Independent Artist Spotlight: Trillz Nation

Trill: An adjective used in Hip-Hop culture to describe someone who is considered to be well respected; someone who is True and Real.

How else could one describe Chicago’s own Trillz Nation? After over an hour of conversation with him – a time that honestly felt like 20 minutes – I, as a writer, have no better way to describe him. Seeing his area code during a brief text exchange allowed me to realize he was from an area of  Chicago not far from where I once lived as a teenager on the South Side. An area affectionately nicknamed by natives as the Wild 100’s.

We briefly reminisced over places in Chicago that only the brave venture (word to Harold’s Chicken) and then he opened the interview by asking a question I was pleasantly surprised by:

Trillz: “So, how do you feel about your OKC team?”

A.J.: “Man! So, I was at the Thunder’s very first game here back when the arena was called the Ford Center. To see the progression and how much the city loves them is beautiful. And man, these young guns they have are some dogs!”

Trillz: “Man that young core is DECENT. That young core is DECENT! That boy Shai is NICE!”

Side note: Now listen, before the Thunder faithful light the torches and grab the pitchforks, let me explain something. Any and EVERY sports fan from Chicago knows that calling a team “Decent” is Chicagoan for “talented” and/or “very good”. If they say you’re “nice”…just know that is full permission to hoop at any court in the city. Now, back to the interview.

I discovered Trillz’s music via TikTok. His music video for his single “Lemonade” was being reviewed by Jody Greezy and the smoothness of the track sent me into another dimension. I was amazed. Being the fanboy that I am, I had to immediately follow and campaign for this interview.

A.J.: “So, I saw your music video on Jody Greezy’s page. The Lemonade song. He was breaking down your bars and me as a Hip-Hop fan, I knew this needed to happen. One of the things we’ve been wanting to do with this Independent Artist Spotlight is to just give you guys your flowers and HOPEFULLY, help the undiscovered grow their fanbase.”

Trillz: “Man, you don’t even know how much of a service you’re doing to the artist. That is huge.”

A.J.: “I just listened to your ‘Songs About a Girl I Like’ EP and was very impressed. ‘Date Night’ was probably my favorite track on there.”

Trillz: “You literally listened to that more than my wife and it’s about her! *laughs* What’s actually crazy about that is I wrote most of those while we were still dating. And for a while, I just put them on the back burner. I didn’t even notice or think that people would like it as much as they have.”

Trillz Nation, born DeVonte Clifton, grew up around music. As a matter of fact, from a young age, he saw his stepfather and friends playing beats and rapping over them. Doing what any creative would do, Trillz wrote his raps and waited for the invitation to come out and showcase his talent.

“So, this was around the time that Biggie’s ‘Hypnotize’ had come out and I wrote some bars that I thought were crazy at the time. I had started off the verse with ‘Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see?’ But I had my own flow after that. They invited me to the kitchen and said ‘Let’s rap.’ Bro, perfect beat and I was about to go in. I started my verse and then my pops stopped the Casio and said ‘Get out, that’s somebody else’s rhyme. Man, they kicked me out and didn’t invite me back for some years.”

The seed of music was planted early in his life and that, mixed with the gangsta rap impact of the 90’s helped breed the artist we have today. An artist with a very unique creative process: “I can’t sit down and write. I have to get up and be in motion. Most times to get inspiration, I’ll throw on a beat and walk. I might hum a melody, think of a theme, and write whatever words down that trigger responses. The EP I’m about to drop now is called ‘Malibu Chronicles’ and that came from remembering a friend in college who drove a Malibu and remembering the stories that came from that car. Just stuff about my life. Mentally, I feel better knowing I can fight depression and anxiety by putting words over a beat.”

A.J.: “I love that. As an artist, how would you describe the music you create?”

Trillz: “I’ll start off like this: If you put me on a Pandora list and they give artists I’m similar to, it’d be a J. Cole, Andre 3000, and Kanye West.”

A.J.: “Storytellers?”

Trillz: “Yes, exactly. My music is more melodic, deep thoughts, deep cuts, eccentric, and fun. I like to have fun, it’s not all thought-provoking. I got songs that are lit but also a lot that will make you sit down and think. Something else is that people never really notice until I tell them, I don’t curse or say sexually explicit things.”

A.J.: “And that was the first thing I noticed.”

Trillz: “I always wrote without cursing. It was my mom, man. Growing up I heard ‘you better not let me catch you cursing’. And as I grew, my vocabulary got crazy and I felt like nobody could test my pen. Especially because I didn’t have to curse to make a rhyme. I felt like I was on my Big Will.” 

A.J.: “First rap album I ever bought was Will Smith’s Big Willie Style. I happily contributed to that Diamond Certification. I bought Willenium too. *laughs*

Trillz: “You are a GOAT, sir. A GOAT. Will top 5 all-time. My son is listening to Big Willie Style right now.”

Knowing that there are levels he still wants to reach, Trillz knows there is still so much more to learn and gain. “If I could sit at the foot of a Timbaland, a Pharrell. I feel like I’m dope, but I want to learn more. I’m still hungry.”

Most interesting thing about Trillz Nation? We almost got a Rick Ross supported mixtape from him. Yes, Trillz ALMOST signed to MMG.

A.J.: “Tell me about the Rick Ross story. What the heck?”

Trillz: *laughs* “So I was doing this show and at the time I was going by ‘VonTrilla’. The promoter asked me to introduce myself and so I did and mentioned I don’t curse or do sexually explicit lyrics. And all of a sudden, I just hear this guy start booing me from the back of the room. I did my song and got so much love from the crowd.

“After the night was over, this guy comes up to me and says ‘I want to apologize, that was me booing you onstage.’ I told him it was all good and he says ‘No, you don’t understand. I work for MMG. I’m an A&R.’ We exchanged information and I sent him my music.

“Two days later, he calls me and says not only did HE like my music, but Ross wanted to meet me. He said Ross would be in Chicago in two weeks and where to meet them. Now, I’m not believing anything this man says and do not link with him after the two weeks had passed. He calls me up and asked what happened so I told him, I didn’t believe him. 

“He had me look him up on spot and then said ‘Last chance. Ross will be here in a month. Come to the hotel and we’ll get everything situated.”

A.J.: “That is…insane.”

Trillz: “Bro, it was. And I mean, Rick Ross truly carried himself like a boss. He wasn’t portraying anything. He was all about his business. It was a dope conversation and a great time.”

A.J.: “So…I’m wondering. My readers will be wondering…Why didn’t we get Trillz Nation on MMG?”

Trillz: “So for context, I live my life based on Biblical principles. That’s just who I am. He actually offered me a deal to do a mixtape under MMG. No official signing, just a short, performance based contract. I thought about what he was asking for and I told him, ‘I appreciate what your’e offering and all you’ce said and done up to this point, but I can’t sign with you. It was really just me telling him I didn’t want to associate myself with what he portrayed in music. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I felt like I had to compromise my beliefs. And man, you could tell Ross is not used to being told ‘no’. He also thought I was saying he didn’t believe in God. But we cleared all that up because that was not what I meant. *laughs*.

“But the way I knew he was such a real dude was how even though he was upset, he told me how he respected me standing on my beliefs.”

After more interaction, Trillz and his team left the hotel with everyone all smiles. Trillz the happiest of them all, not only leave with a Rick Ross co-sign but also with Ross’s personal cellphone number. The only issue with that? He lost his phone two days later.

“This is before iCloud and all that. I didn’t have an iPhone at the time. So when I lost my phone, I lost everything. When I tell you I was sick…I mean to my stomach sick.”

A story that’s so crazy that it can’t be false? That’s what you just read. Trillz Nation is a man and artist who without even knowing it represents growth and maturity. Someone who makes me proud to now call him friend and a brother.

Starting out under the moniker Vontrilla; a name inspired by Godzilla, feeling like he was a monster in his respected craft. From there, he shortened the name to Trilla. From there it was just Trillz. The Nation came from a promoter he misunderstood the artist from a fan page he ran. The common ingredient was that Trillz Nation was always a man who would never compromise his beliefs in order to gain notoriety but will accept and embrace anyone. Someone who is True and Real

Find Trillz Nation on social media platforms and hear him and more of our favorite artists on the upcoming “Suave’s Winter Heat” Playlist that will be available on Spotify and Apple Music in February.

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