When you first see the cover of Fat Trel’s newest mixtape Gleesh, you can’t help but laugh. Trel’s spin on the familiar Glee photo, featuring the show’s star with a post-fellatio ear to ear grin, is hilariously absurd enough that those completely unfamiliar with the DMV rapper have no choice but to check it out. What those newcomers, as well as already familiar fans, will discover is a 15-track tape that’s as enjoyable as its cover is funny.
This mixtape is the first project from Fat Trel since he joined forces with the MMG empire. Although he’s working under new guidance, he doesn’t stray far from his comfort zone. That’s not a bad thing. The mixtape is so effective because Trel establishes his subjects early on – life on the streets of Washington DC, his experiences with drugs, and lots of thoughts on thots – and delivers it in an entertaining way over excellent contributions from producers like Harry Fraud, Young Chop, and All Star.
Of all the things to pick up from his new boss Ross, his ear for beats would be among the best. The tape boasts an array of different sounding beats, each allowing Trel to flex his skills in a new and entertaining way. It’s a testament to both the beat selection and Trel’s skill that a soul-sampling head-bobber like “Fresh” doesn’t sound out of place next to the drum heavy banger “In my Bag” or the toned down drug rap sounds of “Treez Liquor.”
Despite the excellent production, Trel didn’t let himself get overshadowed. While his lyrics aren’t mind blowing and the topics don’t vary much, Trel’s rapping is incredibly effective. He has an uncanny knack for making sounds and using cadences that you can’t dislodge from your head and that immediately strike you immediately as unique. Judging just by the lyrics “I’m drinking lean and smoking weed / My killers toting AKs,” the hook on “Walkin’ Thru My Hood” shouldn’t be exciting, memorable, or catchy. But through his booming elongation of the last syllable in each line and the repeated ad-libs in the back, the simple hook is rendered unforgettable and makes the track one of the tape’s standouts. “In My Bag,” which features labelmate and hometown homie Wale, boasts a similarly simple line that is made excellent by Trel’s flow. “Sometimes I smoke, sometimes I drink, sometimes I pop the pink / I might wake up and got no shirt I might just rock a mink” isn’t inherently an exciting rhyme but Trel makes it infectious.
The mixtape definitely lags in some places. Songs like “Buku Chips,” “Real,” or “Shoot” come off as generic and unexciting. “Real” serves as a reminder that the shadowy Illuminati overlords who obviously control all rap music need to implement a rule so that any song with a boast about doing anything “one time for the real ni**as” must be exceptionally creative or else never reach the light of day.
This was a crucial project for Fat Trel, and he ultimately succeeded. As his first project after gaining the support of one of the biggest names in hip-hop, he had to deliver and he did just that. This tape, which already has been downloaded rapidly since its release, will rightfully expose the rapper to a new set of fans outside of his DMV diehards who will know it not just for its absurd cover but its quality music.—Max Goldberg