With his third mixtape of 2013, Trae brings a hard-hitting dose of the truth on "I Am King".
Signing to T.I.'s Grand Hustle label has been a stroke of good fortune for Trae Tha Truth. The Houston rapper's career has unfortunately been plagued by the loss of some his closest friends, shootings and controversy with radio executives. Despite this, he's continued to make music and does a commendable job on this new 20-track tape.
Considering his troubles, it's not surprising that many of these tracks, such as "Halo" and "Street Miracles", explore themes of struggle, his relentless grind and overcoming hate. On "Shit Crazy", Trae talks about the absence of his close "friends" during difficult times. With D Dash Bo on the assist, he sends a powerful message to them.
"What you drink don’t make me piss, nigga / What you eat don't make me shit, nigga / Your opinion is like a penny, all the shit that you talkin' really don't make sense, nigga."
On the other hand, Trae also relays how thankful he is for surviving the tough times. "Believe", in particular, is a deep and inspirational track. Pimp C's mother, Mama C, provides words of wisdom at the beginning, as the rapper laments: "My past been a disaster / I’m still here, my smoke clearin' up faster". He certainly exhibits a renewed hunger and focus, and is aiming for a place at the top, as he reminds us he is king in multiple interludes.
The tape is well-balanced. Along with these reflective songs, there are a handful of club bangers that will undoubtedly capture a lot of attention. "Hold Up" and "Ride Wit Me" are both catchy joints that perfectly blend dope production and braggadocio.
Trae enlisted a variety of producers for the project, including the Honorable C.N.O.T.E., Watson The Great and Dun Deal. The incorporation of some unusual samples such as Coldplay's "X&Y" on "Driven" and Lana Del Rey's "Young & Beautiful" on "Ugly Truth", makes for a unique sound that helps set Trae apart from more conventional Southern rappers.
The Houston wordsmith's delivery, as expected, is consistently spot-on throughout "I Am King". Pretty much every verse is exemplary - his pace is untested, and he seems to be able to mesh with whatever beat he chooses. Considering his mic skills, it's difficult to understand why he chose to enlist SO many featured artists instead of relying more on his own talent. Minus the interludes, "Street Miracle" is the only joint without a feature. At times, these features prevent Trae from standing ou, but to his credit, he did include some big names who are quite effective. Diddy helps fire up "Hold Up", while Snoop Dogg makes a fitting appearance on "Old School". Jadakiss, Yo Gotti, Meek Mill, Big K.R.I.T, bossman T.I. and more appear on the tape.
Trae has definitely thrown in everything he can here, calling in the big guns, maxing out on production and spitting relentlessly. We're looking forward to what he'll bring to table with his forthcoming album Banned.