Channel Tres performs at Ai Warehouse on Oct. 13, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Not everyone has the determination or wherewithal to bring an artistic dream to life. But it seems that for the most hard-working and passionate musicians, the path itself can become constructive and accelerate their efforts to become something larger and greater than conceived in the first place.
For those who’ve followed the story of Channel Tres, a leading-edge rapper and gifted hip-hop artist out of Compton, it was no surprise to hear recent buzz about his first ever headlining tour. An ambitious run that has sent him from Arizona to the East Coast and into Canada, it will see him fly to Australia next month before returning to the states for a trek up the West Coast and into British Columbia.
Born Sheldon Young, he’s built a reputation for himself in short time as Channel Tres and is considered a pioneer in masterfully blending different house styles — including the South African “Amapiano” — with sounds of West Coast hip-hop, synth pop, rap, jazz, and more as he looks to step out of all these genres with something fresh that stands on its own and still can be celebrated as Black music.
For those who made their way to his recent capital visit, a nü androids pop-up presentation at Ai Warehouse on Oct. 13, the night would become not only an affirmation of this man’s talent and allure, but one of the most invigorating and thrilling dance parties the city has hosted in some time.
The undecorated space filled up with eager listeners who grooved in place, calling aloud with anticipation as neon blue and red lights glowed from any direction and the speakers thumped. Eventually, out of the darkness strutted Channel Tres’ four-person professional dance squad — Jessie Hollie, Chris Castillo, Sasha Mallory, and the artist named Nique27 — and they took formation across the stage.
Listen to Channel Tres’ 2020 EP, i can’t go outside, via Spotify:
To their left, offstage, was Channel’s DJ, twisting and turning dials like the man behind the curtain. Behind the dancers sat a raised platform, where the night’s ringmaster — spectacularly stylish in a bedazzled purple cutoff, business slacks and long white satin gloves — stepped up to send the crowd into a frenzy and to begin the music in earnest.
Captivating, charming, and with a magnetic presence, Channel showed himself so early in the night at Ai Warehouse to be an extraordinary entertainer. His confident, sensuous tone naturally flowed within and rolled up the variety of energizing and vigorous beats he’s discovered.
And his every move was made that much more profound with the knowledge that this vehicle, this tour, is distinctly part of his greater mission, one he established when he himself was a ticketholder some years back at Coachella — a stage he played this past summer in fulfilling what some might call a fantasy.
But by performing an untiring list of his own heralded compositions in Washington DC, a collection of tracks that forcefully slapped and pumped with obsessive, evolving hooks, Channel showed that he’s in this for the long haul — or at least hopefully so, as few acts today can bring a roomful of people to move in the way that he and his company did last Thursday night.
Watch the official music video for Channel Tres’ 2020 single “Skate Depot” via YouTube:
Together, these five would give every ounce of their energy and pour every drop of their sweat into a mind-blowing and electrifying display, all brilliantly choreographed across a bursting set of songs pulled from a budding catalogue of just three digital EPS, with the first full-length Channel Tres LP set to drop this fall. Dexterous, synchronized and so clearly polished, with just enough intentional differentiation and unique character, this dedicated team served up an exhilarating and thorough reminder of how infectious and rewarding dance can really be.
Alas, no matter how hard they fought it, even the stiffest in the room most certainly let loose at some point — more converts for this rising star.
Early in the set brought tracks like the aerodynamic, cunning “Jet Black” and “Controller,” the infectiously groovy and hypnotic piece that became his first release as Channel Tres in the spring of 2018. With fans screaming, swinging to the rhythm just feet away from him and his crew on the low stage, it was indeed a fitting setting to absorb these categorically funky works of art.
“I don’t even know what day it is but thank you for spending your evening with a young man from Compton,” he told the crowd as the set was well underway and the perspiration was too.
Channel showcased some of his other wildly popular songs, including “Black Moses,” the title track to his 2019 EP, and “Fuego,” a piece from his 2020 EP i can’t go outside featuring Tyler, The Creator, one of his most notable friendships and one of numerous high-profile artists who’ve seen Tres concoct one of their songs into a praised remix.
Stream Channel Tres’ 2019 EP, Black Moses, via Spotify:
While his path as a musician has had a flow to it, his development as a world-class dancer was a more concerted effort. The result of formal training and immersing himself in dance, Channel Tres’ has armed himself with a fluidity, agility and fitness that emboldens his music and makes his live exhibition explosive beyond compare.
“Damn, it’s hotter than a mother fucker in here,” said a drenched Tres, who earned his place and opportunities in the industry. The 31-year-old started out making beats for notable rappers, ending up on tour with Duckwrth as the rapper’s DJ. He would eventually collaborate with an impressive list of respected influencers from different realms while releasing his early work as Channel Tres.
Ripe and amplified takes on tracks like “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “Sexy Black Timberlake” moved this gripping performance along, with the front of the stage becoming an interactive scene between this artisan, these expert dancers and the sounds they were leading.
“So about now comes the time in this presentation where I ask about the ganja,” Channel stepped to front left side of the stage, all the hands reaching for him. “Time to pull it out.”
And, because it’s Washington DC, those on hand who partake did their part to responsibly fog the venue space, setting Tres’ desired scene for a thick, bouncing take on “Weedman,” another of his fans’ favorites.
“Y’all look beautiful,” he grinned at one point from the top of his pedestal. “I feel like I’m home in this bitch.”
Watch the official music video for Channel Tres’ 2020 single “Weedman” via YouTube:
For all the playfulness he brought to the upstart event space, Channel Tres was clearly sincere in sharing his gratitude with the diverse crowd. Returning to the stage for a two-song encore — “6 AM” and his self-titled EP mega hit, “Top Down” — he first thanked those who came out and then hyped them to raise their arms as he and his mates delivered lifted takes on these hits, both songs adamantly requested throughout the show.
With so much momentum behind him, and leveraging such a strong network of respected creators, it seemed that last week’s chance to catch Channel Tres in the flesh, in a club setting might become a rare one — for this is truly an artist on a high trajectory.
Sleep When I’m Dead
Acid In My Blood
Just Can’t Get Enough
Sexy Black Timberlake
All My Friends
Lights Up (Flight Facilities cover)
Impact (SG Lewis cover)
Here are images of Channel Tres performing at Ai Warehouse in Washington DC on Oct. 13, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.