Quiet As Kept: A Q&A with Wats Today's Dre Trav
Forward by Andy Internets. Interview by God Body Mondi.
Point-blank: I wish there was more archived history in regards to San Diego rap.
If you didn’t know any better, America’s Finest City’s flirtation with the genre began and ended with Mitchy Slick, Jayo Felony and Rob $tone. For those who have done their homework, however, names like Blame One, CROS1, and Odessa Kane sprinkle through like icons in the mist. Inarguably, Dre Trav is a name that joins those deeply cemented in the culture.
Without question, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone involved in San Diego's rap scene that hasn't worked with the prolific Emerald Hills emcee. With numerous projects, including the critically acclaimed CAliens duo with 18sens, Rare FLWRS project with producer Gabonano, and now a collaboration with Tall,drk on the newly released YAMMS LP via Wats Today, Trav has built a regional legacy that has cemented his rugged, yet eloquent bars as a fixture to be admired.
In YAMMS, Trav joins forces with the Wizards Only producer Tall,drk to double down on his known ability to speak truth and raw emotion to power. With production that crackles and snaps over warm textures of looping jazz samples under crisp percussion, the duo present a cohesive bodied album that places a special emphasis on raw landscapes, both in sonic layers and spoken word. It’s unmistakably heartfelt music, crafted of sounds carved from the sharpened edges of loss and self-discovery. If San Diego had been a city oversaturated with the digitized noise of Soundcloud drops, Dre Trav and Tall,drk respond with the organic masterpiece we all needed.
In an interview with our rap field correspondent Mondi, Dre Trav discusses his mindset following up to the release of YAMMS, including the passing of his mother, a consequential hiatus, and the way self-care has influenced his work. Read through.
Mondi: First things first, how’d this album come about? I know you’ve been ducked off for a bit.
Dre Trav: Yeah man, been ducked off way too long. Tall,drk and I always chopped it up about collaborating, but I was either working on some CAliens music or plotting things with Gabonano for rareFLWRS. After tying up loose ends, Tall,Drk started dropping joints in my inbox and we just kept going until we had something we both loved.
M: The sound of this project is reminiscent of the work you’re usually on, but way darker and more aggressive, especially on “My Ppl” Was that a conscious decision, like an intentional vibe going into making this project?
DT: Yes, but the production choice was mainly on Tall,drk. I picked a few beats. When I work with producers, I give them the freedom to take me where they want to go, but the beat to “My Ppl” was definitely one of the ones I picked.
M: Is it important for you to stick with one producer per project as an artist? I know it really helps with the overall cohesion and mood of the album, which is something that is incredible about YAMMS.
DT: Yeah, it kind of just happens though, when you’re vibing with someone and their sound, you want to get the most out of that situation while the momentum is good.
M: Why did you take so much time off in between projects?
DT: I’ve been tryna get my mind right. When I lost my mother, I wasn’t in the best place mentally, physically, or spiritually. That took a lot out of me, so I needed that time to refocus, spend more time with family, read, write, get back into the gym heavy, and focus on building my own recording setup. Now, I feel like I’m in a better place. It won’t be too long on the next release, this year I plan to give a lot more of myself musically and visually.
M: Was naming the project “YAMMS” a ode to your mom?
DT: Yes. YAMMS means, You Always Made Me Smile. Yams is one of the many dishes my mother made that the family and I were always waiting for around the holidays. It was the love she put into cooking that made things perfect in those moments. ”Skies of Violet” sealed the deal on the title. That song probably means the most to me.
M: How hard was the recording process of this album? It’s some heavy stuff you were trying to put onto wax.
DT: Definitely. It’s not easy for me to share personal things with people I don’t really know, but with creating the music I make, I try to be as transparent as I can be. It’s really therapeutic to share deeper emotions, get them off your chest, and let them free.
M: At any time during the process did you just wanna give up and call it a wrap? I can imagine bringing up those old emotions can be tough.
DT: Nah, actually thats what kept me going. It’s like carrying something heavy for a while then releasing it. You’ve already built up the strength with all that weight, now you’re light on your toes—time to go.
M: Do you think you’ve experienced your most growth making this project?
DT: Every project I try to show some value of growth. I just try to be as honest as I can be with myself, not tryna fit into someones else’s idea of whatever the fuck I should be, sound like, etc. I just keep learning as I go, bump my head along the way, but use those errors as a guide-through for the next course.
M: What are you striving for now in the future?
DT: Building a solid catalogue; touch larger stages and platforms; travel; become more active for a cause; focus more on needs than wants; show more compassion; teach; take on more difficult tasks; etc. But I only have one day at a time, so I’m just gone live it out how it comes.
YAMMS is out now via Wats Today, available on all streaming platforms.