Trae Tha Truth Opens Up On ‘Tha Truth, Pt. 3′
Trae Tha Truth, the Houston rap legend born Frazier Othel Thompson III, is the king of humble-bragging. Despite having collaborations with your fav’s fav from Tupac to Dr. Dre to Kendrick Lamar and stacking features for his “I’m On” series (the latest installment, Part 3, carries 16 rappers), he doesn’t flaunt his wide-ranging catalog like the icy, gold chains around his neck.
As heard on his latest album, Tha Truth, Pt. 3, his third studio effort via ABN/Empire, the Grand Hustle affiliate pries open his memory box and reminisces on the loss of his best friend, Dominic “Money Clip D” Brown, who was fatally shot in 2011. The emotional opener “Can’t Get Close” finds Trae spitting, “Got me hurtin’ ’cause you ain’t around/ Either way, to death, know I’m still down.”
In-person, Trae doesn’t let his emotions show but will note that there is probably no one in the industry who has worked with other MCs than he has. Add in his philanthropic efforts, including Trae Day—the annual celebration in his native Houston that celebrated 10 years a day after his album dropped on July 21—and his non-profit organization, Angel By Nature (a twist on Assholes By Nature, his early rap duo with Z-Ro), and he does a lot for his community without seeking credit for it.
Below, Trae Tha Truth discusses his latest album, the realness in rap and whether he’d ever run for office.
You get a little more personal on Tha Truth, Pt. 3. Was it harder to dig deeper this go-round?
Not necessarily hard to dig in, probably more hard to let everybody else in ‘cause I do music all the time, just for my own personal self. I do music to vent. It just was what it was and people love me for it.
You’re always putting on new talent, especially when it comes to your “I’m On” series. What makes you pick the artists that you do for each one?
I just kind of be in tune. I guess that’s one of the talents God blessed me with ‘cause nine times out of 10, people see me doing something with someone who tends to blow up shortly after.
Do you have a specific connection with the Mark Morrison song “Return of the Mack”?
It started off that way. A lot of people thought it was a sample. It’s actually [Mark] on there. It’s a dope record.
Do you two have a close relationship or are you just a fan of the song?
Yeah, we’re real cool. I feel like with ["I'm On 3.0"], I switched the vibe of the record because I don’t want to ever keep the same exact beat. If I decide to stop the series, I’ma start a new remix with something different.
What song made you want to become a rapper?
It was probably the first song I done. I was rapping to a Too $hort beat. My older brother had me do it and people loved the song. It was re-writing the rap. When you from the streets, you tend to follow your older brother, or if you have a father or a big homie. At first I didn’t give two shits about rap. I was just doing it for [my brother]. I’m a firm believer in anything I do, I gotta be the best at it.
What song have you recently discovered from another artist that resonated with you?
I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. Probably something from [J.] Cole or Kendrick [Lamar].
When you think about lyricists like them, what gives you hope about the future of rap?
I think having substance within their music is always going to be around. It’s timeless music. Even though I may not be in tune with what everybody is focused on now, it’s still coming back full-circle. There’s always going to be other young cats that come out to do the same thing and there’s gonna be ones that are similar to us so that’ll never fail, whether it be from Nas to JAY-Z to ‘Pac to Biggie to Snoop to whoever. It always come back ‘cause reality is reality. Everybody ain’t always going to be living good. Sometimes, they can be up. Sometimes, they can hit rock bottom. It’s majority on rock bottom so they’re always going to be able to relate.
What kind of legacy do you hope to give the world based on the music that you put out?
Just being one of the realest, one of the truest, a solid one but also just wanting to display real life to the fullest and overcoming a lot of situations because sometimes, people have to see that to motivate them to keep going. If not, they may give up.
Do you feel like there’s a lack of that in today’s hip-hop in some aspects?
Yup, it’s been missing a lot. It’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes, [rappers] just haven’t been exposed to the real. Once they get exposed to it, they’ll tend to appreciate people like myself but sometimes, you don’t necessarily know that you’re not in tune with life. Sometimes, you may just wanna drink, get high and party all the time and not look at the other side.
On this album, you remember your dear friend, Money Clip D. What were your happiest moments with him?
Us together in general. We were together 24/7. We lived together. We had the good [times], the bad, just a whole bunch of fun experiences within life itself. We lived. With us, we just did what we wanted to do.
Were there wise words he said that have stayed with you?
I don’t even think it was wise words. I think it was just knowing how much he believed in me. Even when others didn’t, he was rooting [for me] like, “He gon’ be that one day.” It was kind of messed up because right before I actually signed with T.I. was when he passed so he didn’t really get to see a lot of the accomplishments I got now. Everything I do, I still stay reppin’ for him. I know he could see it from up there.
You’re also big on philanthropy. You just gave 75 scholarships to kids in Houston. What made giving back to the community so important to you?
I think the life that I live. I remember there were times when even though my mother would do whatever she could to make sure me and my brother were straight, it’d be times, as a man, you just wouldn’t want to go to her. You just had to get out there, wander and try to figure out ways to make things work. With that being said, it would be times where you’ll find yourself just by yourself. You ain’t got nobody you could lean on or holler at or even give you hope. You just had to figure it out and I think that was probably some of the worst feelings on Earth, just feeling it was you by yourself.
I always said if I had the opportunity to make it, I’d try and take that part of the stress off people. Now, they know they got somebody even if it ain’t their immediate family. They can always come holler at the big homie or somebody to motivate them or do things for them that can be a memory that they gon’ have for a lifetime. That’s why it’s very important for me to do the things I do.
Going back to the music, was there a particular song that challenged you in a creative sense?
I don’t know ‘cause I’m always up for the challenge. I tell people that all the time. I’ve done everything from trap music with UZ to rock ‘n’ roll off a “[Smells Like] Teen Spirit” beat. You can’t box me in. I’m very competitive. Whatever you send my way, I’ma make sure I come out on top.
Who do you still want to collaborate with?
The only people I haven’t collaborated with on a song probably would be Eminem or JAY-Z. I’ve done music with Dr. Dre, everybody. I don’t think nobody have more songs with people than me in the industry. I can’t forget Andre 3000, but that’s a brother to me so I’m pretty sure when the time’s right, [a collaboration will] happen.
Are you conscious of the number of rappers you make songs with?
A lot of music I do is never really planned. It just happened organically. I may hear something that’ll trigger me and I may just reach out. I’ve never really had a problem with it ‘cause you gotta realize I even got music with Tupac so it ain’t really more people who got more features than me.
Trae Day celebrated its 10th anniversary last month. What did you do to ensure its longevity?
Stay out of trouble. That could have changed it all. Other than that, I do everything that I do every year so it was nothin’ necessarily different. It’s just bigger—my fanbase and me partnering with McDonald’s and Bumpboxx. I also got a key to the city.
Would you consider running for mayor?
People say that all the time. I think if it came to hard situations in the city and somebody had to stand up, I’ll always be the one to stand up. Right now, I’m cool.
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