Struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies through his adolescence, the only relief that Kansas artist, Trevon Payne, found was writing lyrics to the instrumentals of his favorite songs. He would spend up to 8 hours a day waxing lyrical and piling up crumbled pages of notebook paper. His ongoing momentum was fueled by his unwavering faith in his choice of craft: “I always knew I wanted to be an artist,” says Trevor. “I just never knew that God’s gift to me would evolve from doodles to poetry. With this gift I will my story in ‘Stories of Payne’.” Right from the opening “Intro”, you already feel like ‘Stories of Payne’ is going to be a truly personal album. Some of that real artistic shit. This isn’t that hip-hop album intro where the artist comes out rapping a mile a minute. He’s not trying to prove he’s an amazing rapper, he’s trying to prove he can make an amazing album and tell an amazing set of stories. And if he proves to be a damn good rapper along the way, well, then that’s just an extra bonus.
Hip-hop purists are potentially the most elitist group of music fans there is. They don’t concern themselves with album or ticket sales. The only thing the hip hop purist is interested in is if a certain artist is real or not. Being real is what separates, for example, people like 2 Chainz from Kendrick Lamar.
Hearing the story behind the title of Trevon Payne’s latest effort, and the address of Payne’s childhood and ensuing growing up years, suggests a real and personal album. And at a glance ‘Stories of Payne’ is a hip-hop purist’s paradise.
For a start he actually manages to carry the weight of the album, all 13 tracks of it, completely on his own. His affection for singing helps to keep things varied and the way he hits the notes give certain songs an extra emotional dimension.
The production is without a doubt another one of the album’s best assets, laid back and soulful without ever becoming delegated to background music, the beats sweeten the album and compliment Payne’s direct approach to storytelling. And then when Payne kicks in with his machine gun deliveries, you realize that his aggressive Midwest rapping style is still a major force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Built on a soulful beat and rolling percussion, “Emerson St.” is a heartfelt and personal account that gets as real as it comes. This is one hell of a smooth beat, two tracks in and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. “Born 2 Be” (remix) is really going for the full on inspirational, motivational vibe.
This is some real relatable stuff that somehow puts me in a nostalgic mood. “Shaq’s Couch” takes the inspirational theme a few steps further up the ladder. If this song was supposed to make me feel stronger in the face of adversity, then mission accomplished Mr. Payne.
Trevon Payne’s greatest strength is how candid a rapper he is, taking complex emotional subjects, intimate inter-family relationships and putting that to good use on the backdrop of eclectic soundscapes. “Pain Is Important” is one of the album’s best songs in this sense, and showcases frank and vulnerable storytelling.
“Last Girl” takes us into romantic and melodic territory, with Payne forging a set of nuanced verses and heartrending choruses. “Your Loss” takes us back to pianos and lush instrumentation. It gives the project a kind of dreamy vibe, and it’s blowing me away.
“Shook” has some real banger potential, it’s going to be hard not to put this on repeat ten times right after it ends. Maybe that says something about the music you really want, don’t we all just dig bangers? If bass is your thing, then drown in the rumble of the opening bars in “Just Don’t Get It”.
Now that the album’s is in full momentum, “Gimme My Check” brings exactly the kind of vocal intensity I was expecting from this joint. Up until here, these tracks are enough to download this album, but it only gets better. The anthem “Win Win” is about as fundamental as crowd-pleasing hip-hop gets, and the way Payne lyrically turns the tables towards the track’s end is sublime.
This takes us straight into the album’s title track, and centerpiece, “Stories Of Payne”. Payne’s skill in conveying several emotions under one unifying theme is on full display throughout the EP, but nowhere is it clearer than on this track which brings us a harrowing account of facing life’s hardships from a multitude of perspectives.
Overall, a keen sense of self-awareness is one of this record’s key redeeming qualities, and exactly what Payne unleashes on the closing track, “Fortune”.
Trevon Payne appears very aware of his current place in the world, and all of the hardships it takes to get this far down the road. “Stories Of Payne” deserves at least a few listens to discover the depth and extent of the artist’s true to life tales. It is an honest, fitting tribute to the potential of his abilities.