There might come a time in the career of 21-year-old Northeast D.C. rapper Fat Trel when he’ll feel the need to talk a little less about his block and little more about the block. Thankfully, that time hasn’t come yet.
Trel’s latest, “Nightmare on E Street,” arrives as he’s receiving national attention and label interest — he’s had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in rap. Still, the project is filled with the same D.C. slang, local references, gritty lyrics and wild rides down E Street NE as 2010’s “Youngest Runnin’ Da City Vol. 1,” 2010’s superb “No Secrets” and 2011’s “April Foolz.”
The tales of drugs, sex and money are regional but hold relevance for those outside the District (as do the stories about loyalty and friendship — consistent themes in the street rapper’s work that are often overshadowed by the tawdrier stuff). On “Geetchie,” Trel talks about getting a woman to treat him to some Ben’s Chili Bowl, popping a pill, taking a trip to the liquor store and then hanging with his friends, over a jittery, bottom-heavy beat from Virginia producer Lex Luger. Buddy track “Bros,” featuring Meatchi, Dew Baby and the rest of Trel’s Slutty Boyz crew, contains more mentions of Benning Road NE than an X2 bus schedule.
It seems that every step toward the national is grounded by a regional touch: There are tracks from big-name super-producers (Big K.R.I.T, Luger) and Trel’s frequent DMV-based collaborators (Bass Headz, Boss Major). Homegrown stars (Tabi Bonney, Raheem DeVaughn) are featured, as are Brooklyn MC Red Cafe and Tommy Hilfiger’s rapper son, Rich Hil.
Trel marvels at his journey from guy walking around the District carrying weight in his knapsack to guy carrying a major city’s rap scene on his back on “White Cocaine”: “My city show me love / My city on the map / The city on my back / North Face backpack / All black Mac / Hallway crack pack.” Similarly, “Benning Rd (Flyer Than You),” is Trel’s “Juicy,” a light-hearted, almost sing-songy look back at the past couple of years and his voyage from “shooting dice and selling coke” to taking “meetings in Manhattan,” as he puts it. It’s a reminder that even if he’s not always in Northeast, there will never be any doubt that he’s of it.
“Benning Rd (Flyer Than You),” “White Cocaine,” “Geetchie”