As an 11th-grade student attending Jamaica High School, rapper and producer Travis Lashley was preparing to leave for his first tour with 50 Cent and embark on a fast track to music and maturity. Raised by a hardworking West Indian mother in Queens, Trav grew up listening to reggae and waking up to get ready and get himself to school on his own while his mother worked early morning hours.
He was 19, back then in 2009, when his first solo mixtape, The Way I See It, catapulted him into the company of G-Unit and onto records with artists like Juelz Santana, Lloyd Banks, and Soulja Boy. He remembers the truancy guards at his high school asking him for tickets to concerts when his name began to sound familiar to them. Over the past decade, he has been steadily releasing powerful, dynamic and entirely new records, propelling himself forward with each project.
His new album, P.I.T.S., features heavyweights like Lil Durk, Blac Youngsta, and Rowdy Rebel, and it is packed with the essential truths of Trav’s career: “The bottom is who I speak for/ I’m happy going platinum in the streets more.” Trav spoke to Noisey about his new music video for “Boys to Men,” in which he recites the song’s lyrics while riding on an ATV and standing in front of an auto body shop in Queens.
On “Boys to Men,” Trav commands smooth, intimate, melodic tones to deliver hard-hitting lyrics: “Too much blood in the streets, it left me heartless/ All these perc 30s make me nauseous.” Writing about the duality of addictive drugs like Percocet is a mechanism to unpack the painful experiences underneath for many artists. Trav told Noisey that he allows his lyrics to command the truth out of him, explaining that he has no choice to resist that current in his rhymes because he can only write what he knows.
While staying story-focused in his lyrics, Trav has been adaptive on his records, switching production styles and collaborating with new artists who take his sound in different directions. His discography embraces some of the most influential voices in hip-hop. His 2020 album, Nothing Happens Overnight, was home to the magnetic hit “Geed U” featuring Young Thug, and the crispy flows of “Real N*gga Party” featuring Lil Durk. Trav takes every opportunity to explore a new wave, bringing his raw, emotional flow to every instrumental and making innovative adjustments to his delivery with each verse.
P.I.T.S. is full of the poetic and honest bars Trav is known for, but it introduces even more of his identity as an artist, sharing deeper thought on his philosophy to music. Trav speaks about his commitment to respecting both the art and the hustle of music, and the importance of understanding the difference. Referencing the story of Cain and Abel, the distinction between right and wrong, themes of strategy and sacrifice, and an evolved perspective of money and fame, the new album shows Trav’s edge and vulnerability in equal measure. From the signature raspy growl of “Gut Feeling” to the sexy, bouncy hook of “Toxic” featuring Rowdy Rebel, P.I.T.S. captures the full versatility of Trav’s flows.
In his time, Trav has witnessed hip-hop open its arms to melodic and emotional new voices and conversations. “When I got into rap, it was grimy. That’s when New York was the rotten apple”, he said. Now, Trav is observing a gentler wave, and opening his mind to its place in his own music. “It’s melodic now, a softer tone. It’s still the same quality of story, but it’s a softer tone,” he said. He’s gracefully exploring new territory with each project, staying rooted in a magnetic lyricism that lands gracefully on any beat. “Our imagination is what gets us through, and the moment you lose your imagination, that’s when you die,” Trav said. “When the cup overflows, that is your karma for your imagination and all the good you’ve been doing.”