He earned a warmer response at the weekly open-mike nights at Pure Lounge on U Street NW. After a few performances, he connected with representatives from Wale’s recently-founded Board Administration label. They quickly brought Fat Trel into the fold and helped with the release of his acclaimed mix tape “No Secrets” in August of 2010.
His reputation continued to swell. He took home the title of “Breakout Artist of the Year” at last March’s DMV Awards, but the annual awards ceremony intended to celebrate Washington’s hip-hop scene ended in an ugly melee. Trel and his crew were spotted on YouTube throwing fists and chairs. Today, Trel says he was acting in self-defense. Did he squander the scene’s goodwill in one night?
“I’m not sure, and I really don’t care,” he says. “We were protecting ourselves that day.”
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A few weeks later, Trel was driving on New York Avenue and listening to the radio when a DJ announced that the Board had released him from the label. His new mix tape, “April Foolz,” was set to drop in 72 hours. Even though he felt excluded from the label’s dealings, he says the news blindsided him. “I felt like they carried me in the most disrespectful way ever,” he says.
But he didn’t dwell on it. Since the split, Trel says he’s been courted by “six or seven” major labels that have supported “Nightmare on E Street” by paying for studio time in Los Angeles, Memphis and at the legendary Quad Recording Studios in New York. He says the mix tape will also feature production from the likes of Mississippi rapper-producer Big K.R.I.T and young Virginia phenom Lex Luger, whose juggernaut hits with Waka Flocka Flame have created a space on the airwaves for a rapper like Fat Trel.
Trel hopes “Nightmare on E Street” creates enough buzz to score him the right deal — the kind that will help him provide for his 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, his mother, his brothers, their kids and all of the friends he grew up with. “I’m hoping for a million-dollar offer,” Trel says. “But we waiting on God to tell us what’s up. Can’t rush a good thing. Everybody knows that.”
So he remains patient in the chaos, talking about success as if it were preordained.
”Nobody done got a better swag than a Washington, D.C. person,” he says. “Best swag, best dressed, best slang, the way we shake the dice. Everything . . . The whole world needs to know the real story of a 100 percent Washingtonian.”