I’d feel the same way too if I was on the outside. – Trippie Red
Written By: Sean “ BrandMan” Taylor
Music is at the forefront of cultural evolution in every generation. First, new artists rise up as voices of the youth opposing “outdated” ways, and then their sound becomes the backdrop of a new lifestyle and mindset. Then of course, this lasts until the next generation makes their mark. Despite this cycle being far from new, the transition is never without resistance.
Over the past couple of years, Juice Wrld, XXXTentacion and Trippie Redd have helped lead a unique class of genre-bending artists that still has no official name. Partly, because many elder statesmen still fail to realize this is more than a passing trend. On the other hand, these artists refuse to be defined.
Trippie Redd in particular is a moving target, often exercising his versatility in a way that not only show his ability to participate in multiple genres but blurs the lines altogether. The only constant is his unmistakable voice. It may be confusing to some but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m just trying to make music that lasts,” Trippie tells me over the phone. He seems disinterested with the fact that media still lazily views him and his peers as “urban”. After two years he came to a simple conclusion. “They don’t know what to call us” Trippie explains as he begins to break down how no station considered urban plays any of his peers music anyway.
This is the battle between what people expect to hear from a young black artist with face tattoos, platinum teeth and attention grabbing chains and the reality of his art. Trippie is a perfect case study for a necessary conversation that people have seemed to avoid.
It is time to distinguish between hiphop culture and hiphop music. For decades it has been easy to bundle everything together in a nice package but Trippie and his peers are challenging that as they push boundaries to make their own mark.
For Trippie, a combination of his unique voice, social media controversies and a brand that has both charmed and spooked fans alike, has made him an enigma is a class that is already misunderstood.
“I’m really spiritual” Trippie explains as he begins to break down angelic numbers and the importance of the number 14 in his life. “I may just be sitting down playing video games and I’ll see 14…I might not even talk to anybody but I’ll take note…it’s been popping up my whole life. When I see it I know I’m on the right path.”
Even though he has openly spoken this way going back to his earliest interviews, Trippie has faced several accusations of “devil worship”. The music video for Topanga, released in 2018, was simply the fuel that turned embers into a firestorm.
“Most people don’t even know unless I explain it” he insisted, clarifying that people first have to know that Topanga is the city where Charles Manson’s cult was headquartered. Understanding that alone changes the context of how to interpret Trippie’s purpose for the video. Even greater, it turns out that the dark aesthetic and imagery was not in the original plan. He wanted it to be on a green hill and a much “brighter” expression of the concept. In his own words, when it comes to the perception of why he does what he does “people are definitely overthinking it,” but he also doesn’t fight the misconceptions.
Trippie is surprisingly empathetic with those who are not involved in the music industry enough to realize how certain changes can happen through the process of creating art that completely alter how it is received. “I get it though. Shit I’d think the same thing if I saw that shit from the outside.”
To be fair though, Trippie’s love for versatility doesn’t quite quell people’s confusion. When he does not repeat the same formula that made fans like him, it can be disappointing but Trippie is determined to challenge himself. “Every project I do something different. Like if you notice I don’t really scream on this one. I just wanted to be more versatile. I’m getting better.” Listening to “!” beyond the music and focusing on the display of skill reveals that the process is working.
We are watching the evolution of an artist in real time. It takes courage to grow with the world watching and Trippie is handling it well. The ebb and flow of public perception has matured him and he is at peace with being misunderstood.
I just focus on the art. It’s gon be what it is. I don’t listen to the noise
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