Fans of Compton-based artist/producer Channel Tres‘ modern spin on the classic house music sound were thrilled to learn last summer that after several EPs, one-off tracks, and collaborations with Tyler, the Creator, Robyn, and JPEGMafia, his debut full-length, Real Cultural Shit, was finally going to be released.
Those same fans may have been slightly confused by the news a few days ago that Real Cultural Shit was downsizing from an album to an EP, and would be released on short notice today (Feb. 24) as his first project on longtime label Godmode in partnership with major-label RCA Records. The six songs found on it will make listeners happy for the time being, and as Channel Tres tells SPIN, there’s new music percolating for the eventual debut album, which he is still working on.
“This batch of songs just felt right to put out right now,” says the classically trained, deep-voiced artist, whose real name is Sheldon Young. “I put out the EPs because conceptually, I’m just trying to get ready for an album. My career started in 2018, and before that, I was just producing for people. It just took me a while to be comfortable with putting all the attention on myself. When you’re coming into music and artistry, you get very unsure of whether it’s what you’re supposed to be doing. With this body of music, I was still figuring that out.”
For Real Cultural Shit, that meant no flashy guest features, in favor of teaming again with longtime collaborators on the production and songwriting side. Songs such as the horn-flecked, fat-grooved “Sleep When Dead” reflect Channel Tres’ ongoing evolution from behind-the-scenes beat-maker to the center of attention in his own project, while “Big Time” is a hat tip to Rick James’ 1980 song of the same name with a classic hip-hop spin nodding to Outkast and Pusha T. Lead single “Just Can’t Get Enough” also salutes late R&B superstar Teddy Pendergrass’ influence on Channel’s budding musical explorations via a sample of his “The More I Get the More I Want.”
“I study Teddy’s career a lot,” Channel says. “He was a big part of my life growing up through being played in my household and at family gatherings. He went from being the lead voice in a group and not getting recognition, to stepping out on his own. I can relate to that a lot. Performance-wise, I’ve really stepped into the lead role in the past year, and Teddy was a big part of that, especially being able to use the sample and get it cleared.”
Likewise, “Sleep When Dead” is almost a farewell in song to the period in Channel’s early career when he was “in survival mode” to make ends meet as a full-time producer. “I was down to do any session. I’d have my monitors and studio equipment in a duffle bag and would pull up to people’s houses to set up and make beats,” says the artist, who was at the time still working as a delivery driver for the grocery company Imperfect Foods. “You can lose sleep when you don’t know when the next check is coming, because you have to stay up and constantly grind. If I was in bed and someone called me at midnight to do something, I’d get up and go.”
With an extensive European headlining tour kicking off March 10 in Stockholm, Channel says he will continue to drop new music as a precursor to the as-yet-untitled full-length album. “I don’t have a timetable, but I have certain songs that are done already and are in the process of being worked on, and videos being shot,” he says. Expect further collaboration with Los Angeles jazz maven Terrace Martin, whose sizzling new single with Channel, “Ducks,” was released earlier this month.
“During the time of making these records, I went through a crazy life change,” he says. “The pandemic happened and I started being more healthy. The way I’m making music has changed. I’ve grown. I’m in a new situation, label-wise. I went on tour before the project was done, got exposed to more things, and started working with different producers. I started having more access to songwriters. Because of that, I want to tackle the album from a different place.”