TRU-G: A True Gangsta, A True G.O.A.T.

TRU-G is an artist out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Self-signed under the record label T.A.L.I. Entertainment (which stands for “Thuggin’ And Lovin’ It”) which was cofounded by him and his mother, he is a talent you do not want to miss. If you only read one review, and only listen to one artist from this blog, make it this one. He’s actually pretty mind-blowing. And coming from me, as my reviews are almost always a mix of positives and negatives about the artist, you know this guy is good. With a new E.P. pressed up and released, I can’t believe he isn’t getting more streams than he is. I recommend everyone check out his entire “Still” album — another thing that I have never said before in a review — because it’s all solid. The title track, “Still” is particularly good, and the song I will be reviewing today, “Fake Friends” rings like an instant classic. I’m sold, and if you hear it, I think you will be too. Also, do yourself a favor and check out the music video for “Fake Friends” (especially if you’re an artist considering making a house-party style music video) because that style of video rarely comes out right anymore. It’s overplayed, a little cheesy, and just screams “lowbudget,” “last-minute,” and “I knew a guy with a video camera” — but in the case of TRU-G’s version of this video, he makes it seem like he made it on a Drake budget, and with zero cornball-factor. Incredible.

TRU-G sounds like everything hip hop is missing these days. He’s best compared to the artists of the golden era, with vocals that sound like Xzibit in tonality with these almost 50-Cent like flows. There’s a little bit of The Game in there, too. He has that hard sound and that uppity vibe to his flow and to the beat, making his tracks ring like immediate anthems for the club or before jumping in the ring. It’s almost a little bit like a low-key, less-doubled D.M.X. at times, and for those of you who are too young to remember, that “D.M.X-vibe” was something every rapper wanted to achieve but almost no one in today’s era has ever really hit that mark or made a song that gave you that same feeling like you were chanting a battle cry when you rapped along with the track. But somehow, TRU-G has captured that vibe and harnessed it into something he has made entirely his own, and that’s no small feat. I think I can speak for hip hop heads when I say, hats off to him, for that. Callmenjamin, the feature verse on the track, is almost equally excellent. I say “almost” simply because my personal taste has me favoring TRU-G, but that’s not to say Callmenjamin doesn’t hold his own on this track. He is every bit as exciting to listen to, as enjoyable and as talented. Basically, he’s the perfect feature. There’s a somewhat lower energy to Callmenjamin than to TRU-G. Callmenjamin is sort of like if Big Sean got twice as hood – and Big Sean is from Detroit, so, he’s already pretty hood when you think about it. Callmenjamin draws out his inflected rhyming words at the ends of the bars in the same way Big Sean often does, and there’s something equally almostmusical about his flow, especially when compared to the hard, thug-heavy TRU-G verse. It’s a unique duality of different tones, which both compliment each other perfectly.

The melodic singing nature of the chorus is something that TRU-G prides himself on, according to his bio. And rightly so. This has the interesting effect of modernizing the whole track, which is otherwise deeply rooted in the classic sounds of hip hop. Usually, when an artist tries to do this (blend the old and the new), it comes out all different types of wrong. It’s rarely not a complete fail. But somehow, TRU-G manages to blend the two distinctly heard eras seamlessly, and the blend is so fluid and natural it feels like precisely what is supposed to be there. Another notable and admirable quality to this track — and to the “Still” E.P. overall — is how none of it sounds like an artist who is hopelessly behind the times. We have all heard those SoundCloud rappers who are just not going to shift gears and make hip hop in even a remotely modern way. Old sounding beats, flat production, vocals way on top the mix, those sort of freestylesounding beats that mostly go nowhere, and that old cadence and that doublet flow. It’s the hallmark of the golden-era sound, and as much as I love it, as many of us love it, it doesn’t seem to work when some new rapper adopts it in today’s era. It’s like, it was good when it was happening, so why can’t we recreate it authentically? That’s always been a head-scratcher for me because there’s nothing I would like more than for us all to forget all this trappy, high-hat heavy, wordless and rhyme-less, mostly just nonsense, new wave songs and go back to that classic 90’s sound. But maybe we can’t go back; it doesn’t seem to ever work out right when done by an artist today. Even artists from that actual time period seem weirdly forced about it when they make a new song in that old style.

I feel like TRU-G has done the absolutely impossible. He is astoundingly authentic, genuine, and true to the time of real gangsta hip hop. I guess that’s why he’s called TRU-G, and it’s definitely a fitting name for him. He may be the last. And he’s definitely the first, that I’ve heard, in the modern generation to make this actually work. He seems too authentic to be real like he just straight-up time traveled here, and yesterday he was making boom bap beats on analog equipment back in 2002. I can’t believe what we have here with this artist. He’s truly the best thing I have reviewed to date. For the first time, in all the time I have reviewed artists, I wasn’t just a critic — I was an immediate fan. I believe the next order of business is to clone him three dozen times and flood the game with his sound. If I could pick an artist to give my co-sign to, it would be TRU-G. All day. I just hope we get a lot more of him in the future. Do not stop, TRU-G. Hip Hop needs you.

-ERINEM

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