He pulls into the parking lot shortly after midnight to receive the usual rap show assemblage (underdressed females, over-posturing males) milling about a crowded and awkwardly arranged spread of cars, many of which outshine the drab exterior of the venue by a considerable margin. Three kids who swear that they’re of age but don’t look a day older than 16 sit on the hood of one and shout, “Don Trip! Lemme get an autograph, a picture or a record deal!” nonspecifically in the direction of a van that, to their knowledge, may or may not actually contain Don Trip. A member of Trip’s four-car deep entourage laughingly brushes them off with reason: “He’s still trying to get on himself.”
The inside of the club appears to betray that logic, though as The All New After 5 Sports Bar and Grill is packed tightly with a couple hundred fans who could very well turn combustible quickly. Word has come down from above that the warm-up DJ blew out the venue’s only set of speakers. While management runs around frantically to figure out exactly how to solve this problem Trip waits backstage—literally. Rather than place him in a green room they have simply cornered off a VIP towards the rear of the stage itself, surrounding a small, booze-stacked table with couches and posse and creating something of a warped Last Supper scenario. Two of the more attractive women in the crowd are either invited or take it upon themselves to join Trip on stage but he appears to interact with them very little. Instead he sits silently, looking alternately focused and frustrated. Part of this is his natural alignment; his deep-set eyes and sharply arched brows suggest a constant intensity that might not always be present.
Trip’s management, too, tries to remedy the speaker situation by offering to instead turn the event into a meet and greet, but before they can organize such an effort, the club’s security produces a new set of speakers and parts the crowd to install them. After some negotiation, Trip finally takes the stage—the front of the stage—at about 1:30AM. There he runs through a 40-minute set of artfully executed songs about gunplay. His is music designed to induce riots and fortunately only comes close to its intended effect on this night. But it’s Trip’s emotional turmoil, not his physical threats that gets the biggest response as “Letter To My Son” builds to its growled thesis statement: Stupid bitch, I just want to see my child. The crowd devours it.
If Trip does manage to cross over, it’s hard to say what, if anything, his success would mean for Memphis. Gotti’s has built a sense of pride, but not of unity. Trip has potential to be an even bigger artist, but without a collective voice in Memphis, ultimately his stardom will be his alone and today the same goes for any artist who might be so lucky as to emerge from a second-city scene. Memphis may see movement in its Richter scale, but without that unity, those spikes will remain few and far between.
While Trip might break out, he has no plans to leave the area anytime soon. He’s a self-professed homebody and his allegiance to his city is one of simple comfort, if not roaring enthusiasm. “I just like Memphis. I like the fact that it’s spacious. Like right now we can stand in the parking lot, at a lot of spots there ain’t no parking lot. You gotta park on the streets. I ain’t too into that,” he says. “I travel all the time but I don’t think I need to move, Memphis is home. Miami is exciting, LA is exciting but no other place is home but home.”