Few 18-year-olds are talking about timelessness. Most are fascinated with forever— forever young, forever wild. Forever is a party that never ends, and a party that people are afraid might end at any moment. It is frenetic and anxious.
So what does timeless look like? On this particular night, timeless means running 15 minutes late to the performance. It’s a musician in pajama bottoms, no shoes, dyed red dreads, and an eight-ball chain with spikes that's reminiscent of Bowser from Mario-Kart (which might be the idea, given his new Instagram name: "Baby Bowser").
My first introduction to Trippie Redd comes through the chaos that swirls around him. In the two-hours waiting for him to show up, his manager is running around trying to find out why the rapper is still in New Jersey when his New York City performance is in 10 minutes; a stage tech is pacing aimlessly with sound equipment; and his vocal coach is jumping out of elevators hoping to intercept him, ranting about some ridiculous text message he sent her the night before. But none of this is without it’s fun. Everyone confronts the chaos with a smile, and especially after speaking to the vocal coach, it's evident how much this team resembles a big family.
After Trippie Redd finishes his performance, on his last night opening for G-Eazy’s “The Beautiful & Damned Tour,” we remind him that his vocal coach is looking for him, and joke that she was the image of a mom ready to ground him. “She’s amazing, though, she teaches me a lot of shit about my voice,” he says.
HNHH: I thought you were all-natural, just self-taught?
Trippie Redd: I am but, ever since I started the tour she’s been trying to teach me how to not crack while I’m performing type shit. So with that it’s helping me even in music. Ever since she's been teaching me that type of shit, it low-key can help when I get to the studio, I can feel it. I’m not going to crack in the studio.
What kind of stuff does she teach you?
For example, one of my warm ups is, uh… AH-OOOO. AH-OOOO! It’s like a howl, kind of. It goes from up to low and as I do that, I gotta do that out my stomach instead of my chest. It helps me to realize, when I’m on stage, instead of running out of breath trying to do it out of my chest, I just... AH-OOO!
Trippie Redd’s vocal exercises aren’t entirely reminiscent of the flanging vocal melodies and hooks that blasted him to SoundCloud fame and beyond last year. His hit, “Love Scars,” was a sad, woozy love letter that split between strained singing and tough, punctuated raps. It was a surprising success, and Trippie Redd’s vocal exercises in part demonstrate that he isn’t interested in repeating that old formula. Not just in the sound, it’s the fact that he’s a rapper taking voice lessons, and that he is actively reflecting on how to translate what he learns into new music. Trippie Redd is a master of understatement— you need to look past the sweatpants and nonchalance to see that he is quietly designing something more ambitious than SoundCloud hits. In the last year he has released four tapes, joined a major tour, and begun work on his debut album.
Now that the tour is over… how do you feel?
Man, first tour ever. That shit was amazing. I fuck with it.
How did it get set up? Did you know G-Eazy for a while?
I actually didn’t know him at all. His team reached out and we got that placement. Ever since then, it’s been nothing but hard work on this tour. This shit was fun for real. It was the best of times, the worst of times…
Tell us about that— what did you learn? What were some high points, what were some low points?
Best of times— I got to meet G-Eazy, of course, that’s fucking fire. I got to bond with him, I really know him as a person. I really like him. He’s cool. I never meet cool artists like that. They’re always what you expect them to not be. What else… performance-wise, it taught me a lot about performances. I always turn up. I’m sure you’ve seen videos of my performances. It just really taught me how to keep up with myself… I met my dawg Phora [the rapper, and fellow opener]. The good points is meeting these people and knowing them. It’s really a different vibe, I’ve never really met people like them.
I love the bus, bro! I love riding the bus!
Well, you were making music on the bus I hear.
I was literally like, I didn’t have no equipment to record the music. I have my big ass speaker. I’ll just play a beat off of that and record my voice over the phone, like recording my face type shit. Yeah, and I have Wi-Fi so I was playing "Fortnite."
And the lows?
Not being able to eat what you want all the time. When you're on the road, there's not always a place to stop that you like. That shit kills me, like McDonalds... I like it but eww. I got money now, I should be eating good. I’m more of a restaurant type of guy.
How’s it feel to be back in New York? A good place to end it.
I love it out here bro. The energy out here be fire. I did my first headlining show in New York. I was wearing an Ammo Stilo bullet proof vest and I had the bag. And I went viral with the Stilo bag.
I feel like it is your adopted city. You’ve been here a lot…
Most of my followers are from New York. And a lot of my friends, I think Ski lives out here, Purpp lives out here. All the A$AP guys live out here. I grew up listening to A$AP. I love A$AP Rocky. He’s hard. A$AP Ferg, hard. A$AP Nast, hard. A$AP Ant, hard. RIP Yams...
Trippie Redd has in many ways absorbed the gritty (what he calls, hard) atmosphere of New York City. “Owee,” one of his biggest songs, was shot against the backdrop of the Queensboro Bridge. And last year Trippie delivered a rowdy listening party and after-party for A Love Letter to You 2 in Brooklyn. The city melds with and is complemented by another aesthetic favorite of his— video games and animation.
His lyrics and music videos reference classic 2000s combat video games like “Soulcalibur” and “Twisted Metal.” And later he shows me a secret chain he has in the works, a Playstation One-era inspired design. When I bestow the title of “Mortal Kombat” Rapper on him, he can name his three favorite characters without missing a beat. “It’s between Bo’ Rai Cho— the drunken master... I’m like the high-en master— Smoke, and Noob Saibot.” But Trippie Redd doesn't want these influences overemphasized. Above all, he is inspired by film, and is aiming more for 'cinematic' than 'video game-y' in his music videos. In this sense, New York City in real-life is a dynamic monument to the image of itself presented in arts and film. Trippie Redd sees the scene to a movie everywhere in the city. “This is where Broadway shit happens, and movies and shit like that. I just love movies. I make my music videos [as] movies. I have the money for it now. Why wouldn’t I make movies out of music videos? I want to be an actor. I want to make my own Netflix originals. I want to make my own animes.”
So what’s next after the tour?
Well, I bought my momma a house and didn’t even buy my damn self a house, so I’m going to go get a house. I be in LA. I’m also signed to Solid Foundation, so I’ll probably get a crib in LA and Atlanta. That’s on my agenda. Getting back in this studio, working on this album I’m working on. Basically just getting back to work bro… Work is fun to me. This is what people like, when you wish to work for something and then you actually do it. So it’s fun. I’m like that kid that was, “I want to be a fireman,” and then became a fireman. I was young telling people I’m going to be a millionaire, I’m going to be a rapper.
Will there be more installations in the Love Letter series?
Album. Album. That shit was mixtapes. A Love Letter To You [one and two] is a mixtape. People get that confused a lot because they actually do sound like album work. I’m on to the more timeless aspect, I made a lot of love songs and I made a lot of turnt up songs. Now it’s like, with A Love Letter To You 2, I ventured off and made a couple of different kinds of vibes. And now it’s more so like I’m speaking and saying shit that you can relate to and really vibe with. All my mixtapes are going to be A Love Letter, White Room Project 2, White Room Project 3. Those are the mixtape vibes, though. And I’m gonna do a mixtape on some Wayne shit, where he remixes a lot of songs— like Dedication. Because Wayne’s my favorite artist.
You were working with him a little too?
Yeah he’s on the album.
It will be timeless?
Saying shit that people all over the world can relate to— timeless. Timeless music literally is a concept I can live on.
What is timeless to you?
Anything Drake drops is timeless. It’s always timeless, it’s always lit. He just says stuff people can relate too. No matter if you like it or not, you could hate Drake, he always says stuff that everybody can relate to. Facts.
What else? Gorillaz. Gorillaz, timeless. They’re timeless, anything by Gorillaz. I love them. Slipknot. Marilyn Manson, I’ve been listening to. Uzi, I listen to Uzi. I listen to Uzi and Marilyn Manson. I had to listen to Uzi because of Marilyn Manson, because Marilyn Manson is from where I’m from. That’s how I even heard about Uzi. His management got in contact with us, so me and Marilyn Manson gonna make something. It’s gonna be an amazing song. Erykah Badu— she’s timeless, that's my second mom. She’s gonna be on the album.
I’m really coming with some shit this time.