On Feb. 29, veteran Houston rapper Trae Tha Truth appeared on MTV’s ” RapFix Live” with chart-topping Atlanta rapper Clifford ” T.I.” Harris to announce a new partnership between Trae’s ABN Entertainment and T.I.’s Grand Hustle Entertainment. According to Trae (born Frazier Thompson III), there had been a steady build toward the alliance, which was solidified in Orlando, Fla., during the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, where the MTV clip was filmed.
“Me and Tip been cool for years, but we never even really chopped it up on music,” Trae says of the seeds of the partnership. “I did a verse for [Grand Hustle artist] B.o.B‘s ‘How ‘Bout Dat,’ and [B.o.B manager] B. Rich wasn’t as familiar with me, and I think when he started doing his research it kind of brought him a little excitement. It started making sense.”
“We’ve been following Trae for a long time,” says Grand Hustle co-CEO Jason Geter, adding that although the label is excited about working with Trae, the ink isn’t dry just yet. “We look forward to making it official.”
Among details still to be ironed out is how exactly new releases will appear under the partnership-Grand Hustle has a non-exclusive joint venture with Atlantic Records, where T.I. is also signed as an artist. Trae self-released his most recent project, “Street King,” last year through ABN Entertainment with distribution by Fontana. Still, Trae says he’s already energized.
“I feel motivated to work harder than I’ve ever worked before,” says Trae, who made his chart debut in 2004 with “Same Thing Different Day,” a four-disc set released by G-Maab that peaked at No. 51 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. “This will take a little pressure off of me, so I can focus on being an artist.”
Grand Hustle’s B. Rich sees the strategic partnership as offering the same promise. “Trae manages himself,” he says. “We’re just trying to get him in the studio with some top-notch producers, so he can focus on making even better music.”
According to B. Rich, the deal is one more step in Grand Hustle “bouncing back” from T.I.’s spate of legal troubles during the past few years. In March 2008, T.I. pled guilty to weapons charges stemming from a 2007 arrest. He served seven months in relation to that charge, then spent an additional 10 months in prison after violating terms of his probation in 2010. He was released in August.
Trae Tha Truth has sold more than 300,000 units as a solo artist, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Street King” peaked at No. 23 on the Rap Albums chart and No. 38 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, selling 13,000. He’s prepping the March 27 release of the ABN Renegadez “Welcome 2 the Streets.” Grand Hustle won’t play a role in that release.
T.I., meanwhile, is putting the finishing touches on his upcoming eighth solo album, “Trouble Man,” the last under his contract with Atlantic.