A couple of years ago, our brother was attending San Antonio Community College. One evening, he told us a story about a young cutie he was trying to spit game to at the end of his day. "So I walk her to her car after class," he recounts. "And sitting there is the new Trae CD." "Are you serious?" I asked. "Yeah, this pretty little chick has a hard-ass Trae CD sittin' in her ride," he exclaims, surprised that a petite mamita would be listening to something so hard. "They love them some Trae in San Antonio." We thought that was pretty interesting.
Fast forward a year or so, and our boy, Juan Velazquez, at Univision Radio's 98.5 The Beat, invites us to a San Antonio club called Joe's Volcano for a Halloween bash. Joe's Volcano is equivalent to Houston's Roxy nightclub. It's been around since the battle of the Alamo and you can bet the house that three generations of women somewhere in the city, from grandmother to daughter to granddaughter, have popped, locked and dropped it on that club's dance floor. So we think maybe we're a little old to be going to an 18 and up establishment, but Juan spits some names that caught our attention - Rob G, Big Gemini, Lucky Luciano, Lil Rob and Trae. Sadly, the marketer in us always sees the world through boring terms like "demographics" and "supply and demand," so naturally we're thinking because San Antonio's such a Hispanic-dominated market (demographics), and throw in the fact that every other song playing on the radio at the time was Gemini's "Hypnotize," (demand) that the Dallas product, or maybe Rob G, would headline. Looking at it now, we were pretty stupid to make that assumption, but it is what it is. Well, Trae was the last man standing on the stage that night and wrecked the hell out of the club. We consider ourselves big Trae fans but those damn Meskins in the 210 were singing along to tracks we didn't know the words to yet, and as our brother declared, "They love them some Trae in San Antonio." Ever since then, we've wanted to talk to Trae out of sheer curiosity about what he thought of his large Hispanic fan base. Fast-forward another year and a couple of months, and we're part of the Rocks Off family and Jessica Vazquez of Street Science Entertainment calls us to pitch us a story. She tells us we should talk to Trae because a large percentage of his album sales can be attributed to his Hispanic fan base and it would be interesting to get his perspective on the Latino rap game. We found it odd because it was like she was inside our head, so we took it as a good omen and decided to follow the signs. We reached Trae by phone Wednesday and to provide the conversation some context, we started off by telling him about that Halloween night and how his headlining performance was memorable. "I remember that night," Trae tells Rocks Off. "I was actually not the headliner. Unk was." We played it off like it slipped our mind, but really, we don't have any recollection of Unk. Maybe Trae was the only thing worth remembering that night, or the goose had us feeling too loose. Ah hell, just blame it on the alcohol.
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Anyway, the conversation that followed was revealing and endearing. It turns out Trae has lots of ties to the fathers of Latino rap in Houston, and that's important to us because it gave meaning to the random conversation we had with our brother almost two and a half years ago; to seeing Trae a year later in concert, and to the conversation we sort of manifested. All of a sudden, it felt like talking to Trae wasn't coincidental but it had a higher purpose. We were supposed to tell the story he was about to tell us. When you look at the album he did with Rob-G, Both Sides of the Fence, which brought together some of the best emerging black and brown rap in the city, we wonder why Trae, and not another H-Town artist, embarked on something so culturally motivating. Not to imply that other H-Town artists don't value their Hispanic listeners, but, "Why Trae?" was always a question that came to our minds. And then, he gave us the answer.
"When I first came into the game, I was signed to SPM," Trae tells Rocks Off of his relationship with Dope House Records in the late 90s. "When I first started, I was doing my thang with Carlos [Coy] many a nights, just grindin', trying to make people listen to our music." Now it all makes sense. Trae's career roots stem deep into the record label that set the bar for Latino rap in Texas and he was signed to them, for the love of God. That's fascinating to us because when we think of Trae, we don't think SPM, or Dope House. But that's all going to change now. "I got my hustle, learning how I do what I do from Rasheed," says Trae, referring one of Dope House's defining artists. "I was around before Juan Gotti was doing music real heavy. A lot of people don't know Juan can draw real good. He's good at art, sketching and painting. We go way back." Both Sides of the Fence has a more defined meaning to us now, because Trae indeed walked on both sides of the fence. "It was definitely done for a bigger picture and a bigger cause," says Trae about the album. "We've been separated in so many ways for so long. We realized we are the same people. People look at us and see we are different colors, we are from different sets, different hoods, but, all in all, we are branded as one. We are still the less fortunate and the have-nots." And so Trae and Rob-G teamed up to set an example of how the two communities should be working together. "We stepped out on the front line to touch everybody, to ignite a flame and bring a lot of people together," says Trae. "When people say united we stand, divided we fall, we intended to jump out that way." And as far as the current landscape of Latino rappers? "I just did some stuff with Low-G," says Trae. "There are lots of talented artists in the Latino world. I was surprised when Rob held his own [on 'Fences']. Not everybody is able to get on songs with me. He held his own. I was proud of him." Wow. Trae sounds like a proud big brother or something, but after talking with him, that all makes sense now. He is family after all. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.