Fire Starter: T. Mills
One listen to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and that was all she wrote for young Travis Mills. The 22-year-old Riverside, California, native was so enamored by the multiplatinum rap quintet that he decided to jump into music.
"The fact that they could sing and rap at the same time, integrate melody and stuff into their songs, I was blown away," T. Mills told Mixtape Daily.
Now that Mills does in fact blend rap and pop melodies in his music, some are comparing the tatted-up newcomer to Wiz Khalifa. While Mills insisted that he's his own man, he's also flattered by the comparison. "I think it's definitely a compliment. I'm a huge Wiz fan," he said. "Even for someone to put me in the same category as Wiz is a huge accomplishment for myself because I been f---in' with Wiz a long time and he's on top of the game right now."
T. Mills hopes to eventually occupy a similar space. When he was 17, the young rapper began recording songs on his MacBook, and by 18, he was posting his music on MySpace. In 2009, Mills performed 60 shows as part of the Vans Warped Tour, where a dance tent was his stage. He went on to sign with independent label Uprising Records, the home of his 2010 debut Ready, Fire, Aim! Although he's still a relative unknown, his video for "Stupid Boy" has clocked 1.8 million views on YouTube.
And T. Mills is just getting started. At the top of the year, he signed to Columbia Records, dropping his free LP Leaving Home with the label. "Originally, the concept for the album was a mixtape, I just wanted to put out a mixtape," he explained. "What if we do an album that I give to my fans as gratitude?" he remembered asking the record company.
While "Stupid Boy" is a party track, Mills believes he has grown since then, so on Leaving Home, he offers up more than just carefree, feel-good music.
"It was my first time in a real studio, so it was my first time having access to all that stuff," he said of his breakout single. "Before then I just recorded on my laptop. I feel like it was a good learning experience for me. It's not who I am now but it gave me that platform."
That's not to say that Leaving Home isn't fun. There's the sneakers-and-sex ode "Vans On," where Mills sings about making love while wearing his skater kicks, for example. And to add balance, there's also the inspirational "Smoke & Mirrors" and the cautionary "Hollywood."
With his major-label debut scheduled for a 2012 release, it seems T. Mills is well on his way. The reality of it all, though, is still a bit much for the small-town kid.
"When I was 19, I didn't think anything could happen," he admitted. "I'm from a small town; I thought that whole signing to a major label, getting on the radio only happened in movies."
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