Joe Sweatpants, formerly known as Tru Speech, is a rapper based out in San Bernandino, California. As one of the many artists in the Inland Empire region, he's commonly associated with the Over Everything collective and some of its members: Jay Kasai, Cam Archer, CJ Westley, and Nicklaus Gray. Whether your introduction of Joe was from The Midnight Run Podcast with Kasai and Archer like myself, or from his famous Clubhouse LoveGame show when Clubhouse was at peak popularity, or his past music as Tru Speech, if you're tuned into the West Coast indie scene, you probably heard of him one way or another. He debuted his new name on his latest single On The Moon featuring JaneyRox and JustHeaven. I had the honor to chat with Joe about the IE and his journey as an artist.
Jay: How would you define the Inland Empire music scene to someone who’s new to it?
Joe: It’s separated into two different groups: conscious rappers and turn-up rappers. Both sides have people that can really RAP and have people that can make good songs but there’s A LOT of artists. There’s something for everybody.
Jay: What were some of the ways COVID affected your various career paths? You’re currently in school studying psychology if I’m correct so was that move also influenced because of COVID or was it further amplified by the pandemic and how isolation affected people’s behaviors and become possible anxiety triggers?
Joe: I am currently in school for psychology, and COVID did leave negative and positive effects on myself and my psych career. One effect was there was so much alone time where I learned so much about myself that I got to see that it was something that I really wanted to do professionally. I sat down with myself and figure out what I wanted to do was to help other people. A negative effect was that a lot of classes I need to take I could only take on campus. Due to that setback, I had to take a step back for a semester. It was cool to have a vacation, but it was a small setback.
Photo creds: Bria Celest @55mmbae on Twitter
Jay: What about your music?
Joe: What’s crazy is that all the music I made during quarantine, which is eight songs, are some of the best songs I ever made. In my lifetime, I made roughly sixty songs but those eight songs I made, I’m the proudest of. They were so different outside of my previous music styles that if people ask if I was an artist, I will show them those eight songs. That’s how much confidence and pride I have within those certain songs.
Jay: Do you implement any of what you learned in your educational background towards your music, or do you tend to keep those things separated from each other?
Joe: ONE HUNDRED PERCENT I MIX THEM TOGETHER. I have always been invested in therapy and the way people think and do why what they do right now I turned it into a career. I was always interested in learning other’s thinking patterns, how body language can say things that we don’t vocally say, and just reading energy.
Jay: In your previous works such as Wednesday and your verse on the OE Remix of Feel Important from Jay Kasai’s project Kasai Tape 2, you reflect on past relationships and their fallouts. You state either apathy or conflicting feelings to end bonds. An example would be “I hated myself, so much berated myself, I lied in so many beds that if women were wealth, I’d be rich… I have to try to fight it, two women at the same time, one was always crying, the other one in denial, she told me to be straightforward like the Nile, how the fuck can you tell someone that you love that you be lying…” However, if we look at the other extreme you have works where you place a woman of interest on a pedestal. On American Girl, you praise how she grew into a mature woman and promise that you’ll carry the weight when things get too heavy for her.
Do you see your music as a way of finding answers to those past situations or to get off words that you couldn’t say in those certain moments?
Joe: Well, I love the quotes that you chose, and this is an amazing question. Yes, I do use my music to be my voice for those situations. You know when in those situations with people that you can’t say everything you thinking to prevent yourself from hurting feelings or that you don’t know what you say is an instant reaction without thinking of the different variables that factor into the matter? What my music is, it’s a way for me to go back in time and do those situations over again in a different way.
In some situations, I’m usually either confused and slow things down or my instant reaction is anger which isn’t good. I go home, think it over, and say and said “Oh, I completely understand why things happened that way now. I do go on both sides of the spectrum with songs like Wednesday and American Girl. Fun fact: For Wednesday, I was working a forty-hour workweek in a rough spot and I wrote American Girl in quarantine. Wednesday sounds more like I’m rapping on the beat because I used that song progress as a way to relieve stress. I rapped the song as I would make my way to work but for American Girl I wrote without a beat, and it helped me relive that moment to say more of how I feel than just to rap.
Jay: I feel like my previous question relates to your Getting Out Of Bed Is Hard album that dropped in late 2019. You named every track after the days of the week in the seven-track EP. The article I wrote for it on FeelGoodRVA expounded on the themes of alcoholism and lust which some remnants of it are displayed in American Girl where you stated “You’re everything girl, I want you more than anything girl, and that’s the truth even if I’m off the Hennessey girl. Innocent girl, never did a crime or nothing negative… are you listening girl? Probably not got me blocked, I promised I would stop but I’m going through a lot, things changed. I promise she’s a friend of me girl, I cheated once and now you see me as an enemy girl? Damn…”
What can listeners expect of Kikou? Will it stray a different path from your prior discography?
Joe: It’s a concept album. It’s my second one with this approach as the first one was Getting Out Of Bed Is Hard. Each day had a different mood. This album is basically the soundtrack to a relationship. A two-year relationship where this and that happened, and you can hear certain things in different parts of songs in a row that tells a story. They’re in chronological order of the steps in a relationship.
Jay: The three singles you put out in the year which are American Girl, Nodding, and On the Moon, all are a part of the Kioku project which is coming out later in the year.
Joe: Yessir. So the project starts off with American Girl. It talks about me leaving America and going to Japan and the next three songs after that have Japanese themes in the music. Pans are incorporated within the Nodding instrumental and the theme of that is me drinking at bars in Japan. The cover art for the On The Moon single is more bubbly and has Japanese cherry blossoms flowing through the wind. The other songs where I return to America, it has more of the American hip-hop sound. It’s mood music.
Jay: After you drop the project later in the year, what’s next for you?
Joe: After this project, I have three other songs that are all actually pretty positive happy songs and I would love to put those out but I can’t put out positive happy ass songs when the album is really moody. Regardless of how On The Moon sound is. I can’t release too much happy music alongside a sad album to keep the Joe Sweatpants character intact. After the album, it’ll be a lot of fun loose music instead of an album.
Jay: I recall during my first visit to California in March that you said one of your influences was Richmond’s own Nickelus F. In that same conversation, I brought up how you, Kasai, and Cam Archer would bring his name up along with other Richmond artist Fly Anakin since he would perform at The Happiness of Pursuit Festival, THOP festival for short. Who are some of your other musical influences and why?
Joe: Crazy enough, some of my biggest influences are artists that are not popular. Joe Budden. When I listen to his music, that raw honesty he presents, he has songs with no hooks for five to six minutes and I like to hope I do my best to keep my audiences attention to where they can genuinely listen to me, not for the hook, but care what I say and have replay value that my ultimate goals. MF DOOM, REST IN PEACE. My talking voice isn’t my rapping voice. My rapping voice when I flip that switch, I get compared to Earl or Tyler. I listen to a lot of them. It’s deep and impactful.
Jay: How do you stand out from the other artists?
Joe: This is going to be hard to answer without sounding cocky but, before I was a psych major, I was an English major. I love playing with words and I love to impress myself with everything. Especially writing. One of my other influences I forgot to mention earlier was Lil Wayne. Growing up, mixtape Wayne was the best rapper ever. Then I went from Wayne to Eminem and then from Eminem to Lupe Fiasco. All three of them just mastered the pen, triple meanings, alliteration, four syllables rhyming, and multis on top of multis. It’s incredible when you can read something on paper and get something from it after you listen to it like, damn. This is deeper than what he says on the beat. I do just that and I make it happen.
Jay: What’s the greatest no that you’ve ever received and why?
Joe: I would probably by when I was in the Navy and I got medically separated from the navy. I was out in Florida thinking, “If I knock out these four years and start off my career, I’d be straight”. When they sent me home, I went straight into music. I was depressed and beat down and all of that led me to start making music. That’s probably one of the most impactful nos of my life.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you would like to shout out?
Joe: Probably Sonnie Babble. He is super dope in his rapping and has substance. He’s even better whenever he’s on one of OhGoshLeotus productions. Nabeyin, the producer. His combo of talent, consistency, and work ethic is incomparable. The way he sees himself, he never really congratulates himself because he always wants to do better. We look at Nabeyin’s works thinking “Yo, that’s very impressive. That’s great.” and he’s like “No, I can do so much better with this.” You hardly see him hanging out and having fun. He’s always in the studio and I can’t wait for the world to see how great that guy is.
Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.