Tree Courtesy of Tree

Real Name: Tremaine Johns
Cabrini-Green, Chicago
Influences: 2Pac, Soul Music, Urban Culture, His Life
Who He’s Down With: Project Mayhem

You taught yourself how to rap and how to produce. What were those processes like?

Before I started rapping, I was a consumer of music. I loved 2Pac, the earlier Jay-Z from “The Dynasty” era, and I understood what good music was. I happened to visit one of my friends in the projects after I had moved out because I still had family there. I went up to his house and they were making beats. They had a keyboard and I saw him sit and compose a beat in front of me. I said, “Ah. That’s pretty easy.” After I bought my keyboard and my four-track, maybe two or three days that week, I called off from work just to stay home and learn, to teach myself.

The beats got better and better every day. I would call my friends over that I started rapping with or making beats with and they’d be like, “Damn. This is amazing,” compared to what they had already been doing. I taught myself with the intensity of wanting to be the best. But I always knew I could rap. I was a great student. I aced English and literature, and I could always write a great story. The first rap I ever did was at a free show we did in the projects. It was like a showcase. The first rap that I did, I got up on stage and I forgot about two or three lines, but I still had the audience’s attention.

You’re about to put out a bunch of new EPs and earlier this year you dropped the acclaimed “Sunday School” mixtape. Since you’re totally independent, how do you create your schedule?

It comes down to what’s going to be put out first. I do music full-time. I’ve got my setup in my house. I wake up and go to sleep to it. We shoot our own videos and all that. It’s whatever the budget allows and whatever is needed at the time. My team, it’s just me and [video director] Bobby Rockwell. People think we get a lot more help, but no. We do a lot of it ourselves and we’re financing it ourselves.

You’re from Chicago but had moved to Atlanta. Now you’re back in Chicago. Why did you move and why did you move back?

I’ve been back in Chicago since April. In November I received an invitation from an individual in Atlanta who’s in the music scene. I had moved down there for a job, as well. When I got down there, I had released “Sunday School” March 11. The week of “Sunday School” is when I started getting all this national acclaim.

Ironically, that’s when the whole Chicago movement started happening. I had quit my job because I was depressed at working. I wanted to do music full-time. I was homesick and I had gone down to SXSW and got a chance to meet all of the individuals that I had actually featured on “Sunday School” for the first time. I had never met Chance The Rapper, Vic Spencer.

At SXSW, pretty much the whole Chicago movement, we just hung together for those two, three days. We just went from bar to bar. It was 40 of us. That made me homesick and I really wanted to get back home. I have my son in Chicago, too, so that was the main reason I came back. Atlanta was a pit stop. It was never meant to be permanent.

For more information from Soren Baker follow him on Twitter @SorenBaker and check out his author page on




    Add a comment

    * All fields required
    Only 2000 Characters are allowed to enter :
    Type the word at the left, then click "Post Comment":

    Article Details