FACT Rated digs into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists around right now. This week Max Freedman speaks to Compton producer-vocalist Channel Tres about the minimalist, sensual fusion of hip-hop and house heard on his self-titled debut EP, which is out now on Godmode.
Channel Tres had a pretty strong reaction to hearing ‘Passionfruit’ for the first time. “That voice, I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’” he recalls.
He wasn’t talking about Drake. It was the storied Moodymann sample that got Tres going. He quickly began infusing his productions with flashes of Detroit and Chicago house.
The Compton-born artist points to a plethora of distinct formative influences. His great grandmother, who raised him, championed Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Funkadelic; his great grandfather got him into jazz. He discovered punk on his own, while his mom listened to tons of G-Funk. You can hear its relaxed assertion bleeding into Tres’ own music.
On his self-titled debut EP, out now on Godmode, he seamlessly merges his early hip-hop influences with his recent house fascinations. Channel Tres matches minimalist thump with vocal chillness and sensuality that imbue its five songs with a smooth, magnetic take on rap. Produced entirely with Godmode’s co-founder Nick Sylvester, the EP explores themes as vast as self-empowerment and low self-esteem buried under Sylvester and Tres’ deep house waveforms and G-Funk’s swanky, leisurely flow.
Though big pop stars have sought his production and songwriting skills, nobody had previously taken his solo aspirations seriously. “That gave me a lot of low self-esteem,” he says. “[Saying] ‘I am the controller’ is a declaration that I’m in control of my destiny.”
‘Controller’, Tres’ debut single, might at first seem like a pretty strong come-on. Superficially, it appears that Tres, in his lethargic, silken whisper-rapping, is hitting on someone really, really strong before he says, “Come on, baby, tell me/What you’re going through.”
“It’s very intentional, man,” he says when asked about the pro-women stance heard often in his songs. “I want women to be able to say this shit too without feeling degraded or anything. Women inspire most of the shit I do.”
On ‘Topdown’, which pitch-shifts Tres’ already-low voice into the most deeply commanding register imaginable, a lyric about Tres riding with some friends “and your bitch” isn’t a Mr. Steal Your Girl situation. It’s about this woman rolling with Tres’ crew because she’s done with men who treat her like shit. His almost-spoken vocal performance bleeds control, and the production beckons full-body movement with only a handful of sonic layers. As hip-hop and house fusions go—and plenty of artists have tried this combination before—it’s appreciably leftfield. “I want people to crate dig these records 50 years from now and be like, ‘What the fuck is this?’” he says.
Behind Tres’ sonic innovation lies uncompromised, valiant vulnerability. “I wanna do something that’s meaningful,” he says, later clarifying, “I like that that shit can make you shake your ass at the same time.”
Max Freedman is a writer with bylines in Paste, Bandcamp Daily, Magnetic, Under the Radar, and more. He loves tight productions with roaring bass, minimal yet driving tracks, LGBTQ+ artists and romances – or, at least artists who talk about LGBTQ+ issues – and more.