Mixtape Review: Trap Genius by Tree
Sunday School 2: When Church Lets Out is what broke Tree wide open for the tastemakers. The funny part about this is they all had a shot at falling in love with him on the first Sunday School. That’s when I dove in with both feet (along with MTV) but most people skipped it. So when the sequel dropped and was undeniable a lot of those reviews included short sharp descriptions of Sunday School with words like “unfinished” to get the point across that he’s evolving and NOW he’s good.
Those same critics will see his new mixtape Trap Genius as a regression because they are disappointing; same dudes talking about how brilliant The Ramones were for streamlining their sound and hitting hard miss how sharply effective Tree is when he’s in this kind of zone. Trap Genius is only eleven tracks long built on off signature melody and the oddest most engaging voice in rap music. It’s less emotionally complete than Sunday School 2 which soared on thankful memories and crashed into vengeful warning. This time Tree is building you the stressful, violent world he wants you in and trapping you there. If you’re a fan of trap music you won’t get a more satisfying chant along than Red Yella. Listen after listen peals new layers and you can really hear the desperation at the beginning of Betta Than Eva when Tree is imagining a world where he never sold and stayed in school. The violence is everywhere on Trap Genius and the snarling doesn’t feel like it comes from a hardcore maniac just someone trying to stay on top of it. Better Than Eva ends with an interlude, an argument between a policeman and a man on the street. It acts as another piece adding to the claustrophobic I-gotta-get-out-of-this-place feeling on the project.
Not sure I expected to make it this far without discussing New Or Leins/Training Day. Blue Sky Black Death produced it and the spaciousness of the sound is utterly remarkable. On the first listen the combination of Tree’s bluesy growl and this Seattle duo’s production had me exclaiming an audible GOD DAMN! As a sparkling centerpiece perfectly sung and orchestrated New Or Liens is awe inspiring but still ends with local news reporting about more arrests. Trap Genius makes a point of grabbing the listener by the collar and pulling until your face to face with the Chicago violence you’ve spent the last year (or two) fetishizing. You love yelling CHIRAQ in your mom’s minivan, huh? Tree doesn’t simply give you the violence but the horrible fear of more violence that pollutes your psyche. So songs like Don’t Een Kare aren’t pumping full of evil adrenaline for nothing, you need that to survive in Tree’s world. The liquor and the women seem like drugs taken to artificially create a comfort that won’t ever stick.
Trust me I know that everyone has their favorite Chicago rapper. Some swear by Chief Keef (and he is getting better every project), some yearn for more King Louie (understandably) or Chance The Rapper. My favorite Chicago rapper for the last few years has been Tree. End of discussion. I don’t like my music neat and tidy. Tree has crafted a brand of music that steps out of the jagged edges of sound: both in his voice, sampling, and production. How punk rock is that? On the first listen Trap Genius sounded very good but on the second I was flabbergasted. On top of everything else Tree provided the perfect argument against one listen reviews.
stream or download Trap Genius below: