When I first heard Trouble I felt the hype wasn’t equal to the quality. December 17th was cool, I don’t remember anything from it but it did enough to keep his name ringing in my head. Add to that an easy lay up holding down the hook on Killer Mike’s lead single “Big Beast.” When 431 Days dropped I couldn’t not download it, and thankfully the No DJ version wasn’t too far behind it.
I described this at one point as conscious trap rap. I don’t know if that is fair. I’m still not sure what exactly classifies “trap rap.” I don’t ever press play on what Julie posts on Tuesdays, but I’ve bumped Blue Dream & Lean a bit. This isn’t that. It’s darker, grittier, angrier. Trouble doesn’t seem like a happy guy. Perhaps much of that is for show, as he is running in a lane clearly defined by the tattoo around his neck (“No Mercy”) and the time he has served in jail.
The first thing to capture my attention is Troube’s voice. It’s hard to explain what he is working with here. It’s many things really. Sometimes it’s deep and heavy. Sometimes it’s filled with a bit more light and almost hints at a voice that could sing. Perhaps this stems from the fact that he is an animated flower. He screams. He enunciates precisely and works with the syllables found in words. It’s exciting to hear and provides him the ability to be diverse in his delivery.
Aside from his own technical abilities he is an expert storyteller and vivid writer. You are bound to hear about criminal acts, even beyond the typical murder and drug tales that are less than rote at this point in rap. I don’t want to know what Trouble has been involved in, but if we are to believe him as a truth teller he has been surrounded by some despicable individuals.
Is there anything redeeming to be found? Perhaps not. Not every song is filled with such discussions. He, Alley Boy and Armstrong all deliver a pretty decent hustler’s tale with “GO!!!.” It’s again filled with nothing new, but features a synth heavy beat rooted in an assortment of drum patterns that keep you energized like the product they all sold.
They make quite a bold statement with “ATL” jacking the previously used Ray Charles “Georgia” sample but producer Tone Bone annihilates any haters with his monstrous thump delivered. I can only imagine the havoc this must cause in clubs across Atlanta.
I’ve been steadily rocking to this album and I’ve debated its staying power. It’s not my typical rap, yet I do generally find new rappers of this vein to latch onto. Trouble intrigues me as a character. His connections within Atlanta hint at something I find promising. If Killer Mike puts you on, I can’t help but respect it.
Not all the cuts on here are for me. “D.R.A.M.A.” doesn’t do much for me. It shows off his more animated style of delivery. If he wanted too he could probably cross over into the more pop sensible sing song flow but that would contradict his image pretty heavily. “Hustle & Ambition” is a stellar collaboration with Gucci Mane. Never having joined the Gucci club, I hear occasional verses from him that explain to me the success and this would have to be one. Trouble doesn’t sound out of place and the beat should get even the the coldest killers ham.
The album is divided by the “Free (Interlude)” were Trouble gets introspective and reflects on his life and the loss he has survived and the decisions he has made to work towards a positive future. From here the songs take a turn and address a more deep side of street life and how to live with the realities of choices made.
While the songs aren’t bad by any means, they do fall into cliche mode with the beats sounding far less virulent and no where near as futuristic. We also get a couple less than awesome hooks from no name R&B singers. Flaws aside, the songs are more than listenable and if Trouble needs this style to open up let him have that moment. It’s honest if nothing else.
The shocker for me came in “All I’m Worried About” featuring Nappy Roots member Scalez. Being a huge NR fan I’ve seen few collaborations between them and outside emcees, so to see one of the more talented members step up and rock with an up and coming cat is exciting. And the song, produced by Tha Bizness, finds them asking for forgiveness and searching for hope over a thumping bass line and a fittingly mellow guitar melody.
Trouble has a lot on his mind and is finding a way to tie all those ideas together. December 17th was overall more gritty. He was fresh out of jail. 431 Days marks over a year free and you can hear the life that has been breathed into his music. There is some happiness here, and some optimism he probably just couldn’t grasp fresh out of jail and making music for his cell mates. If he stays on this path he might manage to make a hit even guys in jail would get to hear.