Since his rapping debut on his cousin Z-Ro's Look What You Did to Me, Trae Tha Truth hasn't missed a beat. The H-Town rapper was on the rise after raiding the airwaves of Houston's only hip-hop radio station, 97.9 The Box, with a litany of indie hits like "Swang," "Screwed Up," and "Something Real." If that wasn't enough, the artist born Frazier Thompson III became the first rapper to be awarded his own day in Houston—Trae Day—by then-mayor Bill White, in honor of his philanthropic endeavors in the community.
But shit hit the fan when the second annual Trae Day—a day created to provide school supplies and immunizations for children—ended with eight people being shot. Trae was vilified by The Madd Hatta Morning Show's Nnete Inyangumia, who implied that the shootings were an expected outcome based on his lyrical content. Incensed, Trae retaliated on the song "Uptown," spitting, "The world hating on me like Nnete's fat ass." Nnete caught wind of Trae's dis and soon KBXX/Radio One banned all things Trae, making his plight the epitome of all that's wrong with radio. Complex caught up with the MC to talk about being banned on 53 stations in 16 markets, his upcoming mixtape, Can't Ban Tha Truth, and why everyone should take Ice Cube's sage advise and "Turn off the radio!"
Interview by Maurice Bobb.
Complex: At this point, do you regret anything that's led to this ban?
Trae: No, because they went too far. I wouldn't have filed a lawsuit, but when other people started being hurt by this ban, I knew I had to stand up. There's nothing a person can say to justify the stuff they doing to people. They fired DJs, they keepin' people from gettin' advertising for shows if they book me. It's affecting a lot of people, so that's why I have to fight. I couldn't let this ridiculous vendetta affect any more people. I got a certain type of respect in the streets, that's why they call me Tha Truth. And I gotta speak the truth. I gotta stand up for what's right. Every great person and true soldier has a great story to tell and this is a part of my story.
Complex: Why did you drop the lawsuit?
Trae: Everybody asking, "Is it over? Is he leaving it alone?" It's not that I'm pressing the issue but I'm not giving in either. I gotta stand up for the streets. I'ma be here fighting for what's right. And don't get it twisted, the lawsuit can still be filed again.
Complex: So are you still banned by the station since you both dropped the legal proceedings?
Trae: Yes, I'm still banned. I'm banned from radio period. Even though the lawsuit is dropped, the fight is far from over. They still treating people wrong.
Complex: When you took KBXX/Radio One to court, what were some of the things you learned about the case?
Trae: They lied and said their life was in danger. I never had a conversation with none of them. This whole thing started with me and Nnete, but I can't just put all the heat on her. It's Terri Thomas, the program director. In court, it was her statements and all the times she mentioned J Mac [morning show DJ] and the morning show staff in her statements.
Complex: On your new mixtape, you have audio of Pimp C talking about how KBXX program director Terri Thomas was trying to give him the shaft too. He even said it was an example of reverse payola. How did you get that audio?
Trae: We been holdin' it for a minute. We know everything that go on. It's a big disappointment to see her abuse of power and how she'll stoop to this level because of pride.
Complex: Does she know the audio is on the mixtape?
Trae: She knows it's coming.
Complex: Won't this stoke the beef even more?
Trae: I can't say how they gonna take it. But I'm never biting my tongue. It's the truth. It needs to be heard. I got to stand for what's right. A lot of times things like this get swept under the rug. People gotta know that these are the type of people they got running radio stations.
Complex: Do you think the time will come when you can sit down with KBXX and get this ban lifted?
Trae: It would be good to have my fair shot, but it's probably not gonna happen unless Terri Thomas is no longer there. It's all politics, man.
Complex: The ban doesn't seem to be slowing you down. Lupe Fiasco brought you out to perform during his show at Houston's House of Blues.
Trae: Yeah, Lupe took me with him on the Lasers tour. It was amazing when he would bring me out and the fans know my songs word for word. I'm blessed. I'm constantly working and there are a lot of people supportin' me in the streets.
Complex: Lupe also came out to your third annual Trae Day this year. Tell us about your friendship with Lupe.
Trae: Lupe's like a brother to me. Me and him, we be on some laughin' about life shit. It has nothing to do with music. We both came from the struggle. He came out of Chicago, which is a hard place to come up, so we both understand what it is. He flew in just to help out with Trae Day and I love him for it.
Complex: For an event held in Houston, the event was noticeably lacking Houston artists. Why is that?
Trae: Terri got 'em pinned in the corner in fear. But nobody owes me nothing. If it just be me standing there doing it, I'm cool with that. I got love for the few soldiers that ridin' wit me. Big Pokey, K-Rino, Bun B, and J. Prince are all on my side. It was pouring down rain on Trae Day, but all the artists like Lupe, Yo Gotti, Young Buck, and Gorilla Zoe were entertaining in the rain right there with me.
Complex: Tell us about your new mixtape, Can't Ban The Truth?
Trae: It paints the picture of a movie. I'm telling the whole story. My mixtape is being called the hardest mixtape to ever come out of Houston. It humbles me. I came from nothing. My mother was a single mother in the streets. She did everything she could do. Me and my brother experienced a lot on our own and with me knowing that feeling, I didn't want others to have that feeling, so that's why I fight for the streets. I'm making my own lane and staying true to myself, 'cause at the end of the day, you can't ban the truth.