You know what I really hate as a Southerner? Days where it’s both hot and rainy. That’s how it was on Saturday, July 15th heading to Work Play in Birmingham. Wearing a rain jacket in too-damn-hot for a jacket weather is my least favorite thing to do.
The concert inside of the (dry) venue made up for it though. I’ve previously heard of Translee after seeing someone tweet his video for “The Return”. I instantly found the Culture Junky mixtape and he’s been on my radar since. While I entered the concert as a casual fan of Translee, I left there wanting to be one of his biggest supporters. Not only did he put on a great show but he took time out to have a very candid interview. We even got an exclusive that hasn’t been revealed to anyone else yet.
One of his first mixtapes is named Who is Translee? Hopefully, this interview will answer that question.
Ron: Alright, so before I even get started, the first video of yours I saw was “The Return”. How did you get Alabama State’s band for the video?
Translee: It was dope. First and foremost, the producer who made the beat, shout out to Jaleno, sampled a YouTube video of them playing that riff. They do it at pretty much every game, it’s actually called The Return.
So we sampled it, we did the record and we was kinda nervous about it because we didn’t know how they would feel about it. It wasn’t a clean record, I had vulgar language in it although it was positive.
We actually reached out to the band director and sent him the song. He played it for the band. They loved it. It was around the spring when Alabama State had their black and gold game. They said “here’s the date, come out, do whatever you want to”. So we told them aight, we’ll be there. So we pulled up and shot the video. I think it was something special for Alabama as a whole.
Ron: Since you’re from Huntsville, are you still close to the Alabama scene? Like who do you look at and say ok, they’re putting on for the state?
Translee: Well you know I always gotta rep Doe B, RIP Doe B. And I got my homie Jabo from Birmingham, he’s coming on stage tonight with me too. It’s a lot of artist in Alabama, it’s not just one specifically. People just have to get to them.
I think the Alabama scene is growing, we just gotta get our look and our feel down.
Ron: I ask this to every rapper I interview. When you first started, what was your bad rapper name? For instance, J. Cole was The Therapist, what was your name?
Translee: So, no lie, my actual rapper name is Translee which is my real name but I wanted to call myself Numbers.
[Literally, the room starts laughing]
Ron: Ok, PLEASE tell me the story behind that
Translee: It was simple, I wanted to do numbers. I wanna run my money up. It was stupid. I think I asked somebody and they was like “Hell nah”. But it’s all about what you make of it.
I’m a big Chance the Rapper fan but when I first heard that name I thought that was a horrible name. But now you don’t even think about it.
[Room bursts out into laughter yet again]
Translee: Nah, nah, Immature. I didn’t really rock with IMx. The Playtime is Over album is probably one of the best R&B albums ever.
Ron: That’s probably the most interesting answer from that question, ever.
Translee: But really, it was definitely TIP and Kanye. Kanye because of the content. I was a big TIP fan but my life related more to Kanye’s. Once I heard Kanye rapping about normal things it made me feel like I could do the same thing. I added on to it and made it my own style.
Ron: So I read that you moved to Atlanta when you were what, 17 or 18?
Translee: Nah, I moved to Atlanta around 09.
Ron: Oh, my bad. So when did you make the decision that you really wanted to pursue a rap career?
Translee: Really when I metChris Hunter, my manager. We moved to the A and we just started rocking. We interned with Collipark Music. They were huge. So I’m looking around like, our foot is in the door, we can actually do this. That really made us believe. I put my first project Know Translee and we been rocking ever since.
Ron: Ok, I’ve listened to a lot of your music and I can’t really put a label on your style. How would you describe it?
Translee: It’s like secular gospel.
Ron: Yea, I get that vibe a lot.
Translee: I’m really trying to be as truthful as I can be on songs. If anybody’s going through the same thing I’m going through they can relate to it. To me, that makes me feel good when I can listen to somebody I relate to. So I want to be able to give that to somebody else.
We gotta make sure we take it all the way there. We don’t want to look back and say we didn’t win a Grammy, we didn’t go platinum or we didn’t change lives. But I’ve had people tell me on the internet they didn’t kill themselves. They were going to kill themselves but listening to one of my projects and smoking a blunt stopped them from doing it. That makes me feel like I have a purpose that’s bigger than me. Bigger than anything.
Ron: It’s actually funny that you mention that. First time I played one of your mixtapes [Culture Junky] was on the way driving home to my grandma’s funeral. It made me say “hmm, ok”. And that’s why I was telling you I got gospel vibes from your music. Your delivery is almost like a preacher with the way you project your voice. Or just someone just having a conversation with you.
Translee: Yea I use my music to have a conversation with you. It ain’t all bar-bar-bar-bar-bar.
Ron: Yea, it’s free flowing.
Ron: Alright, this is the last one. What’s next for Translee and where do you want to see yourself going forward?
Translee: Well, in the immediate future we about to kill this show. Glad to be here in Birmingham rocking out. I have a project out right now called M.O.A.T.P. Pt. 1
Ron: Which is really good, by the way.
Translee: There yall have it. And I’m working on part 2. Just finished up the Hustle Gang album with Tip, Young Dro, everybody else on the label. We made a really dope album. Should be out in the next couple of weeks. I’m about to give yall an exclusive. My album is coming out after part 2. It’s called Freedom Summer. Freedom Summer.
Ron: You want to drop the meaning behind that?
Translee: Freedom Summer, and this can start a whole different discussion, is a concept I got from the freedom riders in the summer of 1964. They called that freedom summer. I’m taking that concept loosely. When I watched a lot of documentaries on it, I saw they were making these bus rides into hell–Mississippi was hell back then. The only thing that got them through was music. It was calming to them. Singing hymns, humming, and other little things. So what I want to do is sample some of that stuff, some of those hymns, and turn it into something memorable.
As promised, Translee killed his show later that night. His energy was infectious. As he performed song after song, he began to win the crowd over and get more people engaged. Even our resident skeptic, AJ, was impressed by his stage presence.
Translee carries himself with a humble, everyday-man demeanor but the moment he speaks you can hear his confidence. He sounds like he has a plan and it’s apparent he’s thought about the steps to bringing it to fruition. Translee is Alabama’s native son but I have no doubt he will be taking the nation by storm soon. Check out his music and keep an eye out for what’s to come.
Thanks to Translee and his manager Chris Hunter for allowing us to conduct this interview.