October 24, 2013

Max Bell may have heard that.

It’s mostly the voice (© Guru). You can be a technically great rapper but sound like you’re reading a textbook aloud. I’ll leave names out and let you throw darts at your favorite Twitter pincushion.

Tree doesn’t have this problem. His gravelly last-swisher rasp is somewhere between Tom Waits and Howlin’ Wolf. He possesses so much inherent hurt and struggle that it’s hard not to feel every line on an almost primal, emotionally instinctive level. It’s as if he’d just given up screaming to be heard and start rapping instead.

Tree’s Sunday School II was worth the hard drive space, both for the voice and all other reasons that people listen to rap. Lately, Tree’s linked up with always solid UK producer The Purist for “Never Heard of That,” a track off of the deluxe edition of The Purist’s TR-ill, which also features Havoc, Sean Price, and Danny Brown.

Here The Purist filters Texas trap muzik through thick cumulus clouds. This is kaleidoscopic and atmospheric swangin’, four vogues floating on wind-currents and turning tight ones on waves of azure. The drums, kicks, claps, bells, and what have adhere to ridin’ dirty traditionalism, but it’s the swirling synths that liberate this song from the forces of gravity.

Still, Tree’s voice on “Never Heard of That” manages bring the focus back earthbound as he traces his rise from the windy-city trap to being the self-proclaimed “greatest.” In top form, he’s laid-back and enjoying his success, but refuses to spare the listener of the grim hustle that afforded him said triumph.

Unnerving lines like, “bought a mini van just to put the semis in,” are next to braggadocio like, “I was everybody’s favorite a year ago, stupid.” Both are simple lyrics, with no verbal gymnastics or metaphorical conceit. But, like the best blues, they are undeniable in their sincerity and resonance. And, though we’ve heard lyrics like these a million times over, they sound better coming from Tree.

Listen:

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