Trel’s regional popularity, and the buzz in the national hip-hop press, mean he may at last be approaching his moment. March 26 marks the release of a mostly re-recorded Nightmare on E Street. “Stakes are very high,” Trel says. “Oh man, where do I start? I just took my first trip to California. I’m meeting with Atlantic Records and recording with famous producers...I want to get my mom out of her house. We’re ready to take it to the next level with this music that’s wrapped around the present.”
Trel says he met with an Atlantic A&R rep on his recent L.A. trip. He tweeted a picture from Atlantic’s reception area. He says he’s met with a handful of other labels, too. The feeling is a deal hinges on the success and reception of Nightmare on E Street.
It’s just a couple weeks before the release party, and the album still isn’t done. I’m back in Craig’s home studio with Trel, Ricky B., and V drinking Yuengling Black & Tans. Our shoes are off at the insistence of Craig’s tolerant wife. Trel has gathered his inner inner circle to discuss Nightmare on E Street’s final track listing. He brings an external hard drive containing 50 or so tracks. Only three were produced by Craig, but Trel depends on his old friend’s mixing and advice.
After a McDonald’s run, V crashes on the couch and spends the next several hours snoring. Craig fires up tracks, mixes them on the fly so they’re listenable, and spins them. The guys determine what fits. As far as I can tell, the album is exactly what it should be: loud, lyrical, paranoid, polished.
A Luger-produced banger (working title: “Luger D”) is heavy on the snare and sound effects. “Flyer Than You” is built around the alien guitar chords from St. Vincent’s 2011 indie-pop hit “Cruel.” R&B crooner Raheem DeVaughn sings over piano loops on “Find My Way.” “Freak It” is self-explanatory. “White Cocaine” is a futuristic, synthesizer-driven car-bomb jam. “She the Type” is over-the-top inappropriate. “Money Walk” is soon renamed “Blood In, Blood Out,” and Ricky B. approves by mouthing all the words.
“I’ve learned to take it slow,” Trel says about assembling the album. “To feel people out more. You can’t rush a good thing.” He quickly returns to his authenticity refrain. “The real side of D.C. that everybody was interested in is what I bring to the table. I’m bringing the street life back into the mainstream.”
After a smoke break, Trel plays “Get It Together.” It’s his best song to date. It’s his “Hey Mama,” a ballad about lost love and disappointing his family. He sings the chorus himself. Trel penned the opening verse on a plane ride home from Atlanta. You can tell it’s a great one because it’s vulnerable, but not corny. Ricky B. is actually moved to sniffles.
Trel is floored by his friends’ reaction. “I didn’t think anybody would like it,” he says, “so I didn’t write another verse.”This story originally contained several reporting errors: The article misidentified the subject’s birth name, which is Martrel Reeves, and the high school he attended, Largo High School. Because of the misspelled name, the check of court databases was originally incomplete.