Having recently released his latest – and tenth – studio album, Hometown Hero, I caught up with Houston legend Trae tha Truth for a brief chat between sets at SXSW. We chopped it up regarding his charity work, his ongoing radio ban from his own city, and, naturally, his latest LP.

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(skipping the inane introductory chatter)

How are things goin' with you, though?

Pretty good, how about you?

I'm blessed man, South by Southwest, workin' like no other.

I just interviewed this Korean band [Say Sue Me] who were heading out there a few weeks ago. Crazy how everyone ends up out here.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody, man. You know me, I touch every stage, in a million ways.

I hear that, alright so just jumping on in, so, realizing this isn't the most enjoyable topic for you, but would you wanna explain the whole situation with the radio ban?

Well, I've been banned. It'll have been going on for...nine years in October. I mean, it's been worldwide. I don't think people know it's worldwide. You can't play my music, you can't advertise me, you can't really...you kinda forced to, you can't be in business with Trae, people have to feed they families, so...I mean, I've been standing on my own a long time. I remain doing the same.

Yeah, I hear you, I've followed it for years, damn.

I appreciate you, man. I got a new album coming out on Friday, I hope you love it. Anyway, as far as me, the quote-un-quote reason I was banned, is, you know, somethin' happened on one of my holidays, that had nothing to do with me, the lower class people would get a pass, and they didn't have a voice, so I felt it was only right for me to stand up and defend 'em, and I did, and it led to arguments. I felt disrespected real heavy, and I ended up getting' into it, getting into an argument with a host and called 'em a fatass, and that's the reason they banned me worldwide.

Because of fatass? That's crazy.

Yeah. All these years.

Why does it still stand? Why haven't they just let it go by now?

Man, I have no idea brother. I have no idea, man. And I can't really...it's kinda hard to speak on. I have no idea, I just know at the end of the day it's in God's hands now. People know what I do, how I do it, so they know I'm genuine. It's for the state of Texas, city of Houston, man. So it's just crazy. But at the end of the day, God got it, cuz think about it, if he didn't, you wouldn't even be able to talk to me right now. Despite all I got goin' on, I'm still relevant.

So how can you fight it at this point? Don't you have something going on in the courts?

Yeah. We have a lawsuit in place. I'll have to get 'em to send a new press release, but it shows pretty much everything that's goin' on with it.

Alright, fair, so, more casually: what's your favourite Houston spot?

As far as...? I'm an all around Houston person. So, everywhere. Everywhere you can think of. Of course I love Ester's Soul Food. I love the Relief Gang warehouse, that we had, you know it just closed down. I spent most of my days there. But I love just movin' through the city, through the streets of Houston, everywhere, man. I'm all around.

So as a key Houston representative, how do you feel about the continued influence the city has on other regions, with folk borrowing the sound?

I don't really get into that. As long as people give credit where credit is due, I'm cool with that and keep it movin'. If somebody is disrespecting the culture, and don't recognize it or show love, and say that's what it is, then I may have to get involved. But for the most part, I'm good. I got a platinum plaque from Drake. I was on Nothing was the Same, he actually sampled my voice over the phone, so, he's always showed love, as far as when it comes to me.

I guess people tend to just think of collabs, and with him being more with Bun [B], but I hear you.

For me it's just all about timing. When it's time, me and him will, he's always been like a lil brother, as long as we've known each other. It's been a long, long time. Was linking with Wayne, so we met long before his first album even came out. That's how far back it goes.

Alright, so in terms of the new record, you've got a lot of the people you've helped with charity work speaking on it, they basically open the album, making it obvious just how important that work is to you, why did you feel the album should open that way?

I feel like the people needed it, it was sincere just genuine and from the heart. I don't need nobody to go back and reenact it, I would rather it be at that place, at that time, at that moment, how it was.

Would you say that forms the concept of the new album?

It was just me venting. It's just I had to get some stuff off my chest, and I felt like people needed that mood, that music, to hear they mood. To understand they aren't the only people going through it, whether it needs to be somethin' to make 'em feel good, somethin' that just puts them in a place to think.

Would you say there's anything in particular the defines this album vs. your others?

Well, this album was created in three days. So more than any, it just is what it is.

What made you wanna go through it that quickly? Just had to get it out of your system?

I think because I had stopped doing music. I had stopped doin' music to focus on relief work with my team. I wasn't thinking about music. So what ended up happening was...I wasn't doing music at all, after six or seven months, I thought, 'Damn, I don't wanna even talk or think about music', but I know need to do it, cuz my people still wanna feel connected. What ended up happening was, I ended up just going in there for three days and thinkin', 'Whatever happens, whatever come out, I'ma do it.'

I didn't realize it had all been pushed out that organically. How did you choose beats that fast?

People had been sending my beats, so I'd just made a collection of vibes, so I could pick out, and they sent some dope stuff, and my personal engineer always cuts.

How about the Sampha sample?

That's what a lot of people have been tellin' me! I just loved the feel of the music. It just gave me that feel, when you listen to that track, it just gives you that wanna let go feeling.

Alright, so Young Thug, you guys have several records together by now, I know I've heard at least three –

We've got way more than that. (laughs)

Oh?

We've got a lot of records that ain't come out.

'Try Me' with the Chinese instrumentation on the beat or whatever that is, that's one of the most underrated collabs in recent memory to me.

That's a favorite for me as well.

So how did you guys link up originally?

Uh, he's always been the lil bro, man. Since the beginning, since before everyone really understood how talented he is. We've just been rockin', man; we've been rockin' ever since. I was helping and supporting him before it kinda became him supporting me – that's just my lil bro, man. I can call him up any time.

That's awesome you've kept it goin' for so long. Alright, kinda switching gears, but if you could link up for any producer for a full project, who would it be?

I don't know. We've been thinkin'. I was thinking about that, and I have no idea who it would be. (chuckles)

(laughs) It could be anybody, Dre, Premier, a more recent guy like Metro, no idea?

No idea. Because I don't really go off names, I go off feel, so it'd have to be somethin' I really, really feel. And it'd depend on my mood. If I'm on one for the people and the struggle, that's one thing, if I'm on a classic feel, that's a whole other thing.

Fair enough. What would you consider to be centerpiece of the new album?

Probably 'Days I've Prayed'. It gave me a certain feel, and it was the first record that was done for the project.

What made you wanna get to that one over the others?

Just the sample at the beginning when I heard the instrumental.

So what were you listening to when you made the album?

I was just makin' music...uhh, I told ya, I had strayed away from music, I was just doin' relief work, I wasn't thinkin' about music at all. Everything was work. The only time I was listening to music was when I'd work out. A lot of old school stuff like the Gap Band, to Outstanding, a lot of 2pac, Spice 1, Bone Thugs, DJ Screw, I listen to a lot of classic music.

So for someone who music has been such a part of your life for so long, how was it disconnecting from music like that? Was it refreshing, draining?

Nah. It was just an uncomfortable feelin', cuz I went so long without doin' it, knowing that I do it so much, I just didn't know then...was it gonna be good? Was it gonna be worth it when I get out? I didn't know what to think. Ya know what I'm sayin'? Cuz it's like, you go so long without it, that you doubt yourself like, 'Shit. How is it gonna be?' It was uncomfortable for a minute.

Guess it's just like riding a bike, in a way.

Yeahhh. Everybody kept tellin' me it's just like ridin' a bike, I was like, 'It don't come that easy.' But once I got in there, I did it. I just went in that zone and made it work. Once I did that first song, it was a wrap. I just did what I needed to do, once I was in that zone.

So T.I.'s on the record, as usual of late, how's the relationship with Grand Hustle?

It's always the same, I'm vice president. He's actually here with me right now, we're about to do somethin' tonight.

So considering all the never-ending drama between eras, is there anything you'd wanna say to the new generation?

Honestly? Not really. But just keep pushin' for what you believe in.

Fair, so what do you got coming up next? What are your plans or your moves?

Man, right now I'm just focused on pushin' Hometown Hero.

And there you have it. Check out Hometown Hero now.