(Photo: Courtesy of Grand Hustle)
Much like fellow Houston native, Bun B, raspy-voiced MC Trae Tha Truth has cultivated an underground following while also earning the respect of his mainstream peers.
He's been in the game for roughly 15 years, but most of Trae's national attention has come in the last two, since the 33-year-old signed to T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records; and his latest mixtape, I Am King, is a perfect example of why. More concise rhymes, insightful and diverse subject matter, and solid features show how far Trae has come as an MC and a songwriter.
Grand Hustle label mate, B.o.B. blesses the intro, showing off his skills behind the boards with a brief but infectious piano-laden track to kick things off. Trae then gets star-studded on I Am King's first actual song, "Hold Up" featuring Diddy, Young Jeezy, and Tip. Even with these heavy-hitters, Trae holds his own with lines like, "I'll pull up on your b****h and repossess her like you owe that/ Put her in a flick and display it like she was Kodak. King muthaf***a, I'm classic like I was throwback/ This ain't what you want p****y n***a and you know that."
Trae followed that up with another heavy banger, "Stay Trill (Bill Collector)," an ode to the '95 Bone Thugs n' Harmony classic "Mr. Bill Collector." Trae even recruited Krayzie Bone for the track, which uses a modernized version of the original beat backed by thundering bass for one of I Am King's hottest songs.
As the mixtape progresses, Trae gets more introspective on songs like "Driven" and the visceral "Dark Angels," on which Louisiana MC Kevin Gates delves deeper into the mind of a drug addict as the track builds, "I'm with this b***h and I feel free, she don't demand of me, for much/ My sex drive been at an all time low, I can barely get it up/ Tryna keep another muthaf***a happy, swear I'm giving up."
Yo Gotti, whose album dropped last week, added his signature Southern drawl to the apocalyptic "Hallelujah." "When you get money they say you Illuminati/ Lookin' like a white angel in a white 'Rari./ Hallelujah, I believe in God. Take a brick soft and stretch it/ I believe in hard," rapped Gotti.
Perhaps Trae's most impressive verse comes on "Ghetto Life," which also features Dougie D and Da Brat. He maintains the raspy monotone but spits with machine gun speed before slowing down to lament the challenges of breaking into the rap game. "Lord have mercy, I pray that nobody takin' it worse than me/ hate to think of the fact of somebody hurtin' me/ Gotta go with the chopper so no one murder me/ Hard to get to the top when nobody heard of me."
I Am King did fall a tad short on a couple of the tracks. Despite a stellar verse from Meek Mill, "Ride Wit Me" was underwhelming; and the piano gospel sounds of "I Believe" never really heated up. "Street Miracle" was another that never really got off the ground. And ultimately, the number of features was almost overwhelming. But Trae held his own with each and every one of them. And with dynamic production to match his weighty voice, by the end, he's announced himself in a big way.