i’m going to ask for a late pass for playboy tre. a really late pass. this dude has been at it for 10 years in the atlanta underground and as a fairly big southern rap fan, i’m losing head points quickly. in the early century tre ran with youngbloodz and did a brief stint with lil’ john before going independent. the atlanta/decatur rapper put out a mixtape* over the summer called liquor store mascot and it’s shaping up to be one of the best releases of the year.
the album begins as many great southern rap albums do: with a narrative of street life. tre wakes up, looks out into the streets, thinks about the poverty and violence, and feels sad. i can’t help but think of similar intros on outkast’s atliens, goodie mob’s soul food, and ugk’s ridin’ dirty. on the next track tre sets up the major theme of the album by asserting himself as a man of the people, “i do it for the have-nots/and keep an ice-cold bill like i’m the liquor store mascot”. over the beat’s triumphant horns tre travels through atlanta. he sees dope slangin’, gun totin’, project dwellin’ hopelessness and then reflects, “i see the struggle and i paint it, man.” on the next track, “living in the bottle”, tre confronts alcholism–his family’s, his community’s, and his own. tre tags himself a “bloodline sippa’” in a tone that is regretful and honest. “we are the robots” is an evaluation of present-day racism and classism with lines like “they feed us like hampsters, prisoned and enslaved”. a-town comrade and major label signee B.O.B. comes in to drop a powerful verse about black youth over a somber post-crunk beat. tre explores these themes of struggle, racism, and addiction on every track.
but don’t get it twisted, liquor store mascot isn’t all serious, tre has a sense of humor. like the southern greats before him, he toes the line of serious life reflection and learning to live with the life you have. this music is fun to listen to. i mean, you got all those classic southern backing vocals like, “YEEAAHHH”, “NAAHHHH’, and my personal favorite, “MAANNNEE”. in true southern style, the beats are big, lavish productions that fall somewhere inbetween mid-90s atlanta production team organized noize and lil’ john’s computer crunk. still, at the end of the album it is playboy tre’s voice that resonates. this man is a writer, pure and simple.
gotty of rap blog the smoking section gave his advice to playboy tre’s career in a recent review: “What the man needs to do is take up pen & pad to scribe his autobiography or a few Donald Goines-eque paperbacks. Sure, his words sound melodic when done over music. But there’s a wisdom to his ghetto scriptures, reading like tomes for manhood. Words that should be shared on a wider level. There’s nothing cryptic or “deep.” It’s the starkness and the way he develops round, dynamic characters in his rhymes that attract. They aren’t heroes, just average cats working their way through the world”.
as the direct descendent of blues, gospel, funk, and soul, southern rap is pure emotion. it is unfiltered african-american culture full of pain and struggle, family and tradition. it is sincere and honest, and the great southern rappers are natural storytellers. not to take anything away from the boom-bap birthplace of the NYC, the laid-back, non-concerning west coast stylings, or the working class hustle of the midwest, but if you want to hear rap that most reflects american culture and history, go south, and listen to playboy tre’s liquor store mascot. this shit is free people!
*liquor store mascot, like most ‘mixtapes’ released nowadays, is an album. its all original, written material. a true mixtape is a dj mixing popular tracks for a mc to rap/freestyle over.