Review: Trev Rich – Clarity

Its been a genuine pleasure to watch Trev Rich’s career for the past six years. Since the Denver rapper dropped his old Rockie G5 pseudonym in favour for his government name, I’ve been listening. From Heights and the promises of Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik collective becoming a new hip-hop superpower to Trev signing with Birdman’s Cash Money label for To Make A Long Story Short and there’s been a bunch of unreleased music lost in my Google Drive in between. (Remember my Twitter campaign to release Pissed?)

I loved the first Heights mixtape. It was everything I wanted from a rap release. A simple concept to tie the tracks together, a decent musicality but most importantly depth in lyricism which I could connect to. As the second and third instalments came, Trev started experimenting with a more trap-influenced sound. As a fan, I wanted more Mood Muzik but as a critic the songs just weren’t as good as more popular alternatives. Turns out, I probably should have been more patient. Balance came and Trev had mastered the mix of modern musicality and lyricism.

Now comes Clarity. The nine-track release is produced entirely by The Sharke who has been providing the Colorado emcee beats to demolish for years. The pairs work together has often been the stand-out’s across Trev’s discography, and its great to see them working together for a full-length effort here.

Clarity is best summarised by the final cut ‘Roley Talk.’ Three lyrics stand out from the track:

“Picked up the city, I need rehab on my shoulder now.”

“I’m 28 this is how I’m supposed to sound.”

“Local chat? Too focused for that.”

On Clarity, Trev tackles the challenges of being the biggest artist from a region which doesn’t have many more artists popular beyond Colorado’s state borders. While a lot of it is braggadocio, there’s an underlying frustration too.

On Plan A, the album’s opener, Rich raps “I’m trying to shift the culture but you’re moving slow as fuck.” That lyric is followed by singing “I need to get away from here.” Since the beginning Trev has proudly represented his home-state and despite his dealings with the likes of Joe Budden and Birdman has often featured fellow Colorado rappers on his releases. So how come none of them have broke out in the same way?

With Motivated, Trev raps “They talk behind my back but it don’t matter cos we’re winning.”

There’s a lot of talk across the nine-track album of backstabbing and talking behind backs. Whether its women, his peers or former friends, it would appear Trev has dealt with his fair share of losing relationships. Trev clearly feels that if other artists from Denver weren’t so pre-occupied with talking about him, they might be further in their own careers.

The rapper also isn’t interested in those who wish to share credit for his success. “Something about my power moves got them acting like its our moves” can be heard on Back And Forth.

Trev’s obviously learned a lot during the highs and lows of his career. During the aforementioned album closer, Roley Talk, the rapper talks about “starting over will humble you” in references to the arguably unsuccessful time signed to Cash Money. Yet, Trev seems to have learned about his self-worth rapping “Charge them all what I’m worth then I add tax” on Motivated.

Never one to shy away from his personal problems, Rich briefly references the supposed failed deal with Birdman’s label. On Payback 2, a sequel to the original Payback found on To Make A Long Story Short, the rapper rhymes:

“Let me rewind, that deal hit a decline, asked god for a sign, we kept it pushing though”

It’d be easy for Trev to place blame upon Birdman and co., since the Cash Money runners have been at the centre of controversy for mistreating artists for years. Instead, Trev doesn’t comment on specifics or particulars. Thats either contractual or Rich is instead taking the high road and focusing on the future and not the past.

On No Excuses, Trev acknowledges he wants to live the life of stardom he has already sampled full time. The track delivers Clarity’s best chorus: “Giving things that I don’t have to help people I don’t know, they say I’mma get it all back tell me something I don’t know” is a mission statement of intent from Rich delivered with conviction. The mind-state is clear, Trev isn’t letting a little setback hinder his determination to succeed.

As far as the album’s sound goes. Trev’s rapping is better than ever. The flows and cadences throughout are at a spectacular standard perfect for The Sharke’s soundscapes which wouldn’t be out of place on a mainstream charting artists Spotify topping singles.

I’ve already mentioned Trev’s declaration that at 28 this is how he is “supposed to sound.” While I don’t think age is important to what vein of hip-hop an artist works within, I understand the message.

Trev wants to make music for the younger generation, and he’s been doing so for years now. The difference is, it’s gotten a lot better. To Make A Long Story Short was the beginning of  a full length album with musicality to rival the superstars. Balance brought that same sonic standard mixed with better lyricism. On Clarity, there are a few tracks which are just straight up bangers.

Bet It Up in particular is brilliant but Burbank is also a bop. Lyrically there’s nothing spectacular, but these aren’t the songs to open up about personal problems or flex on listeners with abstract metaphorical concepts. Although the “try-angles” wordplay needs to be left behind before we enter 2019 – that’s to all artists not just Trev.

The same might be said for the “Gucci Gang / Lil Pump” gun bar on Can’t Let Em but its rapped so slick I can’t help but love it. Can’t Let Em is placed weirdly in the album’s tracklist. After No Excuses elicits an adrenaline rush, Can’t Let Em is an abrupt mood downer. Maybe this was done on purpose to reflect the quickly changing nature of life but I might be giving Rich too much credit there.

It is one of the album’s better tracks in terms of substance though. There’s familiar conflict with his daughter’s mother which we’ve heard throughout Trev’s discography alongside the pathos packed bars rhyming “brother cried/brother died.” Can’t Let Em also features some of Clarity’s best lyricism. “They saw the drive but at the time I was road raging” and personal favourite bar of the album: “N***** came from plastic plates, you silver spooners can’t relate.”

Unlike Balance, Clarity doesn’t live up to its title. The album is messy. With a couple overriding themes but they jump in-and-out track-to-track, but that’s not necessarily detrimental in this case. Maybe its because Trev has earned his stripes and I’m cutting him some slack or maybe its just testament to the quality of the album.

Whether you’re looking for mogul Roley Talk, or bangers or some very strong lyricism. You’ll probably not enjoy every track equally on Clarity, but there’s something for everyone and there’s no objectively bad song. Its just down to personal preference on what you’re looking for from Trev’s music in 2018 (and beyond).

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