Tru Life Talks About His Upcoming Album, New Label and the Lost Tapes Featuring Jay Z
The road to riches can be a bumpy one and Tru Life's journey to success is a testament to that. His rap career was two seconds from launching into the big leagues when he was locked up in 2011, for a fatal stabbing that occurred in 2009. After serving an eight-year sentence, the rapper was released in April of this year.
If you're looking for the old Tru Life, keep searching. The New York City-bred rhymer has turned over a new leaf, leaving the drama in the past and having a renewed focus on his music. It's safe to say that his outlook on life may have changed, but his talent hasn't. Tru Life's still spitting bars hard enough to give these new rappers a run for their money.
The "My Life" MC's bid wasn't enough to keep him from winning. Shortly after coming home from prison, he dropped a video for "Bag For It," featuring Rick Ross, which got over 1.5 million views (and still counting) on YouTube.
XXL chopped it up with Tru Life to talk about his upcoming album, label situation, the lost tapes featuring Jay Z and much more.
XXL: You've been on a new spiritual journey. You talk about leaving the drama behind and focusing on the music. So far, you've been off to a good start. The first video you put out since you've been home, "Bag For It," got some good traction with over a million views. It's different from the music you used to make. Tell us a bit about how that track came to fruition.
Tru Life: I came home and was blessed enough to get with a young talent like Velous. I linked up with Velous and Miles -- Miles is the one who produced the record. We just vibed out and it was natural. We did the record at like, 9:00 in the morning, then after that I reached out to Rick Ross. I was thinking about who I can put [on the record] that I was actually friends with that would make sense and would work on that record. So I don’t know, I just thought about Ross. I felt like I heard his voice on there so I sent it to him and he sent it right back and then that was it.
You're in the studio right now, does that mean you're working on a new project?
Yeah, I’m working on an album. I know people want so much from me. They expect so much from me. They’re like, “Right now, right now.” But, they don’t understand it’s not so easy to come home from doing eight years and jump into the studio and everything be about music, music, music. Especially when you got kids and a life and your life has been so torn apart by being gone for eight years and you’re coming home and picking up all those pieces, you know? It’s just not that easy of a transition.
I’m very hard on myself when it comes to music. I’m my biggest critic so I don’t want to put out just anything. I’ve just been finding my vibe and I’ve been blessed to have a lot of love from different people in the game, who's been coming through and showing me love, so I got a lot of good music ready to come.
T.I. been showing me love. Me and T.I. got a couple of dope records together; we getting ready to release some of those. I’m about to put out an EP with like, five songs. I’ma have Belly on there. Belly just gave me a dope record. I actually gave Belly his first feature before I went to prison and now I come home and he’s writing for all of these big people from Beyonce to The Weeknd and he’s being successful doing what he’s doing. So it’s just like returning the favor, so I just been blessed.
I just been trying to get this all together as far as trying to find my comfort zone with this music thing and finding my wave. I just been putting that together but it’s coming along.
Do you think by the end of the year?
Is there a name for it yet?
I haven’t gotten the name yet. I’m thinking about that right now. Everyone in the camp keeps asking me if I put a name to it yet, but it’ll come to me. We starting to shoot videos to some of the material now, so we getting everything together, I wanna have a video for every song. We gonna really push this project right now.
It’s good that you’re taking your time because a lot of New York rappers are stuck in their ways. New York had a certain sound for so long and music has changed. It’s hard to keep that New York vibe with a different sound.
I’m just trying to find that happy medium, where it’s in between and I’m not compromising. I didn’t go into the studio like, Oh, let’s make a record so we can get into the club or let’s make a record that sounds like a South record. It wasn’t that, it was more like producers playing me stuff and a lot of the old producers who were hot when I was home, when I reach out to them or they reach out to me and played their stuff, a lot of it just sounded really outdated. It didn’t sound fun it sounded boring and it wasn’t really inspiring.
When I got with Velous and Miles they just had this sound, it sounded refreshing, it sounded dope, it sounded good, so it wasn’t forced it just came naturally. When they played it, I liked it, we just had fun and that’s why the record sounds like it’s not forced. People are like, "Wow you caught on really quick.” I didn’t force myself to try to fit in with what’s going on. It was something that happened naturally.
It’s not easy to come home from an eight-year bid and have a video with a million views in one month.
God is good; I definitely give all graces to God for that. What’s even more crazier is that nobody really working the record. We ain’t push it to radio, we didn’t put no money behind the record as far as paying radio promotion or paying to get ads. It took off on it’s own. The buzz that record has is natural. It’s a set-up record for me to let the people know that I’m home, let them see I still got some stuff in the tank and show them what we doing. I got a whole lot coming and we really going to push the stuff we got coming.
You've got a lot of unreleased music. You've got tracks with Future. The two of you go way back -- a lot of people don't know that. And Jeezy. You even have a track with Jay Z and Nas that you made before your bid.
We got a bunch of records that we did with Jay and stuff like that when I was over there that we never put out or never really finished. But those records wasn’t finished so I never put them together. I still got them on my hard drive or I may have versus that some of these guys sent me when we was working on records, but I was working on my album. We never got to finish them, so that’s why they not out because I’m such a perfectionist myself and they are too. I just never had time to finish. We were in the middle of finishing my album, now if that tragedy didn't happen, then it would’ve been different and the world would’ve gotten to hear those.
Do you think you’ll end up finishing them? Will we ever get to hear any of that music?
Yeah, some of them may be on my album, I may take some of the old stuff. Music changes and elevates so much, especially hip-hop where styles change. The style of beats, the style of flow, the style of words, you know?
Whatever can be salvaged from there and be brought up to date and be dope, then we’ll put that out. If not, then maybe we’ll do a lost tapes or something like that.
Is it true that the track you have with Esco and Hov was a part of them squashing their beef?
I wouldn’t say that but it was around the era of that time. I was pushing -- if they listened to a lot of my rhymes I was talking about a lot of that -- about how important it was for them to get together, and the stuff I was pushing. So, I think it had a little impact of my whole movement, my wave, maybe influencing some of that. I wouldn’t say it was the first one exactly.
As a teen, you were signed to Interscope, then signed to Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks and then you were signed to the Roc before getting locked up. What's your label situation like right now? Jeezy tried to sign you too, right?
When Jay Z was leaving Def Jam, I felt like I wanted to leave Def Jam too, so I ended up leaving Def Jam. Right when I left, we were going to sign a new situation because Jay was just signing with Roc Nation. So me, Jeezy and Jay was going to do my new situation, whether it was going to be Roc Nation or whatever it was gon’ be. Then the craziness happened and I ended up getting put away all those years.
Now I’m just getting back and I feel I’m in a blessed situation, in a unique situation. Everyone knows who I am. I’m not gonna say everybody because a lot of the young guys are just learning who I am now. But you know, a lot of the guys in the game know who I am. I have my own cult following, little fan base that really follows me. I feel like I bring so much to the table so I can’t just sign my life away to one of these labels when I bring so much to the table. I just can’t do that regular type of deal.
The game is set up where you don't really need deals anymore. You got the Internet, you got so many ways to do that it just don't make sense. It makes more sense for me to boss up and do my own thing. I wanted to create a platform, which I started, Mogul Tree, to give other young artists coming up in the game a chance.
I feel like a lot of the developing stage in the game got lost where these labels don't develop artists anymore. They just want things that are done, they want it with a trillion views, they want they Facebook and they Instagram, they want all that. They want the millions of downloads already, they want it already done. I know how to do this and we have so many resources here with what we doing being in the game so long and so many people that we know, knowing all the dopest songwriters, singers, producers, artists, knowing all the DJs, I felt like, Let’s do our own thing and start our own wave and push our own movement and get these young guys a home where we can develop these young guys. When we find that rough talent, we do what the labels ain’t doing and go out here and win. We got a couple artists that we working on, we got a couple of producers that I been helping, helping them get placement on these new artists’ albums and stuff like that.
Right now, we got this kid, his name is Matt Hill who’s about to be very special. He’s from Long Island, N.Y. and he’s 18 years old. We concentrating on his project right now.
Is it safe to say you are in the process of starting your own label?
Yeah, pretty much.
You've worked with the best in the industry. Before going away, Snoop Dogg and Jay Z were supposed to executive produce your first album. Is there anyone you haven't worked with yet that you'd like to?
Right now, really to be honest with you, the fans want more me. And I understand they frustration and I’m gonna give them what they want, but I’m trying to get it right. At the end of the day I’m a human being and a lot of these guys rap about a certain lifestyle but unfortunately this has been real for me. This has really been my life, this is not just something I was rapping about or faking. All of this drama, the good, the bad.
There’s been a lot of good and there’s been a lot of bad, it’s been a roller coaster ride for me of emotions and different trials and tribulations I had to walk. It's not something you can just snap into and turn on anytime you want. But, it’s definitely coming for them.
Right now, New York is on fire. There’s a lot of new artists out like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Young M.A and Dave East. Do you listen to any of them? Anyone else that you think is dope and is new in the hip-hop scene?
I feel like what we doin’ right now behind the scenes and what we cooking up, we about to bring a whole different wave. But, I definitely support whatever comes from my city. So I definitely big them all up. I love to see people win. I love to see people come from nothing, come against the grain and get it the hard way. I know what it’s like in this city and what we got to overcome from these neighborhoods that we come from and struggle. So, I support them all.
You're on a new mission. You mentioned you wanted to speak to the youth more and kind of mentor them. That's a huge role to take on. If you could speak to the youth, what do you want to tell them?
Don’t get impressed too easy by all this stuff, thinking the entertainment game is real, what these guys rap about is real, because it’s really not. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment. It’s a form of expression, some of the stories we talk about, a lot of these artists talk about are from the streets, but a lot of these artists don't live that. I don't think it’s really fair to make the artist feel like they have to live that in the first place. I feel like it’s a contradiction because [you] damned if you do, [you] damned if you don't.
If you don't live it then they like, “Oh, he’s not this, he’s not that,” and then when you do live it they like, “Oh, he’s dumb, he’s retarded. He threw his life away, he’s stupid.” They gon’ bash you either way but at the end of the day just know this ain’t real. Don’t think you gotta be a gangsta to be a rapper. Like, I don’t see Biggie as a gangsta or LL Cool J as a gangsta. They all had gangsta moments, talking gangsta stuff, but I just looked at them like dope lyricists.
You can’t be both. You can’t be a dope rapper and be a gangsta in the streets. Gangsta in the streets, it’s only two outcomes: you gon’ wind up dead or you gon’ wind up in prison, point blank, period. That’s what I’m doing; I’m doing better. Reach for the stars. Don't be a dreamer ‘cause you wake up from dreams; envision where you want to be. Envision all day, every day.
And shout out to Atari too, we in the middle of doing a huge deal. We got headphones coming out, a Bluetooth hat and we got a video game coming out. We got a bunch of things coming out.
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