I heard about Chico 2Triple in January when Traps N Trunks posted “6 Year Grudge,” a loud and bullish self-introduction over stuttering hi-hats and a chipmunked vocal sample. Chico’s provided bio would make an A&R salivate: he had just been released from a six year stint in federal prison. In July, I spoke to Chico on the phone about his album The HomeComing, which was released online two weeks ago.
Chico was born in Columbus, Ohio, then moved to Detroit, “But I might as well be from Huntsville, Alabama,” he said. The city’s hip-hop scene has treated him well. “Before the rap thing, I was a real drug dealer. I was a real hustler. So they got respect for somebody who go off, do they time, don’t talk, and come back, and live what he really talk about.” Laughing, he added, “I can’t tell you how much free beats I done got and how much love I got.”
He has surprising influences for an Alabama rapper. “I got a cousin named Gerald Wilson. He is the most countriest person you will ever meet, but he knows his hip-hop and he used to have me listen to like Wu-Tang,” said Chico, hence his love of East Coast lyricism. He proceeded to namedrop every member of the Wu as well as LL Cool J, KRS-One, Black Thought, and Biggie. He also cites Jay-Z as his favorite and rattles off Rick Ross, Kanye, and J. Cole.
Starting in 2005, he served five and half years of his six year sentence for trafficking cocaine, having just turned 25. “Around the time I lost my job, it was just me and my moms and my sister. I was like, ‘Man I gotta do something, this is around Christmas time,’” he said with a laugh. “Somebody stopped me eventually. Got set up and then had to go through that process.”
He wrote the entirety The HomeComing in jail. “It’s crazy that you can see so much in a confined area, in a controlled environment, because that’s what jail is,” he said. “That’s the irony of it. I found freedom in jail.” He wrote to the beat of his friends banging pencils on desks and to Master P, Young Jeezy, Outkast, and Lil Wayne CDs. The facility also had a band room where six or seven inmates would gather around a bass player and a drummer and write rhymes. Chico kept up on music by listening to the radio and watching BET.
The HomeComing is an entirely in-house affair. Production and guest appearances are restricted to artists from The Route, a local record label, and Chico’s inner circle of producers. He courts darker, simpler beats than his city is known for with the help of P.T. PrimeTime who Chico credits with the album’s overall sound. “I call him ‘P.T. The Modem’ because that’s my little computer, that’s my homie.” Subject-wise, Chico largely follows trap rap conventions, but he’s calmer than the shout-rappers and finds time for pop culture references and punchlines.
It’s a true rap debut: blunt, unified, raw, and local. An obscure release, The HomeComing will likely be remembered as a gem in the formative catalog of Huntsville hip-hop.