The Revelations featuring Tre' Williams

Watching The Revelations featuring Tre’ Williams perform live is truly that—a revelation of rugged soul fronted by a six-foot-something, full-grown powerhouse of a vocalist. Daytona Beach, Florida-born singer-songwriter Tre’ Williams and his vocal partner (and former Roc-A-Fella artist) Rell have each come full circle in this business of music, through the unpredictable ups-and-downs of superstar rap patronage and drama, right back to the roots of soul music. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band’s debut doube-LP The Bleeding Edge reeks of modern juke-joint blues, rock and R&B songcraft supported by a stellar band. Tre’ Williams is a singer that you and your grand-daddy can feel—but he’s not above singing a hot hook for a Styles P record. SS recently caught up with these soul brothers backstage before they rocked at the Brooklyn club Southpaw for a conversation about rap rivalries, the return of grown-man R&B and cheating hearts.

SS: A lot of SS readers may find it interesting to know that you were signed to Nas “Ill Will” Records in the mid-2000s. What was it like having Nas for a label boss?

TW: He a real dude. He talk real, he don’t superstar you, you know? He’s real intelligent but he also has a witty side. He a funny dude. I mean, of course he’s in another world of his own, and when you get to that level, you know I’ve seen…I’ve had the honor and the privileges of seein’ what life is like up there. I want to be up there! (laughs)

SS: Why did you end up leaving the label?

TW: Nas was goin’ through a lot of things with Def Jam and the whole controversy of his album [“NI**ER”] to the point where that I figured it would be better for me to go another route. I had a nice buzz and I did not want to sit around until it died down to the point that I literally had to work my way back up again. But I can’t say nothin’ but good things about the relationship. It was a learning experience and it also fueled a lot of things that I’m doin’ now.

SS: Your album has a real old-school , soulful vibe with the live instrumentation. How do you feel about being compared to legends like Bobby Womack and Johnny Taylor?

TW: My mother instilled in me, “If you gonna sing, make ‘em believe every word you say. If you tell ‘em that your heart is hurtin’. I wanna know it feel like your heart is hurtin’.” I was like, “Yo Bob [Perry, co-executive producer of The Bleeding Edge], I wanna take a sound like BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” and bring it into the 2000’s. I want that passion. Johnny Taylor was incredible. Bobby Womack was incredible. I really think that Otis Redding [and] those dudes was the epitome.

SS: Former Roc-A-Fella solo recording artist Rell co-wrote and was featured vocally on “The Bleeding Edge,” and now he performs with you live. Does envy and competition ever rear his head between the two of you like the epic rivalry between your former bosses?

TW: You know it’s like I say, “Most times you don’t have chemistry with someone, it’s because you’re fighting that.” I want him to shine just as bright and just as big and that’s the same way he feel about me. Especially by both of us bein’ from the South, it was like we understood.

SS: Because you’re from Florida and Rell’s from South Carolina.

TW: Right, yeah. And my father and my grandmother and ‘nem from South Carolina. So you know we got it!

[Suddenly, as if on divine cue, Rell enters the room]

TW: The “R-E-double-L” is IN THA BUILDIN’! I can dig that!

SS: Rell, does it strike you as ironic that you and Tre’ joined forces after working with Jay-Z and Nas as solo artists?

R: When you look at it, it’s like two titans. They have their own hardcore army of fans. They didn’t get along, and a part of bein’ with a secret society like Roc-A-Fella was that everything is in-house. A lot of times I would wanna work with maybe not the boss that my boss was havin’, you know, problems with, but maybe the soldier of that boss—like I’m the soldier of this boss—maybe we were cool. Now I’m workin’ with all of these different people that I wouldn’t and couldn’t work with at that time cuz it was all about the hip hop. And now it’s just straight R&B.

SS: I’m really diggin’ that song “I Don’t Wanna Know.” That song is cold.

TW: It’s as real as it get. Let me tell you, a lot of people think that the songs I write are based on things that I’ve seen. But I’m a storyteller. And what I do is I put myself in those shoes and how would you feel in this situation.

SS: Well, you’re a happily married man, Tre. Would you wanna know?

TW: If it knock on your door, that’s one thang. If I walk out the house and I look around the corner and I see my wife standin’ there with somebody, I’ll deal with that. But if I’m sittin’ in my chair and YOU see her, and first thang you wanna do is run back to tell me, and your wife…where is your wife? See if you took more time to deal with your situation in your life, you wouldn’t have time to worry about mine.

SS: Interesting. The theme of infidelity comes up a few times on The Bleeding Edge. What’s your take on the subject?

TW: I think that if you commit, you commit, but then I also think that we all human. The only perfect man in the world died years ago for us, so it’s very difficult for me to sit here with you and tell you “it’s so bad” or “it’s so good” because we human, we make mistakes. Who am I to judge? Who are you to judge me? They say if you look at a white sheet long enough, you’ll find a brown speck of dirt. If you look at anything hard enough, you’ll find it.

By Sun Singleton