Truth Universal
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Truth Universal

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2000 | INDIE

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2000
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Truth Universal
Decolonization Mixtape Review
Written by Anna Farinas

Keeping close to the roots of hip hop, Truth Universal offers a welcome change from the stereotypical New Orleans sound. You will not find hand claps in his music, no gunshot samples, and no references to wobbling or shaking anything. This is not egotistic gang banging, sugarcoated with bounce beats. Instead, his work is reminiscent of the basement parties when hip hop was new, and experimental. Truth avoids the trendiness of the conscious, political emcees, and manages to portray New Orleans not as a party city, but one of corruption, a city in desperate need of social change.

Many tracks feature the ever-popular phone call, yet do not seem gratuitous in their usage. One caller hails from Barbados, while a sultry voice announces the album as the “Decolonización” mixtape. These, along with Truth’s Trinidadian background, act as testament to the universality of his message. The beats that back Truth’s voice are kept simple, to showcase his lyrical dexterity. In Put It On Your Mind, he sets himself apart from the rest, saying that 85% of all emcees are not saying anything constructive or provocative, and to look elsewhere for foolishness. But don’t think that conscious emcees are humorless militants. Truth Universal is witty, too, claiming that “cats bite these rhymes like Holifield’s ears.”

His beats are jazzy, reflecting the history of New Orleans, rich with acoustic bass. He tells a story in Statistically Speaking about the oppression of minorities in his own back yard, and speaks out against the mistreatment in Kemau. He appeals to urban warriors to civilly disobey the “crooked cats with rotten deals.” Dashiki Dialogue is the highlight of the mixtape, featuring a call-in from Lyrikill of Euphonetiks fame. Heavy with turntablism, this track calls attention to the rampant materialism of hip hop culture. The next track literally hits home, as Truth makes commentary on the phenomenon of gentrification, a process in full swing in certain areas of New Orleans.

The freestyles on the album match the mood he has set through previous songs. Their inclusion again adds to his attempt to preserve the dynamism of true hip hop. Truth gets a little more politically outspoken in the next couple of songs, including a mimic of George W. Bush declaring Truth Universal as far more dangerous than any weapon of mass destruction. He reminds his audience, however, that you can still dance to political hip hop. In CMS, he speaks about self-determination, refusing to “do it wrong” simply to make money.

Truth hits it right on, in the last track, calling what he makes “grown folks’ hip hop.” His music is not for the ignorant, socially unaware youngsters that do not want to make a difference. One of the biggest questions in hip hop is “What do you represent?” Truth Universal represents a higher echelon of knowledge. In Mind Frame he includes a vocal sample: “We pride ourselves on the high moral standards of our program” which reflects the vision he conveys through his music.
- www.neworleansbands.net


Artist: The Restless Natives
Title: The Restless Natives: Dedicated To The Victims Of Hurricane Katrina
Rating:
Reviewed by: Eb Haynes

Hip-Hop heads grab your backpacks and lace up your Timberlands. The Restless Natives (Dragonsbreath) dedication album to Hurricane Katrina victims has alleviated the bounce. This eclectic group of underground, universally unknown indie artists chose to season their music with layered, mellow percussion based grooves. It's obvious from beginning to an all instrumental end, The Restless Natives are committed to ole’ school sensibilities.

The album is a culmination of 20 varying lyricist affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. However the work is not solely limited to the telling of survival stories. DJ Raj Smoove and Dizzy on "Promise" speak to a father's sincere love for his child. "Never Get Enough" and the hypnotic "Dream" are ballads. Regardless of boasting, mostly about being broke, these indie fawlies (guys) are representing for their fallen city. The first track "Introducing" featuring Nesby Phipps, Truth Universal and Jules produced by DJ Maxmillion, invites listeners to partake in a prized tradition coveted by New Orleans natives-jazz. The song offers a sampling of a jazz set then it morphs into a Roots(esque) tune, laced with lyrical dimension. A welcome attribute lost to more popular songs stemming from the South.

"They say New Orleanians like to drink/That's a lie.” Emcee Don Libido the 9th Ward Avenger, spits this ironic verse on "If Memory Serves", a track reminiscent to the Jungle Brothers movement. Don Libido truly stands out on the 14-track jaunt. His verses yield uncompromising truth blended with a drunken burlesque sense of humor. Another noteworthy track is "Alday" produced by a recurring Dick Darby featuring Bi®d of Raw Poetix and MC Roach. This somber Digable Planets style track, speaks to street life and to the almost nonexistent rebuilding of New Orleans.

The album has a few production pitfalls and the rhyming on "Rain or Shine" is substandard. Overall, The Restless Natives deliver a refreshing reprieve from monotonous big-booty, bling bling, at the club, commercial pop-rap. Like the ubiquitous New Orleans gumbo, this compilation album cooks up a bevy of ingredients while maintaining, according to Truth Universal on "Heat", a "grown folks Hip-Hop" flavor.


http://www.allhiphop.com/reviews/?ID=942 - Allhiphop.com


Insomniac:
Issue #18 p. 50
(Plantation Graffiti EP)
“This album has a nice militant twist over medium cypher beats. They work the Tech 12’s well on the hooks, which gives Truth Universal a real hip hop feel. These New Orleans brothers are taking out their frustration on most of the tracks on the nine-track album.” –Show Doctor
- Insomniac Magazine


In the Wake of Katrina, Comp Reveals Another Side of N.O.
Posted In: Reviews

The tragic consequences of hurricane Katrina’s rampage through New Orleans exposed the entire world to the fact that the Big Easy is actually a troubled city haunted by racism, corruption and dire poverty. A year later, we’re learning that troubled citizens weren’t the only thing covered up by the city’s erstwhile rep as a party town—it turns out that Crescent City hip-hop is much more than its flagship labels, No Limit and Cash Money.

The Restless Natives, a compilation released this summer, features over a dozen underground New Orleans artists, most of whom have a sound that’s more NYC than NOLA. The album, available from N.O. indie Dragon’s Breath Records, was in the works prior to Katrina, but the project coalesced in the storm’s aftermath. “I’m very close friends with almost everyone on the CD, so it was a way to help them,” says Dragon’s Breath CEO Jennifer Corbridge, the former hip-hop director at college-radio station WTUL in New Orleans. “When hurricane Katrina happened, a lot of them were displaced. At that point I decided to change it up, and dedicating it to the victims of the hurricane was just a small way I could contribute.” The proceeds from the compilation’s sale will go to the artists, all of whom suffered losses in the storm.

Corbridge says that five songs came post-Katrina, two of which address the storm directly—“Alday” by Dick Darby and “Mayhem in Metropolis” by J Infinite—but now the heartbreak is never far from the artists’ minds. “I wanted to write about Katrina right after it happened, but I couldn’t. I guess because I was too preoccupied with what had happened,” says Truth Universal, a longtime New Orleans MC who is featured on two of The Restless Natives’ tracks and is signed to Paris’ Guerrilla Funk Records. The collection also serves as a chance to showcase another side of N.O. rap. “Some people think everyone from the South has the same sound,” says Dragon’s Breath producer DJ Maxmillion, who serves as the comp’s host on the first track, “Introducing.” “But it’s not true. I don’t worry too much about the [differences]. To me, there are only two kinds of music, good and bad.”



http://xxlmag.com/online/?p=4130 - XXL.com


Truth Universal

Born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and raised in New Orleans, Truth Universal has a breadth of experience to draw from. On his impressive debut album, Self Determination, the rapper explores social topics and pairs with an impressive roster of legendary rappers to help drive home his message. "Black Culture" features Digable Planets' Cee Know the Doodlebug and Poor Righteous Teachers' Wise Intelligent. The song is a throwback to the type of thought-provoking music that used to be among the culture's most visible. In the same social commentary style Truth Universal hits hard with the equally arresting "Angola 3," a riveting look at a little-known yet mind-blowing Louisiana criminal case. Although some of the production is strong (especially the work of Panik). some of it could be better, as the sometimes bland loops sap some
of the power of the lyrics. Nonetheless, Self Determination is a noteworthy entree from an artist with an important musical message.
- The Source Magazine--July 2008 p. 88



Issue #21 p. 35
(New Orleans’ Finest Remix feat. Divine True Earth Maxi Single)
“Quality, politically conscious hip hop music from Louisiana. No dirty in this southern-based hip hop crew’s four track single which features four songs that will break any present stereotypes that you may have about southern hip hop. From the title track to “Statistically Speaking,” a frank song about the plight of the Black males from the streets to the penitentiary system, Truth Universal brings a good release worth checking out.”
-Raze
- Insomniac Magazine


Truth Universal
Self Determination
(Dragon's Breath Records : 80)
80B-
Posted on 05/06/2008

To the east my brother to the east, c’mon… Truth Universal actually represents New Orleans via the West Indies but that doesn’t make him any less afro-centric than Brother J. Knowledge sprays and angst permeates Self-Determination but not in an alienating or overtly negative sort of way. And by way of his incredibly rich musical heritage, this Trini-gladiator anti-hesitator keeps a kung-fu grip on well-rounded intelligent music that actually sounds good. Balance is palatable, kid. TU gets his throughout with verbal jabs like; “Kill conformity rumors, keep your faction quiet / still more against the grain than the Atkins Diet.” Aside from that it’s some fuck-a-Bush, Black Steel type prison break shit. Wise Intelligent and C-Knowledge (b/k/a Doodlebug from Digable Planets) come through on “Black Culture,” a Panik from The Molemen banger. Stic Man cameos on “What It’s Bout,” a bouncy time bomb of a track that stays funky and fun despite its militancy. And at this point, Truth’s alignment with Pars’ Guerilla Funk family makes perfect sense. Check for his next release, Decolinization, slated to drop in October on Guerilla Funk Records.

Overall this is a pretty thick album. Verbally verbose, musically warm, but hard enough beatwise to hang with TU’s tongue. It doesn’t make me feel like a bad person nor does it make me want to punch somebody in the face. It’s conscious and out-spoken without being pretentious and preachy. It’s a big world. But truth is universal.

- Jeff Artist - Okayplayer.com


A commitment to hip-hop: you generally don't hear that coming from a lot of people these days, or when you do, the commitment is dedicated to having 12 commercial endorsements and creating a DVD to submit to film directors for future roles that everyone will bash once the film is released. If you want to make the next Cool As Ice, be my guest. It is nice when I do come across an artist whose commitment to the music is felt immediately, and I can say that about Truth Universal. He has been doing his thing from New Orleans for almost ten years, and has developed a reputation for telling it like it is over hot tracks created by some of the best underground producers out there. The fact that he hasn't been recognized alongside Mos Def and Common is a crime, but he continues to do the hustle and grind with the release of Self-Determination (Dragon's Breath).

Truth Universal writes lyrics that are meant to be listened to and read, it is obvious he puts a lot into his words and if you don't pay attention you might miss the kind of wisdom that is intended for you. In "Heat!!!" he lights a verbal fuse and you get to watch the mission become possible in the name of "grown folks hip-hop". The track has him saying that he has paid his dues and will not be involved in a battle unless you dare confront the man about how black culture (being) sabotaged or how some are taking niggas out the picture, like Passion of the Christ. The metaphors are sharp and throughout the album one will find themsleves with a smirk on stand-by, for he's clever with his lines and rhymes and he always pulls out a surprise out of nowhere. He's not out there to simply snap at anyone, for he touches on the importance of family, political and social struggles, and isn't afraid to state that the powers that be put people in their domestic prisons without ever stepping into a jail cell. "Angola 3" talks about some of the injustice happening in the Louisiana state prison system, something that can be found in any part of this country. He does it with such a groove that you can't help but nod your head or move from side to side, and yet you're also moved by how great the songwriting is, ranking up there with some of hip-hop's best. The negativity on this album is what Truth Universal is fighting against, and while he realizes that drastic changes can't be done without an effort, Self Determination proves that with an effort you can rise to your personal best, and make the world look into themselves and unite for the common cause. That common cause will still exist, as long as rappers like Truth Universal are living.

Top picks: "Angola 3", "Heat!!!", "Black Culture", "Feminine Melanin", "Freedom Or Death".

(Self Determination is available directly from TruthUniversal.com. You can also listen to MP3 snippets from the album on the order page.)
- therunoffgroove.blogspot.com


Truth Universal
“Self Determination”
Dragon Breath Records
myspace.com/truthuniversal

AUGUSTA, GA. - Trinidad-born, New Orleans, La., raised rapper Truth Universal adds another notch in the belt of social and political awareness. In the same vein as Public Enemy, the conscious triplet consisting of Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli, and Dead Prez, Truth actually speaks the truth with mind-clenching lyricism and bumping beats.

One thing is for certain on “Self Determination.” Once you’re enticed and lead into a neck snapping fit due to the beats, Truth springs a plethora of information on you. You’re cornered with topics like the current injustice in progress concerning the Angola 3, consisting of three men jailed in solitary confinement for nearly 36 years for exposing abuse in the system and allegedly murdering a correction officer in the early 1970s (“Angola 3”). Against a laidback beat featuring a Roy Ayers’ sample, Truth explains the difficulty of being a conscious rapper in the industry and asks, “Everybody loves the cars, clothes, murder, sex/if that aint my focus, is my s*** still fresh? (“Gotta Luv It”).”

He vows to his newborn a lifetime of teachings and protection from harmful vaccines on “Beautiful Child (Interlude),” and in the wake of the recent acquittal of New York police officers in the killing of Sean Bell, “Serve & Protect” seems to fit the album perfectly.

If you’re looking to be entertained by way of lyrics about the ridiculous norm hip-hop has to offer, such as extravagant possessions, and illegal activities as a means to survive, then you’re out of luck with this album. If you’re tired of riding the wave with Flo-Rida and Shawty Lo, “Self Determination” may be a welcomed alternative. It seeks to uplift and educate on topics that most of us choose not to acknowledge, or are completely unaware of.

-Frazia Lee - metrospirit.com


Truth Universal
Self Determination
(Dragon's Breath Records : 80)
80B-
Posted on 05/06/2008

To the east my brother to the east, c’mon… Truth Universal actually represents New Orleans via the West Indies but that doesn’t make him any less afro-centric than Brother J. Knowledge sprays and angst permeates Self-Determination but not in an alienating or overtly negative sort of way. And by way of his incredibly rich musical heritage, this Trini-gladiator anti-hesitator keeps a kung-fu grip on well-rounded intelligent music that actually sounds good. Balance is palatable, kid. TU gets his throughout with verbal jabs like; “Kill conformity rumors, keep your faction quiet / still more against the grain than the Atkins Diet.” Aside from that it’s some fuck-a-Bush, Black Steel type prison break shit. Wise Intelligent and C-Knowledge (b/k/a Doodlebug from Digable Planets) come through on “Black Culture,” a Panik from The Molemen banger. Stic Man cameos on “What It’s Bout,” a bouncy time bomb of a track that stays funky and fun despite its militancy. And at this point, Truth’s alignment with Pars’ Guerilla Funk family makes perfect sense. Check for his next release, Decolinization, slated to drop in October on Guerilla Funk Records.

Overall this is a pretty thick album. Verbally verbose, musically warm, but hard enough beatwise to hang with TU’s tongue. It doesn’t make me feel like a bad person nor does it make me want to punch somebody in the face. It’s conscious and out-spoken without being pretentious and preachy. It’s a big world. But truth is universal.

- Jeff Artist - Okayplayer.com


Putting on a live outdoor rap show at 11 a.m. on a Thursday can't be an easy feat. But New Orleans emcee Truth Universal and DJ E.F. Cuttin' didn't let the early hour or slim crowd stop them from putting on an energetic and passionate, though a bit disjointed, show for the folks scattered about the grass in front of the Congo Square Stage at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

A veteran force on the New Orleans underground scene, Truth Universal has toured various cities, sharing the stage with the likes of Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Mos Def, The Roots and Alanis Morissette.

Thursday morning's set reflected the emcee's background, as well as the musical movements of the African diaspora, combining distinctly African and Caribbean rhythms and instruments with the original sounds of American hip-hop.

Truth Universal was born in Trinidad and Tobago, but moved to New Orleans at age 4. He claims influence from brass, bass, calypso, reggae, soul, jazz, and gospel music, a range that showed in his Thursday morning performance in an entertaining and creative, though not always smooth, fashion.

DJ E.F. Cuttin' provided innovative additions to the music, with plenty of samples and deft scratching. Luther Gray, percussionist for New Orleans multicultural ensemble Bamboula 2000, provided a mix of beats on congas and a djembe. A bassist and a female vocalist also added to the sound.

Truth Universal + DJ E.F.Cuttin' performing at the Congo stage for the first Thursday of Jazz Fest 2014, May 1, 2014. (Photo by Dmitriy Pritykin, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Truth Universal + DJ E.F.Cuttin' performing at the Congo stage for the first Thursday of Jazz Fest 2014, May 1, 2014. (Photo by Dmitriy Pritykin, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Truth's lyrics and rap style feel heavily influenced by old-school hip-hop in cadence and message, his focus fixed much more on being socially-conscious than catchy or industry-pleasing.

On Thursday, he issued a dose of "real talk" on poverty, race, murder, and the politics of the music industry, backed by music that changed frequently, sometimes abruptly, from fast, complex African rhythms to slow-jam grooves to the distinct, mellow drive of Jamaican drumbeats.

"I'm bringing you the gospel according to Truth," the emcee announced, launching into a tune from his latest album, "Invent the Future," released last fall.

Tunes from his newest project, such as "Mics, Checks and Balances" and "Motivated," seemed to work especially well.

"Mics, Checks and Balances" featured nice, tight rhythms from DJ E.F. Cuttin's "wheels" and Gray's congos, creating a fascinating combo of African and hip-hop sounds. "Motivated" dished out an empowering message while showcasing the backup vocalist.

"Obstacles and struggles just keep us motivated," the emcee and vocalist repeated.

This certainly seemed to be the case on Thursday, as the musician and his band worked to keep the attention of a small, near motionless audience.

Though a few crowd members stood near the stage, most remained planted in lawn chairs or seated on the grass.

But the audience seemed to enjoy the show, nodding along to the lyrics from reclined poses atop blankets, in chairs, and on the grass, even throwing up an arm to bounce to the beat.

"Thank y'all for your energy," the emcee said before leaving the stage. "I'm Truth Universal. Peace." - Times Picayune


Though he has been the unofficial leader of southern hip-hop for more than a decade, New Orleans staple Truth Universal STILL somehow manages to fly below the ears of the masses. Once I was made aware of his movements and musical catalog, I had to include the OG. Born in Trinidad, Truth Universal has an “international perspective” when it comes to hip-hop culture that he bestows in both his rhyming and interpersonal practices. Truth’s mantra, Invent the Future, is borrowed from Thomas Sankara and aims to “challenge the status quo to make way for innovation.” The listener is invited to creatively explore such themes as domestic violence, food security and justice, youth violence, and industry marginalization. With a keen attention to detail and a deep-rooted passion to induce social change, Truth Universal speaks vividly through his rhymes to convey points that may otherwise be ignored. It’s in this way that the audience he aims to reach can hear him - and it’s been effective. Truth and his music have inspired, and even mentored, some of Louisiana’s top prospects over the years. With a large variety of motivating/encouraging projects, videos and singles to choose from, Truth’s legacy is guaranteed to live long beyond the norm. Get hip now. - DJBooth.net


Discography

"Resistance Vol. 2: Polygraph"
Truth Universal Music
March 2011

Guerilla Business EP
Truth Universal Music
July 2010

Self-Determination LP
Truth Universal Music/Dragon's Breath Records
April 2008

The Move The Crowd Mixtape
Truth Universal Music
Fall 2006

Mind Frame featuring Zion I
12" Vinyl
Truth Universal Music/Dragon's Breath Records
Fall 2005

Heat!!! 12" Vinyl
Truth Universal Music/Domination Recordings/egruks Music
June 2004

New Orleans' Finest Remix/Statistically Speaking/Kamau 12" Vinyl
Truth Universal Music/Advanced Ideas Music
Jan 2003

Four Track Mind/New Orleans' Finest 12" Vinyl
Truth Universal Music/Advanced Ideas Music
May 2001

Plantation Graffiti: The Naked Truth Dressed To Kill EP
Truth Universal Music/Advanced Ideas Music
April 2001

Dashiki Dialogue/Put It On Your Mind/Natural Disaster 12" Vinyl
Truth Universal Music
September 2000

Photos

Bio

Born in the village of Diego Martin, Trinidad, Truth Universal became a New Orleans resident at age 4 – the same time the Hip Hop Genesis was taking place. In the Crescent City, he grew up on Hip Hop, brass bands, calypso, bass music, reggae, soul, jazz, and gospel. “Some of my first memories include going to the Gentilly Woods Mall and my Mama buying me my first tape, which was the Fat Boys’ first album,”he says. “I also remember the Merly Merl’s (this guy named Merlin from a neighborhood close by mine) mixtapes, going by my friend Ralph’s house across the street and listening to his 12 inches, and digging in the dumpster at Read Supermarket for boxes to break on. Back then I wanted to DJ more than anything else. My family never could afford to buy me any 1200s.” Through the years, he carefully studied the unspoken rules and examples set forth by the early practitioners of the art of Hip Hop. “I began dabbling in rhyming. In 1991, per the suggestion of a friend, I started writing and really started taking it seriously.” Truth says of his decision to take the music seriously. His ideals of Hip Hop preservation, and nonconformity, coupled with his social dialogue makes him a significant factor in today’s Hip Hop arena. “The reason my music sounds like it does is a conscious effort to keep it in the vein of what made me gravitate to Hip Hop,” he explains. “I would just call it traditional. I’m very mindful of the structure, feel, the DJ presence and a degree of provocative content.”

Beginning in 2000, TU dropped a string of 12” singles, EPs , and mixtapes which led to the release of his debut full length—“Self-Determination(Truth Universal Music/Dragon’s Breath Records)”—in April 2008. The album peaked at #9 on the CMJ Hip Hop Album Chart. Now in 2011, Truth has released "Resistance Vol. 2: Polygraph," the follow-up to 2010's "Guerrilla Business." The project recently charted on CMJ's top 40 Hip Hop Chart.

In support of his releases, Truth has toured the U.S. and Canada, playing such festivals as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), North by Northeast (NXNE), Power to the Peaceful, Voodoofest, and more. He’s shared the stage with such exceptional acts as Luciano, Mos Def, Alanis Morissette, Michael Franti, Zion I, Talib Kweli, Little Brother, Sly & Robbie, and Digable Planets to name a few.

Links:

http://truthuniversal.com
http://twitter.com/truthuniversal
http://facebook.com/truthuniversal

http://myspace.com/truthuniversal

Band Members