There are plenty of MCs who can put together a solid case for why they believe they’re the next big thing and why the masses should flock to them—hell, there are some who can fill an entire mixtape about their preordained rise to fame—but there aren’t many who can inspire the kind of fierce devotion in their fans local rapper-producer Tremaine “Tree” Johnson does. I remember conversations about Tree the way you’re supposed to remember song lyrics, and that’s partially because I’m so enamored with his unique, strange, and soulful sound, which he calls soul trap. I’m constantly reminded of something Project Mayhem’s Marco Dane told me when I interviewed him for a 2012 B Side feature about Tree. “There’s only been three rappers that have made me cry,” Dane said. “It was Tupac, Nas, and this guy.”
Dane’s words came back to me as I listened to Tree’s “Probably Nu It” for the third or fourth time, when tears began blurring my vision. Tree’s warm, grainy voice slightly trails off on the hook—”probably knew it’d be the same old, same old”—in a way that lends him a been-around-the-block poeticism that makes him sound way older than 30, his actual age. And Tree absolutely owns it, rapping with a cool, assured grace that makes him come off as a wise dude who’s still as eager to make music as ever. “Probably Nu It” is the first track on Tree’s new The @MCTreeG EP, which Scion AV released for free yesterday. It’s another great one from Tree, and while I’ve got some other favorites (such as “Soultrappin / I Believe”), “Probably Nu It” sets the bar pretty high—not just for the other songs on the EP, but for other rap songs in 2014. It’s not the first time Tree’s music has got me so emotional, and I imagine it won’t be the last.