Trev Rich on the Power of Lyrics, Feminism, and Hip-Hop as a Coping Mechanism

Trev Rich will perform at his first headlining show this Thursday, December 10, at the Bluebird Theater. Coming off of the success of his fourth studio album Heights 3, Rich just returned home to Denver from a U.S. tour with Joe Budden. Formerly known as Rockie, Trev Rich is a local rapper who has come a long way to reach the polished sound and powerful lyrics on his latest album — and his city has grown and changed along with him. We sat down with the busy father and tried to keep up with him speaking just like he raps: fast, rhythmic and intoxicating. Trev Rich can suck the air out of the room — in a good way.

Westword: What should the audience expect at your Bluebird show?

Trev Rich: Lights, drummers, I really put my all into this show. This is not the average Trev Rich show. It's my first headlining, so I had to step it up. We're trying some new stuff — I actually have a mic stand. That's rock star stuff. Trying not to fall in love. It's like a lover. People pay attention when you have the mic stand.

Is there a personality change when you went from Rockie to Trev Rich?

Yeah, there definitely was. Rockie, it was kinda like being young, 18, rowdy, to 21. I was just having fun.

You were trouble?

Yes, I was trouble. I went from, "I gotta make a hit, gotta make a hit, gotta make a hit," to kinda like, "I'm just gonna be myself." That's what the biggest Rockie-to-Trev-Rich thing was: That's my real name. That's my government name. So it's kinda like I'm just gonna be me and start putting my life into my music and stuff like that. It wasn't about making a hit anymore; it was kinda of like therapy. That's why my name changed, why my sound changed.

Do you want your music to be like therapy to your listeners as well?

Yeah, see, that's the whole point of it. It's therapy for me to get it off my chest. So just for it being therapeutic for me, I hope it's therapeutic for my listeners. It's kinda like a transfer of energy. That's my biggest thing. That's all I ever wanted; a solid, core fan base who could really relate to what I'm going through.
     As much as we think it, everybody's not always happy, turnt up, in the club all the time. Like people go through real stuff, so when I started making music about my real-life experiences, I started seeing not only a change in myself, but I started seeing different types of fans. I didn't just have young college-aged, turnt-up kids. I started to notice more of my fans had really been through some shit. It's kinda like my fan base grew up with me. That was pretty cool, it's like we went through it together.

How was your tour with Joe Budden?

To date, those were my best shows. I got to practice this set list. Majority of the crowd were familiar with my music, [though] some were like, "Who's this kid?" I feel like I won them over at the end of every show.

How do you balance being a dad with a career in music?

We kinda did a little church thing today, and once we get done with this interview, before the other interview, we're going to Frozen on Ice. Being a dad and doing music is like being a dad and doing anything else. At the end of the day, you just have to balance your priorities, and my kids come first. When I do travel and I'm always on the road, you know, I don't get to see them as much as I'd like to when I'm gone. Facetime calls and doing stuff like that just sometimes isn't enough.
     When I'm home, I like to spend as much time with them as possible. 'Til it's bed time, then I do my own thing. They're both in school now. My son, his mom moved to North Carolina. So I come home and I really cherish these moments. That’s my son, he's my first son, he's like a little me. That's first. That's always going to be first.

How do you feel about touching some of the political justice issues with your new music, either local issues in Colorado, or even on a national scale?

I just feel like right now our youth is lost. And a lot of people who have power to say something to them, to kind of get through to them — don’t. Some of my next songs coming up, I have three new projects lined up...We're just kind of like balancing and testing the waters with these three projects. One called Therapy is based on that type of heavier stuff. It hits home. I have a song called "Radio" coming out, and the whole gist of the song is you won't hear this on the radio because it's not like that. It's just like me talking to the youth.
     That's my biggest thing right now is we have a lot of young kids who don't have a voice, they feel like they don't have a voice. When they hear all these other artists talking about how much money they've got, and foreign cars, drugs and hoes and stuff. That's not helping these kids, that’s why they're so lost. That’s why we're going through the stuff we're going through right now.
     I don't ever want someone to listen to my music and think it's talking about one color issue, because it's everybody. Black kid, white kid, Mexican kid, whatever, any race, any kid — they don't have a voice. No one is talking to them, they're just talking about them. That's my whole goal with a lot of my music. especially something like "Tunnel Vision," which I dropped the video for, it had some police brutality in it.
You see a lot of issues that African Americans go through, but it's not just us in the video. I don't want these kids to think anything is just us, or just them, it's for everybody.

Tell me about these three new projects?

The Way We Love is going to be the first project that I drop. It's more along the lines of, not every chick is a gold digger, not every girl is a bitch, not every girl is a hoe. Thats kind of like the mentality that these younger kids have, not just from music but from TV too. It's like love isn’t cool anymore. I just want to do different stuff. With the Heights series, I was a versatile artist. It's still cool to treat a girl like someone, like a queen, that's still cool. Like it's okay to go into a situation and give your all and get your heart broken, bounce back. Because for a lot of kids, love is not the thing. It's drugs and sex, which is temporary shit. Heartbreak is more real than anything.
     I try to give them something different to hear because these artists aren't teaching kids how to cope with life, how to cope with heartbreak. It's okay to cry, it's okay to love somebody, it's okay to put your heart on the line. There are coping mechanisms besides drugs, sex, trapping. That's what I want to get across with this project.

So you're a feminist?

Sure, Fetty Wap, he is definitely a feminist. I have a daughter in a world where we downgrade women. That’s where we at now. All you hear is, "She's a bitch, she's a hoe and she's this, she's that." Words are powerful. I feel like so many aspects in this game are changing. Now with a lot of the new fans, it's body language. It's how you look; a lot of their reaction to you comes from stage presence. But for me, I'm all about the lyrics.

What are your vices?

Night life. I go through stuff when I go through it, I go through it. If you see me out at the clubs, at the bars every night, I'm going through something. If I'm home chilling with my family, then I'm good. 

What do you do to prepare for a show this size?

I'll take a shot. Just to calm my nerves. When I get to a point where I go on stage and I'll be nervous, you get that rush, you get those nerves. That’s why we put in all of this practice. Still, it don’t take away those nerves, it don’t take them away at all. My DJ goes through it too. We both nervous.

Whats on your iPod right now?

I've been listening to a lot of Fetty Wap, Bryson Tiller, Fabolous's Summertime Shootout. We have a circuit that a lot of people don’t know about. Select artists who send chains of music to other artists in the community. Me and A Meazy sent out a song that a lot of people really loved, really gave some good feedback on. Then there's Ray Reed, Trayce Chapman, J. Doobie — there must be like 100 unreleased songs from these artists. I'm not an A&R, but they value my opinion.

Have you been putting in a lot of practice time for this show?

Like never before. I got sweat dripping off my face, running the set for the fourth, fifth time, and here's the man Francois [Baptiste] like Joe Jackson in the corner, watching. He just says, "Do It again."

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Lindsey Bartlett is a writer, photographer, artist, Denver native and weed-snob. Her work has been published in Vanity Fair, High Times and Leafly, to name a few.
Contact: Lindsey Bartlett