Photo: Devyn Galindo
Channel Tres Talks Honoring Isaac Hayes On EP 'Black Moses,' Healing With Music & Being A "Ghetto Savior"
Meet Channel Tres. The Compton-born singer/rapper/producer and all-around artistic visionary is just getting started living his dream of making an impact with music. He released his swaggy self-titled debut EP last year on Los Angeles indie label GODMODE and in less than a year has become in demand on stages around the world, performing at Detroit's Movement, Barcelona's Primavera Sound and Australia's Splendor In The Grass, to name just a few.
Now he's preparing to share his second EP with the world, Black Moses, which drops on Aug. 16 and is dedicated to the late, great soul legend Isaac Hayes, whose 1971 GRAMMY-winning album shared the same name. To date, Tres has already given the world a taste of its magic with "Brilliant Nigga" and "Sexy Black Timberlake." Next week, on Aug. 2, he'll share the EP's title track and third single featuring politically minded rapper JPEGMAFIA.
We sat down with Tres at the sunny GODMODE studios in East L.A. while he was in town to learn more about Black Moses, how Compton influences his music and his advice to aspiring artists.
You're dropping your second EP, Black Moses, soon; can you speak to the message behind it and the sounds that you explore on it?
First off, it's paying homage to Isaac Hayes. Soundscape-wise, I'm not really in an Isaac Hayes vibe. But the name—I was watching this old festival they threw in Watts [Wattstax 1972]. This is when Shaft and the theme song was really big. He came out and had on a hat and some shades and a coat. They took his coat off and Jesse Jackson was announcing him.
He looked so godly and it was just so black and so powerful for me. So, that's why I just dove into that, which inspired the name and the sounds on it. It's further in what I started with, the Channel Tres EP. I got some cool songs on there and the production got better; it's just a step up. And Moses, in the Bible, is the savior of the people of the promised land. I feel like sometimes I want to be a ghetto savior.
You've already gave us the gift of "Sexy Black Timberlake" from the EP, with groovy G-funk vibes and an amazing video. What was your vision for that song and video?
Thank you. The vision for that song is just people are starting to pay attention more to me and the music, and also I'm growing up to a man and understanding myself more and just being more confident.
How old are you?
I'm 28. So, I'm just crossing over to that mature place. It was funny because when I was younger, depending on what I was wearing—even now—I'm either vilified or objectified. As I started to get more successful, I see how sometimes people objectify me, and women start to objectify men. Because now they see that I'm something. That's what I'm saying that in that song. And it's me just being irritated.
And I love Justin Timberlake. We were just playing around because I wrote a song and I was saying, "Bringing sexy back, making sexy black." We were f***ing around, it was like, "Let's just name it that, f*** it." It just makes sense. Also with Compton, just showing a different side.
The video was filmed in Compton, right?
Yeah, I shoot all my stuff there because I've got family everywhere. My little brother's in prison, and it just makes people happy to see the city in stuff like that. Just different places that I grew up. I'm going to make so much music and I like watching my sh*t because I don't get to go there that often.
So you've left, but you grew up here in L.A., in Compton. What does Compton mean to you and how do you think it shaped your artistic journey and identity?
It's a huge community of people out there, so it's home. It will always have a special place in my heart. I'm just happy that I'm street smart. A lot of people don't have common sense. I know how to survive. If there was an apocalypse or something and everything was taken away, I would know how to survive. I grew up in kind of a grimy way, in a grimy area, so your survival tactics are just different. I will always appreciate that. And I love G-funk and just West Coast music, so I'm so happy I got to grow up around that, and actually feel that. To be around that and see things.
Who were your favorite artists growing up, and who remains as your influences today?
Nate Dogg, Tupac, Ice Cube. I love [Dr.] Dre. I grew up on a lot of gospel; Sam Cooke, Fred Hammond, Marvin Gaye. Motown, everything pretty much. Miles Davis. A lot of jazz, a lot of gospel, a lot of rap.
Was there a moment when you knew or decided that you wanted to make music? What called you into that space?
I've always wanted to make music, since I was born. My dad was a musician, I think you're what your parents are. I think it got passed down, the love. I always had a thing for it, but I didn't understand the discipline of it until later on, and that's when I started getting better and things started happening.
What's your biggest goal as an artist?
Just to be around, be in culture. I'd like to do things; work on films, have great songs that just stand the test of time. We still listen to the old funk records and all that, I just want songs that are timeless. I love music, I just want to be in it, I always want to be in it.
You're doing it. In terms of your music, you do a lot. You produce, you sing, you rap, you can dance, it's all there. What's your favorite part of the creative process?
I like it all. Every part of performing, dancing, producing. It's just so many different sides of music so I appreciate it all. You get to connect with the music in a different way, when you've been in all those areas.
Do you have any rituals or places that foster creativity?
I pray. I talk to God. I talk to myself. I lived through a lot and I'm still going through sh*t. So there's enough trauma in there and this all started happening, so I have a lot to talk about. I don't really go anywhere. I'm a Gemini too, I'm kind of crazy in my head. I don't know, I go a lot of places in my head. Music is real cathartic for me, that's how I deal with it, and that's how I'm getting healing from a lot of the things I've been through, so I don't really go nowhere I just do it. I'm just always ready to go. Like, "Let's get it."
Between Movement, Primavera Sound, a Boiler Room set and a bunch of other big shows, you've had a pretty stacked year. What has been a favorite moment from these events so far?
It's all my favorite. A year and a half ago I wasn't playing all these shows and this is something I fantasized about. I was in Spain at Primavera playing by the beach. My set was at 9 pm, it was a great time, the sun was setting. And so many people, and I knew all my words, I knew all my choreo. I was like, "Oh sh*t, I'm doing it." It's fun, I love playing, I like traveling for music.
When you are performing in front of people, do you feel like that's a different sort of therapeutic or cathartic experience as to when you're making the music?
Yeah, I mean I don't have to fight nobody. I got my energy out; all my aggression, all my anger. It's like my form of destruction. I'm pretty easygoing, but on stage you can't tell me sh*t. And if you don't want to be there you don't have to be there.
Have you been able to connect with other people through your music?
Like other artists? Hell yeah. It's been cool. I was making music the other day, and I'm in the room with my idols like, "Oh sh*t!" It's crazy, it's so fun and so cool because I'm still a fan too.
Do you have any dream collaborations that you want to speak out and manifest?
Kendrick [Lamar]. I definitely want to do something with Kendrick one day. I want to do something with Stevie Wonder. I want to work with Jon Brion. There's a lot of people I want to work with, I got a list. I want to work with Childish Gambino, I think we could make some tight sh*t.
Speaking of working with people, you're going to be touring with Toro Y Moi soon, and you recently did a rad remix of one of his tracks from his last album. How did you guys meet and would you ever collab on some tracks?
I'm a big fan of Chaz [Bear, a.k.a. Toro Y Moi] for a long time. We met on my birthday three years ago. Every year we got closer as friends and he started listening to my sh*t I guess. He hit me up and was like, "Yo, we should go on tour." And a year later we go on tour.
so excited to announce that I’m opening for Childish Gambino in Australia. I been grindin my whole life and this one means a lot to me. I’m grateful to be making music, performing, and traveling. Thank you @donaldglover you are brilliant. shout out to my team! God bless pic.twitter.com/pl9D4vwPf7
— channel tres (@channel_tres) July 11, 2019
That's so cool. Planting the seeds.
Yeah, I'm about to go on tour with Childish Gambino too. It's not announced yet, but we are playing two shows together in Australia. I'm opening up for him like next week.
Oh sick! I saw him at The Forum.
It was crazy?
Yeah. He has an energy on stage where you're like, "Damn, I want to go wherever you are going."
Yeah, fire. I can't wait to meet him.
Do you have a message for young kids in Compton, or wherever else, who want to get into music?
Persistence always wins and hard work beats talent any day. I'm not the most talented, I mean there's people better than me. But what makes my sh*t cool is just me, I'm not trying to be nobody else. I pay homage to the OGs, I have respect for the people that came before me. I don't think nothing is bad unless musically it doesn't go together. So, I'm not really judgey, I'm not heavily critical of everything. I just try to understand and try to take it day by day.
Just trust God and the universe, and be persistent and really find out if it's what you're supposed to be doing. Because if it's what you are supposed to do, you'll have provision, things will be happening. Even though it might take a long time, you'll know. Just do it for the right reasons. And when you get it, do something good with it.