It’s basically the end of the year for music. Sure, we’ll continue to receive new albums and mixtapes until December 31, but your favorite outlets have already turned in their ‘best of’ lists (including your friendly neighborhood DJBooth).
Many of those lists will look similar, a fact I’ve always despised. Every writer at every outlet likes the same few albums? Is it just brainwashing because they’re the biggest names?
Drake is in everyone’s top 10, but my personal favorites list won’t include his name or his work. I’d kill to have Drake’s co-sign power if only for just one day. Imagine being able to send out an Instagram clip while riding around the city to music you never bothered to listen to this year and, in an instant, your followers feel the need to immidiately press play. If you rushed to Google the first few lines from the first 15 seconds of the artist I’ve been listening to the most in 2015, want to know who it’d be?
Don Trip’s Godspeed. What song? It doesn’t matter. Pick any song from the album.
Named a 2011 XXL Freshmen, the industry seemingly turned their back on Don Trip. Interscope waved goodbye when the label decided that he couldn't produce another buzzing single like “Letter To My Son.” Blogs stopped paying attention, too. Yet, this was the moment when Don was allowed to finally be himself. He now makes the music he wants to and does a damn good job at it. I first noticed this increase in quality when Trip was rapping alongside Starlito on Step Brothers 2.
I once looked at Don Trip as generic. He had his moments through his earlier mixtapes, but the music was diluted with tons of bad punchlines. “I’m fresh to death, I’m a fly guy/ killing more shit than a drive-by,” he spit on “Prolly.” These were post-Best Rapper Alive era Lil Wayne bars and so I didn't pay much attention.
For some reason, alleyes my ears were on Don Trip leading up to Godspeed. I pre-ordered the album after only hearing a single snippet. It was only $7.99, more than fair for 17 songs. Usually anticipation grows as the rollout continues, but Don wasn’t doing much. There were no music videos, no interviews. A few tweets here and there, but the pre-release promotion was mostly non-existent. Your favorite blogs weren’t covering him and he had four singles out all at once. This was the extent of a disappointing campaign.
Then came June 23, 2015. It was a normal day for most, but not for Don Trip. Barely anyone realized, but Trip had fully matured into the artist he showed he could potentially become years ago. If the A&R who signed Don to Interscope could hear Godspeed now, he’d kick over his desk. He ditched (most of) those god awful metaphors in favor of making music that evokes emotion.
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Don Trip was once mocked by Peter Rosenberg for having the personality of a dead frog, but Godspeed is where he found himself. Up until that point, I couldn’t tell you anything about Don’s life except that he rapped and has a son. Walking away from the last track, the album helped me understand Don’s mentality. He’s a hustler (who isn’t?), greatly values his mother, and has legit fears like anybody else. The last point is one you can infer about every rapper ever, but not every rapper reveals as much.
“I traded privacy for success, but is it worth it?”
Questions without answers in music tend to stick with me. The unknown is frustrating. Unlike G-Eazy, Don Trip doesn’t explore how fame changed him became it didn't last long enough. Instead, he raps like he’s still trying to get a deal. Like he’s praying someone hears him and his life changes. He’s putting everything he’s got into his verses. There are no mansions or happy homes. He’s sharing the stories of his past, revealing the fight just to keep a roof over his head (“Eviction Notice”) and how to deal with a bad breakup (“Medicine”).
The album’s closer is “Losing Streak.” Rarely do albums close on a depressing note, but Don Trip breaks this tradition. Three verses that read like open apology letters, each sadder by the line. He reflects on a relationship that didn’t work on the first verse (“They say hindsight is 20/20 and you don’t appreciate until it’s gone.”), while his mother is the subject of the middle verse. Finally, on the third and final verse of this powering offering, Trip speaks to his unborn daughter who just so happened to arrived right when Godspeed dropped.
There isn’t a happy ending, because one doesn’t exist yet. This album is given to us like a small autobiography equipted with flashbacks and current events. Godspeed ends in the present, and by the time you finish listening, it’s clear why the ending isn’t cheerful.
Don’s last words on Godspeed are “they say music is therapeutic.” This perfectly sums up the entire album. This is what Trip aimed to do on his first retail album. He stretched out on the chaise lounge chair and let us, the therapists, hear him out. I know he’d love for millions to hear and appreciate this album, but if that never happens it appears a sense of relief has been met from sharing with listeners his deep thoughts and feelings.
I can only do my part and let each and every reader know that Don Trip deserves your listen. In a year where everyone and their long lost cousin put out albums, Godspeed will remain with me in the years to come.
I don’t know if it’s going to be a classic in my eyes one day, but what I do know is that the album is one of my favorites of 2015. Hopefully that co-sign counts for something, at least a few minutes of your time spent listening to Don Trip.
[by Sermon, who is looking forward to Step Brothers 3. Follow him on Twitter.]