As Hip-Hop fans debate on New York’s return to the marketplace, 2007 will deal out several fresh faces. While Young Jeezy and Rick Ross have succeeded in strong debuts under The Carter Administration, Def Jam readies its homegrown talent Tru Life. With platinum pressures increasing, some already know this Lower East Side talent for reasons outside of his bars and hooks. As Jay-Z kept a tighter lip on the jabs from Cam’ron and Jim Jones, it was Tru Life who was outspoken against Uptown’s brightest stars – drama that Tru says, goes much deeper than music, labels, and bosses.
While the beef sizzles, listeners may be overlooking the talents that Tru Life has to offer. As his latest mixtape Tru York City makes its rounds to consumers, this artist says that the hood needs something more than manufactured gangster rap. Whether he’s writing songs that are living wills to his fans, or appearing sandwiched between Jay and Nas on “New York Takeover”, Tru Life assumes responsibility in polishing the rotten apple that so many out of towners have bit from. Read why this MC believes it takes street credibility to gain access to the minds of Hip-Hop’s orphaned children, and just what he intends to do once he has them.
AllHipHop.com: How does it feel to be the most-talked about rapper in New York without an album?
Tru Life: It feels like a great thing, man. I feel like a blessed individual. It’s been a long grind for me; I’m a humble soul. It’s under crazy circumstances, but it’s a blessing.
AllHipHop.com: What do you mean “crazy circumstances”?
Tru Life: Circumstances, as far as, everybody’s talkin’ right now ‘cause of the drama. I got a mixtape out now – it’s crack, it’s hot. I got a lot of hot records on there, but the drama overwhelmed it and the situation in a way, you know what I’m sayin’?
AllHipHop.com: When you talk about drama, do you almost wish it never happened – for the simple fact that your diss records get way more attention than your conceptual records?
Tru Life: That’s exactly what I mean. So I know, in a second, when this calms down, and they start to listen to the tape, they’ll realize that there are some great records on there. Everything on there wasn’t a diss record. I didn’t have to go that route. I’m in the music business, I just want to make music and feed my family, I’m a musician.
AllHipHop.com: Because of this, do you think newer artists will shy away from beef when they see what it’s done to you and the pressure that it’s probably caused you?
Tru Life: I hope they do, ‘cause the beef thing is wack. I don’t even condone to doin’ it. It’s been a part of Hip-Hop forever, like KRS-One, LL Cool J…I was just with LL Cool J yesterday, chattin’ with him about this. I guess it’s good for Hip-Hop in a certain way, if you keep it Hip-Hop, ‘cause that’s in the history. I think the situations can drift off and get ugly, and turn into somethin’ else – not a good thing. I never really wanted to do this. I don’t think these new artists should be comin’ at established artists, tryin’ to talk about people that have 13, 14 albums out, to try to get a name. To me, that’s really corny.
That’s not really why I wanted to get at them [The Diplomats]. This was a personal thing between me and Jim [Jones]. We have a personal thing. He’s done a lot of things that I haven’t even mentioned to the world. People are thinkin’ I’ve said everything. This actually gets way deeper, we’ll see how far I really wanna take this. He’s done some things I don’t really wanna mention. Like, the kid has done some really foul things that a good person wouldn’t do. Forget about being a gangster, forget about being crazy or a thug – just a righteous individual, a good individual wouldn’t do. He’s done things that a snake person would do – just foul. It’s more than Hip-Hop with me and him; it’s personal. That’s almost why I didn’t wanna do it, because it wasn’t Hip-Hop. But then he started to play games, do certain things, and say my name in interviews, and I don’t know what he was thinkin’ about even doin’ that. Just the disrespect he was doing to Hip-Hop – disrespecting Jay-Z and disrespecting Nas wasn’t helpin’ me. I just had enough of it at one point and was like, “Okay, I’m really gonna have to take my belt off and show these dudes, man – and spank ‘em and give them a taste of their own medicine.” He was trying to use that come up – as a tool. That same tool might come back to haunt him.
AllHipHop.com: You bring about an interesting point about being a good person and righteous individual. People look at somebody like Tupac in those frames. In a New York Times article in 2005, you reportedly tried to convince Jay-Z of your charisma to get signed. You were signed. To what level do you think you’re a good person?
Tru Life: It’s weird when people look at me…not that I’m not…but somewhere down the line, there’s a misunderstanding. It’s like, they saw Beef, and saw me or heard about something crazy I did – and just look at me crazy. Certain individuals saw the end of Beef and saw what I said, and said, “Damn, he seems kinda honest, kinda real, kinda humble,” and saw the good side of me and respected that. Once again, the beef thing overshadows the records. It’s a gift and a curse – ‘cause the people I really wanna speak to are people that in the hood, poor people, the suffering, the oppressed people, the people that are starving, the people who are living wrong and need guidance, the [orphans], the kids that’s mom is shooting heroin and his pops is in jail. To get to them, they all wanna be gangstas. They’re all caught in this gangsta era. They’re not looking at the good side of Tupac, they’re looking at the rowdy side of Tupac. They wanna be the 50 Cent, Tupac, and even Jim Jones. These young kids are brainwashed by this era of this whole gangsta rap s**t, and they wanna be like it. They look at me like that already. They lettin’ me in to talk to them. I gotta come at them in a way where they can relate to me, understand me, and feel like they’re just like me so that they can sit down and listen to me. ‘Cause if you just talk to them very intelligently, it’s gonna fly over their head. If you’re too hard or too soft on ‘em, it just flies over their head. Then you end up gettin’ the Mos Def crowd – which is not a bad thing. To this day, I love Mos Def, I’m a fan, he’s dope – but I think his messages fly over the hood.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been doing this for a while. I don’t think Common is flying over the hood. Maybe it took Kanye West beats to bring him back, but “Corners” was directed to the hood. I know what you mean though. But when do you think that the hood couldn’t take those messages anymore, or was it corporations selling them something else?
Tru Life: I think there’s a lot people out there… it’s not that they’re not smart, it’s a lot of people suffering. There’s a lot of sick people out there, chemically imbalanced kids in the street that are not all the way there. I ain’t gonna blame it on Tupac, but he seems to be thee most – he’s one of my favorite artists of all time, I love Tupac. I think a people will try to chase and do what he did. I think they really trying to be like him. I don’t know if they really looked, ‘cause I see a positive man, when I see Tupac. I don’t see a negative guy that they’re trying to portray. They’re trying to bite what he did, and just doing it in a wrong way. Somewhere down the line, all these kids are trying to be thugs and gangsters. To me, when I seen ‘Pac do it, I saw him doing One Nation, bringing all his people together. I saw him being a revolutionary. I didn’t see him as a Blood, I saw him as a revolutionary. I saw him trying to invade the gangs and try to get the gangs comin’ together. I see a bunch of kids out here, trying to claim gangs in New York City, portraying a certain image to the kids. Hip-Hop is raising our children, man. That’s why I made “I Hate Rap”, ‘cause there’s realities in saying we are raising these kids; we’re their fathers. Rap is saving n***as’ lives, man. It’s taking hustlers off the street and giving people jobs. Both sides got a strong reality to ‘em.
AllHipHop.com: Scratch Magazine recently suggested that to bring New York back, you’d be best to work with New York mainstay producers like DJ Premier, L.E.S., Buckwild, and others. How does that measure up to the actual lineup as of now?
Tru Life: Actually, it’s totally the opposite, man. I was having a hard time, that’s why my album was taking long. When I first envisioned what I wanted to do, I wanted to get old New York feel with a new twist on it. I can come up with concepts, ideas, ill lyrics, but I don’t do beats. It wasn’t that I wasn’t liking what I heard from the producers, it was just that either it was a real old sound – a sound that won’t really rock today. It’s hard to be a new artist from New York City when New York ain’t really that hot. I felt like to bring it back, it’s gotta be somebody new, somebody fresh, a fresh, new sound. I had to go another route. I don’t really have too many Southern-sounding tracks. I got one track with [Young] Jeezy and Rick Ross that I did. Snoop Dogg executive produced my album, so he brought a lot of different influences to the table – that big, live instrument music. I got the grimy New York feel in it too, with Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz, [and] Neo Da Matrix. I think it’s a pot of gumbo.
AllHipHop.com: In between you and the label, there’s the DJs. How much do you feel them pushing you forward and helping you bring out your best?
Tru Life: When you do any kind of art, and somebody appreciates it, it’s a great thing. Whether it’s a DJ – even more when it’s a DJ, ‘cause they’re the most important. Without a DJ, your music can’t get heard. You need them to get it out across the country. It’s easier when you’ve got somebody who’s been puttin’ out tapes for 10, 20 years, and they’ve got a certain outlet, certain fanbase – they’re giving you their crowd. When you have somebody like a J-Love or a Green Lantern who really believes in you, it’s a blessing. A lot of people don’t give enough credit to DJs as they should. I miss the days when rappers had DJs. I want to bring a DJ into Tru Life – like Rakim had Eric B, like Run-DMC had Jam Master Jay, Rob Base had EZ-Rock. What ever happened to them days? I wanna go back to givin’ probs to the DJ. “Tru Life and such-and-such”, where I can rap about my DJ being the coldest DJ in the world, letting him scratch and cut – keep it 100% Hip-Hop.