Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’


Tree “50’s”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just catching up on Tree, I just got around to reviewing Sunday School last week and have just begun to do my due diligence on his back catalog of mixtapes and EPs.  However, there is something undeniable about his music, his sound, Soul Trap, and the raw energy and emotion he brings to his music.  There’s no doubt that Tree is an emcee and producer on the rise and he’s got a lot of irons in the fire right now, so I was fortunate enough to catch up with him late last week to talk about the Chicago scene, the upcoming Tree featuring the City album, his forthcoming album Soul Trap, the real story behind his musical influences and inspirations, and why he’s not ready to sign on the dotted line on a major label… yet.

JB: For those that are just catching on, take a moment to let people know about yourself and Gutter City Entertainment

TREE:

I’m Tree, @MCTREEG on twitter, I’m a producer, I’m a writer, I’m an affiliate of Project Mayhem, Mayhem Music, and Gutter City Entertainment most of all, which is my production company, my publishing company, and I created Soul Trap, which is soul and trap music infused.  At this moment, I got the number three mixtape in the country via MTVHive, I’m one of Complex’s top ten producers to watch for, Spin magazine’s top five new artists of August 2012, and top ten songs in Chicago as of 2012 via Fakeshoredrive.com. I’m an instrumental piece to Chicago’s success, and you know, you can go on and on.  Most importantly I’m Tree – I make good music that people listen to, over and over again, not just for this summer, but classic material, I think, they think, we’re all starting to think so.

JB: You produce for a lot of other artists, but you also do projects where you just rhyme and someone else does the beats for you.  Do you see yourself as a producer first and an emcee second or do you even think in those terms?

TREE:

I don’t think in those terms, I just do music and try to stay current as much as possible, that’s the reason for the new releases that I have.  I do projects with producers, because I’m still in love with music, it’s a hobby, it’s a love, it’s something that I do.  When I first started doing this, I wasn’t getting paid for it, so it wasn’t for any substantial reason other than to hear great music, make great music, and play it for people, let people hear it, check it out and see what they think.  So I don’t see it in terms of producer or rapper, I’m both, and the fact that I can step away from producing and make a classic EP, which I think I did with The Lit with someone else and their beats and their style is because I still like music and if it sounds good I want to be involved.  Most importantly, as a writer, as a lover of music, I want to be involved with anything that sounds good.  So me stepping out and working with Tony Baines and just rapping over his beats is me as a rapper at my best.  Sunday School, that’s me and my production, and there’s a few other credits, if you ever heard any other Tree product, I try to keep it up to a certain standard of quality.

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Sometimes when an artist does something dramatically original it polarizes the listening populace, some shy away from it, because it shocks their senses and their understanding of the confines of their genre, others flock to it merely because it is different without taking the time to investigate whether there is any depth behind the exploration.  When an artist’s originality is subtler – perhaps an unusual combination of existing and previous aesthetics – a lot of times people miss the boat entirely, writing it off as derivative, uninteresting, or uninspiring.  The reason for my delay in reviewing Sunday School is that I simply missed the boat the first few times I gave Tree a listen.  For those that follow the rap world closely, Tree’s buzz has been unavoidable this year.  Often falsely set up as an underground more artistic and cultured foil to Chief Keef and the explosion of the drill scene in Chicago this year, Tree is far from some hyper-conscious coffee shop friendly rap artist.  I came upon Sunday School back in March when I started this site up and began to look around for the best releases of the first quarter to begin putting together some reviews for the site.  Against the unusually stellar first quarter canvass of Ka’s devout lyrical calisthenics and complex patterns, ScHoolboy Q’s rubbery vocal inflected Oxycontin misadventures, Lil Ugly Mane’s otherworldly dedication to a dark Memphis revivalism, Blue Sky Black Death’s stylized soundscapes the psychedelic self-absorbed deity Nacho Picasso, or Big K.R.I.T.’s mainstream ready country rap gospel spitting stripper solicitations – Tree’s album somehow seemed less alluring and noteworthy to me.  Recently I heard The Lit EP and enjoyed it enough that it caught my attention again.  As time has gone on, the year has slowed down, and in the midst of a particularly slow third quarter I went back to give Sunday School another shot.  S/O to my man Alex over at steadybloggin.com for insisting to me that I was missing out on something special.  

Tree “All”

Although he’s been around for a minute on the Chicago scene, Tree has become known this year as the creator of soul trap music, a style he invented by slicing and chopping up samples – often, though not always, familiar soul and R&B samples from the 70’s – into the rhythms of trap beat patterns.  The production style he’s created is a welcome innovation given one the relative lack of sample based music in the trap beat dominated circles and the lack of quality drum work – not to mention soul samples – in the sample friendly cloud rap circles.  While longevity will undoubtedly prove to be an important factor it’s quite arguable that Tree may have fostered the most important movement in sample based production since Kanye and Just Blaze unleashed The Blueprint.  While the cloud/aquatic rap innovators may have their own case to make along those lines, there’s no doubt that nobody has brought new life to soul samples in the same way over the last decade.

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Those that follow the Chicago scene are all well aware of Mikkey Halsted.  The annals of rap history are filled with the tales of rappers who had impressive talent that were never able to translate it into mainstream rap success, but Halsted has certainly flirted with greater success longer than most rappers who fall into that category.  The length of that flirtation has to be in part due to the fact that Halsted hasn’t made the same kind of creative missteps that plague many of those rappers, he may have made material that Cash Money wasn’t ready to release to it’s core audience, or been stranded on Virgin during their collapse, but both of those situations are relatively understandable to those who understand both of those situations.  The music that Halsted has released whether mixtapes or independent albums has continued to showcase the same talent that has earned him praise and respect as an inspiration in the game from everyone from former labelmate Lil’ Wayne to former collaborator Kanye West to the great No ID.  There is likely not a person of prominence in the rap game or an avid follower of the Chicago rap scene who hasn’t heard the name Mikkey Halsted and recognized the talent he could bring to the table in the right situation.  That said, it hasn’t worked out for Halstead to date, that’s not to say his previous projects aren’t all worth listening to, they definitely are, or that he hasn’t had opportunities, he has and for one reason or another they haven’t panned out.  Fortunately, right now Halsted seems completely focused on the music, and he seems to have surrounded himself with an impressive team, filled with excellent producers, Chicago legends, and industry power brokers.  If there was ever a time for Mikkey Halsted to make good on his ample promise in this rap game, it’s right now.

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