In Dallas, Tru Def is a terrific antidote to these days of cold and gloomy weather. He has a sunny disposition, dressed dapper with perfectly sculpted hair on his face and head, and is as cordial as anyone you will ever meet. He has known he was put on this planet to create music since he was a child, and he did plenty to follow through on his destiny these pasts 12 months by keeping a busy schedule in 2014. But he is just getting started, striving to realize his full potential.
Tru Def grew up around hip hop. As a child, he had an uncle working as a producer and his father was a hip hop artist. He remembers his dad picking him up as a five-year-old and holding him in front of a microphone so he could rap. His parents told him he was rapping in the backseat of the family car when he was even younger. Tru Def started making music at 16, but left for Manhattanville College two years later, living on campus in Purchase, New York. In 2012, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in business management and, at the age of 22, returned to Dallas.
He wasted no time and released his debut album, Forever, a year later. Tru Def's vocals are confident and the production is creative on a debut that is solid, but not especially cohesive. The record seems to be on a relentless quest to find new sounds throughout its eight tracks, which is by no means a bad thing. In fact, it's striking how effortlessly Tru Def can change the tempo and mood from track to track or even within one track; he is not stuck at one speed or in one mode. The title track is a slow song with an edgy, slow burning sound that comes across as heavy.
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Tru Def quickly followed up Forever with his second album, Crown, which he released on his birthday in April of 2014. This sophomore release is a big step forward. The production is completely overhauled with significant upgrades. Electronic beats, all sorts of different percussion, strange voices and other noises are carefully arranged to achieve a dizzying, kaleidoscopic sound. Crown is a sophisticated work and Tru Def skates through these tracks effortlessly. He has hooks, he can sing, speak with careful enunciation, drive verses with rhythm, and he can definitely freestyle.
"Everyone has something unique inside them and they just have to find it," explains Tru Def. The album's title references that concept: "Every person has an invisible crown," he adds. Crown works well on different levels. It has no shortage of potential singles, the album's first two tracks are different examples of that. But Crown is also a cohesive body of work, a concept album even. The album also has a great cover with Tru Def sporting a spray-painted "crown" that recalls the vague representation of a halo in a Leonardo da Vinci painting.
Not only is Crown easy to listen to, but it rewards repeat listens. The production is instantly likable, but it can take a couple or few listens to make sense of it. The overall mood of the album is aggressive and hyper, so that can take some getting used to, but not in a bad way. Like ballet or a good movie, Crown has that rare ability to effect you emotionally before you can think about it. It is immediately clear that Tru Def's lyrics are meaningful, communicative and inspiring.
It is also worth noting that Tru Def is not only very real, but in a sense of the word other than what you may expect with hip hop. What's so strikingly real is his conviction that every person on this planet was put here for a reason. Real in the sense that he means all of his lyrics and believes everything he says with zero trace of irony or sarcasm. He says his name, which is short for "true definition," means "The real definition of who you are."
In 2014, Tru Def did 52 shows in North Texas, Houston, Austin and New York. A few days after the release of Crown in April, Tru Def joked about his chances of randomly meeting Kanye West at O'Hare International Airport the next day. Incredibly, this actually happened and West offered words of encouragement. The day after that Tru Def received a fat check to perform at his alma mater opening for Big K.R.I.T. Already the hard work is beginning to pay off.
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Tru Def plans to stay busy this year. He'll get the ball rolling this Saturday, January 10 as he hosts an event for his clothing line, Aufstand, and the following Saturday he will perform at Club Dada. He plans to release a deluxe version of Crown with bonus tracks. The original release was celebrated with a live performance at Lewisville Lake on a boat with a crowd of seventy people and Tru Def would like to have a more traditional album release show to go with the deluxe re-release. He also plans to release a new EP this year, but admits that he is recording material so regularly that other releases are possible.
TRU DEF hosts the Aufstand Mixer at 1 p.m., Saturday, January 10, at Glasshouse Studio, 830 Exposition Ave., trusocietymusic.com, $20.
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