waist and places her hands on her knees as she speaks: “You’re so cute! How old are you exactly?”

Reek’s crew, an array of barrel-chested, linebacker-size guys, seem stymied by the woman’s assertiveness. But the five-foot-and-change rapper doesn’t blink. “I’m 12, ma’am,” says Reek, coating his answer with an affected innocence.

Reek, real name Tyreke Curry, is not 12. He’s 17 and a recent high school graduate in his native Atlanta. But his tiny physique and impish voice make it hard to tell. And Reek, who operates with a stone-cold business mentality, likes to mess with people who peg him as tweenish at first blush. “I do it for entertainment,” he tells me cooly in the basement greenroom of Queens’ MoMA PS1 after his performance in July. “I’ve always been underestimated ’cause of my size.”

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