For some reason, whenever hip-hop fans talk about “West Coast rap,” they really mean “California rap” — or rather, two main regions: The Bay Area and Los Angeles County. The Golden Gate Bridge is about as far north as most folks are willing to extend the designation, overlooking cities like Portland and Seattle. The thing is, quiet as it’s kept, both cities are actually hotbeds for some of the most innovative, creative, and downright fun rap music being made.
Seattle especially has become a petri dish for musical experimentation and some of the sharpest, wittiest songwriting in the genre from burgeoning talents like Dave B, Gifted Gab, and Lil Mosey. Consider Macklemore, whose national profile may actually have suffered from his down-to-earth demeanor. Where rappers in more “hip-hop-centric” towns convey a superstar image, he’s stayed local, helping to cultivate the city’s emerging scene through his Residency mentoring initiative, which gives aspiring artists from low-income families opportunities to pursue the craft and become leaders themselves after completing the program.
That program’s first major success is Travis Thompson, a 22-year-old rapper from Burien, five minutes outside Seattle. While he was doing shows in the city, he says 2017 — the first year he entered Residency — was the first year he recorded music on a “real microphone.” His work with the program eventually led to a collaboration with Macklemore himself (and Dave B, on the Gemini single “Corner Store”), an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and a record deal of his own on Epic Records.
Now, with his nostalgic major-label debut Reckless Endangerment hitting DSPs and the chance at putting Seattle rap on the map in a real way (there’s a song on the album that features Seattle’s only other breakthrough hip-hop artists so far: Macklemore, Prometheus Brown, and Sir Mix-A-Lot), Travis checks in with Uproxx via phone to explain why he thinks the city gets overlooked, the inspiration behind his album, and why the video for his single “God’s Favorite” has its comments section in an uproar.
Why is your album called Reckless Endangerment?
I saw a news clip on TV about two girls. They were kicking it. You know how those bridges that are over rivers that kids will go to and jump off of? There was two girls kicking it there and one friend was just being that asshole friend who was trying to push her homie to just jump off, then she pushes her homie off and then the girl ends up breaking a rib or something and just belly-flopped. She got charged with reckless endangerment and it was just a funny metaphor. First off, it felt like the sh*t me and my friends did. I was like, ‘Oh damn, me and my friends all would’ve got reckless endangerment charges if we recorded it.’
And it just felt like a metaphor for my life and for the kind of kids I grew up with and the kind of sh*t we still do now. It felt like knowing better and choosing not to do better. I just wanted to describe the people that I grew up with and the way I see the world and why I see the world in certain ways or why me and my friends or this generation might be as reckless and not caring.
So is that more of what we can kind of expect from Reckless Endangerment?
In terms of like when we sat down to make this album, I definitely wanted to make a more fun album than we’ve ever made before. But it’s also some heavy content in general. You know what I mean? It’s really an in-depth view of who I am, where my head was at. But I wanted this one to be a lot more fun. You can just put it on in the car and ride through it. And not to say that it lacks narrative or concepts or depth at all. Because I think if anything, it’s better writing. The best writing is simply saying beautiful things and that’s what this one feels like — a lot more grown-up sonically. There are a few songs I got that are favorites but at the same time, it feels like the perfect combination of everything we’ve done before.
Do you have a favorite song?
I’ll say it changes every day. But there’s a song in there called ‘Dropped Babies.’ It’s the second song on the project, which is harsh on the ear, but when you hear it — when I brought it to the label, like, ‘So this one’s called ‘Dropped Babies,” and I could see them go, ‘What the f*ck this guy talking about?’ It’s really just the idea of the reckless endangerment of kids making the best out of a bad situation, like f*cked up kids killing it in life. Super grimy, West Coast sh*t that starts the project off and that’s the one I’ve been playing a lot lately. But it changes every day.
Speaking of West Coast rap, what do you think it is about Seattle or the Pacific Northwest that it doesn’t really get credited in that category? Do you consider the sound ‘West Coast?’ How do you describe it?
I think the conundrum and the double-edged sword that people talk about when they talk about Seattle is there is not one sound, so people say it’s hard to make things work out of here because there’s no sound that people can attach to it. That’s never been a real issue for me at all or anybody else. I think it works to our benefit in a way. Everyone sounds different from each other. It’s just a diverse mix of what Seattle sounds like. It’s hard to describe because everyone’s doing such a different thing.
There’s a single out, “God’s Favorite,” and in the video you’re actually hanging out with God. It’s really clever and hilarious. Tell us what was the inspiration behind “God’s Favorite” and that video.
Man. Why? I just remember hearing the phrase, someone said they were God’s favorite, or like, ‘How does it feel to be God’s favorite?’ And then I remember we got in the studio and we’re all super drunk and I just said it sound like I feel like God’s favorite.
And then we just kept running with that and then eventually when it was time for the video, I was like, ‘Oh damn, I want to kick it with God. I want God to be in this video. I want God to do all these ratchet things. I want God to do this. I want God to do that.’ And we had to tone it down [because] people were already offended. I didn’t think I would offend religious people like that, but the comments are f*cking crazy.
It was blasphemous as hell for sure. I grew up in church, my mom’s super religious, I definitely believe in God. I just feel like the God I believe in has a sense of humor.
Reckless Endangerment is out now on BLVD BOYS, LLC and Epic Records. Get it here.