Houston was arguably hip-hop’s city of the year in 2005. Slim Thug, Mike Jones, Lil Flip, Paul Wall and the legendary Bun B all enjoyed some heavy success, as the spotlight shined bright in Houston, Texas. Although these rappers were able to break out of the regional success they all shared, there are still many artists in H-Town on the everyday indie grind, pushing their mixtapes out the truck — one of those rappers is Trae.
Already an OG in Houston as a member of the legendary Screwed Up Click, Trae is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and who does he credit for opening the doors? He credits Paul Wall, and with Paul’s help, Trae’s music has spread beyond Texas to all 50 states.
The 25-year-old Houston native is currently in a bidding war with several major labels looking to find the next star in Texas. But, Trae isn’t jumping into any deal, he is weighing his options and continues his independent hustle while waiting. After all, if you are selling 20,000 mixtapes at $10 a pop, why rush to sign with a major?
Trae chopped it up with BallerStatus about how his career is taking off, why Houston is the breeding ground for new talent and why his fans are so loyal.
BallerStatus.com: How has the last few months been for you, being that your name is starting to spread beyond the South?
Trae: It’s been cool ’cause I’ve been out here grindin’. When I first started, I was like the youngest in the race ’cause I been with a bunch of the old school cats. Now that I’m getting of age (I ain’t nothing but 25), it’s crazy! [People] be knowing me on a wider scale than before — they knowing me in all 50 states and overseas now. It’s cool.
BallerStatus.com: You recently did a mixtape with DJ Smallz and you were on a few other tapes including Game’s latest one (Stop Snitchin’, Stop Lyin’). Why do you feel people are beginning to catch on?
Trae: For the most part, I have to say real recognize real. If you come to my city and my state and you ask about Trae, people will let you know I’m the truth. My music is not falsified in no form or fashion and I guess people respect that.
Shout to my n**** Paul Wall ’cause he really shining the light on me right now. He is letting people know that “If y’all like the South, y’all trippin’ if y’all ain’t up on Trae yet ’cause he’s the truth.”
BallerStatus.com: How does it feel to have one of your city’s biggest stars in Paul Wall looking out for you like that?
Trae: It’s cool man ’cause I think real recognize real and I appreciate him for that. That’s why I let people know that they gotta watch what they say about Paul ’cause we the streets out here. So, he got a hell of a team behind him. It make me feel good to know that there is someone out here still loyal to pump it up for me ’cause a lot of people try to keep the doors closed, but he’s opening them up for me.
BallerStatus.com: How did the Game collabo come about?
Trae: Game, him and Paul is cool, so they was chopping it up. I guess Paul was out there doing something with Game and he was like “Yo, I got this dude from [Houston] who’s really hot, I think you otta f*** wit him.” Game was like “Cool, y’all just do it and send me the verses,” so we went from there. We actually did two songs and the sh** came out hard as hell. I give respect to Game for even putting us on there.
BallerStatus.com: You are one of the original members of the Screwed Up Click…
Trae: I’m actually one of the youngest. There are few of us who are younger than everybody. You know how in the hood you got the O.G.’s and the B.G.’s, well I’m finally getting up on that O.G. status, but I was always one of the baby ones.
BallerStatus.com: Talk about how you got up with them, and how they’ve helped mold you to who you are today.
Trae: I really looked up to them on a street aspect ’cause it’s a big camp. We’ve always done our own thing, but we’re out here and we’re well respected, you know? Really, they just kept me on my toes of what needed to be done.
BallerStatus.com: Ok, for the people out there, tell me more about yourself. Talk about how you came up in the game and what kinda things you’ve been doing over the years.
Trae: I came up as a young, hungry type guerilla man. My situation is different, that’s why a lot of people out here respect it. I wasn’t the cat that you would find featured on everybody’s stuff. I wasn’t one of the cats who you would find in the videos when someone got a guest appearance; I wasn’t a guest. Ain’t nothing was given to me; I had to work for everything I’ve gotten. A lot of people respect me 100x more because I got out here and made my own name. I got on these mixtapes when I was younger and sold these mixtapes on my own, so I brought people my own way. There wasn’t anyone out here trying to give me a chance being that I was younger than everybody, so I got out here and did it on my own. And it’s paying off ’cause of how my sh** sells. Like I was never trippin’ off radio play or anything ’cause every time I dropped a tape, it would sell. I would release a tape, press up 10/20,000 and sell ’em for $10 a pop, so just imagine the money. I was doing mixtapes once a month or once every other month and people was buying them. It was all gravy; I just made my own little formula.
BallerStatus.com: Now, from what I hear, you’re music is really personal and you really get into the experiences of your life, instead of rapping about material things or just crank out club hit after club hit. So, why do you feel it’s important to let people into your life via your music?
Trae: That’s what I tell people man…that there is a bigger picture. Everybody can rap, but I don’t consider myself a rapper; I just do what I do. I tell people that I write about my emotions and that’s why a lot of people can respect it because those are the people who go through the same sh** I go through. I’m the one who represents for the underdog and people who really go through sh**. You know how some people make the happy music and the girl music, well sh**, there are people out here with real problems who are barely making it from day to day. They can’t relate to this other sh**. That’s why I make my music for them ’cause I am one of them.
I got an older brother doing three life sentences — Free Dinkie. When you see my n****s on that Later Dayz mixtape that says “I’m my brother’s keeper; Free Dinkie,” I’m holding it down for my brother, you know? I’ve lost a lot of people and I’ve been around a lot of sh**, so for me to still be here strong like I am, that’s what makes me keep going, just to show them they can do the same thing.
BallerStatus.com: And I think because of how much you let the fans into your life, that’s one of the main reasons they are so supportive of you.
Trae: Yea ’cause I don’t have the average fan base. My fan base will ride or die for me man ’cause I keep it 100% real with them. The way I was raised, it was just simple: be real. If you can’t be real, you don’t even need to speak like you is man. That’s just that.
BallerStatus.com: That should be a general rule for everyone…
Trae: Yea, it should be, but due to certain situations, it ain’t like that right now. There are a lot of falsified rappers out here man. I’m glad that I’m gonna be one of the few that they really, really know that I’m keeping it real out here man.
BallerStatus.com: With Houston being the new spot for major labels to scout talent, what does Trae bring to set himself from the rest of the talent in Houston?
Trae: Well, my gang is called Assholes By Nature, so they better be prepared for an asshole themselves. They can take my music any way they want ’cause I’m doing sh** my way, I ain’t following the rules. I’m not being political, I’m not going to get the hottest producer to get on my album and I’m not gonna be friendly with these people because they hot — I don’t care about any of that. I’m doing sh** my way, the Assholes By Nature way. For some people it’s gonna be good, but for others, I’m gonna be a pain in the ass. It is what it is. I’m finna bring the real ’cause I’m sick of this fabricated sh** you hear today. There’s supposed to be all these real n**** in the game today, but in reality, there ain’t that many. So, that’s what we are bringing.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think the biggest misconception people have about Houston rappers or rappers from the South in general?
Trae: It depends ’cause some rappers in the South get respect and some they don’t. Some they think are gimmicks. I ain’t one of them gimmicks. I’m finna show them that the South ain’t no gimmick.
BallerStatus.com: Does it upset you that rappers from the South get stereotyped as rappers that only make club hits?
Trae: That don’t offend me because they’re not aware of me yet, so until they see it, they can’t really speak on it.
I’m finna bring a lot of stuff. I wanna give people the understanding of what Screw music really is or who DJ Screw was. I finna bring light to a lot of places out here. I got a hell of an album and they probably gonna be amazed when they hear the versatility — I not only rap Southern, but I flip fast. I don’t care who you are or what you can do on a track, I can hold my own with you. I’m one of the raw talents from out here and I’m going all the way.
BallerStatus.com: Now you are one of the few to really work with DJ Screw when he was alive, so how does it feel to see all these people today using his name to benefit themselves when they didn’t even know him?
Trae: It bothers to the point where they don’t really know they history man, so I’m here to show them they history. That’s all it is. I can’t get mad at people for what they don’t know. For the people who do know, they d***riders and they leeches for that. But at the same time, there are people out there who are really shedding light on what it was about like Paul Wall.
If you look at Paul Wall, he’s bringing out the South to the rest of the world. He’s introduced the Screwed Up Click to the mainstream, you know? He’s letting them know how we do, but he’s recognizing the cats out here that been doing it. That’s why I give some much respect to Paul Wall ’cause he doing it the right way man. He’s doing it the same way I would’ve done it if I was in his shoes. There’s some cats out here doing it a little, but they still trying to hide it.
BallerStatus.com: Speaking of majors, I understand that there are some labels very interested in you. Can you talk about your current situation as far as a deal is concerned?
Trae: Right now, I got a few labels hollering. I’m just trying to weight out my options.
BallerStatus.com: Now, do you have an album ready to go when you sign? Tell me about that?
Trae: Everyone is waiting on Restless. It is what it is. I got the hot single “Swang.” I also got The Outlawz, Three 6 Mafia, Mya, Bun B, my family S.L.A.B. and the Screwed Up Click, Jim Jones and Paul Wall — I’m bringing it. It’s a helluva album. It was supposed to drop independent, so I’m bring it to a major to show them that it holds as much weight as if it was made with a major’s budget.
BallerStatus.com: What other things are on your plate right now?
Trae: Right now I’m working on my solo album. We got S.L.A.B. The Anthem in stores — that’s my little brother and them; we pumping them right now. And anything that comes out under this G Maab Entertainment/ABN family sh**.