I’m not much of a music fan these days. At some point in the last 3 years my connection to music transitioned entirely from someone who appreciates music in general as a listener to someone whose entire life is defined by experiences garnered from specific pieces of music. Thusly I’ve noticed that my listening habits have changed. That’s not to say that music wasn’t always a chief factor in determining my life, but I’d say I used to connect to it on a larger scale moreso as a signifier, and not necessarily as the actual matter and material of my life. But, these days I feel like the music I listen to doesn’t define my life, it ismy life in a very real sense. That is a large part of why I have championed Tree so relentlessly: if my life is the music I’m listening to and supporting, then this is what I want it to be.
Over the course of 2012 Chicago emerged as a very serious contender in the post-regional internet hip hop era that still relies heavily on geography to find its bearings. While artists can move onto a national, or even international stage without ever having a song on local radio, we are still in an era that is concerned by the tidal motions that move our collective attention across geographies and communities. How has hip hop affected Chicago? It would take a great deal of research to quantify and qualify that, but how Chicago has affected hip hop is a much more straightforward inquiry. And within that inquiry Tree holds a unique position.
While the music of many other Chicago artists (Rockie Fresh, King L, Chief Keef) fits neatly into the dominant narratives of hip hop’s figures and their collective history Tree’s music does not. Yet, at the same time it isn’t foreign at all to those who know those narratives with any degree of familiarity. Tree’s music is the rare occurrence of artistic genius with a particular penchant for considering the audience. Tree could easily have invested his life in a body of work that would have rivaled that of Frank Lloyd Wright, Iannis Xenakis, or John Cage himself, but instead he leans more distinctly towards popular notions of art. Tree’s music is the sort that requires an extended passage of description in which the narrative is not one of hip hop, but on hip hop. His music both reaffirms, and alters the seemingly timeless tale of hip hop.
Tree is no stranger to the same street tales that dominate the music of the much more highly regarded Chief Keef, or King L yet the way that Tree speaks of his experiences herein belies his proximity. Tree doesn’t focus on the attention-grabbing surface details of a life outside of the hardline realms of white suburban normativity. But he is very likely to relay the lessons he’s learned from participating in the activities that define the acclaim of artists like Chief Keef or King L. In short, Tree is a nuanced and classy dude creating a sound that is totally unto himself, but he is clearly influenced by today’s standards of taste. And so Tree did what any sensible genius of a particular locale of note would do: he created a project to align himself with his geography.
Tree Featuring the City finds Tree drawing a long list of collaborators from across Chicago, and incorporating them all into his signature Soul Trap sound. (It’s worth noting that Tree coined the moniker well before the whole club-based fascination/regurgitation of Trap started.) As auteur Tree inserts himself in a variety of ways throughout the project sometimes foregoing an appearance as rapper, but always present via his singularly-enabled sound. And it surely speaks to Tree’s artistic credit, vision, and merit that this release remains cohesive and coherent in spite of the fact that it covers an incredibly varied list of participants. And surely that counts for something, right? If the Chicago artist that no one seems to be recognizing can make a cohesive record with nearly 20 other Chicago artists of varied sorts, then the essence of his work must be something very close to the essence of Chicago, no?
Download Tree Featuring The City.- Zachg