Maud: Hello and welcome to The Other Team’s Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series that discusses music and matters with queer artists you love. I'm your host Maud Mostly, my pronouns are they/them, and joining me this week is Toronto-based RnB hip-hop duo, TRP.P. It's so wonderful to have you here! Would you two like to introduce yourselves?
Truss: My name is Truss, pronouns he/him
Phoenix: I’m Phoenix, She/her
T: And together we’re TRP.P
M: Fantastic, well, it's so great to have you here, and I'm really excited because you've been releasing lots of music recently, and I just really wanna dive into it. So your most recent release was Strong, a single that speaks to systemic violence, highlighting issues such as the idea of Black on Black crime and the higher rates of police brutality and incarceration that Black community's face, the accompanying music video presents the personal impact of systemic violence on one's mental health and together questions the idea of what it means to be strong, what does strength look like and how does it relate to survival. The music video for Strong ends with someone coming to the apartment and checking in on the individual that's kind of seen struggling throughout the piece, what drove you to want to end the music video with that sign of hope and community care?
P: First of all, I just wanna say shout outs to you because, you got it.
T: I'm so glad that it resonated in that way
P: Yes, I'm listening to you describe the video, my god, they understood
T: It feels great
P: shout outs to you, my bad, I just had to say, you were saying love?
T: I feel like what drew us to end it that way was we really wanted to show Black men being there for each other, especially in that time of crisis, because there is that sense of community there that brotherhood. Especially like me identifying as trans male too, that is actually my homie too, so that is real brotherhood being displayed on camera, and I'm so grateful for the other cisgendered male friends I have, I'm grateful for all of my community, but just of course, it resonates and it hits hard for me to see that on camera, but I felt like just in general, for people to see that, I think that needed to be displayed, but...
P: Yeah, well said, so if there's anything to add to that on my part, watching that and kind of directing a little behind scenes, and knowing that not every Black story has to end in trauma. Like if we're gonna talk about it, let's talk about it. But not every day, like trauma, just have some time to be like, okay, after all of this happened, after everything I experienced in this day, somebody was there for me. Let's write movies like that. Let's write books like that. Let's make shows like that. And that's just us kind of manifesting that into the atmosphere.
M: Definitely, I love that. And you speak of directing this piece, so when you were brainstorming the music video, did you always want it to end with that caring twist or were there alternate endings that you had originally thought of?
P: There were definitely...I'm not gonna lie, I was on my Jordan Peele with this one. There was gonna be a few different alternative endings, like we were gonna have just... Even though I'm like, not every day trauma, one of the endings I was like, Okay, let's have some kind of police interaction, and then we were like, Okay, we have to think about how this is gonna be received by the community and the message that we wanna share. Do we want to end it off on trauma when we're talking about the stigmas around that same trauma? Do we wanna end it... I think one of the endings was like, you don't open the door. It was like, Oh, who's at the door? Like mystery theatre
T: There was a few. There was one where I would be ready to attack at the door. There was a few different alternative endings, but I'm happy with where we landed cause I'm not really an actor anyway
P: I’m not really director so…We really, we really made it work
T: but it was fun, it was a great day and I'm happy with what we did.
M: Yeah, it's an incredible music video, especially, I mean, both of you were saying you're not a director and you're not an actor, but it looks like just an incredibly well thought out professional piece, so both of you were clearly bringing your artistic talents in multitudes to what was going on and speaking to that idea of community and what you wanted to represent in the message you wanted to send, from people who have watched it, have you been hearing that that's been resonating, that people have been taking away that message?
P: Yeah, we've gotten a lot of great feedback, and especially being Black, dropping Black-related content during Black History Month, the response was actually pretty diverse. Like you're always gonna get the people who are like, oh, this hit home, this really felt y’know? But then having allies and individuals who aren't people of color or of the Black community or of the queer community being like, Wow, that was really powerful. And that not really being our initial intention. We wanted to share the message and the story is one that we both share and personally experience, but seeing people respond with understanding from communities that don't experience that every day, that was what kind of solidified to me that this was an important song and an important visual, because sometimes people really don't trust us. Like for those who need scenarios, how about you imagine this, y’know? It’s like some people really don't understand it until it happens to them, and so for people to not have to experience what we go through, whether it be daily through work, through our own family members, awkward social situations, seeing this piece and being like, Wow, I understand, and I get it, that was not expected, but it was so appreciated, so that really resonated with me for a...
T: Yeah, you’ve said it
M: Yeah, it's incredible, that you've got such a strong response to the piece, and it definitely, definitely did deserve that, and I hope you keep hearing messages on it. But I want to also talk about the single that you released before Strong because it takes a very different perspective. The single and music video released prior was Never Leavin’ whose lyrics and video, both celebrate joy with the video taking place at a roller rink and shows people hanging out and dancing. As an artist, how do you approach music that speaks to trauma and violence and music that centers joy differently? And do you find that you tend to seek balance of those themes in your work?
T: Good question. I feel like definitely seeking the balance, but also not even thinking about limit, placing limits on what we choose to express and just expressing how we feel in the moment like that. So like Strong, writing Strong, was literally around the time of the George Floyd incident, and then here at home there was D’Andre Campbell and
T: Thank you and so it was just very heightened and we just had to get that out in the moment, but with Never Leavin’ it was like, you know, I feel like experimenting with different sounds today, so we were just like y’know? So sometimes, this really depends on the moment of where we're at on the day, or in the moment where we choose to create. Sometimes it's me just creating a beat, sending it to her and seeing how she feels, or sometimes as her coming to me with an idea of lyrics or a beat sometimes, cause she's a producer too, sometimes
P: We'll edit that part
T: So it really depends, but yeah, I think the balance, it’s achieved naturally.
M: Yeah, that's really interesting to hear. And I know there haven't been a lot of opportunities to perform recently, but do you find there's a difference when it comes to performing as far as maybe which pieces you feel more comfortable performing more frequently, or kind of the aftermath of the performance based on the songs that you chose to select?
P: When we're getting ready for a show the first thing we do is well, besides get excited that we've been booked to play line, we look at the city that we're playing in, and we kinda like try to see, okay, what's the demographic here? What are the popular things about the city so that we can kinda curate the show to that demographic? But I find that once we get there, they're so chill and so cool, so excited to see us. We're like, Okay, you know what? Let's just do what we normally do. Do our thing and just have a good time. So we try to be somewhat strategic with it, but honestly, most of the places that we've played, if not all of them, I can't even think of one place where we've played and we've been like, Oh, that was weird. And everywhere we've gone, we're like, Oh, nobody knows us. Nobody's gonna like us, and then it's like they love us, so we'll always do our singles, and then depending on the crowd response, we might try a new, maybe a B side to one of our songs or something, we'll work in Truss's live production. Yeah, we start curated and then we just get loose with it
T: Yeah, we'll have a set planned and then...Yeah, who knows, what happens that night? But generally we stick to the plan.
M: Sounds like a really fun time. I personally can’t for the opportunity to see you live since I haven't had that privilege yet, but with that in mind, we've been talking about lots of these different music videos, and in both of the videos that we've discussed, you highlight local businesses such as GreenPort store and Retro Rollers INC, both local businesses that don't inherently serve the music scene, do you feel like that speaks to the community support that you receive both in and outside of the music scene?
P: I would say so. We actually fell into the roller scene. It wasn't intentional, it was, Hey, we love this place. Shoutout to Pursuit OCR. That's actually where we shot the video and shout outs to Will and the staff, they were amazing. They made a roller rink for us to shoot, so it's actually like an adult obstacle course, and during the initial lockdown, we weren't able to have the good old fun time because it's a lot of running around, touching things and breathing, making it the last thing you want to do during a pandemic. It’s not really pandemic appropriate activities. So while they were shut down, just speaking to Will and checking in on the staff and things like that, and he mentioned Retro Rollers was the business that occasionally would be able to come and you could do one-on-one lessons in this back area, so, very cool guy, thinking on his feet and boom, here's a small business supporting another small business, and we're like, Hmm, how can we support two small businesses at once? And as we listened to the song, more and more we realized, Okay, you know what this song is about, finding community and being there for that community when everything else is gone, y’know? Like the song starts off, ‘We don't need nobody telling us, we can't let you…’
Obviously, mandates, health and safety, okay, cool. But that doesn't mean we can't, it just means we have to find a different way. And after all of that we’re Never Leavin’, so we're like, Okay, there's something here, and the more we met the individuals who did roller skate and talk to them, a lot of people picked it up when the pandemic started, so here you have these individuals who really are 'Never Leavin’. They are gonna do this for y’know? They're gonna adapt and grow, and they're gonna be here forever, and that was inspiring to us, especially as artists, y’know? Sometimes the climate feels like you have a limited time and a limited window, but good music last forever. So if we can support a small business and do a visual that kind of works as a message and also a little bit of promotion, why not? And the same thing with GreenPort, we wanted to highlight the disparities between the Black community and the white community in cannabis culture. Why is one community penalized and criminalized so hard while another is literally making millions off of it? And so we actually asked around and were like, well, who are the Black people making money in this cannabis business, and somebody introduced us to Vivianne Wilson, and she's actually the first Black Canadian to, Black Canadian woman, to own her own cannabis business. So here we are with literal Black history during Black History Month, singing a Black ass song about being Black, and we're like, how can we support but do this video shoot? So that's a long roundabout way of saying, that's how we support and that's why we support because it's what resonates with us already.
T: It happens to align and it really has, we've been fortunate and blessed where it just happens naturally and hopefully it continues to grow, like you only want to continue to support locally and support even more Black businesses and things like that. I think that that relationship is powerful and I just wanna explore it even more.
M: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing all of that. And would you recommend to other emerging artists, other artists trying to grow their local scene to get more involved with local businesses, find their way outside of just like music communities?
P: Absolutely, if we've learned anything from this pandemic, it's that everybody needs everybody, and it's not to say you need to go outside of your comfort zone to help everyone, and like my mom always says, I'm sure your mom... 'cause you know Jamaicans, and they're sayings, but like you can't pour from an empty cup, so it's not about going around and spreading yourself thin, but it's about just turning to your left and right and seeing who you can hold hands with to hold everybody up during these times, and those were two communities or two businesses that got hit especially hard, but I think a lot of artists are trying to find their own brand or their own sound, their own look, so maybe they're not thinking really outside of what they enjoy and what they already are comfortable with, but I encourage artists get uncomfortable, go to places that you wouldn't usually go, talk to people in businesses that you wouldn't normally associate with, and find out what you have in common, and more times than not, there are so many things in common that you wouldn't even know, and then it turns into a partnership that turns into a potential friendship, which turns into support from communities you wouldn't otherwise be able to tap into, y’know? It's really about spreading out as opposed to reaching up, and we can all reach up together the more we spread out.
M: Yeah, that is such such such a beautiful message of community to end on. I really, really appreciate you saying all that I couldn't agree more, and that's really the spirit of these conversations as well as making those connections. So thank you so much for joining me on this week's Tunes Tuesday. If you would like to learn more about TRP.P, find any of the things that we talked about today, the music, the music videos, pay attention to their social media for upcoming releases, you can find those at the links below, and TRP.P will be playing us out.
*Strong by TRP.P begins playing*