CASH

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - Dy­lan Owens: 303-954-1785, dowens@den­ver­post.com or @dy­lana­cious

That’s why a lot of peo­ple love him.”

De­spite that, Rich is low key. He doesn’t go out of­ten, and even less so since the deal, which has turned him into a walk­ing photo op.

“I think the last time I went out, I took more pic­tures than I’ve taken in my en­tire life,” he said. “It was dope — if you want to take a thou­sand pic­tures of me in the club be­cause you like what I do, how can I say no to you? But the cam­era flash was giv­ing me a mi­graine. I was like ‘Oh my God, I gotta go home!’ ”

Be­tween the head­phones, Rich prefers in­tro­spec­tive mu­sic to club bangers, a thread that, if pulled, leads through his up­com­ing Cash Money mix tape de­but (ti­tled “To Make a Long Story Short,” out Dec. 19) and all the way back to his first days as a writer.

Rich’s ear­li­est mem­ory of rap was lis­ten­ing to it as a kid. From NWA to Too $hort, his dad loved West Coast rap, while his mom lis­tened to East Coast rap. While she didn’t ap­prove of Rich lis­ten­ing to hip-hop — “She was so strict,” he laughed — she let Rich rap her phone’s voice mail greet­ing when he was 11, putting him on well be­fore any blog­ger or ra­dio DJ.

When Rich’s par­ents di­vorced around that time, he welled with anger for rea­sons he didn’t un­der­stand. He turned to po­etry for re­lief.

“It worked,” Rich said. “I would chan­nel all of that ag­gres­sion (into po­ems). It was kind of like the gym. I went from this an­gry, bad kid to a happy teenager.”

Through high school, Rich kept rap­ping. He racked up hun­dreds of freestyle bat­tles in the lunch­room and, to hear him tell it, only lost once. But more im­por­tantly, he kept writ­ing. He took on the name Rockie in his late teens be­fore switch­ing to Trev Rich, his gov­ern­ment name, when he started tak­ing rap se­ri­ously in his early 20s, soon af­ter he had his first child.

With the right beat, those po­ems be­came songs.

“He’s not even close to be­ing able to beat me in a bat­tle,” Tay­lor said, “but his pen game ... no­body writes the way he writes. Most rap­pers take hours, but Trev lis­tens to a song for 15 min­utes and is like, ‘ I got some­thing. Put me in the booth.’ ”

That came in handy this sum­mer, when Rich came face to face with Brian “Bird­man” Wil­liams, Cash Money Records’ co-founder, at The Hit Fac­tory, the la­bel’s Mi­ami stu­dio. Bird­man told Rich he had two songs. Then another two. Then another.

“I played songs all damn night,” Rich said. “He told the en­gi­neer to put the songs on a CD that he could lis­ten to while he was rid­ing into town.”

The next day, Bird­man of­fered Rich a day to record at The Hit Fac­tory. That day turned into three weeks. Those three weeks turned into a record­ing and pub­lish­ing deal with Cash Money.

Flex­ing his fast pen, Rich wrote 50 songs in a month and a half, which he pared down to 13 for “To Make A Long Story Short.” The al­bum is, like Rich, promis­ing, laid back and, most char­ac­ter­is­tic, thought­ful.

That, if any­thing, is his de­fault, a hall­mark ves­tige from Rich’s early po­etry habit. Cy­cling through his library of hype tracks, it can take you off guard. “The Way You Love (In­ter­lude)” and “Va­pors,” two slow-burn­ing stand-outs from his pre-deal mix tapes, started off as writ­ten verse. On “Va­pors,” for ex­am­ple, Rich lurches in on the sort of queasy R&B rhythm that artists like The Weeknd and Drake pop­u­lar­ized, head hung: “We should tie our souls in a knot / we should stomp holes in the earth un­til there’s holes in our socks.”

“Those songs are my favorites,” he said. “That’s where I ex­cel. The up-tempo tracks are easy to me, be­cause I’ve done that for so long. When I have a beat that’s down tempo, I re­ally gotta zone in to make it my best and leave it on the page.”

That’s not to say that Rich’s mu­sic lingers long in the blues — or any sin­gle head space, for that mat­ter. On “To Make A Long Story Short,” he’s a stylis­tic chameleon. He swings fa­mil­iarly low on songs like “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Lies,” but changes lanes just as of­ten. While trap track “Hit the But­ton” shows off Rich’s hook writ­ing and sounds like Fu­ture sans auto-tune, “Outro” hears him a shade away from J. Cole, spit­ting steady over a sam­ple-based track that could swal­low lesser flows.

It’s this ver­sa­til­ity that po­si­tions Rich as a Den­ver paragon. Un­like ci­ties like New York, Los An­ge­les, At­lanta and Detroit, Den­ver’s rap scene doesn’t iden­tify with any one sound. If any­thing, that’s what makes it what it is. Like Rich said, Den­ver is a con­sumer city. As such, it’s not only em­braced out­side in­flu­ence, but in many ways, been de­fined by it.

You can hear it in other upand-com­ing Den­ver rap­pers like AP and Trayce Chap­man who, like Rich, are as proudly Colorado as they are the sum of their in­flu­ences. That might be why it’s taken so long for Den­ver’s rap scene to get off the ground — brand-wise, be­ing all things is dan­ger­ously close to be­ing noth­ing. It also ex­plains why Bird­man was so con­fused when he heard Rich’s mu­sic for the first time.

“I would’ve never put him to Den­ver when I heard how he flows, how he raps,” Bird­man said in an in­ter­view af­ter Rich signed his deal. “His mu­sic is univer­sal to me.”

“I feel like some­body from Den­ver prob­a­bly would take of­fense to that,” Rich said. “But our scene is bud­ding right now — it isn’t es­tab­lished.”

Af­ter catch­ing the na­tional scene’s eyes, Rich wants them to fol­low him back home.

“When peo­ple hear mu­sic,” he said, “10 times out of 10 they aren’t gonna be like, ‘You’re from Den­ver?’ They’ll be like, ‘What the hell is in Den­ver?’ ”

Rich laughed. Sit­ting up, you can see the top point of his neck tat­too, a blue and white tri­an­gle filled in with the Colorado flag’s trade­mark “C.”

“A lot ...,” he said. “You’re gonna have to see.”

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Rap­per Trev Rich wrote 50 songs in a month and a half. He pared the list down to 13 for “To Make a Long Story Short.”

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