Ryan Trey is an R&B trap singer who’s sorry for petty relationship drama

His debut album ‘Streets Say You Miss Me’ is out Nov. 3.
R&B and hip-hop upstart Ryan Trey poses for a portrait at Billboard Studios in Atlanta on Monday, October 16, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

R&B and hip-hop upstart Ryan Trey poses for a portrait at Billboard Studios in Atlanta on Monday, October 16, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Talking about the depths of heartbreak is so seamless for Ryan Trey that he can easily contextualize it while describing his love for hookah at the same time. In mid-October at Atlanta’s Billboard Studios, the St. Louis-born, Atlanta-based artist is refreshingly honest. And it’s not the type of honesty that feels pompous enough to perceive him as the “nice guy” in romantic relationships. He’s keenly aware of his mistakes.

In turn, his songs about relationship woes sound as turbulent as a hurricane — making you want to save him upon the first listen. “Rather be dead ‘cause without you I’d be dead inside,” he sings on “Seeing Signs,” a track from his forthcoming album.

“I’m just hurt, you know,” he said. “Like, just really hurt. Even now, when I listen to certain things, I’m like, ‘Why did I say that?’ ... I’m still apologizing for the way things fell out.”

“Streets Say You Miss Me,” the singer’s major label debut album, drops on Friday, Nov. 3. And, like most of his projects, it’s inspired by a recent breakup. But this time, Trey is as remorseful as he is rebellious. Across 13 tracks, he delivers a sometimes caustic and sometimes heartfelt ode to a soured relationship that became even messier after the breakup. The album boasts features from Mariah the Scientist, Vory, Chase Shakur and NoCap.

“As I was going through this thing in my love life, it kind of gave me things to say. It was like a catch-22 because the substance was there, but there’s a version of me that wishes I didn’t have to go through anything I went through to get the music I got.”

R&B and hip-hop upstart Ryan Trey poses for a portrait at Billboard Studios in Atlanta on Monday, October 16, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

The new LP chronicles the aftermath of a breakup that occurred roughly two years ago. At the time, Trey lived in Los Angeles and admits that he embarked on a bitter summer feud with his ex just to prove how much he didn’t care about her, although he did. Things got as petty as subliminal Instagram posts and awkward run-ins with them arguing in public.

“I’d Rather Not,” the album’s opener, is backed by booming chords that blare so loudly in the beginning to introduce an important declaration that Trey wants you to know: he’s no longer responding to texts from his ex (“Thinking to myself, ‘Oh my god can’t go down this road again’/ [Expletive] so hard cause I can’t hold back the feelings I’m holding in,” he sings on the track). The acoustic strings of “Redwing Drive” make Trey’s detailed reflection on the demise of his relationship sound like a sweet lullaby. But, by the end of the song, it transforms into bars of denial that attempt to mask his pain. “Ain’t Even Friends,” which features Mariah the Scientist, finds the pair trading lines about how much they mourn a failed romance.

“(We were) trying to one up each other in hopes of making each other jealous, so like staying outside, talking to new people we didn’t really care about just to get under each other’s skin knowing neither of us are really like outside type of people,” the 24-year-old said about the breakup. “Regardless of how fine we may act like we are, we’re just hurt it ended the way it did... I may look like I’ve moved on, but the streets are telling her the opposite and it sounds more like I missed her and I’m telling her the same thing.”

The drama highlighted in Trey’s new music stems from his previous relationships. Although Trey was born and raised in St. Louis, his family moved to Washington, D.C., when he was in third grade, and he stayed there until his freshman year of high school when he returned to St. Louis. That’s when he experienced his first heartbreak from someone he considered his childhood sweetheart.

“It was tough because not only was that the girl I wanted to be with, she was also my segue to stay in touch with everybody in D.C., so I kind of went through this depression,” Trey said. “I went to four different high schools in four years. I never had a set friend group, which kind of threw me into music because I was always in my room a lot, just being by myself and I started writing and stuff like that. That’s what threw me into making music in general.

“Obviously, me just being young, I thought the long distance at that time was going to work,” he said. “She ended up cheating and a whole bunch of stuff. Going through that that young was kind of traumatizing.”

That was the impetus for his debut project “August,” which dropped in 2018. Trey’s effortless knack of weaving trap beats with his bluesy croons on melodramatic romance garnered the attention of LeBron James and R&B singer Bryson Tiller, with whom Trey collaborated on the 2019 single “Nowhere to Run.” He followed that success with 2021′s “A 64 East Saga,” a 14-track EP that alludes to the late-night drives on I-64 that became his solace amid relationship uncertainty with a different ex.

“‘A 64 East Saga’ was like (me) meeting someone, then realizing that I’m only with you because I’m trying to recover from the first situation, so I’m with you out of comfortability not cause I really, really love you,” he said. “And ‘Streets Say You Miss Me’ is (about) someone I actually love, but I didn’t know who I was when I met you. Even though, you’re the one I feel like is for me, it’s still not working because I didn’t heal myself from these two situations.”

R&B and hip-hop upstart Ryan Trey poses for a portrait at Billboard Studios in Atlanta on Monday, October 16, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

icon to expand image

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Now, Trey affirms that he’s no longer upset by the most recent breakup. He even hints at a future project where he’s able to reveal his softer side because he knows that “hurting the person that hurt you won’t help you heal.”

He credits his move to Atlanta for his growth as an artist. “Streets Say You Miss Me” is his most collaborative project to date. Trey moved to from Los Angeles to Atlanta because he likes the city’s tight-knit musical community, which led him to work with fellow Atlanta artist Mariah the Scientist and develop a professional relationship with her.

No song on “Streets Say You Miss Me” highlights Trey’s growth more than “Nobody,” the closing track. It’s swaddled in a bubbly dance beat that makes the tension in Trey’s croons for a past lover feel exciting.

Although he’s grateful for his budding popularity (just listen to his appearance on Jordan Ward’s entrancing jam “White Crocs,” which SZA and Tyler, the Creator co-signed), Trey isn’t really concerned about mainstream attention. He just wants to continue making music that’s honest.

“I’d care more about it if what I was saying on these songs weren’t true, and I was just hit-chasing and it was just about the money and that was it. But this is like therapy for me”.”

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