Tag Archives: DC music

two bars three stars: fat trel, “nightmare on e street”

17 Apr

I would normally feel slightly guilty for not reviewing a highly anticipated new mixtape until a few weeks after it drops– however– when said mixtape was slated for release in fall 2011 and has been endlessly hyped for far longer, it’s hard to feel badly about dragging my feet a bit.

Nevertheless, this wouldn’t be a DC music blog worth its chops if I didn’t write about the rapper/social media phenomenon known as Fat Trel. Homegrown in Northeast with the hood mentality to prove it, Trel  is hailed by some as the first messiah of DC hip hop. As I’ve mentioned on the blog previously, it is an oft-debated travesty that, despite all logic, DC has failed to produce a legitimate hip hop super star since… ever, really. (Unless you count Wale and his phony Maryland bullshit, which I don’t).

Now, not everyone (myself included) is fully convinced that Trel will live up to this hype. However, one can’t deny that his flow, street cred, and overall commanding presence are 100% legit. He’s overly aggressive, beyond graphic, immature, and somewhat goonish, but he is undoubtedly an excellent performer with booming delivery that immediately draws your attention. His rhymes are smart and some of his wordplay recalls early Lil Wayne cleverness, even if his subject matter is limited (drugs, hos, guns, repeat).

All of these hints of greatness paired with untapped potential made Trel’s most recent mixtape, Nightmare on E Street, one of the most anticipated releases in recent DC music history. Controversy surrounding Trel’s management and legal troubles delayed the release countless times, which only seemed to amplify the hype. But on March 26, the public finally got to listen to the mixtape Trel’s been tweeting about ~100X a day for months and months. With this extensive piece of work finally in our hands, it seems the only conclusion anyone can come to on Trel is: the jury is still out.

Nightmare displays those same moments of genius that make Trel so intriguing, along with some exciting, well-executed collaborations with big names from the national scene (Big K.R.I.T., for one). However, it is also frustratingly unedited (22 tracks and 1.5 hours long- forreal?!) and at times unfocused. Trel tries his hand at too many different directions, with some clear missteps along the way- most notably toward boneheaded swag rap, such as in “Benning Rd.” (an ode to hood life) or “On Top of Your Girl” (no explanation needed).

Less-than-stellar tracks are inevitable, though (especially among 22 of them), and there are clear gems on this tape; my personal favorites include the menacing, Big K.R.I.T.-produced “Swishers and Liquor,” as well as the “Devil Inside Me.”

My ultimate recommendation, however, for those who are new to Trel: check out his previous tapes first, especially 2011’s April Foolz. They will give you a clearer view of what (we think) Trel is all about. Then listen to Nightmare, but don’t let it make up your mind one way or the other. Then, do as the rest of us are doing: wait and see what he does next. We might have a real superstar on our hands.



“Swishers and Liquor”


two bars three stars: happy local music day!

8 Feb

Happy local music day, DC readers! Well, one could argue every day is local music day, but today we have the pleasure of enjoying local music through a monthly organized event. Since October 2011, Listen Local First has partnered with DC businesses to stream a pre-selected playlist of local artists. All day. And today is that day for February. Score.

The day not only involves some of my favorite local businesses (what up, Tryst), but has exposed me to some sweet DC bands I hadn’t listen to previously (what up, Ugly Purple Sweater). If this event couldn’t be any more tailored to my interests, this month’s playlist and accompanying artist showcase focuses heavily on Black artists in honor of Black History Month.

This all culminates in a can’t-miss artist showcase and panel discussion on Thursday, February 9 at The Dunes in Columbia Heights. The panel discussion, “Black Broadway: The Roots of DC Hip Hop,” will include a panel of some serious DC music smarty pants, such as singer/songwriter/actor/poet W. Ellington Felton, Capital Bop Editor Luke Stewart, Blues musician Stacy Brooks, and DJs Alizay and RBI–all under the careful moderation of James Benson and Kokayi, the masterminds behind the DC Hip Hop History Project.

But the piece de resistance of the evening, which I am antsily excited for given the small venue and excellent lineup, is the live showcase featuring Cornel West Theory and Nappy Riddem. These guys represent some of the best hip-hop and funk (respectively) to come out of the District in recent years, and their DC roots truly infiltrate their sound. I’m incredibly stoked to see these up-close-and-personal performances from a group of guys with serious flow and serious funk.

Check out the Listen Local First site for a full list of participating artists and businesses, and their blog for full event info–as well as a piece on Sockets Records written by yours truly.

A taste of what you’ll hear on Thursday:

Nappy Riddem, “Nappy Riddem”

Cornel West Theory, “DC Love Story”