I’m a sucker for catered food. Doesn’t matter the opportunity or moment, if someone provides cuisine that is tiny yet effective, I’m going to devour it with a smile. When Trae Tha Truth — the Houston rap mainstay to the point where his normally gravel-like voice feels disarming and calm — beckons, you still listen.
Trae works a room like a politician, listening session or not. His-brand new album isn’t due out for another week and a half. At the sneak-preview listening party over the weekend, Trae managed to discuss matters with Wire Road Studios in-house engineer Isaac “Chill” Yowman, fire off a few text messages, make certain his sister Nene received a large ovation for being “the only person to keep him in check” and find a way to take pictures with almost everyone in attendance.
“We good? Aye man, I ain’t gon’ say much but I thank y’all for coming out to support my brother,” T.I. told the crowd via FaceTime. “Let’s get to the motherfucking Truth!”
Tha Truth is not a mixtape, although it was originally supposed to be. Its final form is 16 tracks, as opposed to the double album that it was initially supposed to be. It carries the same title as the long-awaited solo album that was supposed to introduce Trae to a national audience years ago. To say that it follows the pattern of Trae’s career would be an understatement. As long as he has walked within Houston hip-hop, he’s been a one of one, a street rapper who could choke a listener with one rat-a-tat of a double-time flow but also pull you into his world and keep you there.
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Trae the rapper and Trae the person are one and the same. It was evident when he walked around Wire Road, draped in gold like an Egyptian king and radiating a healthy mix of charm and vulnerability to knock you aback and make you graceful. The listening session offered you a chance to eat cookies with Trae’s image emblazoned on the front, the music allows you to gather just how potent Trae’s reach is. The guest features on the album — though vast with names like J. Cole, Future, Boosie Badazz, Dej Loaf, Snooite Wild, Que, Rich Homie Quan, Rick Ross, Nipsey Hussle and Lil Bibby — doesn't distract people from the matter at hand. It's Trae's show through and through. Every person who roared at certain tracks inside Wire Road made sure of it.
“I don’t like doing too much talking,” he said in the center of the room. “I just want y’all to get into the album and enjoy it.” He did however pause for a moment when Bun B snaked his way through the massive gathered to show love and appreciation.
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“When you struggling, you ain’t trying to motherfuckin’ dance,” Lil Duval yells on the album’s opener. “Nigga I can’t dance. I’m struggling!” It’s the lone blotch of comedy on the album, as the remainder flows between Trae preening over his car selection (“Tricken Every Car I Get”) or walking and surveying the world and his reaction to it (Trae’s personal favorite “Book of Life”; “Children of Men” with J.Cole). Things liven up a bit when Problem goes back to the well of sampling Master P for “Yeah Hoe,” same for the synth- and drum-heavy “Criminals” with Rich Homie Quan and Don Primo. Still, the gamut of Tha Truth resides in the struggle, and it's a beautiful one at that. Trae narrates plenty of stories, some which have directly affected him and others we’ve been accustomed to hearing from others. But when those stories are left in Trae’s hands and voice, they take on lives of their own. Many of them fall under the “shit I just can’t understand” category that Trae finds himself in more often than not.
“I’m tired of you keeping it real with everybody, bro,” Trae's friend Charles Hughes calls in on the album’s penultimate track, “I Can’t Feel You.” “Keeping it real with niggas, they aren’t doing the same for you bro. So fuck them niggas, I’m tired of this shit. Just do us. We gotta do for self now.”
It's hard to not see Trae at 35 and wonder how long he's been at this, until you realize how people gravitate towards him. His voice and flow remain intact, and he even finds himself singing on “Never Knew” with Snootie Wild and Que. Tha Truth could be seen as a audio equivalent of a movie, a hardscrabble ebb-and-flow where Trae wakes up and goes to sleep feeling a little hope but remains aware that hope may never last. With Trae Day, his annual holiday that operates more as a give back to the community on the horizon, everything for once is aligned to work in Trae’s favor.
Tha Truth is free.