Forget everything you thought you knew about Memphis, Tennessee and its hip-hop scene--especially if you learned it from watching
Hustle & Flow
. An rising rap star who takes as much inspiration from
as from the club music of his hometown,
is getting ready to redefine what it means to rep the River City.
Signed to hitmaking beat crew
in a joint venture with
, the 25-year-old emcee got his buzz up in 2011 with heartfelt single and video
Letter to My Son
). Now, Trip's is preparing to take his burgeoning career to the next level with the release of debut studio album
Help Is on the Way
, heralded by DJBooth-featured single "
." Watch for the project to drop this year along with the artist's
, Don Trip steps into
to discuss the personal circumstances behind
Letter to My Son
, his relationship with
exec and record producer Jimmy Iovine, and why the aforementioned film failed to do his hometown justice.
Your buzz began to get stronger with the Letter to my Son record. Discuss the meaning behind this very powerful record.
I wanted to speak on how I felt as a parent. I wasn’t being treated fairly as a father. It takes 50% of the effort from me to make a child so I think I should have 50% of the right to raise a child as well. That’s something that gets overlooked in our society. More times than not we get the female perspective of why we’re not there for our kids. Nobody ever respects the fact that sometimes women keep us from our kids. That’s something that needed to be spoken out against.
I assume this record was directed at the mother of your child specifically. Did she change her attitude after you released this record?
Her attitude changed, but her perspective didn’t if that makes sense. She still feels like she’s right for what she’s done [keeping me from my child]. It’s a lot better now than it was at first; she understands I have a right to see my child. I’m just taking it one day at a time.
Letter to my Son was recorded over two years ago, yet you're still working the record with great success. How have you been able to sustain the momentum over such a long period of time?
I think I was just fortunate to have a record that could live that long. I recorded that record in late 2009 and we’re in 2012 now and that record is still kicking. I feel like if it wasn’t as powerful as it is, it wouldn’t have lived for so long. It’s an honor and a pleasure to know I can make a record that powerful. That’s something I’m gonna’ take advantage of no matter what, and not just for monetary purposes. When it comes to my fans and the other records I make, I know I can’t make simple records from here on out. I’ve never tried to make simple records anyways, but now using
Letter to my Son
as an example, it keeps things in perspective for me.
Thanks to a feature from Cee-Lo the song got a boost of buzz. What was it like collaborating with someone like Cee-Lo?
The call came from Jimmy Iovine. We added a new hook and for the remix, I told Jimmy we needed someone with some soul on it; I actually said it needs to be somebody like Cee-Lo Green. From that, Jimmy Iovine went out and got Cee-Lo Green (laughs). He [Cee-Lo] rocked with the record. I’m a new artist so you know I don’t have a budget of a million dollars to go and get Cee-Lo Green. It was one of those records where Cee-Lo felt it; when I met him on the video set, he told me he wished that was a record he had all his life. That was an honor and a privilege.
What does it mean to have someone like Jimmy Iovine who believes in you?
I’m glad to be an artist on his label he’s paying attention too; I can’t be one of those dudes on the sidelines of a label not getting any attention. He’s working hard on my project. To go out and get something for me that I requested, that meant something to me.
Coming from the east side of Memphis, who were your influences growing up?
Musically, I’m a Jay-Z fan. Andre 3000 & 2Pac inspired me as well; those are the three artists I listen to the most. That’s why I think people relate to my music. The fact that my music is broader than most Memphis artist’s music, not to say the other music in Memphis isn’t broad. I didn’t take anything from Memphis music though, it taught me how to make club records, but I basically found my own path. 8Ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, Yo Gotti, they all did their thing. I respect their grind and I respect them as men.
One of your latest DJBooth features came on the David Banner single Do Work. He’s a legend around your way, how did it feel to be a part of his new single?
That was something I appreciated, as well. I come from hustling on my own and not having support from any artists whatsoever. Coming from that and gaining the respect of Memphis and different artists throughout the south in different states, I appreciate that more than a lot of things in this game.
How soon will fans get their hands on your Gangsta Grillz mixtape with DJ Drama?
Right now it’s looking like late this month [January]. It’s gonna’ be a good rest of the month for me. I’m also working on my debut album,
Help is on the Way
; we’re looking at a second quarter release. I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
What artists and producers have been in the studio with you on your album recording sessions?
As far as features goes, nobody but Cee-Lo is on the album. I broke the bank when it came to producers though. I have J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Boi-1da, T-Minus, Cool & Dre, The Renegades, Drum Squad and more. I wanted to paint a perfect picture with this album. I feel like I needed a wide variety of producers. I spent the budget on producers instead of going to get big features.
In closing, do you think Hustle & Flow did a good job showcasing the Memphis rap scene?
Nah, I don’t like that movie at all. In no shape or form is that Memphis. I don’t know where that accent or the storyline came from. That’s not Memphis; I’m sorry but it’s not. Anybody actually from Memphis, they know that’s not Memphis.