Collin Terrel is a PhD Student – and a Hip Hop Artist – but He’s Not in it for the Fame

HHW Staff
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Terrel

Splitting time between the crime-ridden streets of Inglewood and the peaceful suburb of West Covina, hip hop artist Collin Terrel had a unique perspective growing up in California.

“I was in the inner city a lot but I was also lucky my mom had the foresight to send me to schools in better school districts in more suburban areas,” Terrel says. “A lot of my friends would tell me about their experience in school and it was just a completely different experience than mine. I thought we were getting two vastly different educations. That was the first kind of dual perspective I had.”

Basketball helped Terrel earn a college degree, and playing the sport overseas further widened his perspective and worldview. He worked as a journalist, exposing him to more inequalities, and is now pursuing a doctorate degree.

“All of those things culminated into an experience of seeing certain people marginalized and others pushed to the forefront and in all of those systems I saw similar flaws,” he says

Now he highlights those flaws through music. He released his first EP (Melancholy Cool) as a solo artist in 2018 and has followed that project up with a new album released this October called The Gist of It.

“This is the crux of what I do as an artist,” Terrel says. “I think this is a really defining album if you want to know what my sound is like and the kinds of things I address in my music. Some of the major themes are freedom for everyone and I know that’s going to look a certain way because I identify a certain way. I”m a proud black man. But I believe that none of us are free until we’re all free so I just tried to paint pictures of what that freedom would look like if we weren’t so bogged down in the things that put pressure on us to conform.”

Terrel released a pair of singles in September, “F*ck Today” and “Someplace to Go.” The first features a funky, playful beat over which Terrel addresses taking a break from “woke” culture.

“That song was really important for me to make and express those feelings because I felt like especially in the times we’re in now we’re just dealing with so much to think about on the regular and especially for folks in more marginalized communities, they’re just constantly thinking about things that others don’t have to because of the way they identify. What I wanted to get across in that song is it’s okay to take a break from being “woke” for a little bit because it’s only going to help you recharge and refresh and help you better deal with and champion the causes you’re trying to lift up.”

Videos for both of those singles are available on Collin Terrel’s YouTube channel.

“Lunch and Recess” is another song from the album where Terrel focuses on the disparities in education and how those two moments each school day shine a light on different economic situations.

“Who’s getting free lunch, who gets the Lunchables, the highly-coveted things?” he says. “Who gets a sandwich? You start to see the difference in the way people live.”

In general, Terrel wants his music to be relatable rather than marketable. It’s not about gaining fame or acclaim – two frequent pursuits that Terrel says can hinder artists.

“I want every day people to be able to feel and know just from listening to my music that I’ve been in situations similar to them,” he says. “Even though we may not identify the same or be close to the same person, I want to make it highly relatable and know it’s just me being who I am over beats. I’m not trying to put on any airs, I just want to be refreshingly honest.”

For more, follow Terrel on Instagram and Twitter at slangsyllables. His latest album is available on all streaming platforms.

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