Tha LostBoy Finds Himself on Debut Album The Renaissance Man

Travis Crosswhite, aka Tha LostBoy.
Travis Crosswhite, aka Tha LostBoy. Photowerks970
Denver-based hip-hop artist Tha LostBoy, born Travis Crosswhite, gets his name from his nomadic nature. Originally from Dallas, he lived all over Texas, on both coasts and in the Pacific Northwest before settling in Denver eight years ago. Now 31, he acquired the nickname "Tha LostBoy" in his early twenties, which were largely spent traveling around the country by bus. "I would hop on a bus and be there for two weeks, then all of a sudden I'd be 2,000 miles away somewhere else. Everybody knew I'd be back, but they didn't know when," he says. "That was the start of that name, as well as the 'never grow old' aspect of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. That's always been who I am." On his debut album, The Renaissance Man, set for release October 31, Crosswhite mixes tales from those youthful travels with his present-day experiences as a husband and father.

He started writing music at age ten and recorded his first mixtape at thirteen, with the help of friends that he still collaborates with to this day. Equally inspired by rappers, soul singers and classic-rock artists, he's drawn more to poetic lyricism than to any particular genre. "I've been driven to listen to more knowledge than bullshit. Life stuff — stuff that if you get in the car and you're having a bad day, it makes you feel better," he says. "Not a bunch of club songs with no meaning."

It's not surprising that Crosswhite, a white rapper, lists Eminem among his influences, but some other favorites are unexpected. "Because I do a lot of soul singing and I sing on all my tracks and was in choir my whole life, more like Anthony Hamilton, on a soul level," he says. "The Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty are all big influences on the soulful side. Lyrically, it would be like Nas, Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli — more underrated street poets."

His penchant for quality lyricism has also turned him away from making more explicit tracks. While his music is not entirely free of such material, he wants his work to appeal to all ages. "I just wanted something more lyrical, and I think true lyricism isn't when you can use a cuss word at the end of every bar to make the flow rhyme. I feel like you should utilize the whole track to actually fill it with something," he explains. "Less cussing is more substance, but at the same time, it also broadens the horizon for a younger fan base." After watching many of his friends become fathers at a young age and then becoming a father himself, he became more conscious of his songs' content, and now focuses on providing more uplifting messages for young listeners. But he admits that in his day-to-day life, he still curses "like a sailor."

Since childhood, Crosswhite has been drawn to a variety of creative mediums. "I've been writing a long time, and not just music. Philosophies, poems, short stories — I do a little bit of everything," he says. He also has an art business under the name Man of Marrow. "I do Native American bone carving, scrimshaw, leather working, jewelry — everything like that. It's more of an early-American style of art, a lost art form that a lot of people don't do anymore. But I think it's cool, and it all just goes with who I am."

Being an artistic jack-of-all-trades inspired the title The Renaissance Man. "The title actually came from my wife and, oddly enough, a couple customers that I had in the last few weeks. They were like, 'You're a renaissance man,' and I was like 'Holy shit: The Renaissance Man. It just makes sense,'" he recalls. "The peddler of many things, you know, like in the Victorian ages. They'd be on the street juggling and selling art and making music. They did a little bit of everything, just to make it."

Crosswhite recording at Chimaera Sound Studios in Loveland. - PHOTOWERKS970
Crosswhite recording at Chimaera Sound Studios in Loveland.
The idea of "making it" is central to the album, which was recorded at Chimaera Sound Studios in Loveland. Crosswhite's lyrics are both autobiographical and observational, painting a picture of the world from the perspective of someone who lives and moves within it, but also sits perched on the outskirts at times. "I'm very extroverted as a person, but introverted with my lifestyle. That way, I can actually just observe and not have to be in the drama," says the rapper. "I feel like that's what's helped me write more clear messages, because I'm not driven to one side of someone's opinion. That's what fueled it — watching the world and everything go downhill. There's a lot of tension in the world, and a bunch of confusion. That has a major impact on the music I'm writing these days."

Like Eminem, Crosswhite delivers rapid-fire bars with a frenetic flow, often detailing the personal struggles faced on the journey to finding success. But where Eminem thrived on controversy and vulgarity, deriving his power from shock value, Crosswhite focuses on his love for his art and family.

The Renaissance Man has so far been released as a series of singles, but will drop as a full, thirteen-track album on Halloween. As a lover of all things spooky and morbid, Crosswhite consciously chose the holiday for his debut. "I was born on the thirteenth [of March], so thirteen has always been a lucky number for me — and with Friday the Thirteenth to Halloween being thirteen backwards, it's one of our favorite holidays. With all my bone working, we make the house look pretty freaking cool," he says with a laugh. "It's supposed to be a very pagan/Wiccan holiday, but at the same time, billions of kids have the most fun on that day. It's such a macabre day, but it's a happy dark day, so I thought it was perfect."

Crosswhite's music career is just heating up, but he has big plans for the future. With a whopping 152 more tracks in the works, he's already gearing up for his second album. He's also starting a nonprofit called the Bucket List Foundation, which provides once-in-a-lifetime adventures for senior citizens. "I see a lot of old folks' homes, and it's so depressing, because there's no young people there, and they feel older," he says. "If I can take them out and do a hot air balloon ride with some ninety-year-old dude and have a kickass time, that would probably make him live a few more years."

Last but not least, he's hoping to submit music for Grammy nominations: "I missed the deadline this year, so next year I'm definitely going to put up a few tracks for nominations and try to get on that board and into that circle."

The Renaissance Man will be available for streaming and download on all music platforms on October 31, but many tracks are available now on Tha LostBoy's Spotify.
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Cleo Mirza recently graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in English and anthropology. She enjoys good food, cheap wine and the company of her dog, Rudy.
Contact: Cleo Mirza