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Now a multiplatinum-selling rapper, Trippie Redd has come a long way from his SoundCloud days. He’s experienced life’s highs with the lows, and giving up isn’t an option.
Interview: Bianca Torres
Images: Travis Shinn
Styled By: Mecca @mexco__style
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Trippie Redd misses the rage. He considers himself an “in-the-field” rapper, so living in a pandemic this past year and being unable to tour have been challenging for the 21-year-old artist. However, Trippie, born Michael Lamar White II, is in a good place right now. It’s Feb. 24, 2021, five days after the wild artist dropped his first rock album, Pegasus: Neon Shark vs Pegasus Presented By Travis Barker (Deluxe), which serves as the deluxe edition of his 2020 Pegasus LP and was executive produced by Travis Barker, a much-celebrated drummer in the rock industry. Donning red dreads, a blue tank top and a red fitted hat with a godfather-type blunt, Trippie, a Canton, Ohio-raised, Los Angeles-based rhymer Zooms with XXL from the West Coast and speaks about feeling pleased with his latest release and cooking up the next one on the way.

As a multiplatinum-selling rapper—Trippie has four double-platinum songs, eight platinum and 17 gold, plus four gold projects—he thrives as a live performer. That’s how the “Love Scars” artist built his success starting in 2016, interacting with his supporters face-to-face, being open about his emotions and making relatable music—three albums, including 2019’s No. 1 Billboard 200-charting A Love Letter to You 4, and four mixtapes worth. He’s gone from being an opening act on Travis Scott’s Astroworld Tour to headlining his own. Since he’s been “locked away” in the house with his four dogs and two cats because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trippie’s been making more heat in the studio, readying himself for the day he can get back on the stage.

While he awaits the moment he can say “Big 14” to a roaring crowd, here, Trippie discusses his top five favorite rappers of all time, weird sandwiches he ate as a child, coping with loss, Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti being the new pioneers of change in hip-hop and more.

XXL: How are you today?

Trippie Redd: Good. I was mad as fuck, for real, ’cause I was supposed to see my car today. But, the guy is on some weird shit, talking ’bout, “Ain’t nobody in the place today.” I’ve been waiting for my car for like, five months.

Travis Shinn Photography for XXL

What’s going on with your car?

Nothin’, I was just getting it customized. I had ordered like, special rims. I ordered a Porsche spoiler. I got a CA Corvette. I just be customizing it and shit. Putting the wrap on... It was all white. I made it all chrome red and I put a wide-body kit on it. It’s the first CA Corvette to be wide-body.

You dropped your rock album, Neon Shark vs Pegasus, in February. What made you have Travis Barker executive produce it?

I mean, Travis Barker, he like the G.O.A.T. in the rock world/hip-hop space, you feel me? I just wanted to go specifically in the realm and really do that shit. I sat back and watched X[XXTentacion] do it. I went straight to where he went.

A couple of rappers went the rock route. Are there any that you look up to?

Kid Cudi and Lil Wayne. I definitely listened to their projects and studied and really was just taking game from what they had been doing. I wanted to do it completely different from them, but at the same time I wanted to get some inspiration from them.

You were recently in the studio with Ski Mask The Slump God. Do you guys have a collab coming?

Yeah, he’s supposed to be on my next album.

Is that the Trip at Knight album?

Yeah.

Trip at Knight, is that something you’re gonna drop this year?

Hopefully. I’m focused on dropping songs right now.

On social media, you post about missing the rage. What exactly is the rage?

Shit, I been locked away. I’m one of them people that’s at the festivals, I come out going crazy out the rips. I’m ready to get back to my stage presence. I’m tired of this shit. I’m tired of sitting in the house ’cause that’s all I been doing.

With all the COVID shit going on, I was just in my creative space making music that I really fucked with. But, at the same time, I’m making music that I really feel like was bigger than the last shit I just dropped, you feel me? It got to the point where I was like, I should drop this shit. Then I was like, you know what? I’ma give them Pegasus. It already done leaked and all that extra shit, but fuck it, I’ma give it to them. And keep this other shit.

Is that the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make during the pandemic? Not doing live shows?

Yeah, I call myself a “in-the-field” rapper, which means like, I really be out here. I really be going to all the festivals, all the shit that people just pop out to. So, without that being around or going on, I just be trying to keep up with everything that’s been going on. I’m ready to get the fuck back out and do my job.

You write Dipset as a caption for your Instagram posts when it comes to Juice Wrld and XXXTentacion. What does Dipset mean to you?

That’s how I felt being around my boys, you feel me? All that Dipset shit. And, one of my favorite Chief Keef songs is called “Dipset.” It got that at the beginning of the song, “Dipset, Dipset, Dipset.”

You’ve lost fellow rappers X, Juice Wrld and Fredo Santana. How do you cope with all that at such a young age?

I only got into rapping because my brother rapped and he died. He had passed away in a car accident. Just watching him like, record, make music, just come home with new songs and shit, was always just amazing to me. Like, I’ll sit right there and listen to everything he just did... I thought that shit was just one of the firest things in the world.

Even just knowing I dealt with that at a young age... I was like 9, 10, but that’s what really got me rapping for real was me losing him. I knew I was gonna experience loss down the line, but I never knew, like, it was gonna hit that hard. I didn’t think it was gonna be like that.

Shit bothers me, kinda. But I just, like, smoke and think about them, make music and just try to make it seem like...they live in my head. They alive to me, shit. I can’t lose every moment I had with them. I didn’t lose that, so I don’t look at it like no loss. My brothers [are] just resting.

What advice can you give to the younger generation on how to cope with loss? We lose people to drugs or street violence, now we have COVID−19.

From a personal perspective when it comes to loss, it’s just like, I put all my energy into doing everything in my power to impress those that are not here instead of impressing those that are here. Would my brothers fuck with this?

I deal with it by keeping them in my head and just not letting go. They can ultimately help you drive to get to where you need to get, feel me? I just feel like I can’t give up. They wouldn’t want me to give up. They didn’t want to give up. If they was here they wouldn’t have gave up at all. Everybody that I done lost, from friends to family, brothers, whatever. I just try to put them all on my back.

I just lost my great-grandma not too long ago. Like, two months ago and she was the sweetest person I ever met in my life, no cap. She made me the weirdest sandwich one time ’cause I wanted it.

What sandwich was it?

I used to make her toast the bread, put butter on it and put mayonnaise and put peanut butter on it and then put a piece of turkey or ham. It was just me being on some little kid fat shit. She used to really make me the sandwich. She always brought it up to me every time I used to see her, since I had blew up and shit. Now, I think about that shit like, Damn, I might have to eat one of them sandwiches.

Lil Wayne is one of your favorite rappers. He’s featured on your song “Hell Rain.” How does it feel to have a feature from a rapper you used to look up to?

Honestly, that was like the biggest moments of my life. I actually did the song before I made the song with Lil Wayne. I had did two to three songs with Lil Wayne before then. And, I never really put them out.

Travis Shinn Photography for XXL

Who are your top five rappers of all time?

Aight, Wayne, Drake... I’ma just say everything I really listen to. Like, the most music I’ve ever listened to from an artist... These gotta be my favorites because I clearly listen to them more than everybody else. So, Wayne, Drake, I gotta put André [3000] in there. [Lil] Uzi [Vert] and [Playboi] Carti. I listen to they shit a lot.

Listening to Uzi’s shit back in 2015-16, that shit was different. And Carti, at that time. They was on some other shit for the young niggas. They did some crazy shit for us. They really opened doors for us to do a lot of shit that we do.You know, the niggas from the SoundCloud era might not say it too much, but definitely, they some of the G.O.A.T.s from our era.

They made it permissible to not look or sound like a typical rapper.

They made change OK. Change is OK in every aspect because of them artists. Wayne kicked if off with the face tatts and the grills. Them niggas kicked down the door on some whole other shit. Just being completely different. Just like André 3000 was weird. He was different, too. He’s a great guy, though. Wayne, too.

Do you have three favorite rap albums of all time?

People gonna hate me, but... [Tha] Carter III and [Tha] Carter IV. Carter IV crazy. And, when you run Carter III then run Carter IV, you like, What the fuck?! Crazy, I can’t live without those two albums. And, I’m not gonna lie... ? [album], the shit that X did. That’s one of my favorite projects hands down because of the versatility and how he just masters doing everything on the scoreboard.

So, are you gonna drop A Love Letter to You 5?

Ain’t nobody broke my heart yet.

OK, you need a heartbreak to drop it.

I’m just fuckin’ with ya. I’m definitely working on love music as well as turnt up, “miss the rage”-type shit, but that’s later. I’ma drop the turnt shit first. I be dropping so much love shit, I’m like, let me take a break from love. I only did one album that had nothing to do with love and that was Life’s a Trip. Only one song on there had something to do with love and that was like, the last song.

Do you have your own label yet?

Yeah, but I haven’t like, it’s about to be put together. Like, by the end of the year, I’ll have it set up to where it’s supposed to be. I find a lot of great artists. I really done seen a lot of great artists just strive from nothing to being one of the biggest rappers in the game.

I got people from where I’m from, Canton, Ohio, and Ohio in general that I feel like are amazing artists and I wanna put them on. Miyah [Lynnae, my artist] not from there, but she’s just hard. And, someone from Ohio recommended her to me, so that’s why I even...feel me? She’s super dope. We just have to mold her into the right type of artist. She needs to find herself. That’s what she’s working on.

Do you have a name for your label?

Might be called August, for real, what it’s probably gonna be called. But, I might call it something else. I don’t know.

We’ve seen some pictures surface of your old Facebook page. What was Trippie like as a kid?

I seen a lot of shit. I went through a lot of shit, like, to see all of my older cousins get out of jail... Just the process of my dad being in jail the whole time as a kid... I had to take them visits to jail like every other fuckin’ week. That shit was crazy, just seeing that. I really loved video games as a kid, too. And hanging out with people that liked Pokémon, shit like that. I would steal people’s Pokémon cards and shit. As a kid, this was one of my favorite things to listen to and I didn’t even know I was listening to it [holds up a CD of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill].

What’s your ultimate goal in life?

I don’t really got no ultimate goal. I just wanna improve and get better. I don’t really got too much on my mind to do, musically. Anything in music I wanna accomplish fo’ sho but it’s not my life goal. Be happy, you know? Live my life the way I want to.

Travis Shinn Photography for XXL

Check out more from XXL’s Spring 2021 issue including Cardi B's cover story, how rappers are legally making money from the cannabis boom and the social justice that comes with itSnowfall's Damson Idris on how hip-hop impacted his life, A$AP Ferg reflects on the making of his Always Strive and Prosper album, Shelley F.K.A. DRAM talks about his comebackWaka Flocka Flame checks in with us and gives an update on his Flockaveli 2 album in What's Happenin', Show & Prove interviews with 42 DuggBlxst and LakeyahErica Banks discusses the making of hit song "Buss It" and more.

See Cardi B's Photo Shoot in XXL Magazine's Spring 2021 Issue