Trae tha Truth, ‘Tha Truth’ [ALBUM REVIEW]
On July 22, the city of Houston once again celebrated "Trae Day," an entire day dedicated to one of the biggest, most charitable rappers the city has ever known. His name is Trae tha Truth.
Houston has always had a booming hip-hop scene, hosting the likes of Scarface, UGK, Mike Jones, Devin the Dude, Chamillionaire and Paul Wall. Trae tha Truth was the first Houston rapper to be given his own day within the city, yet of those listed, he's probably had the least impact outside of the city.
Southern rap purists love him and cite albums like 2006's Restless as classics, yet he really hasn't broken through to audiences who aren't checking for that particular style. Trae's never had a song chart on the Billboard Top 100 -- however, his albums have made it to the Billboard 200 -- and even a T.I. cosign hasn't been able to escalate him to the mainstream.
His greatest achievement to the average hip-hop fan is "I'm on 2.0," a track more famous for its ridiculously heavy-hitting lineup (including Kendrick Lamar, Bun B, J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Jadakiss and more) than for Trae's rapping. He's very much an artist who should've blown up long ago, but he still hasn't for some unknown reason. Fortunately, Trae hasn't let that get to him, as showcased on his most recent album Tha Truth.
First thing's first, Trae has one of the flat-out best voices in hip-hop as a whole. He raps with a deep, guttural sound, yet his flow manages to be silky smooth on almost everything he touches. It's the kind of voice that can sell any style of hip-hop. He can be a gruff gangsta rapper, but he also has a socially conscious, emotional side that brings sincerity to his bars. The man has a buttery flow that demands everybody's attention, no matter the featured artist on the track or the content he's rapping about.
Trae knows he has the skill to carry any kind of track, too. The album opens with a Lil Duval intro, which sets up an album full of struggle rap about society's ills. Duval tells Trae not to give us "some fairy tale," which immediately transitions into "Tricken Every Car I Get," a Future and Boosie-assisted brag-rap track about riding in style. The self-aware Trae tha Truth pulls the rug under the listener expecting the same old struggle raps by delivering the exact opposite, and it's an absolutely brilliant moment.
The aptly titled Rick Ross collaboration "I Don't Give a F---" follows that and it perfectly emphasizes that Trae doesn't care about what you expect from a rapper like him. He's not going to compromise his style to be a commercial success in the rap industry. He's just going to be real with himself and his audience instead of pandering to any crowd. Trae calls himself tha Truth for a reason; he's been honest and real throughout his career and he's not going to let that change for a few more dollars.
Trae's a veteran of the rap game and could easily carry a full project by himself, but Tha Truth is a full-on showcase for new talent. He lets newcomers like Lil Bibby, Que, Snootie Wild, Dej Loaf, Rich Homie Quan and more shine and continue to build names for themselves, but he never lets them steal the show from him. Even proven veterans like Rick Ross and T.I., as well as dudes currently in their primes like Boosie and Future can't steal the show from Trae. The features all feel essential to the project, but they never feel like a crutch.
The most significant outside contribution to the album comes from J. Cole, who provides both a verse and the beat to album highlight "Children of Men," which also features newcomer Ink. The story is a heartbreaking tale of a young man who is forced into the street lifestyle, gets incarcerated and eventually kills himself. It's the kind of track that makes you stop what you're doing and just pay attention to the story that's being told. Both Cole and Trae give some of the best performances of their respective careers to set up this track and it manages to hit hard no matter how many times you listen.
"Children of Men" is followed up by the introspective and mostly unassisted "Book of Life" and "Trying to Figure It Out." While the first half of the album features more big names and production, these more personal tracks in the middle and latter parts of the record are what really prove Trae is a star whether or not he has more famous friends helping him out.
Tha Truth probably won't change Trae's position in the hip-hop hierarchy for the immediate future. There probably won't be a track here that dominates the airwaves or makes him anything close to a household name. But that kind of stuff doesn't matter to Trae. What matters to him is telling the truth, being real and honest with himself and the audience he has. The world as a whole might not be paying attention to Trae, but he's getting his point across to a dedicated fan base that appreciates him more than a mainstream audience ever will.
Listen to Trae tha Truth's "Children of Men" Feat. J. Cole & Ink
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