Trae tha Truth is an Asshole. Seriously.
A founding member of Houston's Assholes By Nature crew, Trae eschews the candy-painted landscape extolled by Mike Jones, et al. Instead, he exposes the sober, unforgiving realities of urban street life. Rising to fame on a wave of consistently solid albums and the broad shoulders of the disenfranchised, disregarded population his music empowers, Trae has garnered unquestioned local respect and borderline national acclaim as a true street orator.
The Houston Press recently caught up with the gruff, matter-of-fact MC to discuss his status as an Asshole, his recent album Life Goes On (Rap-a-Lot), his rumored beef with cousin and "King of the Ghetto" Z-Ro and the recent losses suffered by Houston's rap community.
Houston Press: How did you get started in the rap game?
Trae: I came up doing this rap 'cause, shit, that's what my older brother had for me to do. With him getting incarcerated, he was like, "This is the path I want you to do," 'cause that's what he was gonna try and get into. And as his baby brother, I looked up to that nigga 150 percent.
HP: You have more than one brother though, right?
Trae: Yeah, JayTon is my baby brother, and that's a prime example. He's rapping with me, doing exactly what I feel he should do.
HP: And your older brother Binky, he's been in prison for a while now. How long has Binky been loc...
Trae: It's Dinky with a "D," like "dog" or "door."
HP: What did Dinky do? How long is he locked up?
Trae: Capital murder is what they say. They gave him three life sentences.
HP: Yikes. Well, at least you're doing what he wanted; that's gotta be good for him to know. As a founding member of Assholes By Nature, could you clarify what that is? It doesn't sound like the nicest group in the world.
Trae: Assholes By Nature is my family. I combined all these different gangs, Crips and Bloods and BDs, and I brought 'em together on the positive note to show people we can get our hustle on on some grown-up shit and get this money through music. The motto is "Real recognize real." No matter what colors you rep, what hood you from, real recognize real and it's respect. We give respect to get respect. Gang shit aside, it's a positive thang.
HP: Not too long ago, there was a big kick-up between ABN and HPD, with allegations of profiling and harassment and whatnot. Can you elaborate?
Trae: That happened when I came to get me one of my new houses. The neighborhood I moved in, they ain't feel no young black dudes should live over there with all these cars, jewelry and different cats coming in and out. It's like, right across the street from one of Yao Ming's houses, where the neighborhood is, so the police were really trying to harass and shit.
At the end of the day I'm a man, so I stood my ground and it came out to be a big-ass issue. But now they don't mess with me at all; I think they ain't really want that headache. They don't pull me over and I don't do nothing. They just let me go on about my business. It was just a long back-and-forth, a couple of the officers got fired, but that's about it.
HP: It's very peculiar that, in an industry such as yours, someone of your stature would openly cop to not drinking or smoking; you even have an entire track dedicated to not smoking on Life Goes On. Does anyone ever give you any shit about that?
Trae: I'm the kind of dude that, shit, can't nobody give me no shit because who the fuck are they to tell me what I need to do with myself? You know what I'm saying?
HP: You're the "King of the Streets," and Z-Ro, who happens to be your cousin, is the "King of the Ghetto." For a while, the big rumor was that you guys were beefin', on account of some family issues and a female. On Life Goes On, there's surprisingly no contribution from Z-Ro, so those rumors have started up again. Is there any truth to them and, if so, are you guys still beefin'?
Trae: Nah, we was never beefin'. People gotta understand, if this was any nigga off the street, then yeah, it would've been beef, but when it's family, it's family. We might get into an argument, we might not speak for a little while, but at the end of the day, it wasn't as serious as people made it out to be.
We wasn't paying no attention to what people was saying. He can pick up the phone and call me anytime, and I can call him anytime 'cause it's still family. Me and 'Ro actually just finishing up a group album together called It Is What It Is. That'll be dropping in January or February.
HP: Is there anyone else you're beefin' with? Or another corporation, even?
Trae: I'm not beefin' with nobody. I don't think the industry wanna even know what I'm capable of doing. If something does come up, it's gonna be handled before it even gets to that point. But I do have a "special" shout-out, though, to Thomas Harden. He writes for XXL and a couple more places. He said [Life Goes On] was only worth two mikes [XXL's second-lowest possible score]. Just a shout-out to him; I'm not even mad at him.
HP: That is simultaneously the least threatening yet most intimidating shout-out ever. I would very much like to never get a shout-out like that from you.
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HP: On a more somber note, I can't let you leave without getting your opinion on the losses Houston's music scene has suffered recently. How do you feel about the whole Pimp C situation?
Trae: When it came to Pimp, it hurt not only me, it hurt the whole game. He meant a lot to me as a friend, an older-brother figure, and he was part of the forefront for our whole music culture. And people need to let it be known, it's not just Houston [rappers] who's dying. People, rappers, athletes or just normal people, they die every day.
There's bad shit that happens to a lot of people. Like, they wanna disrespect a life that was lost by saying it was drugs or this or that, when a lot of the times that's not the truth. Regardless of who you are, bad shit just happens. It's life. And life goes on.