Justin Truelove and Tre Castro unite the San Diego rap scene with new collaborative album

Justin Truelove - Diego

In a 2009 post on long-running hip hop message board Siccness, San Diego artist Gas One noted the following: 

"I was thinking about this on my way back to San Diego in the car: there's too many individuals in San Diego who are completely out for self and want to only make fast money. A lot of them never stop and sacrifice their profits for a greater good... and that's why San Diego will always be how it is."

It's a sentiment that has been echoed for decades in conversations regarding San Diego's hip hop scene. This "crabs in a bucket" mentality has practically become synonymous with the city's approach to interconnectivity, or lack thereof. Those who are on the precipice of success lose the faith of their peers—mostly out of spite and envy—and either fail to reach the next level, or do so and scorn the city that turned its back on them. And the game repeats.

As one of San Diego's most in-demand sound engineers, Justin Truelove has seen his fair share of local success stories and setbacks. With credits that span heavy-hitters like 24hrs, Rob $tone, Presto Harris, and Chuuwee, the mixing engineer has worked with some of the most successful rappers to come out of the city, and of course, some of the worst. Even with the experiences, however, Truelove never lost the desire to equally engage those who were up-and-coming and nowhere near the headlines just yet.

Then in 2018, a shift occurred. After years of helping artists reach their greatest potential, a chance conversation with rapper Dre Trav opened the engineer's eyes to the scope of his own potential, and by consequence, the city's.

Noting his hidden passion for producing beats, Trav questioned why the engineer never considered making his own tracks and coordinating artists over them. Already working under the credo of 'community over recognition,' it only made sense that his production could supplement the rappers he was already working hard to sculpt. After months of entertaining the idea and experimenting with artists, Truelove said he noticed a greater vision begin to form.

"I would get a verse from one person and then another rapper would hear it and would wanna go in also, and then another," Truelove said of the process. "At a certain point, it just starting to become about making the music, being together, sharing ideas."

Over time, the loose-knit experiment gradually became a cohesive project led by Truelove and partner Tre Castro's production and careful curation. One track became two, two became nine and by the end of the recording session, over twenty San Diego artists from all areas of the city had lent their talents. The project, rightfully so, was titled, Diego.

"I think at the end of the day, it really proves what we can do as a community, as a culture. A city-wide album like Diego is what happens when we cooperate and put our energy together for the greater good," said Truelove.

Truelove says he hopes this push for unified artistic efforts encourage more artists to support one another in the future.

"I feel like a big part of the project is the amount of people that came together, and that will only help with [everyone's success]."

The album features verses from artists like Rossi Rock, Amon, Malosi, Cali Cam, Dre Trav, Dialect, Coolie Mar and more, and is slated for an early Spring 2019 release. Watch the video for single, "Deposits," featuring Amon, P, Zae and Cali Cam below.