“Just Don’t Bring Police”: An Interview With MC Tree

Evan Gabriel speaks with MC Tree G about Chicago, the last year of his life, and his new album, I.B. Tree.
By    September 12, 2016


Tree doesn’t do studios. The Chicagoan records solo in his own room and generally after dark, when his voice is at its grainiest. Tremaine “Tree” Johnson isn’t your average rapper, producer, and singer. Employing his self-coined “SoulTrap” sound, Tree’s beats are a mix of soul and swinging Southern trap drums. He sings hooks in a painful drawl. His lyrics fiercely describe street drama, but like those of Vince Staples or Kendrick, his street narratives have a once removed, twice-as-wise tinge.

“It’s possible to be wild and be crazy at a certain age,” Tree tells me over the phone. “You feel some type of freedom. A lot of times we don’t know the repercussions of our actions. They really should teach criminal justice in grammar school for Black communities. Because a lot of things we don’t know.”

Over the last half decade, Tree’s pursuit of music kicked his career into full gear and has taken him all around the world. On top of releasing a slew of quality projects, including Sunday School, Sunday School 2, The MC Tree EP, and Trap Genius. Tree’s career has been somewhat tumultuous over the last year and change. Take the botched Epic Records deal, which would have positioned Tree as Chicago’s next major act. After a studio session with Sha Money XL during the winter of 2014, the Epic Records executive spoke of doing a full-length album. Tree’s efforts were soon shelved, however, and things seemed off.

Around the same time, Tree suffered a devastating personal blow when his home studio on Chicago’s South Side was robbed. He lost thousands worth of recording equipment, but perhaps the most spiritually draining were the hard drives containing Tree’s masters, also stolen. Paired with his mother’s failing health that same year, Tree found himself in a position that would leave most individuals out of answers. But the Cabrini-Green native fell forward, figuring out how to remain financially stable while continuing to release music independently. I spoke to Tree about Chicago, the last year of his life, his new album with producer I.B. Classic, I.B. Tree.—Evan Gabriel

It’s been over a year since you released Trap Genius. How have you been in that time?

Tree: I’m in my thirties now, so I decided to do a bit more traveling. One thing I did notice is I love the obscurity, not being noticed when I’m out on vacation and doing what my other thirty-year-old friends are doing. I’ve just dedicated so much of my time to just music that it was a bit of a release, you know? But there’s always someone on Twitter or Instagram shouting out a song or saying ‘when are you going to drop this?’ so I always knew I had a duty to come back and do my music. So that’s where I’ve been. Trying different avenues of getting money…all types of shit.”

It must get tiresome, engaging with random people when you are just looking to go about your day.

Tree: Yeah, and a lot of those years I was rapping I would consider my struggle years. The years where I was most famous, the most recognizable. When I was on convers, I was the brokest. That was when I didn’t have a foundation. Those were hopeful thinking years. I was getting all the claim and fame that [other] people are paying for. But I wasn’t young anymore. Reality was setting in, I was getting older. I’m very qualified, I have credentials. I’m not just a street guy.

Then things got really serious getting with Shy Money XL, of Epic records, and me and him went in the studio talking about doing a whole album. I knocked it out in a week and sent it back to him and everyone on there was crazy. Then it just kept sitting on the side, kept sitting. He was saying, ‘an older guy from Chicago, this what they need!’ And within the next month they signed Bobby Shmurda. And then was the end of Tree at Epic. So at that point I just felt like, fuck it. So I found another priority. If I had signed a deal, then the kids would always have something and I would have continued on this journey of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But that didn’t happen, so I was like,’aight, you thirty now, it’s time to get some solid foundation.’

At that point, did you have regrets about leaving your former full-time job at the Michigan Ave Nordstrom, and the 401k?

Tree: Nah, ‘cause I would have quit my job no matter what. You know, I was unhappy there. That was one of those things you got to actually focus on was the music. And when the deal didn’t go through, in all honesty, I was a bit relieved. That sounds awkward. That sounds so crazy, right? Man, it doesn’t really capture the statement it made but it was such a relief to not have to put on a show for the world no more. I don’t know if I needed a break. But I was doing little dates here, little dates there, flying in and out to New York.

My mother caught cancer in her stomach and you know they had to cut out the cancer and all that stuff. And she got down to 80 or 90 lbs. I thought, ‘I’m probably going to lose my mother,’ and I kept flying back every weekend. Then the deal didn’t go through. I’d come home and chill with my mother. But she stopped eating. I said, ‘do you want to live?’ She said, ‘yeah, what’d you say?’ I said, ‘well you ain’t eating! I come up here everyday and bring you the best food in the city from all around the city and you take one bite and you push it to the side’. I said, ‘I’m not going to sit here and watch you die. You want to die? I’m just going to leave her and let you die.’ And then I didn’t come back for…I used to go see my mother everyday.

It was January of 2014, that was right after it happened and didn’t go through. I thought, did I just let that situation go past me? Did I just fail? I was doing it to show my mamma that I could be a star. I’m doing it to show my family that I could be the star. And then I was losing the one person I actually loved and loved me no matter what. So, I went back. And she got better obviously and recovered fully and I was just so grateful to have my mother back. One of the songs that was on the Shy Money EP that he really liked was the song I got where I’m talking about my mother and me flying back and forth, taking meetings, and how I’d give all this shit I have in my life, fuck this rap this. And shy really liked that one. It’s not a radio song by far, but it’s so intense.

But to answer your question I was so relieved and by the time I found out I didn’t have a deal my mother was healthy. So I started my own business. And I kind of felt good making the money I used to make. The brokest I’ve ever been is when I rapped. And I took it seriously. Before that I made 80 or 90 k a year and after that I’m doing just as good. The only time that I was ever out here economically struggling was when I put all my time and energy into being a star. I remember going to Atlanta when no one knew me. I had a fucking big ass suitcase that weighed 80 lbs and it was 1600 CDs in it. You know what I’m saying? I went down there and I didn’t nobody.

I know nobody in Atlanta, but everybody was poppin and everybody was rich and everybody knew this was where music was at. So I took 1600 CDs down to Atlanta, stayed in a hotel, met some guys that worked at a car wash. Said, ‘hey Joe what ya’ll doing tonight man? They all said nothing so I said, hey come out to the strip club with me, hang out and I’ll pay for everything, I got everybody. So right there, I had an entourage of four people I had never met before in my life, that are still my homies to this day. That’s how I made it work in Atlanta. And they helped me pass out CDs. This is real talk. So I had to be a hustler and work to be Tree.

To be SoulTrap Tree, who [Andrew Noz for] MTV wrote about, and all the executives at the offices and Shy Money and this and that…and I would think do I really want this type of weight right now? And that was an odd feeling. If I could go back and do it again I would definitely choose my momma over success. And it seems like I still make good music and I’m still accepted and will be. I just got a computer today. So I’m going to put out another project soon, maybe in a couple of weeks because I’m in a project making mood and I haven’t made beats in over a year. The last thing I produced was Brian Fresco’s SoulMoney EP. I gotta get back to the boards I miss all that shit.

How come you went so long without making beats?

Tree: The reality is this. I found other ways to make money. And it let me live a lifestyle that I enjoyed more than music. It let me live like a superstar. It let me bump shoulder with people who got money. Who sign rappers. And you know, I’m not here because I’m rapping I’m her, you know, looking at the girls. And you know that kind of overshadowed me for the last year.

So it’s been more a matter of where your attention is?

Tree: Yeah, I like nice things. I like meeting new girls. I was just too busy for music. I was busy at the casino.

Outside of the computer have you had a chance to buy any new production toys?

Tree: Nah, you know I never really had a lot. All I ever had was a keyboard, a computer and a microphone. I don’t do synthesizers, none of that. Pro Tools, that’s about it. I don’t need much to create a lot.

When did you record this I.B. Tree project?

Tree: The project I released I actually recorded back in September or October. I had gotten involved in a legal situation and I was relieved of all pressure from that in February 2015. I had an issue or two in the city, I had to move. They broke into my house, stole all my studio equipment, stole all my masters, stuff like that. You know I had a vault of music. So I’ve just been dealing with that.

They took a lot of gems, a lot of unreleased Chance tracks I had. A lot of Save Money shit I had, at one point in time I had kept throwing the idea around to the Save Money guys like, ‘let me produce an album for yall,’ and since then I’ve produced for damn near every single one of them but I wish, my dream was always like, get them on some type of Wu Tang type of album with all of Save Money. But since then everybody went ahead and did their thing so it would probably be impossible.

But on Twitter they’re talking about a Roc Marciano joint that never came out, that was one of the gems that got stolen. So that explains some of my actions. I had a $20,000 Mic that I was gifted, probably in a pawn shop somewhere for $500. I’ve never recorded in an actual studio. Unless I’m out in New York or at Red Bull Sound Studio or whatever, everything I’ve ever done I’ve record in my home: The Ghostface joint, the Bun B joint, the Danny Brown joint, all of Sunday School. All of my music is record in my room. I like to be able to harmonize and sing and tweak my voice how I gotta tweak it without being insecure about how guys look at other guys and sing.

So you prefer to be alone, or you just don’t want 100 people in the studio with you?

Tree: Personally, I’m at my best when it’s just me and my heart, and I’m not self conscious of what people think. It’s like, I’m doing all of me, this is all of me. I’ve never had somebody in the studio telling me what to do. What I do is what I do, and that’s how it is. I don’t redo songs I don’t remake songs, if I lost them I lost them. A note that should be taken for I.B. Tree is that two of the songs came from my Treestyles, songs I was doing on Soundcloud, freestyling.

I haven’t written in years. And I think I put out a dope as project. I didn’t write a verse on that one or the last one. I hear the hook coming and I just start singing. If a lesser rapper was saying what I am saying you wouldn’t notice it because it wouldn’t jolt emotion out of you. But I got the drawl and it’s so contagious that I take advantage of it and the way I sound. At this stage in my career I realize that’s my selling point.

One of my favorite songs you do that on is “Probably Nu It.”

Tree: Now that’s the perfect example of what I mean, during my recording process I don’t want to be bothered. I don’t want nobody around, I don’t want nobody to hear me when I’m trying to hit these notes. And that’s a song where I just felt comfortable in my zone, and I couldn’t’ have done it anywhere else.

You’ve mentioned that you always knew you could rap and produce before you ever did it. How did you know? What was telling you?

Tree: Oh, well I was a straight A student. I excelled in academics. All my brothers, we were all very smart. So that was always my path in the world, I knew that. I always knew I would be noticed. And I always knew that would talk to a record label, I always knew I’d be flown out to New York and talk to these people, but I didn’t know if they would market me right. If you remember when I first started getting popular I was 26, 27 that like twice the age as some of these guys out here! But yeah I had a business savvy sense. I’m the youngest I have three older brothers.

Did your brothers play a big guiding role in your upbringing or did they kind of let you figure it out on your own?

Tree: I come from a God first family and we had a grandmother who was Queen of the family, and we had like family meetings in the projects, and everybody from different buildings would come to my grandmother’s apartment and we’d talk about the problems, ‘so and so’s out here busting windows and making us look bad,’ that type of thing. So that was the kind of family I came from. So as far as the whole gang shit, you had to be of age and be a grown man to make that decision.

As a kid I had 32 cousins in the neighborhood, and they catch you hanging with these guys, or they know someone is selling drugs or vandalizing, they’d beat your ass, or say ‘get the fuck from over there.’ It was real simple like that. I had to go to the other side of the projects where my mom moved and her not knowing it was a different gang territory that my family wasn’t apart of, and so I had free reign. At that point, people kind of got confused as to which side I was on. If I was over there, I can’t smoke weed, I can’t shoot dice. But over here, ain’t nobody tell me nada. It was that type of division.

So without the visibility of your family, you could really do whatever you wanted?

Tree: Yeah, I was getting real at 11, 12. You know at 11 and 12 when you see your older brothers and your uncles smoking and drinking and driving nice cars, you kind of want to get in on that but you’re constantly told no, and you get your ass whooped when you try and get involved. And so all from my mom switching address because of something between her and my father, I ended up in a whole other Mickey [Cobras] zone.

But luckily for me I was young enough, and I went to school with these guys and they always knew me since kindergarten, I kind of just blended right in. I could finally go out and hang with them. It also made me one of the lucky guys because I could go from one end to the next. I’d be walking with a group of friend and we’d get to a certain block, a certain division, they stop walking, I keep walking like, c’mon, they like, ‘we can’t go down there.’ And I go down there, and there go my cousins, and then I’m with my cousins going back home and they all stop at the line. So that kind of made me a universal individual from the start.

With past projects you produced most if not all of the beats. I.B. Classic handles the production on this one. What was your decision behind that? How did you guys link up?

Tree: Well I was doing the “Treestyles,” and he kept sending me beats and a couple of them stood out like “Couple Nights” and “Kinfolk.” Those are Treestyles that I just released. I was like, “man Joe, I like your style of music send me some more! And he sent me like 40 beats and was like, ‘just put that out.’ We wanted to put it out a while ago but it’s hard to find time music, money and my fourteen girlfriends [laughs.] Plus I got two kids. It’s hard.

Would you say that having kids affected the way you produce and write songs?

Tree: Other than them giving me more to write about, and being more conscious of life, other than that. I’m still Tree. I like the same music I used to like. I produce the way I like to produce. They have a great impact on my production.

Do they give you hints of when you’ve struck on a good hook or a catchy beat?

Tree: Nah nah, I don’t engage in any music with anyone. When I make beats I’m usually by myself. I’m a people’s person, I’m an entertainer. When people are around I entertain. I don’t invite people over like, ‘hey come listen to this music.’ Nah, my closest friends hear it when it comes out. I don’t really accept suggestions or shit like that. It’s my music.

Do you prefer to make music at night or in the daytime?

Tree: I usually find time at night. That’s when I got that oil in me, that’s when I’m smoking, and I got that dead quietness, and it’s just me and the music, you know?

What were some of the first soul songs that you remember hearing as a child?

Tree: Sam Cooke “A Change Gone Come,” The Intruders, “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” shit like that.

Outside of Chicago, what is your favorite city to perform in?

Tree: Paris is lit. Yeah, Paris is definitely lit Joe. I wouldn’t mind living in Paris.

How many times have you performed there?

Tree: Once [laughs] but it was so memorable. The girls were so beautiful and the drugs were ambulant! It was a good week. I remember discovering Tinder in Amsterdam. I was trying to say, ‘what up,’ little things in Dutch but my mans was like, ‘you gotta’ download Tinder that’s how you meet girls who don’t speak English! And yo, it worked [laughs]. I rarely use it nowadays but back then it helped us get through Europe.

Being that you grew up in Cabrini-Green, did it affect you when they tore the buildings down in 2011?

Tree: Nah because I understood that a project was a project; it was a testing ground. I had a father that was very politically aware and we had to know what was going on in the world. It was a revolving door of gang activity and drugs. No one wanted to go to school in the projects, or go to college or get a job. Because there’s so many easy hustles, and people are living really good from it, they’re driving cars that Michael Jordan is driving. People were achieving that from the projects.

But since we’re on that subject, let’s talk about how the tearing down of all the projects in Chicago and the dispersing of the people has created this hailstorm where you get 14 people shot on a Monday. And this is weekly. And then there’s going to be another 18 shootings and it’s…you know. All politically created. We stayed at 1150 N. Sedgwick. I think my mother paid $200 or $300 for a three-bedroom project apartment; right now they got condos and townhouses in the area for 1.5 million.

That’s tough to wrap my head around.

Tree: And they threw them all out into Englewood and say Englewood needs help. My father told me years ago that they got a blueprint, a game plan for the city that they initiated back when the first mayor was in office, and it had no black folks in the city. That was the scheme. And over the years my father would always say, ‘see didn’t I tell you, I told you so.’ And yeah, it’s really the truth.
Do you still go to church? I haven’t. I have not. I’m ashamed to say it.

You’ve said that your whole mission is to give something for people to relate to. What are the biggest challenges you run into with that? Getting people to relate to the music you make in your own room?

Tree: I don’t have a struggle getting people to relate. The best in the world say I’m dope [laughs]. I mean, what makes me a legend at this point? Because I actually signed that deal with Epic Records? Or to have done that verse on Ghostface’s project? How many times did I put out a bad record? That’s where I stand.

Would you ever move, back to Atlanta, or to the coasts?

Tree: Hell nah. Hell nah. I would consider moving to California, I would. Just because it’s always nice, you know. But then again I got kids in Chicago. I’m kind of signed to that contract of the baby boys. Can you imagine leaving your two black males in Chicago? They’ll get pulled over by the police one day. All that, you need to be taught. Certain things need to be taught by a black male, how to handle these things.

My kids not going to be artists, they not going to do none of that shit. I told my kid’s mom, ‘they going to school, they going to be doctors.’ As long as they’re my kids, they don’t have much of a say about it. That’s something that I didn’t have. I grew up in a house where our father said you’re going to work or to school. I told him work, early. And he found no problem with it because at 16 and 17 I had to cars. I could lend them money. But I wasn’t told about dedication, or that I could be a doctor. I always saw that you could be a millionaire selling drugs, or playing basketball, but I couldn’t play basketball. So that’s how that is.

What do you think can be done, if anything, for police to build trusts in communities where they’ve taken innocent people’s lives?

Tree: I have a song called “Police Mon,” and in it, the hook says, ‘I often wonder how my white friends feel, I’m a nigga, I’m a nigga, and I might get killed.’ In it, I ask the white kids and people of the world who obviously are more in tune with the black culture than their predecessors, the old white guys. Because in my times and travels, I’ve always worked in corporate America, I’ve always worked around white individuals. I lived in Cabrini-Green, which is a mile from the water tower on Michigan Avenue. And everyday we’d venture downtown and we’d hustle. And always got along with white people. I’ve always dealt with them, they’ve never been in my neighborhood other than the police.

So I guess my question is, because I’m knowing all these new CEOs and writers that work at these newsrooms and these blogs around the world, they do have contact with some black people, they do know black people, and they do understand that there are different personalities, obviously, that you’re dealing with when you’re dealing with black people. We’re eccentric, loud, but more than not, we’re pretty humble and we’re pretty goddamn peaceful! How does white America, 40 and under, actually feel about the Black Man? Your black friend who you may know, you may smoke with, you may be in a band with, you may go to lunch with at work. How do you feel knowing that this man, driving down the street can potentially be pulled over for a small infraction, and there’s a real possibility they can be shot to fucking death.

What do you think can be done, if anything, for police to build trusts in communities where they’ve taken innocent people’s lives?

Tree: I’ve said it and I’ll say it again, the black voice has no audience, has no volume to it. What’s another nigga talking about he shot my little brother? Shot my cousin? But then again to flip the coin it’s like, you got to understand what’s it’s like to be a police officer who puts on clothes to go chase 17-year-olds around Englewood with five, semi-automatic weapons with 30 bullets in them. It’s not an easy job for them to do that. I wouldn’t want that job. Same motherfuckers that are shooting into a crowd with babies in them. So let’s not make excuses for it. I’m just a real motherfucker. I don’t want them little niggas in front of my house. If you carrying a gun I don’t want you in my neighborhood. But at the same time, you can’t shoot every black guy in the back, with or without a gun.

First and foremost, as a police officer, I don’t care. If you shoot someone, ever, at all, you should be relieved of your duty, they give you some years of pay. But you can’t kill somebody and stay on the division. Or get paid leave for 30 days and then put you back in a squad car to patrol the same area of the loved one that you just killed, and you drive past everyday? That’ systematic persecution right there. That is so wrong. If a hundred officers are on paid leave for killing black people, Mexicans, anybody, and a hundred people have come back and said there is not enough evidence to persecute these people even though the world sees it, you’ve made a team of untouchable Nazis. They will never be friends of the public, White or Black. And I think the only reason that White America feels okay siding with the cops is because they’re never the ones who get chased down and shot and the videos are never released. I can guarantee you if they did that in Lincoln Park, it would be marches downtown and would lead to something a lot more dramatic and it would be a lot more serious because a lot of those people are tax paying citizens, I guess.

I think it could actually work. They money would have to be subsidized to the police and vice-versa, they have to practice customer service. When you see a cops they’re rude, they’re untouchable, they’re gods. A cop can get out a police car, walk in your front yard, and drag your mother, drag her down the stairs in front of her four grown ass sons and the instant they attack the officer for obviously abusing their mother, other officers show up, they beat the shit out of them, put all the charges on them, even shoot them. The next day drive past the same house smirking. They are street gods. They are untouchable. [A cop is] the ultimate hitter, the ultimate shooter, the ultimate goon.


Tree: There is no police. Police doesn’t exist in the black community. They have to be involved in the community, they have to give backpacks away and school supplies, they have to do routine checks, they have to get out of their cars, walk down the fucking street and talk to the young men, instead of them just riding past, and then running from you. If you get out of your car and actually start a relationship with them, ‘ay what’s going on James? How you doing, Carter? And actually know them by name, they’re less likely to do illegal shit because they somehow form a bond or respect for that officer…if they know them. But in most of these neighborhoods, the cops already have the reputation they got.

They can beat somebody’s ass, the can chase somebody down and run them over with a car, it’s just so fucked up. You have to understand—you have to retrain these officers, because they don’t operate as a police force. They operate as a gang. They also do nasty shit. It’s not even just the shooting. It’s the treatment of people, who may or may not be leading an illegal or legal life, but some different behavior but there really isn’t. There has to be some type of interaction other than when somebody’s shot or you chasin’ people around. They laugh or talk about it for the next week or something. They not making no money from it. I’m definitely not with these niggas. Those are niggas. There’s a war going on between Black folks and niggas. And I’m against the niggas! That’s real. There’s a war going on.

Can you elaborate on that?

Tree: Okay, perfect example: Black folks are people like Puff, Oprah, Kevin Hart, you know. Those are Black folks. Niggas are the ones who shoot into the crowd into a playground. We don’t like them niggas. We don’t want to party with them. We don’t want to live by them. But based on economics, we’re trapped in the same place as these niggas. You know? And believe it or not, it ain’t a lot of niggas. It ain’t a lot of niggas, just like it ain’t a lot of skinheads. Niggas are the skinheads for the black folks. They are a negative group who receive attention for all the worst shit.

And the music is cool until they do something to you. We love that music, but we hate when they rob our house or we hate when they shoot at us, you know? But we don’t want to live with them. We don’t want to hang out with them. It’s just a part of the fabric. And niggas can be reformed now. When you see these guys and they get out of jail and they did 20, 30 years, the last thing they want to do is be around a nigga. They reformed! They want a job, they want a wife, they want to pay bills, they want to come home in they AC, drink a beer and watch TV—those are Black folks! You get where I’m coming from?

I do.

Tree: I hope I made that clear. I’m not a bigot or looking down on the whole Black race, but there’s a difference. And if no one else will say it, I’m sayin’ it. Put my name on it. Motherfucker, I said it! Give it a year, most of these niggas gonna be in jail, some of them for a long time. And when they get done they find Allah and they realize how stupid they was and when they come home, now they want to be electricians, they want to be carpenters, they want to take classes. They don’t want to deal with them niggas anymore. It takes some people longer, and a lot of them don’t make it.

A lot of them end up as victims on TV. Like I said, it’s not a lot of niggas. They gonna whip themselves out way before the police do. But Black folks are tired of it, especially in Chicago. Because me personally, trying to find a neighborhood where I still feel part of the Black culture but not getting my shit robbed or being shot at is a struggle. If I try to go to Lincoln Park, or Wicker Park, they look at me like the nigga in the neighborhood [laughs]. So I’m stuck, shit. That’s my point on that. When you’re talking with me, you get some validity to the music I make.

[breaks to explain to someone that he’s doing an interview]

Photo by Austin Fassino courtesy of Greenroom Magazine.
Photo by Austin Fassino courtesy of Greenroom Magazine.

There are people who call the police on drug dealers. But 9 times outta 10 they don’t because it’s their cousins out there on the corners, with a nickel bag or crack, a nickel bag of weed, for the betterment of the household. And then I think a lot of the shooting, a lot of the nonsense, because very rarely is somebody shot in retaliation for something. When them young guys get all drugged up and they get in these cars and they go through neighborhoods where they probably don’t know nobody but they see three or four guys gathered, and they shoot into the crowd.

Have you had to deal with people biting your style or the Soul Trap style without your cosign?

Tree: Well you know, Bryson Tiller, what did he call his shit, Trapsoul or some shit? But other than that, I think that when I say SoulTrap people understand it. How is someone going to really duplicate my sound though? People just be riding fans. But I think “SoulTrap by Tree” is more of the sound, more of the vibe.

For people living outside of Chicago, we definitely hear reference to the summertime being generally violent. Would you say this summer has been better than usual or about average?

Tree: Uh, the city’s getting worse. It’s definitely getting worse. You know there was a point in time when Chicago was definitely about the game. You were GD, you were Vice Lord, whatever. And then the Mexican gangs; they were Latin Kings, or Bishops, or Ambros, Two Sixes, all that shit. It was a different game. And it was a reason for war. And it was a stopping point.

Now you got these kids who buy guys, get guns, break in like what happened to myself, and now they’re empowered to be their own little clique. They watching too much City of God shit. And most of the older gangsters I know they don’t want no part of it. They don’t want nothing to do it. They realize it’s out of hand. It’s a bunch of frantic kids, and they murder up and down the street, nine times out of 10 they don’t know these people they shooting. You could walk down a street on the Southside of Chicago and get shot and you don’t know who shot you. That’s the city we livin’ in.

What’s your best score in bowling?

Tree: Shit, 100 [laughs]. One more note on that, the bigger culture of it though: we all were there at one time. I was there at one time. I remember getting locked up as a child for robbery—I was a nigga at one time, we all was. It’s part of the community, it’s what you do at that age. Anyways, I got locked up and could get locked up for 20 years for snatching a purse and I guess, slapping and kicking on somebody. I didn’t know that until I was in jail. If I had known that, I probably wouldn’t have did it! But that’s me, brother.

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