|True God (l) and Shokus Apollo (r) dig in the crates to craft new music|
Speed: Alright, brotherman. I’ve got to ask. You said a while back that you were retiring from music. Why’d you then drop several projects over the past year-plus, including your first EP, Saturdays and Sundays
True: I mentioned retiring in 2016.
Speed: I remember. It was during our Soul Revival 3 interview and the run-up for that.
True: I wanted to leave music alone and focus on my family situation after SR3. But, I was hit with some tough news and so many problems arose that I needed music again. Since then? Man, let’s see. I dropped After The Revival, Immortal Freedom, The Leftovers, Inception, and Solitary from a solo perspective before taking a six-month break and then dropping The Lost Files and The Miserable Beauty Vol. 1. That was summer 2016 through early 2018 and that’s not even counting the group and duo projects. I needed a break after that.
Speed: Doesn’t look like you’re taking one, though. You still dropped Saturdays, Miserable Beauty Vol. 2, and an HS project last year as well–with another one on the way. Is it all to keep you from losing your shit or is it more a pure love of the music?
True: Music is both for my own sanity and out of a love. I think that returning with Lost Files 2 and 7th Hour was perfect. It set the tone, especially since it’s been seven years since Soul Revival 1.
In terms of the last year, I found a new studio, new inspiration, and I just wanted to get that out. Music is my therapy. It’s what I live for, in some ways. Writing and creating brings me a different sort of joy. I took nine months away from creating. I didn’t record anything from January through October of 2018. I barely could even write. I needed to get my life together, honestly, in different ways.
Speed: Such as?
True: In terms of getting my life together, I needed to get out of the dark place I was in. I don’t want to label it “depression.” But, when you deal with the shit that I have on a daily, it is dark and grim. I had to find a happy place. A happy medium.
Speed: True that. You need that medium. I’ve learned that myself over the last few years. So, kudos, bruhman. I’m glad you didn’t let the demons take you. But wow! Seven years since SR1. We were young as hell back then. Do you ever go back to that pre-2013 era of True music and listen or do you–and I kind of hate this word–cringe to hear some of the stuff you put down back then?
True: I don’t go back and listen to much of the old music. But, when I do? It brings a smile to my face. You know, 2011 was a such a crazy year and had so many ups and downs. I think of how I felt when I was making the music and it’s a beautiful thing. Like, we were young, hungry, and had no idea what was coming. The fact that the music came out the way that it did is a testament to the talent.
However, one album I struggle to listen to is DOA. That album will, somewhat, always bother me. I mean, I bared my soul on DOA and–to this day–I still cringe hearing some of those songs. I said a lot.
Speed: That’s true. And I can imagine given the territory you touched on and the stories behind the songs. Does it hurt knowing things went as far left as they did after that album? And would you change anything that went into making it, musically or otherwise?
True: I’m glad I made the album. And it doesn’t hurt. I’m not numb to it, but it doesn’t hurt. I will never have a time like that again. That’s a moment in my life and my career. Like, I was becoming a father for the very first time. I had never seen a pregnancy up close. That is something I think is underrated about the process to me. I was there, daily, watching my child grow. Every song was written during this time. It’s a special time, personally. But, of course, it’s bittersweet because of some obvious things.
But musically? I wouldn’t change much. I think we did a great job finding a way to make an album that sounded nothing like Soul Revival 1 while dealing with the severity of what was going on in both of our lives. It is a special album to me and, I think, the only one that you produced from start to finish. I wouldn’t change much about that time. I just have a tough time hearing those songs because I remember where my mind was at the time.
Speed: Damn, you right. I almost said Soul Revival 2 was a complete True and Speed project, but then remembered there were a few minor tweaks and pieces produced by others. I get it, though. I don’t really revisit One Year Later. At least you never expunged DOA from your discography.
True: I would never expunge an album from my discography or hide it. Whatever I made at the time, it was real to me.
Speed: So what was the easiest album, then, if DOA was arguably your toughest? I mean, all the True God discography comes from a sense of crazy stuff happening, even the more upbeat projects.
True: The easiest? Pursuing Happiness and 7th Hour.
Those two are, by far, the easiest albums. They didn’t take as much out of me, mentally or emotionally. I can elaborate if you want.
Speed: Yeah, go ahead.
True: So, Pursuing Happiness, it came at a time when I was slowly finding some peace. Things were going well. They hadn’t gone that well in a year or two leading up to the album. I was rid of the stress of the wrestling business and the balancing act that required. I was rid of all the nonsense. I was interested in this beautiful woman who I enjoyed. Well, two beautiful women, but semantics.
I felt like I was making strides personally, too. I had the crew around me. We partied, we made music, it was a free-flowing time. Lots of weed and alcohol.
Now, 7th Hour? There was no pressure at all. It was just free to me as well. I returned after a hiatus and the lyrics just came to me so easily–especially the intro. The ideas, I sat on them for a minute. But, I was just happier and the music flowed effortlessly because of that. When I’m in a better place mentally, the music comes to me easier and without the pain or the stress. It was an album that felt like a celebration of seven years in the game and there was no pressure to make a classic or anything. Now, I may’ve made one by accident, but those things happen sometimes.
Speed: AX mentioned something in his interview with me that struck a chord. He said “DAR is the underground’s best-kept secret.” Almost five years after the first quartet album, does that still ring true for you?
True: Easily. It’s still true. DAR is the most-eclectic group of individual artists who all had different styles. Yet, everything and everyone meshed so well together.
Speed: Where do you see 2019 taking you and/or the DAR sound?
True: Well, 2019 is about to kick off in a different way. There’s the new sing I have with Apollo, “R U Up,” which is a precursor to a possible EP, DAR&B.
It’s something I really want to do, songs in an R&B style. That first song is out right now and it’s also the first single from the upcoming HS album Less Is More. That album’s half R&B-tinged songs and half more current-style songs. Solo-wise, I have The God Era dropping in a few weeks. It was an EP that turned into an LP. Then, I’m working on Eyes on the Ring 2, God willing. Finally, Miserable Beauty Vol. 2 and another hiatus. I don’t know what the sound will be, but it’ll be different.
Hell, we may even get a DAR EP if the stars align.
Speed: So what can we expect from Less Is More and The God Era?
True: Honestly, I’ve opened up more in terms of self-reflecting. The God Era has a song called “In Confessional,” where I just bare my soul. I speak on personal situations, the love I thought I’d found, the reality of maybe being a victim of my own misogyny, seeing people change, self-doubt, and so much more. That song took a lot out of me. My voice started cracking with emotion and I said “nah, keep the take” because it was real.
I’ve started to do more medley songs and sequel songs. I’ve got a sequel to “90s R&B” on it and I’ve started to stretch my creativity a little more. There’s a Noname-inspired track as well. I had a medley called “Shades of Ye” that I may release on something else.
As far as Less Is More, it’s different. It’s not the jazz rap, boombap, soulful rap, or even the alternative hip-hop I’ve dabbled in over the years. It’s very current and inspired by the artists of today, like your Young Thugs, Futures, and so on. That was more so just me agreeing to the vision Apollo had, honestly.
We are similar and different artists at the same time, so it’s fun to stretch out the creativity and show that we can do any style of music. It’s been fun. Lots of high-energy tracks. There’s a mix between R&B hip-hop–which was my idea–and trap and drip hip-hop–which was Apollo’s idea. We’ve always been similar to OutKast in that sense and Less Is More [embraces that].
Speed: So, about this singing?
True: The R&B side is the most fun for me, though. Singing is a challenge. Like, I can do that shit at home. But, singing in the studio and watching the vocal process after? It’s different and it gave me the desire to make an R&B album and dabble more. I have sixteen R&B tracks. Four of them made Less, one of which came from Apollo’s stash. There’s inspiration from [various R&B acts]. When I do the R&B solo project, I have a Prince-inspired track I didn’t finished. Jodeci and Daniel Caesar, too, along with some jazz. Pushing my artistic limits is what is entertaining to me now.
Speed: I’ve seen the progression. It’s expected, sort of, for you to branch off and experiment musically.
True: If you don’t experiment or branch out, you run the risk of being complacent. I’ve been in that arena, not having anything to rap about. But, until just now, that’s someone no one really knew. I was there at least twice. Once, between 2013 and 2015 and then again around 2017.
Speed: So how do you now keep from being complacent?
True: New experiences, mostly. I think building a friendship/relationship with someone over the last ten months is what gave me new life because of the dimensions it showed me. If people listen to Miserable Beauty Vol. 1, it’s literally just leftovers from Solitary and a few new tracks. It was random as hell. After that, I needed and deserved a good break. That’s what kept me from making the same album over and over again and again.
Speed: That makes sense. No one wants to hear someone at 30, 30-plus making the same album they did at 25.
True: Age aside, I just think that I want to try and do different things musically. It’s all the same topics and shit in terms of hip-hop. We can only talk about so much, but it’s how you do it.
Speed: Has the creative process changed much for you?
True: My process is slightly more simple now. Back in the day, I would devote time to writing and making songs. Now, I just let it happen organically. If an idea strikes, it strikes, I write, and I make it happen.
I was at dinner a while back and an idea popped up. I popped in an earbud and wrote really quickly. I was at the movies once and had an idea, so I went to the bathroom and wrote it down. It’s more organic in that way. Otherwise, not too much has changed.
Speed: You mentioned Eyes on the Ring 2. How are you planning to get that done considering you hate wrestling–
True: I don’t “hate” wrestling. I’ve just lost my love for it. That’s why I haven’t made EOTR 2 yet. I wanted to do it years ago, but it never materialized. I want to make it fun. When I left the wrestling business, I was jaded by it. I’m still jaded, somewhat. Add that to a lackluster product and there you go. So, I want to, at least, have some fun and tap into wrestling again and find that fun I used to have, that joy for the business. It’s not the same anymore and I want to change that.
Rapping over wrestling samples is not new. It wasn’t new when I first dropped EOTR in 2014.
However, it was a lot less common. But right now? This is the time to do it.
Speed: We getting anymore “fuck John Cena” lines?
True: I’m beyond that whole phase. I honestly don’t know what to expect, since the first–and only-song recorded is a take on the NWO Wolfpac theme. We’ll have to see how that turns out from here. I have some ideas, but nothing’s set in stone. It’ll be fun, though. That’s all I’m worried about. There’s going to be a two-part Rock track, too, so if ya smell…well, you get the idea.
Speed: Since we’re talking wrestling, do you think AEW will prosper?
True: It’s a great idea. If properly funded, pushed properly, and things go well, it’s a great venture. I can’t imagine it’ll rival WWE, but I like the idea. They should hire me to do something there. I have ideas and, more importantly, bills. Bills, dammit! Pay me six figures and let me help you change the game.
Speed: Can’t do any worse than WWE creative. Speaking of creatives, can you tell me more about this whole soundtrack business you’ve been finding yourself in the last several months?
True: It’s been interesting. So, a young director who went to NYU, Max Rissman, he hit me up and told me that he was a fan of my music. This was about two, three years ago. He told me that he was working on a short film titled Root For The Villain, which was the title of an album I’d dropped.
I went to New York to meet him and work on some paperwork and, from there, he went to put the music in his short film. That’s pretty much the process there but what made it special was that he saw the vision in the music and tied it to his vision. It opened eyes to my work and put me in circles I didn’t expect quiet as kept.
Seeing my name was listed was special, but the film getting accepted into several film festivals–including the Austin Film Festival–was a blessing. I feel like there’s more coming and I definitely want to move into films myself. That’s the next step.
Speed: Any ideas?
True: Absolutely! But, those are revealing later. However, it’s all coming along well.
Come back on Friday for part two of my interview with True, where we’ll discuss his desire to start a family, the Golden State Warriors, Kanye West, and the detrimental effects of “cancel” and “stan” cultures.