It's been a good couple of weeks for Memphis rapper Don Trip, who followed up the late-February release of his best and most consistent mixtape yet, Guerrilla, with the revelation that he'd been selected as one of 10 emerging rappers for national hip-hop magazine XXL's annual "Freshman Class" cover, for the magazine's April issue.
XXL has been doing its "Freshman Class" — which brings together a hand-picked collection of rap/hip-hop artists primed for a breakout for a joint cover shoot — for five years now. As with any kind of forecasting piece like this, some artists break through and some don't, but previous editions have tabbed future stars such as Wiz Khalifa, J.Cole, Lupe Fiasco, and B.o.B.
In terms of current profile, Trip, signed to Interscope Records, stands as one of the most established and widely respected artists to make the cut, along with Detroit mad man Danny Brown, Atlanta up-and-comer Future, and Bad Boy signees Machine Gun Kelly and French Montana. (Others on the list, for your YouTube/Google search interests: Roscoe Dash, Hopsin, Kid Ink, Macklemore, and Iggy Azalea. Pro tip: Iggy Azalea is terrible.)
Trip is ready to capitalize on this new bit of national attention with Guerrilla.
If every previous Trip mix — save Step Brothers, his excellent album-length partnership with Nashville MC Starlito — feels like a "singles-and-filler" project, Guerrilla maintains a high level across all 60-plus minutes, showcasing every shade in Trip's MC arsenal, bringing in high-profile guests like Wale and 2Chainz, and incorporating some different production styles than we've heard before on a Trip project.
Trip goes back to "Letter to My Son" territory on the long-rumored "Help Is On the Way," where the second verse is dedicated to his son — "I teach my son to do better/Show him my achievements along with my errors/No, I am not perfect and I won't live forever/So I'm trying to raise my boy instead of my Beretta ... Daddy used to sell dope now he's selling records."
There's the thoughtful, empathetic "Allen Iverson," a sequel to Trip's brilliant "Feelin' Like Mike" (about Mike Tyson) from last year's Terminator 2 that similarly weaves verses around soundbites from its controversial title subject.
A remix of Trip's recent single "The Life" acts as sort of a present-and-future Memphis rap summit meeting, with Trip batting leadoff, followed by verses from Yo Gotti, Three 6 Mafia's Juicy J, and Young Dolph, the artist currently in the Memphis rap on-deck circle, who closes out the track in strong form.
"Trap'd in the Trap" is a story song that isn't first-person and isn't quite autobiographical, a breaking-bad morality tale about a hard-working guy who turns to drug dealing out of desperation that comes off as something like a modern street-rap answer to Boogie Down Productions' classic "Love's Gonna Getcha (Material Love)."
Trip — real name Chris Wallace — wasn't reachable to comment on the XXL cover, but when I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, he was hopeful that his official debut for Interscope Records would see a summer release. In the increasingly volatile world of major-label hip-hop — as the recent album-release sagas of locals Gotti and Three 6 Mafia attest — it's impossible to predict the future. For more on Don Trip, see his site, dontriponline.com.
Local SXSW Lineup Shaping Up
When I talked to Don Trip last month, he mentioned trying to get down to Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest Music Festival, which begins next week. Trip hasn't popped up on any schedules, but there's plenty of Memphis action already on tap: Lucero — fresh off the three-day gig in Alaska and in town for a local listening party before hitting the road — will debut their new album, Women & Work (for ATO Records), at the festival and host their own "Lucero Family Picnic" showcase concert, with fellow locals Star & Micey and other musical friends. Memphis-bred songwriter Cory Branan will be introduced at a Bloodshot Records showcase as the newest member of that Chicago indie label's roster. Rapper Cities Aviv will perform on a bill with a host of other hyped rappers from around the country, including Alabama's G-Side and New York's Action Bronson. Goner will host an "unofficial showcase" that will feature Memphians Manatees and (the soon to be renamed?) Sex Cult, along with non-Memphis Goner acts. A work-in-progress documentary about Memphis '70s band Big Star will be screened, followed by an all-star revue performance of the band's classic Third/Sister Lovers album, led by drummer and lone remaining original member Jody Stephens. Other Memphis artists on tap for showcase performances include Skewby, River City Tanlines, and The Echo-Friendly.
We'll be down there too, trying to find an always difficult balance between covering some of the local action and checking out other bands from around the world. Look for on-the-scene coverage at memphisflyer.com starting March 15th and in the March 22nd print edition.