In 2009, Trae Tha Truth’s career looked like it was in serious jeopardy. After individuals opened-fire on a crowd during a festival for at-risk young people hosted by Trae (and an ensuing on-air argument after), the Houston product found himself with his music banned by local radio station KBXX 97.9. But looking at the lineup he’s secured for Street King – Lil Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, Big Boi, Rick Ross, Jadakiss included – there’s little doubt that Trae has the support of his peers, from the South and otherwise.
Trae Tha Truth quickly jumps into street talk with the album’s intro, “Strapped Up.” The Houston, Texas native’s rapid-fire flow never falters over steely Drumma Boy production. “Woke Up This Morning” follows, and it’s more of the same. Featuring similar synths and bells as the preceding cut, it’s really just a slowed-down version. Fortunately, “Inkredible (Remix)” switches things up nicely. A sinister, swirling sample is placed over satisfying and well-timed low-end bass. Rick Ross and Jadakiss join over the biblical beat, but Trae more than holds his own: “I’m in the hood under surveillance, buncha haters watchin / Couple choppas out for dinner, failure ain’t an option / Reclineable seats, invisible ceilings / Competition is murder, haters I’m killin / Fuck a money machine, I don’t count it, I blow it / My money conceited, it look good when I throw it / …these other niggas…they only imitation / So when I see ‘em, it’s fuck ‘em minus the penetration.”
“Gettin’ Paid” doesn’t really merit a listen, since Wiz Khalifa does his damndest to ruin it with his horrendous hook and potentially worse verse, but “I am the Streets,” featuring the Game, Rick Ross and Lloyd is a nice consolation prize. CyFyre offers an airy, mesmerizing beat that highlights the qualities of each of the emcee’s distinct voices. Yeah, Lloyd’s chorus borders on corny with its talk of hustling and haters, but it’s still silky smooth and a nice juxtaposition to Game and Trae’s gravelly deliveries.
“That’s Not Luv” adds a little chipmunk soul to the equation courtesy of StreetRunner, but remains distinctly southern. Sadly, a lazy Wayne verse, rife with lines like “Trae, you can count on me / like one-two-three” causes the track to stall. Jadakiss and particularly Scarface (eliciting memories of his outstanding verse on “This Can’t Be Life”) prove to be much more reliable contributors to the project on “Life” and “Goes Out,” respectively.
The name of the game for most of Street King is inconsistency. “Hood Shit” is laughable with the bewildering choice to use the “opera chorus” setting on the keyboard; unsurprisingly, Shawty Lo and Yung Quis do nothing to assuage that mess. On the other hand, “Street King” utilizes a nice vocal sample courtesy of Slim Thug and features some of Trae’s strongest rhymes. Fortunately, “It’s All I Know” and “Just Don’t Get It” provide some much-needed introspection. Punctuating a strong string of closing cuts is “I’m On,” featuring Big Boi, Lupe Fiasco, MDMA and Wale, which may just be the album’s gem, with Wale sounding like the emcee that loyal fans feared was left behind when he signed with MMG.
Though Trae isn’t a particularly deft lyricist, he has an adequate flow and loads of charisma to spare. Most of all, the features and often-stellar production carry Street King along for what is an uneven, but very bumpable and gritty experience.