When Dallas native Tru Def opened for Bun B. at a show in San Antonio two weeks ago, it was another serendipitous moment in a career full of them. The rapper born Desmond Williams and raised in Pleasant Grove has developed a talent for being at the right place at the right time and making the most of it.
In 2014, shortly after releasing his second album, Crown, Tru Def was invited to open for Big K.R.I.T. at his alma mater, NYU. He ran into Kanye West before the show and used the meeting as an opportunity to do some networking.
A year later, he was performing behind his new EP, Aufstand, which led to free-styling cameos in Ty Dolla $ign’s SXSW documentary and later a spot in a Bud Light commercial alongside Lil Jon and Snoop Dogg.
But Tru Def's proudest moment is when he buddied up to Jay-Z's right-hand man and landed an appointment with the Hova after bluffing that he already had one. “He has this ability to speak his wishes into existence,” his manager, Sarah Badran, says.
Tru Def was recently endorsed by K-Swiss and has also put out his third album, DreamsIIReality.
Tru Def says he's been cultivating his work ethic since middle school. In college, he was taunted for being a clumsy rapper and compared with derision to another Dallas rapper, Dorrough. Tru Def's philosophy is similar to that of success guru Gary Vanderchyck.
“It’s OK to fail, cause that motivates you to be better," Tru Def says. "Like Muhammad Ali, he said, ‘I’m the greatest,’ but he took so many losses. I know I’m gonna get my butt kicked, but am I gonna sit down or am I gonna get back up again?”
Tru Def is the sole performer and producer on the EDM-inspired album DreamsIIReality. He says it was a lot more responsibility than he realized when he took it on.
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He spent days in the basement of his Dallas home, tinkering with sounds in frustration until the album finally began coming together nine months into the process. But even once he'd figured out the beats, he was hesitant to commit by rapping over them. He says he sighed in relief when he realized: “OK, this works.”
The finished product is reminiscent of a motivational seminar mashed with hi-energy noises. “From the Start” is political plea while “High Power” aggregates past rappers’ slogans. Tru Def considers it his duty to lift up other rappers, particularly those from Dallas.
“Dallas has a tremendous amount of talent,” he says. “I take the leadership role cause if one of us wins, we all win.”
DreamsIIReality is available on all streaming platforms.