Sunday School 2 mixtape review
When Tree dropped Sunday School it proved to be the debut of a completely unique artist. He followed that by producing a compilation with himself featuring Chicago artists that didn’t get talked about nearly enough. So now that Tree has followed his MTV-approved Sunday School with a sequel, what is he out to prove this time? The answer, in my estimation, is that he asserts aggressively the difference between himself and everyone else.
It’s interesting to see big names like Danny Brown and Roc Marciano come into Tree’s world of church organs and stop on a dime samples but it works. It’s partially because those two artists, as big as their buzz is, are still oddities and all outsiders are welcome on Sunday School 2. From the first line of the first track (Safe To Say) he establishes an underdog mentality “From throwing rocks off the roof as a lil N, to being known in the city as an ill N.” His calling card is not bragging about front row seats or friendships with NBA players instead its how much unlike everyone he is. Whenever a shout out is given it’s not a rapper it’s a friend like Jay rock who got into medical school. Tree has a stubborn resolve not to become “industry”. He’s not simple trap. He doesn’t force a ceaseless hardcore D-boy persona. He takes the soul part of his soul trap sound very seriously. A song like FAME that’s less than two minutes long showcases a lot of his at times feuding facets: the grunting elasticity of his voice, a gleefully appreciative attitude towards success, and an intimate knowledge of gang life. Every time Tree seems like he’s going left he makes a hard turn in the other direction. Sunday School 2 feels harder to pin down than anything he’s done before and as everything is with Tree, it’s purposeful.
At first I was concerned about the presence of other producers. Sunday School had a herky jerky raw feel that seemed like a master plan only Tree could figure out. He’s still at least partially credited with producing more than half of the sequel but the addition of people like Frank Dukes, Tye Hill(also BINK! I love BINK!) and Bobby Johnson expand the sound just a little bit, giving variation to what a Tree song sounds like. The Elvis sample on The King has Tree’s fingerprints all over it and the declarative imagery of him flying over everyone else in rap only looking himself in the mirror is the first half of this tapes lasting impression.
This is not to ignore the heart Sunday School 2 shows beyond the narrators own journey. Beyond the lyrics Tree has the ability to craft music with natural warmth like the song Most Successful that manages to feels like it’s about all of our personal successes. Tree still takes advantage of his raspy singing voice to drop jewels like So Bad and Devotion which end up a guitar riff away from modern day Lil Walter. Its solid Chicago blues/hip hop and all the songs carry at least pieces of that. Tree is also trap but freely admits that he never sold coke, just weed. He makes trap music in the pure sense that it carries a sorrowful, agitated longing to escape the depths of poverty and violence while being fun to listen too. It doesn’t have to connect to hard or soft white. Sometimes it does, the point is that he doesn’t let you settle into a groove. For every triumphant Most Successful or meditative Hurt we get a tongue out nasty sex jam like No Faces or bass rippling hedonistic White Girls.
Being honest I don’t know if the sequel is as good as the original but that’s not the point. I now have three Tree mixtapes and none of them suck, none of them are even ignorable. They all demonstrate a comprehensive vision and this one more than any of the others outright disgust. He shouts down fakes while waving the flag for soul trap, explaining clearer than he ever has that you cannot get this anywhere else by anyone else. He’s not talking about the trap, you can get trap on any mixtape website. He’s talking about the soul.
Stream or download Sunday School 2 below: