Who to Hear: T-Ran

Nestled in the depths of SoundCloud is the 27-year-old Oakland native T-Ran's fourth “official” album, Dreams Don't Grow On Trees. (“Official,” because he's removed the early albums he made while at Howard University from the internet because he's “grown and changed a lot since then.”) The jazzy, 13-track conscious-rap record echoes T-Ran's past works with its socio-political focus and utilization of recordings from newscasts and speeches. Though T-Ran doesn't necessarily consider himself a political rapper — “I make honest music for people who are still dreaming of change and refusing to give up,” he says — there are lots of historic and modern-day references in his music, like the Greensboro, N.C. sit-in of 1960; Rodney King and Oscar Grant; Emmett Till, who was lynched for flirting with a white woman; Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar; the deaths of Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin; and the repercussions of electing Donald Trump as president. And even though turning these heavy subjects into catchy earworms is a challenge, it's one that the rapper feels strongly about taking on. Says T-Ran: “I think the public thinks all Bay Area music sounds alike. Even when I was at school, people would ask if my music was hyphy. It's a stigmatism that we have and that's hard to shrug off when you're a different type of artist.”

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