Graphic by Virgil Solis
Chicago’s genre-bending MC Tree loves to make predictions. Last year, while attending Pitchfork as a guest, he told everyone who would listen that a year from then he would be on one of the four stages in Union Park. On July 21st, he proved that estimate true as he played the opening 1pm set on Sunday. It was an appropriate setting for the Soul Trap creator.
As he dabbled between the duo of Sunday School mixtapes released over the past year and a half, church bells rang out from service at First Baptist Congregational Church just west of the festival. By all accounts, it was a solid fest debut for Tree, who was joined onstage by a drummer and vocalists Lili K and BenOfficial. Tree’s prediction this year? Read it in the Q+A below and hear the lofty goals the producer/MC has for the rest of this year and 2014.
Photo by Virgil Solis
Jake: What was it like to play Pitchfork for your first festival performance?
Tree: Well, last year I was here as a guest of the writers of Chicago, and I was just this unsung hero that was making great music. I came as a guest and saw Danny Brown perform and everything, and it’s ironic that, a year later, I’m here performing at it. I got a chance to take it in as a patron and now as a performer, which is very interesting.
Jake: What’s that like going from spectator to performer?
Tree: It’s incredibly different. I can get backstage and talk to anyone I want. I got an air conditioned room back there. It’s a great experience to be considered a star; I’m just a regular guy you know, just making music.
Jake: Tell me about adding the live band component for the show.
Tree: Man, you know, I was just experimenting with some things. I got Lili K, Benoffishal, my guy Jahara, which is some nutty kid I found out in Logan Square. He’s a roommate of a couple of my guys; he’s the one roommate who goes to work, comes home and closes his door. I found out he played the drums, and I told him to play a set with me, and we rehearsed at their house. He just started playing drums and moved up here a couple months ago from some small town somewhere. I said, “Hey you wanna play Pitchfork with me?” and he said, “Hell yeah”. So I made his dreams come true. People don’t realize I’m really that type of guy.
Jake: What’s it mean to you to come here last year the way you did and now be able to put on for someone like that?
Tree: I told him, I told Andrew Barber at FakeShoreDrive, I told Ernest Wilkins from the Red Eye, I told David Drake from Complex and Fader – I told them that next year, I’m going to be here, and it just happened like that. I guess people who really know good music decided to choose me. I felt lucky to have the opportunity, and I killed it.
Jake: That’s what’s up. The set was definitely live; how did you feel leaving the stage?
Tree: I felt like I shoulda been working out a lot more in the last month. I should have been on the treadmill a lot more, but I think I gave it all I got- the fans knew it, I was dripping with sweat, gave them all of my energy and, man, we killed it. That’s the Soul Trap band right there.
Jake: Man, you had just about everyone in the crowd knowing your lyrics and bobbing their heads. Soul Trap seems to be really catching on.
Tree: Yeah, they was singing every word – that’s my fan base. It’s those kids that surf the web and find music, it’s those kids who have friends over and say, “Hey, listen to this guy Tree.” It’s a word of mouth campaign, we’re getting out on the streets with these CDs, we’re getting Soul Trap out. It’s gonna be one of the biggest things in the world a year from now – mark my words. I made a prediction last year: Gimme twelve months, and then we’ll be on of the increasingly equitable genres of hip hop bringing it back. Imagine going to a show and they rappin’ over sampled music- that’s gonna be the fad, I’m excited. As long as they know and give me that respect as the Soul Trap God, you know what I mean?
Jake: Since the first time we talked, Soul Trap has really built. What has that process been like, and what was it like to perform the songs with a live band like that?
Tree: Man, it was incredible. Everybody was asking me questions in the back, and I had a serious look on my face. I was asking back and forth, and I just was serious about the performance – I really wanted to do well. I haven’t even looked at my text messages or my Twitter because I didn’t want to hear or see any bad news. I didn’t wanna hear about no terrorist attacks or nothing! Nothing bad, I didn’t want to hear about anyone getting shot in Chicago, I didn’t want to hear about anyone tell me what songs they wanted to hear; I just wanted to do me and do me to the best of my ability, and I did that.