It was my first time at Sneaker Pawn in Harlem, an exclusive spot that’s more than just a sneaker store. I climbed the steps to the brownstone and met rapper Trip Lee upstairs where we took a seat on a bench surrounded by sneakers and sports gear. What a great setting to just kick it! We chopped it up discussing his new album Rise, the journey that led him to choosing his passion of music and much more!
Similar to most of us, rapper Trip Lee grew up blindly claiming his family’s religion (in his case Christianity) with little understanding of what it really meant to be Christian. At a young 14 years old, after joining a youth focus group he experienced what he calls a “change of heart.” Growing up, he attended church with family on occasion and was encouraged to read the bible, however he credits his youth pastor for the beginning of his understanding of the religion. After commencing this new journey his views on pretty much everything began to evolve. This included his music, which has been his greatest passion since about 11 years old.
It’s not so surprising who Trip’s favorite rapper was growing up – duh, Jay Z! But during the journey of finding himself he was determined to stir away from the self-centered rhymes he reared, the ones similar to the rhymes of his favorite mc’s. He decided he wouldn’t talk about money, “There’s more to life than just money,” he said during our cozy sit down. He didn’t want to talk about womanizing, because that’s not the life he was living. He wanted to represent who he was in his music— a young, growing Christian. “I fell in love with Hip-Hop before I fell in love with God. I loved Hip-Hop so much I thought, let me find a way to do it in a way that matches my lifestyle”.
I asked him if he ever gets to feeling “a way” about not being widely acknowledged within mainstream despite his achievements as a Hip-Hop artist. I mean he’s five albums in (yes, FIVE studio albums in at 26 years old!) and extremely successful, even topping the Billboard charts. Trips response: “I think it’s happening – people are a little stand-offish at first because they assume, ‘oh he’s a Christian, the music will be judgemental or preachy’ but then once people start to see the numbers on charts it’s like they’re forced to at least pay attention and then they see like, oh it’s actually dope music that he’s just writing about life from his perspective.”
His intent is to give listeners something relatable to listen to. “Can Hip-Hop have space for dudes with different experiences and different lifestyles, like can we be honest?” laughed Trip as he jokingly questioned. The rapper’s music is storytelling as is the case with some other conscious rappers’ music. It is very honest, not eliminating the struggles of life. I asked Trip if he thinks that in the future he would collaborate with a popular rapper and whether or not that would help the exposure of his genre of music. “I think it would help, it would just have to be right.” When I asked who, at this point, he thought would be a good match, he mentioned J.Cole, Logic and Kendrick Lamar (Kendrick was my first thought – I think it would be a dope collab!).
Trip says it’s touch and go with the industry. He believes fellow rappers are starting to slowly catch on and see that he and his counterparts are just like them, rappers. 10 years ago Trip along with peers like Lecrae began rolling together. He said they realized that there wasn’t really a category for what they did and their movement didn’t fit in with what other people were doing, so they had to create their own fan base and lane. 10 years later that fan base is stronger than ever.
Together Trip and the only producer who worked on his album, Gawvi created a fresh sound. He says that the album takes listeners on a journey and that he created it to be movie for it’s listeners, not just background music. They created their own vocal samples, influenced by early 2000’s Hip-Hop, very soulful but still in a relevant present-day way. The goal is to provoke thought and make people think. There’s a beautiful song about his wife and children which he mentioned after saying, “I won’t be rapping about strip clubs, I have a wife and children.” Instead Trip will rap about the trials he faces when trying to make the best decisions and stay on the best track for him. “Sweet Victory” a song which talks about some of his own health struggles with chronic fatigue syndrome and “Manolo” (a fun, turn-up joint) which features Lecrae are his fav’s on the album.
His advice to all the youth following a dream is to work hard! “Sometimes we have these big dreams and we want things to fall into place but we’re not willing to lose sleep over it.” He also encourages doing it with integrity and ‘not compromising you’ in the effort.
Follow Trip Lee on twitter @tripLee and Instagram @triplee116. The album, Rise is out NOW and on iTunes!