Shortcuts – Tree Thirteen’s Rough Grooves Surface

By Peter Robinett

Three Thirteen

Rough Grooves Surface

Out the Box

Up-and-coming Chicago hip-hop group Tree Thirteen have launched themselves onto the music scene with their debut album Rough Grooves Surface, which is sure to please music fans everywhere with their quality tunes and engaging lyrics. The group is composed of front man Tree Roots and his partner behind the turntables DJ 007. The album is an ambitious project, including rock and R&B elements and everything in between. It is a testament to Tree Thirteen’s skill that this hybrid never comes across as forced or artificial, but instead evolves into a coherent sound. “Cab Driver” may have grinding guitars, “Y Bother?” funky bass lines, and “Junkie Poet Hustler” sparse country-style acoustic guitar, but the entire album feels unified. These diverse songs are united by Tree’s delivery and lyrics dealing with the trials and challenges of everyday life.

I had the pleasure of seeing the group perform live at an album launch party. Supported by two backup singers, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer, Three Thirteen sounded just like they did in the studio. In fact, I think this was the entire studio group, minus a few guest artists. Tree Thirteen tore through their set, breezing through all the songs on their album. Tree made sure to point out several times throughout the night that he wasn’t a good singer, but also that he considered himself better than a singer—a rapper.

He also claimed this was his first time on stage since 1998, but it sure didn’t show. Tree is a talented singer and skillfully played with his lyrics throughout the night, freestyling when the mood struck, giving credence to his claim that being a rapper is more impressive than being just a singer. Tree Thirteen’s backup singers added new depth and energy to some of the songs, while the band added an additional rock element to the songs. Special mention should be given for the guitarist, who wowed the crowd at the end of the show by playing his electronic guitar so that it sounded like a synthesizer.

Usually a writer will compare the album being reviewed to the group’s previous releases; I can’t do that because this album is Tree Thirteen’s debut. What I can say is that this a great album with a diverse sound that should appeal to just about anyone. Check it out and support Chicago musicians!