Travis Thompson: 2018 in Review
By Gabriel Rivas
Over the past two years, few rappers have seen their star shine brighter or faster than Burien native Travis Thompson. In this time period, Travis has gone from local talent out of the acclaimed Residency program in Seattle, to nationally recognized after opening for Macklemore on the Gemini tour, appearing as a feature on the infectious track “Cornerstore” alongside Dave B, and dropping his highly anticipated debut album. Other milestones included performing at Bumbershoot, appearing on Sway in the Morning and Power 106 for freestyles, and even being spotlighted on Lyrical Lemonade with a Q&A. Without a doubt, Travis represents the new wave of emerging Seattle artists and looks to remain a staple within the genre for years to come.
On December 6th, 2018, Travis Thompson performed in Spokane, WA, as part of his YOUGOOD? Tour. Following the show, he spoke with me for an interview detailing the series of events that surrounded the year and reflected on his experiences.
As 2018 comes to an end, you’ve done a lot of big things but lets start with YOUGOOD? How long did it take to make the album generally and what are some of your favorite tracks?
Okay, so we were starting YOUGOOD? right when we were back here last time. I finished the Gemini Tour with y’all and we were starting the first couple of songs on that tour. We had been recording for 6-7 months. With albums, I can have an idea and within 6 months I can have some shit fleshed out like at least the first tracks. I think “Joyride” is one of my favorites because it was the first one we made for it, we were just on the road kicking it. “Ain’t Shit” is fire, that was also another early track. I’m hella proud of “Infatuated” too, like when I hear that, I’m like oh yeah, I did that.
Definitely, “Infatuated” has a different sound than some of the other songs on the album and it kind of reminded me of some early stuff on Macadelic when he went to that darker, grittier sound.
Yeah man, that really was the goal. RIP.
With production, how did you start working with Tyler Dopps, Nima Skeemz, and Elan Wright? I see they do a lot of production on your projects and kill it every time.
So I met all those guys through my manager Shelton Harris. I met Tyler first because he was producing and engineering for Shelton when he was fully in swing with his rapping. I met him just hanging out and kicking it with Shelton. Eventually, I started rapping and he was like you need beats? I got you.
And Nima and Elan, they run a studio in Seattle called Ruby Room Music. Shelton took me there and they were there, it was my first time going to a real studio. They recorded some of my first songs, like one of the first sessions turned into “Horchata”. Eventually they started making me shit cause I just started going to the studio hella. I was working at a pizza place and using all my money to go in the studio you feel me? Like I would skip school to go to the studio, just started to love it.
On that note, I saw Elan did “Mobbin” for you and Laza. I also saw she just signed a little deal with Warner Bros, how did that collaboration come about? How did you meet her?
Yo, all right, this is the first time I’ve talked about it. She’s the homie, like you know what I’m sayin, I’ve known her cause of this music competition in Seattle called Sound Off. She’s in Ruby Room like everyday. Elan and Nima had made the beat for “Mobbin” for her, but they didn’t even tell me. When I heard the beat, I was like this shits fire, lets make a song for it right now. So I made a song for it, we were just hanging out and they finally were like, ay Laza actually recorded something over it. I was like what the fuck, y’all just let me make a song over some shit she already did. They were like, oh she’s not even tripping about it. She recorded that verse completely separate.
Then when I heard her verse, I knew they went together. I told them we needed to just drag her verse over for the second verse. She recorded it a day before it even became a “real song” and then we shot the video. All just worked out in the end.
Following the album, you did a series of freestyles on Sway in the Morning and Power 106, but you also did an interview with Lyrical Lemonade, how did these events come about? Did they reach out or was it Shelton and your team doing that?
So for the press run after YOUGOOD?, my managers Shelton and Benner, they were in everybody’s ear all the time just cause they’re managers so you have to be. They’re sending things to everyone, trying to get our foot in the door. Benner lives in New York so he has connections and shit. Benner is friends with Sway’s assistant, Sway heard YOUGOOD?, super fucked with the song “Nothin 2 Do”, and he was like yeah come on the show and rap on it. From there, that’s how we got on Power 106 with LA Leakers.
Then I met Lil Jake in Seattle from Lyrical Lemonade randomly one night on Capitol Hill. He ended up being the homie, fucking with my shit, putting me on the playlist, and the interview came after that.
Were you nervous going on those big platforms? Obviously, Sway and Power 106 are the two biggest aside from The Breakfast Club and as a kid I imagine you used to watch people go on them a lot growing up, but now you’re the one on them.
Hell yeah bro, I was telling people it’s like being in a YouTube video. You know what I’m sayin, like I know it sounds corny cause I make videos all the time, but like being on those sets, in that booth, it was like holy shit. I’ve been looking at all this for so many years but on the opposite side of the screen. And I was hungover for the Sway interview, like on the train ride I was trying not to hurl and just get some water in me. But, pulled through and it came out lit.
I remember seeing both, but being from LA, you know that Power 106 one really got me. Growing up that’s what everyone listened to especially when they had BigBoy back in the day
Yeah Power 106 was lit, those dudes were super cool. DJ Sourmilk and DJ Justincredible, they’re just regular dudes. They like to kick it, we had a good time.
Within the past couple years, Seattle artists have been getting a lot more attention and something I’ve seen as a commonality in some artists is their experience with developmental-music programs at an early age. At what age did you get involved with The Residency and how do you think it has helped you so far?
What I will say is that I’ve been doing youth programs since high school. Like I used to be in this thing called Youth Speaks, which is like a youth spoken word program in Seattle. So I would do poetry slams and open mics every week. And then through those people, I heard about The Residency. I joined The Residency fresh out of high school, like 18 or 19. Mac (Macklemore) already knew who I was, but he was forced to be in my face all the time because of the Residency and shit. After the Residency, he heard me and was like yo come to the studio sometime and eventually “Cornerstore” happened.
But yeah I don’t know if I’d be killing shit like I am now without the Residency and Youths Speaks taught me how to be on stage.
With regard to Macklemore, how did your relationship with him start? What was it like opening for him on the Gemini tour and how do you think he’s viewed in the city?
So like I was saying, when I was doing the Residency, my producer and DJ, Tyler, became his engineer for the Gemini album. He was at the studio with Macklemore every day and showing him my music. The Residency happened, he fucked with the songs we were putting out and eventually turned into him inviting me to the studio one day. That ended up being Cornerstore then he asked me on tour.
The Gemini Tour was the craziest shit of my whole life, those were the biggest shows I had ever played before. It was like theatres in front of thousands of people, but I was used to playing smaller venues and sometimes asking people to scoot up. It was different but like I’m never really afraid to get on stage anymore. Those shows, sometimes they were turnt as fuck and other times I was the only thing in-between them and hearing Macklemore so they weren’t feeling it. I definitely learned how to play a set with people who weren’t interested and get them interested.
In the city, I don’t know, I don’t think the way he’s received or perceived has changed much. He’s always been putting on and repping Seattle when people never used to be doing it like that. He just does so much too that he doesn’t even talk about, he puts his money in great places and doing things for a lot of people. He’s changed my life for sure and doing a lot of things people don’t give him credit for. But even last summer you know like he’s still selling out Q Arena multiple nights, there’s no better reception than that. He brought a lot of eyes to the city and if people are still hating, it is what it is.
Before your album, Corner Store was a track that brought you to the national spotlight in some ways, who has the best verse on it?
Aha, those are my guys, but I’mma say me. There wasn’t even a hook when I made that shit, like when I wrote the verse, the sample in the song says “2 AM” so I wrote “2 AM I’m posted” to started and then the next day Dave came through and did the hook. I was the first one to lay anything down for that song.
What other artists are you hoping to work with?
I wanna make a song with Porter Ray he’s super fire. J’Von, MistaDC, Paris, and honestly just my friends that I feel closest too.
Outside the city, I really wanna make a song with J.I.D. Also, IDK. I need to make a songs with Isaiah Rashad, Chance, and Kid Cudi too. But my obtainable goals are J.I.D, JayIDK, Saba, and Sylvan. Saba and Sylvan be rapping their asses off. Those people right there, that’s who I want to make music with.
Since you’ve come up, I know a lot of artists have talked about seeing others around them who they weren’t tight with now try to claim that they were due to the success, so I was wondering if you had similar experiences?
I think, like this is a depressing truth, but a lot of the love isn’t as real as it seems. I take a lot of pictures with people that never see the light of day. I take a lot of pictures with people who will prolly send them to their friends and be like yo look who I saw. I’ve taken pictures with kids and seen screenshots of them trynna clown on me and its like bro what are you doing, you know what I’m sayin? When you learn when some of the love isn’t real, it makes the hate not matter as much.
I kick it with the same four or five people every day, it is what it is. If you don’t really fuck with me, it’s like no more than just dap and I prolly won’t see you for a long time or ever again cause that’s just not who I’m hanging with.
How important is it to put on the people you’ve been friends with for so long or just having them around you constantly? In the time I’ve gotten seen your interactions it seems like that’s something you value.
No yeah we are super about just kicking it with the homies and keeping that crew intact. If people don’t believe in what we are doing or have drive, it’s like then what the fuck are you here for, you know what I’m saying. The people we run with are all on the same page. I’m a pretty home-body ass to himself person. I’ll kick it a little bit and turn up and be extroverted and shit but it just comes natural to kick it who I came up with.
Another thing that you have been doing a lot more are the music videos. What’s that process like? Either in terms of getting ideas or shooting itself?
So, I’ll be listening to the music and get this thought like yo this would be tight. Then I’ll hit Dylan up and be like we can do this, or we can do that and we’re both movie nerds, so we’ll incorporate our favorite shit into our videos. At the end of making music, I wanna use the videos as a resume so I can make movies. That’s the goal.
How did you link up with Dylan (Dylan Fout)? At the beginning of last year I remember seeing him do some of the first videos and now he’s doing all of them pretty much.
I linked up with Dylan when he was living with TJ (Campana) from Seattle. He would just have one of those trap ass apartments where people are through smoking all day long. I would pull up to TJ’s house and everyday it was me, TJ, and Dylan just hanging out. Everyday we pulled up with something new to show them, either a song or video.
One day Dylan got a camera and I was like bro lets shoot videos, lets do this.
With the YOUGOOD? Tour, what cities are you most excited for?
I would say Denver. Tickets are selling like crazy over there, we are selling the same pace as what we sold tonight (Dec 6th, Spokane show) so that’s dope to see. That’s some hometown love for somewhere so far away. For some reason, Denver super fucks with what Seattle’s got going on. Seattle artists always do well in Denver. The cultures are similar so I’m excited to meet my fans down there.
That air though…
Bro I already know, I played there two years ago with Ryan Calvera and the air, altitude, fucked me up.
Once the tour is complete, do you have vision for what comes after? Is there an album in the works, travel, etc?
Yeah, I can tell you all the shits. There’s an EP coming soon, there’s an album in the works, tours are being booked, and we’re about to go on a West Coast Tour with Bryce Vine.
Have you played in L.A. or thought about it?
I played on the Gemini Tour and I opened for Dave B out there. But, I’ve never done my own headliner. We didn’t do L.A. on this tour cause when I play L.A., I wanna sell out the Roxy you feel me, like it’s gonna be a moment. The Roxy, the Troubadour, venues like that which are historic. Can’t wait for that.
Lastly, I know Mac Miler was a big inspiration to you as he was to many, but what did he mean to you musically/personally? What are some of your favorite songs or projects by him?
What he meant to us personally was we were in middle school and high school during his come up, so like we always used to do Tour Vlogs. He used to drop hella fucking videos you know what I’m sayin. Just homemade ass videos of him and his homies walking through his city so growing up I was like I gotta be like this. I gotta be on tour, making videos, smoke with my friends, rap, hang out with everyone, just everything.
My favorite project is Faces. I know he was super you know like fucked up when he made that, but it’s some of the most beautiful music. I think my favorite track is “Objects in the Mirror” on Watching Movies with the Sound Off. Objects in the Mirror is a crazy song. “New Faces” is also one of my favorite songs ever made with Earl.
I was at that show he did at the Hotel Cafe this past summer in Hollywood with only 100 tickets available. One of my friends is in this band called Almost Sold Out, they were having a show around the same time and I was invited, but I was like dude, I’m still your homie, but I gotta go try and see Mac. Did whatever to see that and it all worked out but crazy that was the last time.
I saw that bro, it's dope you got to go. That was a piece of history. I wish I got to see him in a small venue like that. I was gonna ask how it was, I had gotten to see him live at some other shows but never got to meet him.
I feel like I was that close, that fuckin close. You feel me, but that’s selfish. He meant a lot more to people than just making a song with me. He stood for a lot more than that and he’ll be remembered for more than that. His influence and inspiration goes much deeper, one of the best to ever do it.
The tour with Bryce Vine is set to begin on February 6th. If you haven’t seen Travis live before, now is definitely the time do so. Check out his social media for more info on dates and tickets!