Aha Gazelle, born William Gazelle Fields Jr., is a 24-year-old rapper originally from New Orleans who gravitated toward music at an early age. He learned how to play several instruments and began to write and produce tracks he could rap over. After releasing several independent mixtapes and albums, his unique beats, catchy hooks, and southern hip-hop style caught the attention of Reach Records. Gazelle signed with the label in 2017 and moved to Atlanta, where he worked quickly to release two full-length albums in less than six months.
Gazelle imagined his latest, Trilliam 3, to end a trilogy of albums and to follow the structure of a funeral, so the album starts with a processional. He chooses to be vulnerable throughout, sharing his struggles and questions around faith, racial injustice, and relationships. In “Get Rich or Die Talking,” he explores the tension of standing up against injustice when it could mean losing the ability to earn a living. “Dumb Dancing” explores his insecurities around being vulnerable with others and the defense mechanisms people sometimes use. In “Things I’ll Never Try,” Gazelle speaks of his resolve to avoid the things that tempt him to hide his vulnerabilities, saying, “I keep people out and then get mad when they never here/when you have a purpose driven life you gotta watch how you steer.” The emotional song “Transform” highlights the pain and brokenness currently felt in the U.S. around racial inequality. Immediately following “Transform,” he creates the persona of Dirty Dan, someone we think is the villain of a movie, but who ends up being the hero.
Other songs on the album have a lighter tone. “Boot Camp” features Tony Ri’Chard and Starringo and provides an amazing beat and infectious chorus. Gazelle ends the album on a more subdued note with several slower songs, culminating in the recessional of the funeral called the “All Black Party.” This song gives us Gazelle’s final words of the Trilliam trilogy, in which he comes back to his racial identity in the current religious and political climate in the U.S.
Trilliam 3 holds up against any mainstream southern hip-hop release with its excellent mix of tracks that are both serious and fun, entertaining and thought-provoking, comforting and challenging, and so much more. Gazelle is so young, I can’t wait until he releases more of his great music to contribute to the conversations that other Reach Records artists like Lecrae are fostering around the church’s role in social justice and race relations. (Reach Records)