Photography by Lillie Eiger
I’m sitting across the room from Trippie Redd and his girlfriend, Aylek$. The large meeting table that’s between us gives the pair a detached, cinematic quality - I feel like I’m watching them in a movie. His face is barely visible through his red hair as he leans forward to watch the screen of his phone, whilst she’s quiet and impeccably made up beside him. The cat embroidered on her handbag reflects her deli- cate feline features as the pair sit side by side in matching Gucci tracksuits.
Before we can begin the interview, Trippie’s tour manager taps the ashy remnants of his near-spent blunt on an issue of BRICK that’s laid out on the table. As it cascades over Giggs’s face, Trippie stands and (whilst recording it for his Instagram stories – naturally) exclaims: “bro, that’s disrespectful, you gotta put some respect on Giggs!” and swiftly removes the offending remnants.
Order restored, fresh blunt rolled and lit, Trippie sits back in the luxurious hotel suite in central London which, despite his sizable entourage, seems to drown him in the same way that Macaulay Culkin’s hotel abode does in Home Alone 2. It’s 10 a.m., and the morning after Trippie’s back to back sold out shows in the city. Nobody expected him to be on time for today’s press slot, but here he is – ready to go. He shows me videos of last night’s audience screaming the lyrics to “Love Scars”, and when I told him I’d been there to see it live he replies, deadpan, “so you watched me turn into a demon on stage?”
It’s an accurate description. On stage, he’s a different creature entirely. In person Trippie is shy, sweet and the epitome of teenage. He acts confident for the most part, but he breaks character in conversation occasionally, most notably in the way he giggles nervously as he explains: “I had that gut feeling of ‘man, what if nobody shows up?’” when we talk about the aforementioned performances. Of course, in reality, headlining an empty Islington Academy was never on the cards for him. Trippie is part of a movement of young artists who, thanks in part to social media, have ever-expanding fan bases who are dedicated, rabid, and word perfect.
Speaking of dedicated – Trippie relocated alone, from his small hometown of Canton, Ohio, to Atlanta, at the age of 16 (“my mom was mad about it, but I did it anyway”) so he could continue to “work on [his] craft” because “we got no quality studios in Ohio like that, at least not the parts I was in.” – a serious commitment to make at such a young age, but one that’s paid off. And after a recent (albeit brief) spell living in L.A., he has settled once more in Atlanta, explaining: “I like the energy there. The fashion, the people. Everything is fire.”
Trippie knows what he wants, and is very specific about what he does and doesn’t like. His unique sense of fashion is one of the first things you notice about him, after his shock of red hair. His look is a unique blend of Slipknot meets Travis Scott via Harajuku market. As we talk about clothes, he breaks off laughing again, turning to another member of his entourage and asking “do you remember the skinny jeans I used to wear?!” Once their laughter subsides, Trippie turns back to me to continue:
“Everybody in Ohio has their Abercrombie wave, their Aéropostale wave, their Hollister wave. I used to wear that shit too. It’s the most basic shit ever, but I could go in the Aéropostale store right now and rock it with some Balenciagas or some shit – cos that’s what I used to wear! I fuck with that shit regardless. That’s one thing about me, I don’t care what the brand is or how it looks to you – I’m looking at it cos it’s fire to me. So if it’s fire to me, it’s a no-brainer.”
This mentality is something that carries through into the way Trippie makes music - if it feels right to him, it goes. He says: “I use my ears like a tool. When I got the headphones in, I can find different melodies in my voice that I can use on any type of beat. My music is always evolving with every song I make, because I keep doing more and more shit with my voice. Sometimes I go in the booth and start right then and there, and finish the whole song within that take.”
When you’ve been freestyling since the age of eight (“I would just record my voice rather than to write something down because I felt like with freestyling, I could come up with anything.”) it’s unsurprising that this method is second nature now. I ask if his writing process has changed at all over the last decade, especially now he has more means to work with writers and spend time in the studio? “Nope”, he says as he holds a mouthful of smoke, “I don’t write nothing down, just go in the booth and do it.”
I press on, surely it can’t always be that easy for him? “I mean, I do got two or three songs that I still have to finish. I can’t record certain shit in certain studios – they don’t sound right, and my voice has to be a certain way, and it has to be mixed a certain way so it sounds precise”, he explains, gesturing wildly with his hands, wielding the smoking blunt like a shaman burning sage. “I went into the studio to lay down the melody I have for this one song - it sounds great when I say it out loud but when I go to try and record it, it just doesn’t sound right.”
Trippie talks about melodies within his music a lot (as well as in other people’s) and he possesses an innate ability to create a hook that sticks with you for days. It’s this attention to detail that’s allowed him to forge a unique identity that’s somewhere between emo and trap; so it’s unsurprising when he reveals “I listen to Deftones a lot. I like Nirvana. I fuck with KISS. I really like KISS. Ever since I looked them up on the internet I fucked with it. ‘Psycho Circus’ is my favourite song by them. I like their image, the way their melodies are. They were crazy” but “the first song I heard that made me be like ‘this is amazing’ was ‘A Milli’ by Lil Wayne, I heard it on the radio - the radio was going crazy back then.”
We continue to discuss music, what he’s listening to right now (“D Savage, he be using fire melodies”) and what he wants his legacy to be (“I wanna be like Wayne and Kanye!”), but Trippie’s still smoking and in our short space of time together his answers slowly turn to smoke, too (“what is that shit by Drake? What is that shit called? I’m trying to think what the lyrics is but I’m so damn high.”) and it becomes clear the interview is winding to a close. As Trippie moves toward BRICK’s fashion editor to try on a sculptural Walter van Beirendonck jacket that looks like a deflated dinosaur, he turns and gives me an aptly surreal final thought: “What if Trippie Redd’s just a mind game... all in your imagination?”
He laughs again and walks away in a cloud of smoke, the bedazzled tiger on the back of his Gucci jacket winking at me as he moves.