Written By Lauren Mac | COSIGN MUSIC | @Theellemac
In a not so quiet coffee shop on a 100-degree day, in walks the Dallas native artist, Tru Def, cool, calm and collected with a smile on his face from ear to ear. That smile comes with good reason. He is Roc Nation’s newest artist. His whole demeanor exudes gratitude. One would expect a newly signed artist to be bubbling with braggadocio. But not Tru Def. When he says he’s just happy to be here, I truly believe him.
Tru Def’s background story sounds almost too picturesque to believe. His father was apart of a hip-hop duo called Asylum that worked back and forth between Dallas and Atlanta. At a young age, Tru Def was in the studio listening to music and witnessing the recording process. Some of his earliest childhood memories are as a 4-year-old in the studio, in his father’s arms, being asked to “say something into the mic”. His family members tell him that he would rock himself to sleep to the rhythm of whatever music was playing. His love started there.
Fast forward 20 something years, Tru Def gathered a room full of friends, family, bloggers, influencers, and media to a penthouse in Uptown Dallas to share some life-changing news. With a screen displaying the infamous paper plane logo behind him, Tru Def announced that he had inked a distribution deal for his label Dreams Come Tru.
Just a few days after Tru Def announced his deal with Roc Nation/ Equity, I had the pleasure to sit down with the artist to discuss his journey, his newfound success and his plans for the future in the industry.
Without hesitation, the first thing I’m sure we all want to know is how the distribution deal with Roc Nation came about.
“That whole story came from years of sending emails to executive and A&Rs, trying to make networking connections,” he said. “We had somebody who caught interest in what we were doing and they said, “I think I can get you guys set up with a meeting”.
Tru Def along with his friend and business partner, Trevoy Pointer, had been bombarding the emails and voicemails of industry executives and A&Rs. Two years prior to inking the deal, they traveled to New York City and camped out at the Roc Nation building in hopes of getting the ear of anyone whose opinion mattered.
With no concrete plans, no appointment, just a few t-shirts, a USB drive of music and a press kit in hand, they willed the encounter of a lifetime into existence. Even after being turned away by the reception desk, Tru Def didn’t leave. Their impressive persistence must have weighed on the heart of the staff because they were told to wait on the side of the building. A few moments later, Jay-Z appears.
Tru Def was able to get the ear of the rap mogul for few moments to spit a few bars, get some words of encouragement and snap a picture.
“That [experience] shows you that you have to truly believe and take a chance. The only thing you can get is a no. I feel like that was God showing me [He] is going to lead the way. You just have to put in the work and do what you need to do.”
Fast forward 2 years to 2018, Tru Def was officially invited back to meet with Roc Nation A&Rs. With his discography and videography in two, Tru Def played his project Dreams II Reality.
“They heard every track. They let them play from start to finish.”
The room was impressed not only by the music but by the fact that Tru Def was also responsible for his own production. After working with fair-weather producers who would come and go, he decided to take matters into his own hand and learn to produce his own tracks.
Roc Nation presented two options for partnership, an artist management deal or a distribution deal through Equity. Tru Def opted for the later. He is able to release music through his own label, Dreams Come Tru, maintaining creative control, but is backed and distributed by Roc Nation/Equity. This deal also afford’s Tru Def with the opportunity to bring other artists into the fold under Dreams Come Tru.
Even though his story might seem like a hip-hop fairy tale, Tru Def is no stranger to hard work himself. This deal is the result of 15+ years of pursuing music professionally. And like any artists, he had this share of obstacles and roadblocks. For this one “yes”, Tru Def got a 100 “no’s”. Even when he got positive feedback from executives and influencers, it took a long time to put the pieces together to get to where he is now.
“There was a time where I didn’t get to record a track for 8 months. I didn’t know how to produce so I was taking beats off YouTube just trying to find a way to get my music out to people. I had setbacks, but I’m thankful for those setbacks because they only made me stronger. I know God makes the perfect timing for us all.”
Tru Def’s process seems to be more traditional than many popular artists. I asked what made him focus on the traditional approach of gaining a labels attention, rather than focusing on going viral.
“When I came up with the name Tru Def, I meant that I was not going to play. No disrespect to people who make dance tracks, but the people I look up to have longevity. Jay-Z. That’s longevity. J. Cole. That’s longevity. Kanye West. That’s longevity. Kendrick Lamar. That’s longevity. I [decided] to keep putting out music and my fans would relate to it. They will be able to go back and say he didn’t change his music or his style.”
He learned that the business aspect of the music industry is just as important as the music. He married the idea of creating genuine music with knowing how to market and build his brand accordingly. One of Tru Def’s goals is to mentor and bring attention to up-and-coming artists. Through Dreams Come Tru, he is also looking for talent, be it artists or producers, who share the same spirit and are ready to work.
“I would tell artist don’t be cocky. Don’t think you know it all. Nobody knows it all. Have a good spirit and good energy. With me, it’s energy first. If I’m not feeling the energy then I have to remove myself. Anybody that’s willing to work hard, not be cocky, and let their ego, I’d be willing to show the ropes.”
Tru Def is now living out his dreams and walking in the footsteps of the artists he admires.
“Look at Jay-Z. No one wanted to be a part of [his success as a young artist]. He had to create Roc-A-Fella Records because no one would sign him. Now look at him. I got [inspiration] from Kanye West. He worked 3 or 4 jobs. I had to work 3 jobs and when I share that, it’s going to touch people. I think that’s what makes people relate to me. I’m normal.”
Tru Def had words for anyone pursuing a passion, as he as an example that dreams really do come true.
“It takes time. But you can do it right here from the city. You just have to believe.”
Follow the Dreams Come Tru journey and check out Tru Def’s first single with Roc Nation, “Lavish”.