Drama builds some of hip-hop’s finest characters. See Trae Tha Truth, the Houston legend whose share of ups and downs have only made him stronger. After being banned from several radio stations nationwide, surviving the 2012 shooting at his annual Trae Day event that left him a bloodied mess and three others (Carlos Durell “Dinky D” Dorsey, Erica Rochelle Dotson and Coy “Poppa C” Thompson) dead, Trae continues pushing, iced out grills and all.
The “Swang” rapper has been on a steady mixtape run since his last album, 2011’s Street King, and now, he’s making his LP return with Tha Truth (which hits the streets on July 24), featuring the singles “Tricken Every Car I Get” co-starring Future and Boosie Badazz, and the Rick Ross-assisted “I Don’t Give A F**k.”
With rap’s signature confidence, Trae calls this album one of his best to date and expects listeners to play catch-up with Tha Truth. “It’s the truth of everybody wondering what I been doing or what really goes through my head because I been through a lot of f**ked up sh*t and a lot of people probably trying to figure out how the f**k do [I] still manage to get back up every time,” he says of his forthcoming project. “I felt like I was just gonna let them into my life a little more.”
Not to say he’s been taking days off. While dropping a barrage of mixtapes like 2013’s I Am King and 2014’s Flight School, he’s also hosting the aforementioned Trae Day bonanza on July 24, known for its wide array of hip-hop guests like Lil Bibby, Nipsey Hussle, Dej Loaf, Rich Homie Quan, Snootie Wild, and his personal friend, J. Cole.
In a recent sit-down with Trae, the H-Tine Gawd chops it up about his album, ties to Pimp C and how he puts on for his city.—Mark Braboy (@DRD_Poetry17)
VIBE: What was your state of mind while creating this project?
Trae Tha Truth: I got over 1,300 songs done. I was getting ready to put out another mixtape and it ended up getting decided that the album would be more important to the people. People love and appreciate mixtapes just as far as the vibe and to hear certain stuff, but for the last five or six years, I’ve only done mixtapes. I didn’t really care to put an album out. I felt like I was cool with doing mixtapes, but I get it. People appreciate a body of work wholeheartedly more when it’s a project because they feel like they’re a part of it, like they’re supporting it, and like it’s just something more serious and it’s not going to tear away as fast as a mixtape. I felt them songs [I picked] fit right now.
With all the setbacks you’ve been through, how do you manage to get back up?
First off it’s God. Look, I’m not trying to hear no artist complain because in the back of my mind, I be thinking like, you ain’t been through what I been through in real life. And you gotta think, people only been seeing what I been going through the last years publicly. At the end of the day, I always kept faith in staying strong and sh*t—I’m here. I mean, what other artist do you know can be banned from every city and state, and still be relevant, doing whatever he want to do?
So you were banned everywhere?
Everybody thought—they just shed light on Houston because that’s where it started. If it’s one of [Emmis Communications] events, I’m not allowed there. It don’t matter who it is performing. You can’t advertise me in cities that do [their] concerts. [I’ve been banned everywhere] for the past five or six years. Even when I went on tour with T.I. and Lil Wayne. Whoever he would do functions and events with the company of that radio [station], it was like, “We got to keep Trae on the tour bus and keep him out of the arena until it’s time.”
For those who don’t know, how did the ban start?
I’mma keep it real with you, I try to stray away from it because I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I let go and I don’t really just want to keep talking about it, but long story short, I got my own holiday in Houston and some unfortunate things happen. And it’s everyday life, y’know? Sometimes ni**s get into fighting, sometimes ni**as start shooting. Long story short, the event was over and some sh*t occurred. The radio [station] needed somebody to blame. I mean, they didn’t want to take the blame. They actually was out there at the event, but they didn’t want to take that heat so they started to bash on the lower class people: “It’s always them people, your fans.” I got to a point where I was fed up. I stood up for the people because it was a perfect event—it wasn’t no fights, no nothing out there. Everybody was gone. I can’t control what people do when we’re long gone.
Now, during your mixtape run, you had a lot of huge collaborations.
Because those were the ones who seen like, “That’s kind of real messed up how they’re doing him, like that’s a genuine dude that we all f**k with.” You can’t tell [artists they] can’t be cool with me or can’t deal with me.
Houston now has two radio stations that play hip-hop. Can you be heard on 93.7?
Yeah, I can be heard on 93.7. Clear Channel’s in support of it. Long story short, they’re very supportive and it evens the playing field. It just went to show how much people really root for me because when they came and first played me, it impacted like no other. It made it bigger than just a Houston thang. The news spread everywhere through social media. They never really seen that type of rapid fire come back fast so that was a good thing.
Making now a perfect time for you to drop an album.
I guess people feel like they have been missing me because now, the recognition, just the last month or two of me going on the road, got people excited. I think the most important of this album is everybody knows I’m capable of doing good music and I can spit but I think the album’s going to take a lot of people by storm. The album is put together to the point [where] you don’t have to skip through nothing. Because the average person with an album gets through like four or five songs and I hear a muthaf**ka say all the time like, “That’s a classic” or “He got a hard album” because they be praying just to get a couple of jams but there be so much extra s**t. With this, it’s not gon’ be a matter of what songs you liked. My question is what is it that you may not like. I know that the majority of the album, people are going to love. Not all of it. One thing they can say about this album is that it’s well put together. You’ll never find no flaws as far as the music. People just have their certain preferences of how they would have wanted it to go, but the music, overall, is quality. You wouldn’t even know I was from Texas when you hear this album if you didn’t know me.
For Trae Day and Friends, you bring out spitters across the country. What makes you this hip-hop ambassador of sorts?
I just been the homie, man. A lot of people in the game have always been my partna, my family. We’ve been supportive of each other, but at the same time love to bring them out because I want them to experience that. When they get to experience that, that’s a seed planted. Even it’s a seed planted where they come back next year or even go back home and do their own thing. Then for the kids, it’s a beautiful thing because they never knew they could get close to some of these people. I’m just out for helping everybody.
What makes you so civil-minded?
I think because when I came up, me and my little brother JayTon used to experience different things and you know, you always can’t run to mama to help you. We just dealt with it. Coming up, I really didn’t have that person I can call to talk me out of something, whether if it was me that needed to be talked to or to tell me. “It’s time to go handle that.” Feeling that was f**ked up. Just knowing that we had to figure out a way to make it work. I told myself, if I ever had the opportunity to get on, I’mma try to help people to not experience what I experienced. That’s even with my music. I give you the truth. It’s not to tell them not to do something or to do something. It’s like, if you plan on that, let me tell you what happened to me when I did that. Now, what you do, it’s on you but I’mma give you that game just so you’ll know. From that point on, you can’t blame nobody but yourself because you was told.
I notice that you do that both in real life and in your music. There’s a lot of stuff that a lot of people can feel, like “The Rain”.
Oh yeah, and this album is that times 10. Like the song, “Tryna Figure It Out.” That’s gon’ shock the sh*t out of people. “The Real” featuring Dej Loaf, that’s another one. My favorite one is “Book of Life” on there. It’s gon’ be a lot of messages on there. And it’s not the message where you have somebody tryna tell you this, tell you that and you get irritated like, I’m not tryna hear this sh*t right now. It’s just the relatable message where it needs to be heard and I think it’s a void for it. So, that’s what I’m here to fill.
You just made me think of that intro with Lil Duval on it. How did that come about?
That’s my brother, man. It’s crazy. I just be wanting to do something different because he always do skits on different stuff and my stuff. But it was interesting because, [I’m like], N***a, I need you to do this intro for the album. And the you realize the s**t that’s out [is] serious as fuck. And he’s looking like, N***a, I make people laugh. It turned out organically and it went the way it was supposed to go. And the sh*t he’s saying is really the truth as far as what he felt at the time. Nobody told him what to say. He did his thing and still kept it funny here and there. He said what a lot of people don’t say. The reality is everybody’s struggling, at least the majority.
You’ve been active in the community. Describe race relations in Texas as far as the McKinney situation. And also, what’s your take on the confederate flag in South Carolina being taken down.
That whole situation in South Carolina was heartbreaking. With people reppin’ that flag the way that they do and fight for it, I feel like, f**k that flag. It just is what it is if you reppin’ that flag for the wrong reason. And it took a lot of us time. That flag goes way back to Dukes of Hazard but you never would have known, intellectually, what people was getting at. But now that we understand and see it, I feel like I’m not down with that sh*t being up. It need to be took down because imagine if we had something that was a way of bashing everyone else in a certain type of way. I guarantee it would be took down. I hope they fry that muthaf***a’s a** [Dylann Roof] in jail. I really do. I’m not tryna be hateful, but it is what it is.
READ: Opinion: Should The N-Word Be Compared To The Confederate Flag?
He had all the time in the world when people tryna talk him out of that and the place where he was at. The fact of him even saying he was hesitant at a time because they was just so nice—that really made me sick to my stomach because he still went through and did that s**t. As far as Texas, it’s not really super, super racial everywhere. You have some cops that’s f**ked up. You got some cities in the state of Texas where it’s like that, but to the most part, I mean a lot of people support them. Of course, the blacks and Hispanics really stick together. Me, I’m not a racial person. I deal with all races. I’ve always been the neutral type.
Julia Beverly recently released her book on Pimp C. What was your connection to him and how did Pimp rep Texas in your opinion?
Pimp definitely is Texas. He’s definitely one of the couple of pioneers of the state of Texas. And one of the first couple and only couple that took it worldwide; that brought that Texas sound worldwide. It definitely was a hard loss for everybody because people learn to love Pimp. Period. You gon’ love him what he’s gon’ tell you and what he ain’t gon’ bite his tongue about. One thing I could say is in the state of Texas, when we lose one of our own, regardless of the situation is, we gon’ tend to be supportive because [whether] we deal with each other or not, Texas is Texas, we rep us.
As far as the book, I haven’t read it yet, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be giving me one. It should be a very interesting book. A very interesting book. I mean he had his trials and tribulations. He had his views on a lot of people, too, so I’m sure it’s a funny and interesting book. UGK is one of the top groups ever because their dynamic was so well put together. How could you not embrace it? A lot of people haven’t went back to really view the history like when they was with Big Tyme Records and all that. I’m talking about way back. When people heard “Pocket Full of Stones,” they heard a certain version because it was a whole ‘nother version then.
What’s sad is Pimp C’s voice missing in the midst of everything that’s going on right now.
I think [there’s] voices out there, it’s just a matter of who people really want to hear. It’s a lot of people out there with the same game and wisdom we got that makes sense with what they say, but just a matter of people willing to accept it and embrace it. But most definitely, [Pimp] was gonna be the one most vocal about it and wasn’t gonna be political at all it was gonna be straight to it.
Do you feel it’s a rapper’s responsibility to tackle hot button issues?
I feel that I’m not to judge if they should or they shouldn’t because it’s up to you to figure if you do or don’t. It’s up to me to get my a** up in the morning, put my pants on, put my shoes on and go out here and hustle if that’s what I decide to do. Or I could sit my a** in the house and watch TV and eat all day. At the end of the day, it doesn’t make me better and it doesn’t make me worse. I’m not gonna put that jacket on and say “every rapper.” I think as a whole, those who genuinely care should step up and do what needs to be done, if they give a f**k. If they don’t, they don’t have to. I never place blame on nobody. I can only speak for myself. I’m gon’ do it because I feel like, Sh*t, hopefully the next lil’ homies that’s under me gon’ follow in my footsteps.