Awakened Convos: Trae Tha Truth and Mysonne “The General” Chat Social Justice Collaboration, Breonna
Houston-based activist, community leader, and rapper Trae Tha Truth has partnered with fellow change-maker and independent hip-hop artist Mysonne “The General” to release a social justice inspired collaboration entitled If You’re Scared Stay Inside. Endorsed and released exclusively by WorldStarHipHop [WSHH], the project strives to keep reform top of mind while being voices for the unheard and underrepresented. In preparation for the upcoming album launch, WSHH dropped exclusively two compelling visuals for singles “You Know How We Coming” and “Time for Change”; a chilling, extended animated video by Trae Tha Truth and Mysonne that features Styles P, Bun B, Ink, TIP, Anthony Hamilton, Conway, Krayzie Bone, E-40, and David Banner.
Moved by the tragic murder of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville Police, the artists both uprooted themselves and relocated from their respective hometowns to Kentucky last year to protest the beloved essential worker’s death. While in Louisville Trae and Mysonne decided to use their talents to capture the momentum of the movement through a collection of protest-motivated anthems. Recording the project however was no easy feat as the fight for justice lingered on for weeks with both Trae and Mysonne being wrongfully arrested twice, for simply peacefully protesting.
I recently interviewed these two amazing kings as they chatted more about the project and their experience with protesting during the time of the Breonna Taylor protests.
Naomi: For those who may not be familiar with you, can you give a brief introduction
Trae: You’re rocking with Trae tha Truth, aka King Truth, Houston’s own. The front line for the streets of Houston, one half of Relief Gang, and some say a legend as far as the Hip Hop scene. I have been through it all and through a lot but still here on front line for it, and there is so much more to go.
Naomi: What inspired you to get into Hip Hop?
Trae: What inspired me to get into Hip Hop, I have an older brother who is incarcerated, and I think that every youngster looks up to their big homie, their father, or their brother, for me, it was my brother. He was incarcerated and with me being young, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I remember that I started off reciting his raps that he would send home from jail. I wanted to be the best at everything that I did and that is exactly what I did.
Naomi: Hello Mysonne, now that you have joined us, can you please give us a brief introduction of who you are?
Mysonne: My name is Mysonne, I am a Hip-Hop artist and an activist, I like to call myself a raptivist. A ‘rapalutionary’ I have been in this game since the late 90’s, unfortunately, I was incarcerated months after I signed my deal with Def Jam, Violator Records. I was signed by the late Chris Lighty (Darrel Steven). Months after I signed my deal, I ended up going on trial for a robbery charge that I never committed, I lost and was sentenced to 7-14 years, and I served 7 of those 14 years. Throughout the time that I was incarcerated, I realized that Black and Brown brothers were being incarcerated at high rates, and that it was by design. Our communities have been fed fallacies, and false realities about what manhood was, which a lot of us young boys was chasing those dreams, me included.
I started realizing that we were the only people that were being incarcerated, and not only at 4 to 5 times the rate of everyone else, but for longer periods of time for the same crimes. So, I decided that when I came home, I wanted to change the narrative, and be somebody who educated the young boys from our communities about the pitfalls and how it is all by design to keep us in prison. When I came home my main goal was to utilize my music to be more informative. Instead of just rapping and having good rhymes, I wanted to say things that could make a change, that would make a difference, especially to the young boys from my community that I knew was headed down the same road that I was headed.
I came home and I started working in detention centers with The Gathering for Justice, which is Harry Belafonte’s organization, and we created an organization which was the birth child of that organization, called The Justice League. We did a lot of different things, we organized marches from New York to D.C., creating legislation to end child incarceration, the militarization of the police, we were instrumental in the first protest for Eric Garner. We were the main people on that case for 6 or 7 years straight, there were numerous other things that included the women who were in the League with me in The Gathering for Justice and the Justice League became the co-conveners at the Women’s March, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez, at that point, I was the head of security for them. We then spawned off into our own, Until Freedom, which is how Trae and I became so close and we decided that we wanted to do this project. Until Freedom is an intersectional civil rights organization that is focused on civil rights, incarceration, and ending police brutality from a lens that specifically deals with culture, artists, influencers of our culture. So, that is pretty much who I am.
Naomi: Awesome, you definitely gave me a lot. Speaking of the album, I know that you gave me a little bit of background and the things that inspired you to come together, so from Trae the Truth’s side of things what were some of the things that inspired you to come together?
Trae: I do not think that this project inspired us to come together, we were living in Kentucky, fighting on the front line, the album just happened to be a part of what we were doing, so it did not necessarily bring us together, we were already together, and music was the furthest from our minds. But we did realize that this is still what we do, and it is what people need to hear, no body can paint the picture better that we can paint it, if we are living it.
I told Mysonne that we should go ahead and record, and in less than 2 days we knocked out the whole project. We probably would have had more songs, but I remember one day that we took a trip, we took Tamika Palme (mother of Breonna Taylor), I went to go holla at Dave Chappelle and we took her with us, so half of that day we were not really working, so if we had a little more time, we would have doubled the amount of songs. But that is how it came about, and I think that it is very important because this project was so much bigger and it was recorded during the process of fighting for Breonna Taylor, with us living there.
Naomi: What were some of your personal experiences since you both were on the front lines protesting for Breonna Taylor?
Trae: Going to jail. We went to jail more than anything else. Jail was something else just watching all the things that Daniel Cameron (State Attorney of Kentucky) had going on. I think that we learned to love a lot of people as far as family wise, we did our part. I will let Mysonne elaborate a little bit more. I think that it was a little bit of everything that made it special for us, just the fact that we were away from our families was something that definitely had an impact. So we had to appreciate everything that was going on, and all that we were doing while we were separated from our loved ones.
Mysonne: I think for me, the things that touched me or that were important to me was, we talk about being arrested, and there was definitely a lot that happened, but when we were arrested, the bond and the communication that we had inside of those cells, and what we learned about each other, there were so many different men from different walks of life, were just giving their realities, and their struggles, and what brought them there. We learned so many different things about people that you would never even know, as we sat there in that cell, cold, hungry, men poured out their souls, telling us things that they had probably never mentioned to anyone else ever before. Bonds were created as a result, there was a connection that cannot be broken, and I think that is what it was for me, knowing that there are so many people out here that have different backgrounds, different stories, different realities but they all want the same thing.
They just want what is right, there were different races represented, white, Black, Asians, there were so many different people who decided that they were going there to sacrifice, go to jail, or whatever happened if need be in order to fight for what was right. I think that those were the things that really touched me.
Naomi: Awesome, I agree the connection, and being able to hear people’s stories is always inspiring. Speaking of stories, what is one thing that you would like for the listeners to take away from this album?
Trae: I think for the most part, just the reality of what is going on, it is a deeper message within, as far as where we are at, and the authentic subject matter that we are highlighting, we are not sugar coating anything, but we are also letting you know the road blocks that we ran into, the road blocks that you can run into, and what is the best way to handle it, and to do so without jeopardizing your ethics, morals and principles, or what it is that you stand for, for no amount of fame, money, or anything. Everything about it is transparent, and authentic, and I think that it is something that needs to be heard.
Mysonne: I think what I would like for people to take away from this album, is that it is authentic, like Trae said, it is just raw. It is 2 men who have high moral compasses, who have love for our people, who are willing to sacrifice, who have pretty much the same heart and soul, who decided that they would utilize their passion, which is music…something that they love to do, connecting it to their purpose.
It is where all of those things meet, it is where we come from, it is what we believe in, and it is what we love to do. So this project encompasses all of it. When you listen to it, it is not just oh they are on the front line and this is just some civil rights music, or that it is going to be this way or that way, no it encompasses who we are, from the streets we come from the bottom, we have been through so many things, we are still warriors by nature, when you are on the front line, you have to be a warrior. So you hear the warrior spirit in the music, you hear the essence of the street culture that we come from, and then you hear how we apply that to our fight in this movement. So we want people to understand that this is our rendition of civil rights, this is how we plan to fight for what is right.
Naomi: In your opinion, how can we as a community come together to keep law enforcement accountable for their actions?
Trae: It is the accountability factor, a lot of people do things because they feel that they can get away with it, a lot of people think they can do things because they do not have anyone to answer to, and that no one is going to speak up, but we are changing the narrative. So, now when you do that, there are going to be a few people out here that you are going to have to answer to. You are going to have to let it be known, or show your true colors, and expose yourself. So, that is just the way that we move with it.
Mysonne: There is no more hurting or killing our people without being called out for it. We are not allowing it, we are not sitting back, and being silent. We are willing to do whatever it takes in order for equity and justice to start being something that is normalized in this country. Hopefully, what it does is to inspire more people. like I mentioned earlier, I hope that it inspires people to take a position, even people who are in law enforcement, and in different places to say, we are not just going to sit by, and even though we have a job here, it is not going to be okay, sitting by knowing that there are people who work with us, are willing to go out and kill people that look just like us, we do not even want that type of check, and we are not okay with it.
Hopefully, as we take on our responsibility, and utilize our voice, we will inspire somebody else to do the same.
Naomi: In addition to this project, will the two of you be doing any other projects together, or do you have any individual projects that you are working on?
Trae: I think that our lives revolve around each regardless, I am pretty sure there is all kinds of stuff, I know that Mysonne is still recording, and I know that I have over 2,000 unreleased songs, so I have all kinds of projects coming. We are just taking it a day at a time.
Mysonne: Trae is just being modest, he is a work horse, that man records, he works at a high speed…he works so fast that he does not even have enough time to put out the work. He has music with just about any artist that you can possibly name, it inspires me because I have that type of work ethic, I have just never had anybody around me that motivated me like that, so we will definitely be putting out more music together because now that I know that he has that same work ethic, I will be in the studio sending him music, and vice versa. More than likely, we will definitely put out more music together.
Naomi: Going back to us working together as a community on accountability, I noticed that our community still remains split on many issues, like when it comes to the murdering of our own people. There are some people who feel like, well we are killing each other, talking about Black-on-Black crime. Do you believe that Black-on-Black crime is an issue in our community, and do you believe that it is at the root of everything that is going on?
Trae: I think that any and everything could be an issue, but I would not just put it on Black-on Black crime, I was just looking at it this week and there is white-on-white, I mean crime is crime, right is right, and wrong is wrong. There is no race that is exempt. I believe, and I am speaking for myself, and Mysonne also, just as a big homie, I am just trying to take certain ones under the reigns, showing them the ropes so that they can see that whatever they have going on to make sure that it makes sense, and that it counts for you, instead of just doing stuff just to be doing it.
Mysonne: I think for me, I hate hearing Black-on Black crime, I think that it is a cop out, not saying that we do not commit crimes, but there are so many different factors when it comes to crime in our community, for us to say that Black-on-Black crime is the root of our problem, it is not. Crime exists because the need for crime exists. You do not go to Black communities where Black people are well off, they are not living in crucial conditions, and crime is happening. If you go to Martha’s Vineyard where there is a lot of Black wealthy people, there is not crime happening there.
If you go to upper echelon of Black communities, where their families are doing well, there is no crime happening there. So, that is not the root of it, the root of it is poverty. Violence is a microcosm; it is a result of poverty. So, we have to understand that our communities are plagued with poverty, and it is by design because crime creates money and capitalism, and capitalism is what America is based on. We were brought here to create money, so since they have erased slavery, locking us up, and putting us in the morgues, utilizing us for cheap labor, and keeping us uneducated in communities where they know that we will never, ever be able to overcome that reality, is by design.
So, I hate when people say that because every race commits crime against those who are within close proximity to them, white people commit crimes against white people, Black people commit crime against Black people, Asians commit crimes against Asians because it is about the people that are within close proximity to you. I think that what we need to do is to focus on changing the realities of our community.
If you educate these young boys, and you give them opportunities, you teach them different skill sets, you give them ways to make money, nobody wants to…when I was in the streets committing crime, it was not because I wanted to commit crime, it was because I was trying to figure out how not to starve, how to have nice things, how to have the American dream. The only vision of success that we had was of the drug dealers, and the ones committing the crimes. We did not have doctors and lawyers, or business owners living next door to us to teach us a different way.
So, I think that we have to really be careful because that is something that they want us to grab onto and say we are out there killing each other, no…we are killing ourselves for a reason. When you look at the insurrection at the capital, these people killed people because they had a tantrum because they did not win an election, and they were allowed to do it, no body calls that white-on-white crime. We cannot even fathom what it takes for you to go there and do some sh*t like that because it does not come…when you hear JoJo shot Jack in the community, somebody will say, well he was selling drugs, there was a money dispute or another issue, it stems from something, even if it is the dumbest things that we think of, but it actually is something that stems from poverty. It stems from living in communities that are broken down and impoverished.
So, we are not just violent people, it is not just the nature of Blacks, the conditions that we live in have created the reasons for the crimes that we commit. I hate when people say that, and it is not our fault, because it is what we have been taught, Black-on-Black crime is not even a thing, you have never heard any other race or nationality be identified in that same way when it comes to the crimes that are committed by them against each other. It is something that has only been given to us, and it is a false narrative.
Naomi: I totally agree, and I believe that educating our community is critical. Before we go, please let us know how we can keep up with you, either through your website or social media.
Trae: My Instagram is @traeabn and it is the same thing on Twitter.
Mysonne: My Instagram is @mysonnenygeneral and Twitter is just @mysonne and on Facebook, my artist page is @mysonne also, so you can find me on anyone of those platforms.
Naomi: Awesome! Thank you so much Kings.
Trae: I appreciate you.
Naomi: You are welcome.
Mysonne: We truly appreciate you Queen, thank you very much.
Naomi: You are very welcome.