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Respect

SHORTLY BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON APRIL 1ST, DMV rapper Fat Trel dropped his newest mixtape, Gleesh. The eponymously-titled mixtape is Trel’s first release since signing to Maybach Music Grouplast November and a long-awaited one at that. It’s been almost eight months since the Slutty Boyz co-founder released his last mixtape, SDMG, and fans waited with bated breath to see what the Maybach rookie would come up with next. And Gleesh—thank the rap gods—does not disappoint. Trel still sounds like Trel, despite his upgrade from unsigned to signed artist. He still reps his hometown of D.C. and his love for the ladies hasn’t diminished in the least. LikeSDMGGleesh is chock-full of guest artists with features from fellow Maybach signees Wale,Rockie FreshTracy TStalley, and the man himself, Rick RossTrel’s iconic rough-around-the-edges, trunk rattling sound is still preserved in Gleesh, just with a little more polish and a little more pizzazz. Perhaps the The Washington City Paper put it best when they said, “Gleesh is like a new, upgraded model of the same vehicle.” RESPECT. talked with Fat Trel about the making of his latest mixtape and his relationships with fellow MMG artists. Read on below.

RESPECT.: Your newest mixtape, Gleesh, dropped yesterday. Have you gotten any feedback from fans or know how many times it’s been downloaded yet?

Fat Trel: I haven’t checked the stats recently. We dropped it at 11:35, so at about 12:35, we had 42,000. But other than that, I really ain’t too caught up on the stats, you know? I know my peoples was waiting. I know my fans was waiting. I know they wanted it, so I ain’t really caught up on the stats. We just gave the people what they wanted, you know?

Do you have a favorite song on it?

Of course. It’s “Rest In My Piece.” That’s my favorite song on there.

That’s one of my favorite songs, too.

Oh, really? Wow.

Is there a story behind how that song came about?

Yeah. I actually was done recording for Gleesh, to be honest. I was recording in LA and I just had some extra sessions on my hands, just bullshitting around and I found out that one of my friends was murdered in March, like around March the 25th, I think. And then the next day another friend was murdered, so I lost two friends back to back and I was kind of hurt, you know? And I felt like I just wanted to touch bases on that and I made the song. And then after I made it, I was like, ‘Yo, it’s gotta go on the tape,’ so it stayed.

I noticed that, as usual, you’ve got a lot of featured artists on this tape. You’ve done that with all your other mixtapes, but this time a lot of the featured artists are other Maybach signees. Was that a voluntary decision?

It was my decision. I just wanted to work with the home team and get used to brushing shoulders with my co-workers, or with my teammates, as you would call it. And that’s what made me go with those features.

Since being signed, do you think that your music has changed or been influenced in any way?

I think its definitely changed. I’m seeing a lot more. I bought my first home and I’m talking about a lot of different things. It’s still the same subjects, same content. I still want to reach the same people. I still talk about the same things, the same struggle. But, yeah, I think it’s changed. It has to change. Everything elevates. If I elevate, my music elevates. Plus, this is what? My sixth tape? So after awhile, you got to talk about what’s real. You got to talk about what’s going on. I got new problems, now. Just because I landed in money, don’t mean I’m not still stressing and going through old things.

Has it been hard to keep a connection with D.C. and the DMV area now that you’ve signed to Maybach?

Naw, naw. Not at all. I’m very in-tune with the D.C. streets and I know what’s happening. So it’s not hard at all. I am D.C. no matter where I go. And at the end of the day, after all the shows, after all the tours, after all the interviews, you’ve got to go home, you know what I mean? When I go home it’s always a breath of fresh air. I’m always in-tune with what D.C. got going on.

Where did you produce the bulk of Gleesh?

Actually, the bulk of Gleesh was produced in Miami and California.

You did a remix with Rick Ross of “Shoot,” which was originally on SDMG. How did you decide to do the remix?

I just wanted to bring Ross back to that element. I feel like after listening to Mastermind, he’s definitely in a new bracket and in a new wave of the entertainment world. I just wanted him to snap back down to reality because he’s doing well—it’s the number one album in the world—but at the same time, he just signed a nigga that’s still in the streets, that’s still moving around and still getting it how he lives. So I just wanted to bring him to my world. I could have put him on any song, but that’s why I chose “Shoot.”

Do you have plans to remix any other songs from previous mixtapes?

Yeah, of course I do. I love my music, old and new, so I definitely have plans to remix some old records.

Why weren’t there any features from Meek Mill on Gleesh?

I’m a believer in the timing is right. I’m a believer in the right timing and I’m a firm believer that you can’t rush a good thing. And with Meek, it just so happened that the whole time I was working on this tape, Meek Mill was working on his album. But we definitely have plans to get in the studio. He just had his thing going on and I didn’t want to intervene. He was waiting for me to send him a song to do a verse on, but I ain’t want it that way. Like, I want us to get in the studio together and make something monumental, so that’s why you didn’t see Meek Mill on that tape.

And now my question about the cover art for Gleesh. Where’d you get the idea for it and what’s the message you’re trying to get across?

The message I was trying to get across, to be honest, was that I got a sense of humor. Bernie Mac is my favorite comedian and I love to laugh. I love laughing. Laughing cures the soul, if you ask me. I wasn’t really trying to make a statement towards the show—I’ve never watched one episode of ‘Glee.’ The music on the tape has nothing to do with the show. It’s just Gleesh been my name for years, long before that show came. So when it came about and it worked its way up to being number one, I was just like, ‘Whoa. That’s what I’m trying to do.’ My graphic designer just sent it. I never even thought about it, he just sent it to my phone and I was like, ‘Yo, we gotta run with this.’

I know you’ve been hustling for a long time, but recently it seems like you’ve been grinding more than usual—so much so that you were practically falling asleep in a recent video interview you did. Has your grind been a lot more intense recently?

It has. I’m taking a lot more flights and I’m getting a lot less sleep. I apologize to that person for falling asleep. I don’t know why they posted it, but I guess the point of posting it was to show the struggle. A lot of people see us having fun. A lot of people see us performing. A lot of people see us shopping and celebrating in the club. But you don’t see my manager trying to get me out of bed every morning. Man, that’s a struggle, for real. So my grind has definitely changed. I’m a hard worker. I want to be the best and, to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. While they sleep, you’ve got to be up working, so that’s what I do. And unfortunately, it just takes a toll on you. I think that when you’re passionate, sometimes you’ve got to push yourself to that limit. You’ve got to let the world know that this is how good I feel about my music and this is how hard I’m gonna grind.

What’s your relationship like with Wale these days? I know you guys have been through a lot and he shows up on “In My Bag,” so does that mean things are little less chilly between you two?

As far as our relationship, that’s my bro. That’s big bro. He changed my life. So all praise due to him. We knew each other for years, grinding on the scene as artists from the DMV. We’d been working real hard at what we do before the bright lights and all that came, so the relationship was squared away. We’ve got a lot more music to be released, too, to be honest. We’ve got a lot of music. Wale’s real specific about what’s being put out with his name on it, so that’s why I couldn’t go crazy and put a lot of Wale records on it because he likes to save it. Everything’s much more special to him. Me, I just look at it like free crack. Like, let’s just make some more free crack for them. But he got different plans for it.

Earlier today you tweeted: “Ross just called with some good news.” Care to share what that good news is?

He was just talking about a tour situation that could possibly be coming up. I definitely want to surprise you, so you have to stay tuned for me to break that news, but I’m gonna break it soon, as soon as its official. Like the day that it’s official, I’m gonna break it. It’s real big though.

I know that you’ve had some shitty things happen to you in the past, like when you were dropped from Board of Administration and no one told you or when you were cheated by your ex-manager. Is trust still always in the back of your mind? Has it been an issue with Maybach Music Group?

No, not at all. I stayed independent this long for a reason. I turned down X amount of deals this long for a reason. I feel comfortable about the situation we chose with Maybach Music Group. So now that we’re here, that’s not an issue. We’re only about working. What we got set in stone is already set, so we’re just building and making a legacy now. All the paperwork and all that stuff, that’s small beans compared to what we got planned.

A few years ago in an interview, you were talking about how shocked you were to learn that you had such wide-ranging fans and supporters. One of the examples you gave were the white guys in Ohio who were getting “Slutty Boyz” tattooed on their legs. Have you had any more discoveries about who your fans are and where they’re from?

Of course. I get a lot of followers from South Africa. A lot of followers from Canada and Nova Scotia. There’s Slutty Boyz in Europe. There’s Slutty Boyz in Paris. There’s Slutty Boyz in Turkey. There’s Slutty Boyz in Greece. There’s Slutty Boyz in Rome. Everyday it’s a new surprise and I love it, man. We started this on the corner in D.C., you feel me? Just bored, talking. And look at it now. It’s crazy. So everyday I’m finding out about the new fans. A white man just walked up to me in Manhattan, late thirties, early forties, and he walked up to me and told me I was the man. So you know, everyday it’s a new surprise.

You once said you thought you had more female supporters than male supporters. Do you still think that?

Yeah, no question. The Slutty Boyz lifestyle has definitely, fortunately, brung in more women supporters than male supporters. But, you know, that’s the lane we wanted to go with. Everybody knows niggas they follow the women anyways. Whatever the women listen to, that’s what the niggas are gonna be listening to if they’re not already. I definitely pride myself in having more female supporters than male supporters. Who wouldn’t want it that way?

One of my favorite songs from your previous mixtape, SDMG, was the reggae-inspired song, “The Latest,” which coincidentally featured Magazeen who’s also signed to Maybach Music Group. So I was just wondering how that song came about because it’s so different from the type of music you usually make.

When I was little, when I was about maybe 10 or 11, my mom used to date a Jamaican, who was later murdered in the streets of D.C. So I always knew about that Jamaican lifestyle, that reggae lifestyle–the music, the dreadlocks, the food (of course), the slang, the lingo, the way they dress. And I was always intrigued by it. Growing up a young black American, it was that fantasy. You wanted to go to Jamaica and meet a plug and go crazy. So when it came to that, me andMagazeen got a lot of records. He works just as fast as me and that’s me honestly speaking. So as far as that kind of music, me and Magazeen got a lot of those reggae-inspired records in our emails just sitting there and waiting to be released. Shout out to Magazeen, too.

Other than Jamaican and reggae-inspired songs, do you have plans to make any other crossover songs in the future?

Yeah, of course. I’m a music lover, not just hip-hop and R&B. I’m always down to try new things, I just believe that everything happens for a reason, so I want it to happen at the right time. I don’t want to rush a pop record if it’s not meant for me to have a pop record. If I reach the level where it’s like, ‘Yo, I think you need to do a pop record,’ then I’ll run with it. But everything happens for a reason and you can’t rush a good thing. So in due time, I’ll be switching up the lot.

This is random, but I’m just really curious: how long have you had your dreads?

[Laughs.] I’ve had them for about seven years now, maybe eight.

And no plans to cut them I bet, right?

No, not at all. Not at all. Not ever. Nothing in life could make me cut my hair.

You’ve talked before about how you feel the hip-hop industry overlooks a lot of emcees and artists coming out of the DMV. Do you still feel this way?

Of course. That’s a true statement. I don’t know why, but it’s true. Unfortunately, we’re just not a place that produces a lot of rappers or produces a lot of producers. But it is what it is and we’re working on it as a city, as a congregation. I’ve got a few releases of artists that I want to share that come from my city, so I’m real big on that. We’re working on it.

And do you think your come-up will help future emcees coming out of the DMV?

Yeah, I hope so. I think it’s already helping. But like I said, everyday I hope more and more artists shed light on D.C.

Last we heard, your daughter was singing in a talent show and your son was getting fitted in a North Face outfit. How are they doing?

She sings and she acts and she’s doing good. I actually just saw her teacher the other day and she told me that she’s a straight ‘A’ student, listens in class, first one to line up, first one to have her book out. It’s crazy because I was not that kind of student, but I’m glad my daughter is. And my son is an angel, which is crazy. Both of my kids, they’re the opposite of me. They’re not bad at all. My son don’t curse. He don’t hit people for no reason or throw toys. He cleans up, he talks nice. It’s crazy. He’s the opposite of me but they’re doing great, they’re doing wonderful.

What’s going on with your record label, Da Company 1135?

Da Company 1135, yeah, that’s my dream. That’s my baby. I’ve got to hold onto that because I believe in it more than anybody else, so DC 1135 is definitely still in effect.

Got any future plans or talks of a debut album coming out?

Naw, we’re not even focused on a debut album. We’re just focused on Gleesh. That’s the main priority. I’m a rookie right now to the team, so my number one priority is sitting back and listening and learning and watching Meek do his thing, watching Wale do his thing, watchingRockie, watching Stalley and most of all, watching Ross. Just sit back and learn and wait for my number to be called. I’m coming off the bench and I’m dropping bench points, but we’re working hard to get that starting position, you already know.