By Aaron Zaretsky
Transcription By Joseph Lopez
Tristan Fredericks, also known as Tris-X is a local Toronto rapper looking to make his mark as a rap artist in the city. Northern Touch Contributor Aaron Zaretsky speaks with Tris-X about his journey as a rap artist and how his creativity helps spark ideas for music.
Aaron: How did you learn how to rap?
Tris-X: First, it became about good lyrics because I’m always kind of, like writing stuff. So it was good lyrics in the beginning and then it was developing flow. It’s just working with people who made music in different ways, different people would tell me, “You know got to rap on the upbeat and a downbeat.” It took me a while to figure out what that meant. And then people would tell me about bars, and then I would count bars. And then, eventually, it was just feeling it out. And then the more I did it, I became obsessed with getting it right. And I’m still not even - I guess I haven’t gotten it completely right. I guess you never really can.
Aaron: So your songs early on, you were just testing out. You know, a touch and feel, kind of thing?
Tris-X: Write a song and leave it, write a song and leave it, write another song and leave it. Until that one song works, or a couple of songs work.
Aaron: When did you decide to make rapping your career?
Tris-X: When I started, I was really like, I really felt like right of the gate I could get with a record label within a year.
Aaron: Very confident?
Tris-X: About it, yeah. But obviously it hasn’t happened in that way, but good things have happened. So, yeah, I don’t even look at rap as a career. I look rap as like, for me, it’s an outlet. You know? I love it. I’m 24, I’ll be 25 in a few months. And I don’t know how I’ll feel about rap the way I felt about it. But I know that it’s not something I’m going to throw in the trash. And it’s something, I’m always going to want to get better at. So it’s an outlet.
© Tris-X | YouTube
Aaron: Who are your artistic influences?
Tris-X: The Eminem’s, the Rakim’s, the Tupac’s, the Biggie’s, the Jay-Z’s, the Logic’s now. Anybody who I feel is at that high level, or that gives me a good vibe, that has good music. I want to be able to know how they did that, and I want to be able to incorporate that.
Aaron: Take me through your artistic process of having a song idea, then turning it into a completed song.
Tris-X: So, for me, voice notes are important on my phone. I’ve always - since I’ve started. I hear the beat, sometimes I might not hear a beat. Sometimes I might have rapped the verse out and then I’ll put it onto a beat. Sometimes it might have been for a different beat. But usually, I’ll hear the beat, get a feel for where the song’s going. Most times, I’ll start with the chorus. I might say: “This is a hook?” Bam this hook. And then, the hook leads off to the verse. Sometimes, the verse, I might start with the verse then write the hook after. Sometimes, its verse then hook later. It’s really all the beat. Like, the beat is really the language of the music.
Aaron: How long would you say the process takes? From point A to point B? How long would you say it would take?
Tris-X: It depends on my urgency. So sometimes, it might be the fastest, it might be two days I would say. It was just an urge. It was like, I heard this, and I have to go into the studio. I have to. And then sometimes, it might take longer depending on my funds, like how much money I have at the time. Is the studio booked? Because I want the best sound for the studio. I don’t want to go into the studio, and it doesn’t sound nice. Don’t want to rush anything, and I don’t want it to sound bad. So sometimes, you’ve got to wait it out. But I’m definitely urgent. If I feel a song definitely needs to be recorded or I need a beat, because there’s this phobia of somebody taking it. Taking that idea, I always have that phobia.
Aaron: Every artist has an inspiration. A reason to write, produce, or sing music. What is your inspiration?
Tris-X: My inspiration is maybe sometimes to get myself in a better position. Maybe sometimes frustration, some venting. Sometimes it’s to express beauty. Sometimes I want to express my view of the world, in a good way. Sometimes I want to put out positivity. Majority of the time though, it’s self-expression in a way that I can’t do it in your everyday job.
Aaron: What is the story behind The Greatest Story Ever Told? How did that track come about?
Tris-X: I always felt like, as I advanced through my artistic journey, that a lot of my songs were too much about me, and it was all “I, I, I,” and what I experienced. I felt like I didn’t have a voice for inspiration. So I heard that beat, it was long beat. And I was going to make sure that I shortened it. But then I was like, “Nah, let me take it the whole five minutes. Let me just really push it here. Let me just go on a journey”. I’ve heard so many great inspirational songs, and I was like: “Let me do my own.” So from the get-go, I knew. So I got really vulnerable with it because with music, achieving anything great is hard. And there’s a lot of insecurities along the way and frustration. And so, I wanted to put that out. And sometimes, you know, I was just frustrated because you have all this good material you feel. You feel like you’ve done all this work and nobody sees it. They’ll say: “Oh you’ve got a song? Ok. Well, how many people viewed it? How many people liked it? Oh, this many? Well, you’re not there yet.” So it’s really a story about triumph, and knowing that there is a way out if you really believe. The greatest story ever told, from the bottom to the top.
Aaron: Fly is different from your other tracks. It has a mellow vibe with a spiritual story. Take me through the process of writing and singing that song. How did Fly come about?
Tris-X: That was off of a high. First year, I got with an agency for my acting. Getting work and being in different commercials was exciting. It was like: “Ok, I think I’m taking off a little bit.” So when I heard this beat, it was more of a mellow (vibe), I felt like smoke, I felt like clouds, I felt like airy. And so the Fly theme just came to be. I just kind of wanted to just do that. I wanted something inspirational. I wanted something that was inspiring to people, even to me. That’s what I felt, it’s time to fly. We’re going into the New Year now, and I was coming off an end of a year high for me. It was just crazy. I couldn’t even believe what was happening. Like I never would’ve thought that I would even be in a commercial, even though I wanted to or I was working towards it. The fact that it happened, I was like: “Oh ok.” And I know that people are in commercials, but I was like: “Let’s take off, let’s do it. 2017, let’s smash it.”
Aaron: The music industry can be a tough business. What is the most difficult thing that you have had to endure in the music industry?
Tris-X: The toughest thing is not knowing who you’re dealing with and not knowing what their intentions are. Not knowing if they have your best interests in mind because everyone wants to make a buck. Everyone wants a nice profile. You don’t personally know them, so it’s really like jumping around. It’s like a give and take. I don’t like life to be that way, where’s it’s like you scratch my back and I scratch yours. Sometimes that works, and you got to live that way.
Aaron: Right. It’s doing favours for other people.
Tris-X: That’s what it feels like, you know what I mean? So that would be it. And so, you want to do what you want to do. You want to stay authentic, but like, you’re there in a world that’s changing so quickly. So it’s like following your own heart, your own soul is harder than it seems.
Aaron: Of course. There’s so many people in the business, whether it family or friends that want to influence you like: “You should do this,” “Or maybe change that,” but really at the end of the day, it’s about what you want to do.
© Tris-X | YouTube
Aaron: There are hundreds of music artists in Toronto, specifically in Hip-Hop/Rap. What separates Tris-X from the rest?
Tris-X: Tris-X is 100 percent him. He’s 100 percent about doing what he would do in a conversation. When you hear me, and you know me, you know that when you listen and know me in person, you’ll say: “Oh, I know that guy.” It’s not a trendy thing, it’s not a sound wave. It’s 100 percent Tristan. There’s no wave.
Aaron: What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
Tris-X: To tour the world, to release music, release albums that are truly authentic to me. That I have been 100 percent. Actually, I’ll say 90 percent because you need a little bit of that critiquing. I want to be able to make people feel it. I want to make people cry in a song, I want people to feel like a song made them feel better. It’s not about what you acquire. I want to really hit people because you can’t live for yourself.
Aaron: Like you want to inspire?
Tris-X: Yeah, inspire in ways. I want to convey, I want to hit emotions.
Aaron: Emotion. You want the emotional connection?
Tris-X: Yeah, like The Greatest Story Ever Told, I, literally, with that song, I wanted you to feel like you’re going on a journey. It’s like the Black Panther movie. You know, you put on the glasses and you’re right there. I want you feel that with the music.
Aaron: Right. When I was listening to that track The Greatest Story Ever Told, I was kind of, thinking of Rocky Balboa. Where it’s a person, finances aren’t so good, living in a tough neighbourhood. But builds his way up, loves to box. Then he gets his opportunity to face Apollo Creed, the top boxer at the time. And then, he lost the first bout. But he kept fighting, didn’t feel sorry himself, and then he bounced back. He fights Apollo Creed, (and) beats him. So I kind of, thought about that. The underdog story.
Aaron: Do you have any upcoming shows?
Tris-X: I am planning on putting a show together in the summer some time, but no dates yet. Nothing set.
Aaron: Will you have new music coming out?
Tris-X: Yes, I’ve been working on new music. The aim is for this summer or this fall. New album, just new stuff. It’s going to be a new vibe, it’s going to be crazy.
Aaron: Where can listeners find your music?
Tris-X: You can find me on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, or Google Play, if you search: Tris-X. Search me up on Google, and you’ll find the links to everything need. Just go on Google, and search: Tris-X.