Chicago rapper-producer Tree has one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop. I’m not just referring to his deep, grainy vocals, but the range of emotions he’s able to conjure in just a few short bars. His brand-new Trap Genius furthers his peerless spin on hip-hop, and it’s got all the mystifying power I’ve come to expect from a Tree release.
One of the ten Trap Genius cuts I’m obsessing over at the moment—and, mind you, it’s more than just one—is “New Or Leins / Training Day,” a collaboration with Seattle production group Blue Sky Black Death. I’m particularly drawn to the song’s cinematic second half, ostensibly the “Training Day” portion. Each bar creates a sprawling social map filled with deep bloodlines and missed connections—in one line he references a painfully fractured relationship and the next a lifelong bond, and all these pieces blur together with each subsequent rhyme. It’s a bit of a breakup song, but there’s so much more to it, and so many more lives are referenced than just those of two people.
The texture of Tree’s vocals expresses the complex emotions he juggles in a couple minutes, sometimes all at once—he manages to sound hopeful even when the lines he raps have a strong hint of melancholy. Blue Sky Black Death’s sparkling instrumental lends Tree’s performance a stunning grandiosity. I can’t stop listening to “New Or Leins / Training Day,” pausing and going back to specific lines and letting it all soak in, which is why I’ve picked it for today’s 12 O’Clock Track. Listen to it below and be sure to download all of Trap Genius.